[Jason Powell takes a look at Patrick Meaney's new webseries.]
Today, Nov. 17, marks the online debut of a new webseries entitled “The Third Age,” co-created by Patrick Meaney. Patrick is a gentleman, scholar, blogger, author and fellow Claremont enthusiast. It seemed appropriate to bump the usual Tuesday Claremont review for a review of “The Third Age,” especially since Patrick was kind enough to give me a sneak preview of the first seven webisodes.
A stylized sci-fi thriller, “The Third Age” will be serialized over 26 eight-minute installments, the first few of which cut back and forth between two parallel threads: A depressive low-level drug-dealer meets a beautiful, enigmatic woman called “Morning” and finds himself unwilling to part with her; meanwhile, an ambitious scientist pursues unorthodox methods as he attempts to create a chemical substance that will take humanity into a new phase. A narrative link between these two threads exists from the start, but only over time are the details made explicit. (The cliffhanger in Episode 7 drops a large bombshell in this regard. Clever to make that the last one I was allowed to see, Patrick. Now I’m hooked.)
Patrick is a fan of Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, and one can see their influence in the show’s idea-driven sci-fi. Since the budget for “The Third Age” is – I presume – not huge, the show’s appeal is primarily cerebral. The scientist’s method in creating a new drug, for example, strikes me as Morrison-esque (although note that I have not read a lot of Morrison, so I could be way off here). I won’t spoil the details, but it’s a pleasingly wild premise, one of many surprising, well-executed conceptual twists that the series contains. The seventh episode reminded me of “Promethea,” with its invocations of the spheres of the Quaballah, and this one too ends with a brilliant turn of the plot that I never saw coming.
The cast comprises some very charismatic performers, who generally keep matters realistic, and their delivery low-key. It’s a shrewd directorial choice, as it sells the viewer completely on the plot’s many elements of fantasy. Proceedings seem grounded and gritty, and entirely plausible. Ted Spencer’s characterization of the scientist is particularly noteworthy, as he guides the viewer through several hallucinogenic bits of text with a canny lack of reverence or awe. It should all seem mad, but instead it is almost chillingly matter-of-fact.
Meaney and his collaborator, Jordan Rennert, maintain visual interest through various simple, yet shrewdly deployed, cinematographic tricks. While their actors anchor the proceedings in psychological realism, the visuals often melt into kaleidoscopic dream-like effects, suggesting a cosmic, un-earthly significance to the text – which the characters themselves are often only dimly aware of, if at all.
“The Third Age” enjoys a rough-hewn production style, overall. On the website, producer Amber Yoder discusses the creators’ collective enjoyment of “free-form, run and gun, guerrilla style” filmmaking, and that is all in the series’ favor. The show’s combination of mad mythology and gritty verite makes for a consistently appealing aesthetic experience, and Meaney and co. are creative enough to maintain our interest with a new twist – visual, textual or conceptual, if not all three – in each successive chapter. This is a potential epic in the making, and anyone reading this can get it in right on the ground floor. The story begins today!