Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TV Analysis: Siberia Episodes 1-3

It’s no secret that I’ve been really excited about Siberia lately. And what’s the best thing to do when you get excited about something? That’s right, analyze every little detail of it! And since there’s a lot to analyze about Siberia and I’m also three episodes behind on these analyses, I’m gonna jump right in without much preamble.

Naturally, spoilers will follow.

Episode Recaps

This covers what’s important in each episode. You can maybe skip over this if it bores you or something.

Episode 1

Episode 1 kicks off the series, and there’s not really too much that happens since it’s largely just setup.

It opens with the introduction of the show. Our host tells us and the players that there was a mysterious event that happened about 100 years ago that left the settlement uninhabited. A spooky story, to be sure, and it’s easy to dismiss it as nothing more. We hear that there are “no rules” (probably our first clue that the show’s not real, as “no rules” doesn’t rule out murder and what sort of reality TV show can get away with that?), then the contestants are sent off to reach the settlement, being told that the last two to arrive will be eliminated. Neeko takes the lead, with Johnny following close behind. However, it’s Sabina, who the cameras haven’t even focused on at this point, that gets there first. One of the men (Sam, I think? I can’t remember for sure) comments that Carolina seems familiar for some reason. I don’t know if this is related to the fact that she’s also one of only two cast members (the other being Annie, played by Anne-Marie) to not be using her actual name (Joyce Giraud), but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Esther takes out one of the flags marking the trail.  Berglind and Harpreet attempt to take a shortcut.  Daniel twists his ankle on the trek, and Tommy comes to help him. Everyone else arrives, and it comes down to those two pairs. In the end, it’s Tommy and Daniel who arrive, eliminating Berglind and Harpreet. That bummed me just a little, since it looked like Berglind would have potentially been a major player and she turned up to be not important at all, but what can you do? Boom. They’re out. Down to 14.

This opening sequence established a few things about several of the remaining characters: First, Neeko and Johnny are competitive. Second, Esther is willing to use any advantage she can in the game. Third, some of the characters, including Sabina and Carolina, are probably more than they appear. Finally, Tommy is a team player and the sort of guy who would risk his own status for others. Tommy’s set up to be instantly likable.

The contestants start to get settled. There’s some sexual tension set up between Esther and Miljan. There’s a mysterious roar in the woods at night. The cast finds a shortcut to information about mushrooms, more specifically that there are some here but poisonous until boiled. Daniel finds a three-legged frog in the woods that he describes as “mutated.” Miljan and Irene find a locked shed. A cameraman comes out of the woods bleeding from the head and yelling in Russian. According to Sam, he’s saying something about “I saw them,” though we don’t know the context or how accurate Sam’s translation is. Finally, it’s revealed that Tommy was fatally injured. Basically, he was set up to be likable so it was more of a punch when he died. That brings the number of contestants down to 13. The host tells the contestants that they can either continue playing or go on, take the money and run receive $5,000 if they decide to exit the game.

At the end of the episode, we were left with two main questions: what’s going on, and will Miljan get into Esther’s pants how much does the production team know about it?

Episode 2

In the end, only George decides to leave. Not really surprising that George left, considering how out of focus he had been, and not surprising that not many other people left considering that the show still needs a few redshirts. Anyway, we’re now down to 12.

The remaining contestants find out that there’s a gun hidden somewhere in the woods, and by the time the bulk of contestants get there, it’s been moved from its hiding place. Neeko suspects Johnny. I suspect Sabina, again because she’s too quiet and it’s pretty plain to me that she knows something. Later on, Neeko finds that someone has taken the bullets from him. Again, he blames Johnny. I blame not-Johnny.

Victoria starts picking up a presence in this episode. Unfortunately, that presence is short-lived, because the focus is on the fact that Esther encourages her to eat the unboiled poisonous mushrooms (though she believes it will only get her sick). But we’ll get to that later.

Daniel, meanwhile, is exploring the woods. He finds where the incident involving Tommy was, and discovers a large, strange footprint. He gets lost on the way back and finds Sabina emerging from a cave. What was in there? What was she doing there? Daniel stumbles across a sort of cave painting of men hunting “something big” that has a foot that matches the footprint he found earlier. Night falls, and he and Sabina end up pursued by something—probably the same something the contestants heard roaring that first night? Daniel later states that “when they stopped, it seemed to stop.”

A key is delivered (guarded by a snake), and Miljan automatically decides that the best course of action is to take everyone to the shed he told Irene not to tell everyone about and be the hero. Turns out the shed is full of food. Johnny thinks they should divvy it up and put everyone in charge of their own food. Neeko thinks they should ration it. The two get into a heated argument. Sam steps up, takes Neeko’s side, and ends up being put in charge of rationing the food.

