Writer: Felcia Day
Director: Peter Winther
Felicia Day deserves a great deal of respect for what she's managed to accomplish in her career. Very few people have been able to carve out their own niche on the web and parlay that into something larger. And "The Guild" certainly proves that there's an audience for Day's work as a writer and an actress.
Earlier this year, Day wrote and starred in the "Dragon Age: Redemption" web series; which is based upon the "Dragon Age" video games. During the six part series, it's clear that "Dragon Age: Redemption" must have had a much larger budget than most web series. There's certainly some scope and ambition at play, but not all of it is successful.
For a "Dragon Age" neophyte like myself, it took two viewings of the first episode to figure out what was going on. The short version is that the "Dragon Age" world is dominated by two competing religions, the Qunari and the Chantry, both of whom either go to great lengths to control the magic users or to destroy them. And elves are second class citizens under the dominion of humans unless they break away and shun human contact.
In the web series, Day portrays Tallis, an operative of the Qunari who is given the opportunity to redeem herself in their eyes by recapturing an escaped mage named Saarebas (Doug Jones). Along the way, Tallis encounters Carin (Adam Rayner), a Templar in the service of the Chantry and she slowly forms an alliance with him to recapture the rogue mage before dueling over who will get to bring him back to their respective masters.
As leads, both Day and Rayner have some charm between them that overcomes the occasional overwrought lines or awkward delivery. Day is so innately likable that her attempts to play Tallis as a badass sometimes become more comedic than she may have intended. Tallis and Carin are likable enough, but they are oddly underserved when it comes to their burgeoning relationship. Maybe it was simply due to the short run time of the web series or perhaps Day favors shorthand over characterization. Regardless, when Tallis and Carin finally lock lips it's more of a "huh?" moment than the payoff of an important turning point for both characters.
But at least Day and Rayner give their characters some life. Less successful are Masam Holden's Josmael and Marcia Battise's Nyree. Josmael joins the party in search of his kidnapped love, Fina (Marissa Cuevas) and he is also an Elvish apostate who can use magic; which apparently means that Carin is supposed to put him down as an abomination. Instead, Carin comes around almost too quickly and then he veers back and forth over killing Josmael for the rest of the series. Even Tallis shows some contempt for Josmael throughout even after she throws a dagger into him to test his healing skills.
Day attempts to play Tallis as heartless at times, but it doesn't carry through her voice or her performance. Day doesn't seem to have the edge to pull that off even if it's just supposed to be Tallis putting on a front. It's also difficult to buy Day as a kickass assassin. She just looks like Codex with elf ears and a better costume.
Nyree is the last character added to the party and she is by far the least interesting. She's apparently a Nevarran mercenary, who drank the blood of a dragon and gained the powers of a reaver… whatever that means. And it probably sounds more promising than it actually was onscreen. Basically, Nyree works for Saarebas until he double crosses her, so Tallis hires her to join their party and to gain information about Saarebas' plans. Right at that point, the story comes to a screeching halt so that the newly formed party can eat and bond at a tavern. The swirling cameras in this scene didn't help and it stand outs as a poor directing choice. Also, the dialog isn't very engaging and this was not an effective exposition dump.
The greatest tragedy of "Dragon Age: Redemption" is that it looks ridiculous just as it tries to be even more ambitious. The first two episodes are actually the best, as they create a more grounded reality for this fantasy world and it almost pulls it off. But when the magic effects appear as if they were made on a Commodore 64, it undercuts the drama of the entire piece. After going to such great lengths to make "Dragon Age: Redemption" look as impressive as possible, it's a definite let down to see the cheap-looking special effects.
Again, it was probably a budget issue. But if the production team couldn't afford the FX then the finale shouldn't have been based around them.
The world depicted in "Dragon Age: Redemption" is intriguing and I'd like to see Day reprise her role in live action again. If "Dragon Age: Redemption" had a bigger budget and a strong team of writers behind it, it could be a really good TV series.
"Dragon Age: Redemption" is entertaining and fun at times, but it is also a noble attempt that unfortunately fails to reach the heights it was shooting for.
Crave Online Rating: 6.8 out of 10.