Now that the Peacock original series Twisted Metal has finally crossed the border via Paramount + in Canada, audiences in the Great White North can finally see what all the fuss is about. Having quickly become the most streamed debut in the history of the US streamer, Twisted Metal is an undeniable hit. The long festering live action adaptation of the late 90s/early 2000s cult classic, car brawl video game seemed unlikely for a hit this big, but the cast is having fun and the creatives behind the camera certainly seem to have a solid grasp of what makes the games so beloved. Though the real test of the series is seeing if the target audience sticks around through the first 5 episodes of world building and character set up to see the real story start to play out.
John Doe (Anthony Mackie) is a milkman. In the world of Twisted Metal, where the apocalypse happened in 2002, cities are now barricaded behind walls and milkmen must traverse the lawless land between these cities. Their job is to deliver parcels between these cities while avoiding scavengers and others along the way. In order to help do this, they drive cars tricked out with guns and other weapons. John does not have any recollection of his past, his only connection to his family is a burnt photo, and his only real relationship is with his car who he named Evelyn.
Longing to see what the other half lives like behind the walls, John is recruited to make a dangerous run by the shifty Raven (Neve Campbell). She does this on the guise that he can live in the city of New San Francisco if he completes it. On the road John runs into Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz), a runaway servant from ‘The OC’, and the pair quickly develop a tenuous relationship. Quiet is vengeance bound to kill the man responsible for her brother Loud’s (Richard Cabral) death, the nefarious and twisted ‘lawman’ Agent Stone (Thomas Haden Church). Stone leads an army of militia, determined to seize control of the entire US under the guise of bringing back order and by using any means necessary. Along he way the pair of John and Quiet make friends and enemies, running into other characters from the game. Most notably though is the original game’s poster boy Sweet Tooth (embodied on screen by pro wrestler “Samoa” Joe Seanoa with a voice provided by executive producer Will Arnett), a vicious serial killer who basically runs Las Vegas.
The original game of Twisted Metal was basically a battle royale of cars destroying other vehicles in a tournament set up. It didn’t have much to offer story wise other than basic profiles for each of the drivers. As the series developed over the course of its sequels, the backstories of each character went through alterations, but the main focus of the game was always the tournament with little or nothing done to flesh out the world surrounding it. And this was always the dilemma that faced any writers trying to adapt the material.
Thankfully, Zombieland and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick do an admirable job establishing this new world through the first half of the 10 episode first season. Combing with a talented staff, the writer/showrunners buildout the world surrounding John Doe while also taking time to theme certain episodes around exploring the backstories of the major players. By the time we get to episode 6, when it introduces us, through voice only, to the mysterious Calypso, the founder of the Twisted Metal tournament in the games, the series starts to unravel some of its secrets and fans get a better idea of where the show is heading.
One of the choices that may have some audiences perplexed is the decision to have Sweet Tooth play anti-hero here, ending up in a cross country campaign to wipe out Stone’s forces himself. With Arnett providing the voice, the character also leans heavily into dark comedy, and while Sweet Tooth has always had that in his arsenal, he’s rarely seen as a character with a conscience. But this is all set up for what’s to come as the series leaves Sweet Tooth in a precarious position at the end of the series. And the series ends certainly angling heavy for a second season, which based on the success of the first, should be a no brainer.
One of the more fun aspects of the series is the setting of a post apocalyptic 2023, even though, as I write above the world as we know it ended in 2002. That means a lot of the technology that we are accustomed to does not even exist in this world, and drivers are scrounging for what ever music they can find on compact disc throughout the show. This leaves the series filled with earworms from the late 90s/early 2000s providing the soundtrack. From the opening chase of episode 1 staged to Cypress Hill’s “Rock Superstar” to episode 10’s opening melee backed by Cake’s utter classic “The Distance”, Twisted Metal’s soundtrack is a nostalgia goldmine. Other tracks from the like of Sisqo, Len, Alice Deejay, Ghostown DJ’s, Tatu, Andrew WK and Faith No More and more fill out the series.
The cast here all know to have their tongues firmly in cheek here, and one of the series strengths is its embracing of the campiness inherent with developing this project in the first place. The chemistry is on point, especially between Mackie and Beatriz. Seanoa is pitch perfect as the imposing body of Sweet Tooth, while Arnett provides his dependable level of snark to the voice over. And its fun to see actors like Thomas Haden Church and Neve Campbell embracing their darker sides. All in all, Twisted Metal is a funny and bloody good time, and its not hard to see why so many have embraced it. I for one certainly cant wait for Season 2, and what other classic songs they mine for the soundtrack the second time around.
- Rated: TV-MA
- Genre: Action, Gore, Video Game, Violent
- Release Date: 8/10/2023
- Directed by: Bill Benz, Jude Weng, Kitao Sakurai, Maggie Carey
- Starring: Angel Guiffria, Anthony Mackie, Chelle Ramos, Chloe Fineman, Diany Rodriguez, Jamie Neumann, Jared Bankens, Jason Mantzoukas, Joe Seanoa, Michael Carollo, Mike Mitchell, Neve Campbell, Richard Cabral, Stephanie Beatriz, Tahj Vaughans, Thomas Haden Church, Will Arnett
- Produced by: Anthony Mackie, Hermen Hulst, Michael Jonathan Smith, Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese, Will Arnett
- Written by: Alison Tafel, Becca Black, Ify Nwadiwe, Michael Jonathan Smith, Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese
- Studio: Paramount Plus, Peacock