Remember when I said we’d get to Victoria eating the mushrooms later? Well later is now. The mushrooms are apparently hallucinogenic, and Victoria freaks out. She starts seeing visions, and says something about the sky burning with green fire. Esther feels guilty, realizing just how dangerous what she did was, and that her actions are going to have consequences. Victoria’s fine the next day, but decides to leave, bringing the contestants down to 11. Daniel doesn’t buy her flimsy excuse and she privately admits that she remembered her visions, telling him that they’re all going to die. Ominous!

Oh, yeah, and Johnny got part of his finger cut off somewhere in there. But ironically, that’s not too important.

Carolina gained a much stronger presence in this episode, Sabina became even more mysterious, the tension between Neeko and Johnny built, and Daniel was elevated from “probably important” to “possibly the most important character of all,” since he’s the only one actively trying to figure out the mystery. Of course, this does not bode well for Natalie, Annie, or Irene, who’ve barely had any screen time or prominence up until this point and are consequently still very expendable.

This episode also raised a lot of questions. I’ll get to those at the end.

Episode 3

The contestants find a pool and go swimming (with some skinny dipping). The part that surprised me is that Sabina gets a confessional (i.e., a scene where she privately speaks directly to the camera) about it, talking about how pointless it is for them to be playing around like that. I might be wrong, but I think this is the first time she’s spoken directly to the camera.

Early on in this episode, we see some chemistry between Carolina and Johnny, who had been spending a fair amount of time together last episode as well. It also hints at some chemistry between Irene and Daniel, though it’s indicated as being mostly one-sided on Daniel’s part.

Anyway, the food shed burns down. Daniel notices that there should be more bits of glass jar than was in the remains, as well as a lantern, indicating that someone stole some food and burned the shed down. Johnny is furious, demanding that Neeko admit it was a bad idea to ration the food because of what happened. Neeko gives evasive responses, which the others present call him on. After all, he’s not trying to say that hindsight is 20/20 or that they had no way of knowing this would have happened, instead insisting that he “merely suggested” they ration the food.

The contestants get sent a bow and arrow, and Irene is revealed to be pretty good with a bow. Sam attempts to fish and fails, but finds a bracelet with some Russian writing on it (later supposed to be some sort of gift from one lover to another from the dedication (Sam speaks a bit of Russian)). Somewhere in there, Neeko spots a speaker up in a tree. Why he doesn’t investigate is beyond me.

Irene and Johnny hunt deer. Irene kills the deer with one shot, though it survives long enough to run off and make them hunt it down. Irene feels bad about killing it, but Johnny’s a farm boy who’s not bothered by stuff like that. He starts to bleed the deer to prepare it.

Meanwhile, the others spot a tiger and freak out (understandably). When he finds out that Irene and Johnny are hunting and the tiger might be drawn to blood, he risks his life to go after them. Fortunately, all three of them make it back all right and they chow down on venison that night.

That’s when Neeko and Carolina find Johnny’s shirt with a bunch of food from the shed wrapped up and hidden in the woods. They confront Johnny about it, and Johnny refutes the accusations, though he has no alibi to back him up. He stalks off into the woods. Carolina is upset by the whole thing. Neeko stows the food in a hiding place—to keep it safe, of course. Naturally.

The next day, Sabrina finds the tiger in the woods—dead. Mauled by something. We also see a bit of recovered footage of Carolina entering the shed, stealing the food and burning it down. DUN DUN DUUUUUN!

No one was eliminated in this episode, so we’re still at 11 contestants. Irene gained a stronger presence, probably buying her a few episodes for an arc. Unfortunately, we only saw a bit more of Natalie and still barely any of Annie, so their prospects don’t look too good. At this point, they’re the most expendable, followed probably by Miljan, Esther, and/or Sam, who don’t seem to be major players but are probably guaranteed a few more episodes to wrap up their arcs. Right now, I don’t know what to expect of Neeko or Irene’s longevity, since Irene’s only now coming into focus and Neeko seems like he’s being set up for a fall. Either way, I think you can expect Johnny, Carolina, Daniel, and Sabina to be around for the long haul.

And since I’m talking about characters, what all are their roles? What is there to know about them? Let’s discuss them a little bit.

