Dresden Files, The: Birds of a Feather (TV)

The Dresden Files
Starring Paul Blackthorne, Valerie Cruz, Terrence Mann

Airdate: January 21, 2007; Sci-Fi Channel

Every now and again there comes a television series that gives horror fans hope. Such hope came from The Night Stalker (the original, not the new one), Supernatural, and Dead Like Me.” Now, it seems that Sci-Fi has done something for the horror fans, wedging a little fantasy in, but creating something flashy and cool just for us. The Dresden Files looks like a combination of some of the above series, without skimping on the blood and the suspense.

Based on the best-selling novels by Jim Butcher, the first episode reveals Harry Dresden (Blakthorne), a private eye with a very curious talent. He is, in fact, the only wizard listed in the Chicago phone book. No, that doesn’t mean he has the secret to the best pizza or can play a mean harmonica, it means he’s a wizard. With his abilities he fights the powers of darkness, often aiding the police. Of course, just because he’s a wizard doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his share of problems, most notably in this episode with women and his car. Also, we are introduced to Lt. Connie Murphy (Cruz), a police officer with whom Dresden’s had prior dealings, and “Bob” (Mann), a disembodied spirit that seems to hang around as Dresden’s conscience.

While pilot episodes in the past have pulled out all the stops, this one surpassed many that have come out. Instead of a heavy-handed backstory, the writers wove Dresden’s history in so it blended effortlessly with the present day story at hand. And such a story. A little boy comes to Harry claiming to see monsters that are after him. At the same time, Lt. Murphy comes to Harry with a case in which a female victim has been found without her skin. At the insistence of Bob, Harry investigates the boy’s story and discovers that the cases are intertwined.

Also, The Dresden Files does not shy away from the gore, in what is becoming an appealing trend. In the first episode alone, we are introduced to a nasty creature called a “Skin Walker,” which, as you might guess, tears the skins off its victims, then goes walking about impersonating said victim. Not only do the actors convincingly portray just how vicious these creatures are, but we’re treated to seeing the aftermath of one such skinning. Moreover, it doesn’t shy away from moments that might cause palpitations in the casual viewer. The beginning episode alone contained violence, disturbing images, and genuinely frightening moments the likes of which are usually reserved for the evening news or the latest episode of The View.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about this series is that not everyone is the ideal eye-candy that most of television seems to crave today. Instead of the near-supermodel twenty-somethings, the parts are played by characters who look real. The mom in the first episode is believable as a mom. Dresden himself has a haggard, lived-in look that makes the viewer believe that he might have actually seen some action. Sure, the women of the series are attractive, but they’re not the unrealistic Barbie-doll eye-candy that we’ve gotten used to.

The real issue with this series is that we, the horror fans, have been burned before. What begins as a great series degenerates quickly into formulaic garbage, or gets cancelled altogether. With any luck, Sci-Fi will not discount the horror fans and will keep this series true to its roots in the books. Word has it that Butcher is, at the moment, very pleased with the Sci-Fi adaptation, so we’ll take that as a good sign. In the meantime, the next few episodes should give audiences a clearer picture of what we can expect from Harry and company.

4 out of 5

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Jon Condit