Remaining Characters

Carolina: A pretty well-balanced Latina woman. She seemed to be just another character, but between Sam’s indication that she seems familiar to him and the fact that she was the one who stole the food and burned down the shed, I really don’t know what to expect from her at this point. One of two characters who isn’t using the name of her actress. Definitely a major player at this point, though her longevity on the show depends on what we’ll learn in upcoming episodes.

Johnny: He’s the loose cannon of the group. Self-serving, doesn’t care about getting along with others, etc. Of course, while he’s only looking out for himself, he’s pretty open about it, and it doesn’t seem like he’d go out of his way to sabotage everyone. This leads me to think that most everything he gets framed for, he’s not going to actually be responsible for. Probably a major player, though he could get killed off down the road. If he goes, he definitely won’t quit, since chopping part of his finger off wasn’t enough to deter him.

Daniel: Basically a stereotypical nerd. He looks like the youngest of the cast. He’s sort of the audience surrogate, in that he’s searching for the answers to the questions that we (i.e., both he and us audience members) have. He’s an incredibly valuable asset since he’s shown to be about the only person who’s truly analytical, and shows that brains are going to be just as important as, if not more important than, brawn. Definitely a major player, though his important specific niche and his curiosity lead me to think that he could get killed off at a crucial point. Definitely won’t leave, as he wouldn’t be satisfied leaving without knowing the truth.

Neeko: The man who seized the leadership role in the group. He seems well-suited for a leadership position. He has a pretty good command over most of the group, though Johnny refuses to comply. However, he’s confrontational, doesn’t take too kindly to relinquishing any bit of power, and has issues admitting to any mistakes, making him a bit of a bully. As the leader, he’s curently a major player, though all the tension with his leadership makes me think he’s being set up for a fall. That could either result in his death or quitting after cracking under stress.

Natalie: A sort of peace-loving, “save the whales” type of girl. We’ve finally gotten to see more of her lately (enough to get a bit of her personality), but the fact that she’s not playing any specific role makes her pretty expendable at this point. Not a major player, probably likely to quit.

Sam: A big, muscly auto mechanic. Looks intimidating, and while he seems to be able to keep his temper in check, he’s not exactly the most amiable person. He speaks some Russian, which he learned from his grandmother. He’s currently serving as Neeko’s unofficial second-in-command. He’s getting a fair amount of screen time, but he doesn’t seem like he’ll be particularly crucial in the long run. He’ll be around for a while, but his prospects of making it to the end of the series don’t look good.

Esther: An attractive and headstrong woman who’s willing to use any advantage she has to get ahead in the game. Might be changing her ways after seeing just how dangerous her way of playing the game is to others (i.e., poisoning Victoria).  She’ll be around for a bit yet, but I don’t think she’ll be a player in the long run.

Annie: I’ve barely seen anything of this girl. Um…she has a nose ring? I dunno, unless she becomes really, really prominent next episode, I think she’s pretty much just cannon fodder.

Miljan: This charmer certainly does like the ladies! He’s also proven that he’s kind of underhanded and untrustworthy. But he sure is charming! And he loves the ladies!

Irene: Shy (but attempting to come out of her shell), softhearted, a good shot, and a potential love interest for Daniel. A decent character, but her lack of relevance so far makes me worry for her safety. Her importance could tip either way at this point, but she could easily be built up just to make her death more impactful, or her softness could lead her to quit.

Sabina: We don’t know too much about her, other than that she’s a soldier (info provided in an online bio and possibly in confessionals). What we do know, however, is that she seems to know something. Definitely a major player, but it’ll probably be a few more episodes before we find out what. Also, her name doesn’t have an R in it. Sabina, not Sabrina. It took me three episodes to realize that.

The Mysteries

Anyway, on to the mysteries we’ve been introduced to so far. We’ve got a lot of questions. What is the meaning of [lots of various elements]? What is going on with Sabina? Who has the gun? The bullets? Why did Carolina burn down the food shed? Here are some some questions (in rough order of introduction) and some possible answers:

1. What the heck is going on?

That’s the big question. I think I’ll answer the smaller questions since I don’t think we have the whole picture, but we definitely have pieces of it. I’ll come back to it at the end to see if we can piece it together.

2. How much does the production team know?

At this point, I think they actually know quite a bit. Had they not, they probably would have pulled everyone after Tommy’s death, and definitely would have done so after some of the more mysterious events started occurring. Whatever’s going on, the production crew knows something about it.

3. What’s up with the frog?

Obviously, it’s a mutation of some sort. That sort of thing can happen naturally, but they wouldn’t have included it in the show if it had. All we really need to know is “it’s mutated.” The more important question is why.

4. What’s in the woods?

The first episode introduced a roaring, the second episode introduced a footprint and cave painting, the third introduced something that could kill a tiger. I’m pretty sure these instances are all tied together and that there’s one creature out there in the woods: a creature that’s nothing like anything we know. I’ll creatively dub it “the Creature.” We don’t get a good indication of what it looks like from the cave painting, but the structure of the foot makes it seem somewhat reptilian. It’s also somewhat strange that it stopped whenever Daniel and Sabina stopped, but I’m sure that’ll be answered later. I’m fairly certain, at very least, that this is what’s roaring, what was following them, what was depicted in the painting, and what killed both Tommy and the tiger.

5. Who has the gun? Who has the bullets?

Someone got to the gun before anyone else could. It’s obviously not anyone in that main group. It’s obviously not Esther and Miljan, since they went the wrong way completely and didn’t split up. It could possibly be Johnny or Carolina. Carolina is the more likely candidate after episode 3’s reveal, but I also think that the more likely candidate for the gun is Sabina. She was present when the information came, she knows how to shoot a gun, she’s obviously keeping some things to herself, and the first episode proved that she can get places quickly and without being noticed. However, I don’t think she has the bullets. The most likely candidate for that, in my opinion, is Carolina, in light of episode 3’s reveal.

6. Who made the cave painting?

This is an incredibly good question, and it kind of clashes with some of my later theories. Since the human figures are fighting it with spears, it seems to be quite old. I’ve honestly got no clue on this one apart from the obvious “ancient civilization.”

7. What was the significance of Victoria’s hallucinations?

Well, despite the fact that the hallucinations were obviously prophetic, there’s the vague warning that they were all going to die. Is that a fate they can fight? Is it possible for them to drop out? I don’t know. That one was pretty straightforward, though, and the answer is that they either will die or they can avoid that fate, and there’s really no way to tell which or who will die or survive. The bigger question is what was up with the green flames in the sky. Perhaps this has something to do with the 1908 event (see #13 for details on that).

8. Where did the tiger come from?

Probably from Tiger Village; how the hell do I know? Considering that the show takes place in Siberia and there are Siberian Tigers, I’m guessing it was just part of the natural wildlife. No great mystery.

9. Why is there a speaker in the tree?

There are two answers that I can think of. The first is that it’s put there by production. The second is that it has something to do with the events that happened 100 years prior. I’m thinking the latter, personally.

10. What is the significance of Sam’s bracelet?

I think Sam’s assessment was right, but there’s probably more to it than that. Most notably, it’s dated 1908, the date of the mysterious event that happened 100 years ago. Apart from that, there’s nowhere near enough to go off of right now.

11. What is Sabina hiding?

It’s obvious to me that she’s hiding something. I think she knows more than she’s letting on. I’ve got an idea that she knows at least some of what’s happening and is keeping silent because…well, I don’t know. But it should be obvious that she knows something, and that that something is going to end up being pretty vital.

12. Why did Carolina steal the food and burn the shed down?

Surprisingly, we don’t have to ask who burned down the food shed. Unfortunately, that answer only raises further questions. How did Carolina get in if Sam held the key? Why did she frame Johnny when it seemed that the two had some chemistry? And most importantly, why exactly would she do that? She doesn’t seem to be the type to sabotage things for everyone.  Could she be working with Sam? Is she trying to cause disorder and tension by undermining Neeko’s leadership, humiliating the trust they had in Sam, framing Johnny, and taking everyone’s food away? Is she thinking that’ll get them to leave? And is she really that manipulative?

And finally,

13. What exactly happened 100 years ago?

This is the big one, and probably what the whole show is going to come down to. It’s also one that I actually have a theory for.

The catalyst being talked about by the show is actually a real event in which a powerful explosion that left no crater occurred. At least one eyewitness account describes the sky as being on fire (sound familiar?). The show seems to be building up to giving an explanation for what caused it. There are really two directions the show can go for the explanation: fantasy or sci-fi. I think that either the Creature is a supernatural being that was responsible for the incident, or that the incident was the result of some scientific experiment that had effects on the wildlife, including the three-legged frog and the Creature.

The evidence for the first is mostly that the Creature appears in an old-looking cave drawing, hinting that it predates the incident. The evidence for the latter is some of the indications of human habitation around that time, the possibly atomic nature of the explosion, and the aesthetics of some structures potentially left by the Others Dharma Initiative scientists that I’m suspecting existed. Really, at this point the sci-fi/fantasy scale could tip either way.

That’s what I’ve been getting out of the show so far. I hope this is able to spark some discussion…or at least that someone sees this and points me in the direction of some community discussing this show!

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