Much has been written recently about how bad Netflix's new drama The I-Land is, including everything written about The I-Land. Seriously, no one likes this show. This baffling Lost knockoff appears to have been created as either a prank or a sophisticated money laundering operation. It has exactly one positive review on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing. Which in turn means no one has written enough about how great this show is. Well, I loved every minute of my journey.
I realize that the vast majority of you have not watched any of The I-land beyond the trailer Netflix forces on you when you open the dashboard. I intend to change that. Rather than delving into the deeper meaning of the series (of which there is none), I will simply take you on a quick guided tour of the amazing sights. I am Frommer's Guide To The I-Land. Grab your sunscreen and probably a few drinks, because you're going to need them.
Note: This spoils the entire series. But can you spoil Taco Tuesday just by knowing you're having tacos? Not really.
The show begins on an island. Is it "The I-Land"? We can only hope! We meet Lady in the Sand, who is unconscious with a conch shell nearby. Just the way I wake up on every island! She stands, calls "Hello? Anybody?" and then, I shit you not, immediately blows the conch shell like she's goddamn Aquaman. Never in 100 lifetimes would I ever think to blow a conch upon waking mysteriously on a beach. How the fuck do you even blow a conch shell? What if the conch is still in it? The show has not even been on for two minutes, and it is now certified fabulous. I realize that most of the people reading this just left to go watch the show, but I'm going to press on regardless.
A second person shows up, who we will call Miss Nasty. She is 100% bitch right away. The two characters establish they do not know each other, or even themselves. They have full-blown amnesia. (Aren't you intrigued by this mystery?) Miss Nasty pulls a knife on Conch Lady, and they hate each other. Conflict is essential to any good story, but we've leapfrogged over silly things like, say, having a reason for the conflict. There's no time for that! We've scheduled 30 more stupid things to happen in this episode alone!
This may be a small detail, but I'd like to take a moment to point out everyone on this island is dressed exactly like Peter Griffin. White button-down shirt and green pants. Every single one.
There are ten people on the island, and we learn that they are all 39 paces away from one another. Exactly 39 paces! This is going to be so important, you guys. Vitally, we-watched-Lost-and-can-also-use-mystery-numbers important!
We don't find out what 39 means until the very end of the show, but I can't wait to tell you! After a solid six hours, it's revealed that 39 is the number of steps from one place to another, with no significance to anyone or anything at all! Whee! That wasn't just a red herring; that was a goddamn school of 'em. 39 herrings, in fact.
No one on this island cares about anything. Like, at all. They all wake up with amnesia in the same clothes, and hey, who gives a shit? They actively get angry when it's suggested they try to explore the island or figure anything out. No one wants to do this except Conch. She is now Hero Lady, because she is the only one who is not 110% a idiot. She discovers an abandoned hotel at one point, and someone angrily counters the idea of going there by suggesting they can just build their own beds on the beach. That makes sense! Also, I have never been to Disneyland, because I have mice in my own house.
Hero Lady takes Suave Guy for a walk, and they find loot, just like in a video game! Yay, loot! They keep walking and find a source of food and fresh water! Suave Guy celebrates by first suggesting they tell no one, and then attempting to rape Hero Girl. Wait, what? He is no longer Suave Guy, he is Rape. He says there is no rape on the island. There's just "sex and no sex." He literally says this. Where we can hear it.
Rape then says he never tried rape, and everyone is like "cool." Later he rapes again, and it is mostly ignored. Someone stabs Rape, and we don't actually figure out who did it, but it doesn't matter. They blame someone later, and it seems plausible. Case closed.
The crew decides to go for a swim, because they're stuck on a deserted island with amnesia, and learning anything about who they are, where they are, or why there are there is unimportant. One character, we'll call her Bad Decisions, just wants a tan, and gets angry at anyone who stands in the way of her sunshine. She discovers a book buried in the sand called The Mysterious Island and instantly throws it away, telling no one. It is never relevant again.
The swim goes poorly when an obese CG shark eats a man. Everyone says "What was that?" and "Something attacked him," when the shark's fin is clearly visible in the water. This "What was it?" thread is continued for some time. It was a shark. It was never anything else. The shark is made with clumsy special effects. The Meg would be proud. The guy who gets attacked by the shark? He gets better.
The conch shell gets busted at one point, and we, the audience, but not the characters, are treated to a view of the inside of the conch, which says "Property of the I-Land." They branded their shit! At this point you're so intrigued that you're no longer on the edge of your seat; you're on the floor, writhing in a puddle of your own intrigue-piss.
Episode 3 dares you to keep watching when it presents Hero Lady waking up in a room, strapped to a chair, with doctors around. She is in prison. The entire "mystery" of the show is immediately explained in great detail while also paradoxically explaining nothing in the most blatant way. Characters literally say things like "I bet you wish you knew what was going on," and then deferring to someone else who will explain "later." Several people do this. No one really explains anything, except that Hero Lady is in prison and the I-Land is a Stupid Matrix. It is a simulation. They are all criminals. Something something plot.
Over the course of this episode, Hero Lady escapes custody about a half dozen times, and continually beats the ever-loving shit out of numerous guards. They never, ever restrain her. They just keep beating each other up.
Hero Lady is returned to the simulation, where she tells everyone what's going on in the clearest way possible ... by which I mean she says they're all lying in electrified water. Well that clears shit up. They don't believe her because they think she murdered Rape, and also that story is dumb as balls. And you know what, that's fair.
Two new characters literally named Bonnie and Clyde show up, and they murder someone in full view of everybody. No one gives a shit. They tell everyone Hero Lady is 100% on the money about the island being a simulation, and no one gives a shit. They want Hero Lady gone because she hid a suitcase from them and she murdered Rape. Bonnie and Clyde point out that she didn't murder Rape. No one gives a shit.
Bonnie and Clyde cryptically tell the people that there's a village all the way on the other side of the island, but they're going to have to work to get there. If they can! They can. They do. They then burn the village down by accident and nothing happens there. I love this so much.
We learn who all the characters are via rushed, sketchy flashbacks. We find out they're all murderous monsters. Not even normal, relatable murderers. They're really shitty people. One lady killed her children. One guy is a mass shooter. Another guy is an obsessive stalker. Everyone is a shitbird. That's a bold move for a TV show, to just make every character unlikable.
Bruce McGill, one of two actors in his show I recognized, plays the warden of the Stupid Matrix. You know he is from Texas because he wears a big hat. Everyone is arguably from Texas also because this takes place in Texas, but he has the big hat.
He straight out says "I am the justice department of the great state of Texas" at one point while standing and holding his arms out wide. He follows this almost immediately with "All of you bitches are my ex-wife." That's a real quote, y'all!
Bonnie and Clyde warn the others not to fight them, because Bonnie and Cylde are stronger and faster than they are. Because, one assumes, this is a simulation and they are programmed to be better. They are not Agents, because that is the Matrix, and Bonnie and Clyde are in the Stupid Matrix. But yeah, that's what they're saying. Except that the only time they fight anyone, they both die. They are not stronger and faster. They are the same. Worse, actually.
Oh, sweet sassy molassy, this was a doozy. Bad Decisions, in violation of the warning to not leave the island, leaves the island. Except it fails. She washes ashore on another island and is all scratched up, because the ocean will cut you. She eats berries from a tree and takes a nap near a skull. The skull says "Property of the I-Land," but she doesn't see it. But we do! Nudge nudge, guys!
When Bad Decisions wakes up, her wounds are bandaged. Better still, there's chicken soup waiting for her! We know this thanks to a massive wooden sign that says "chicken soup." She drinks the soup and is refreshed, until Bonnie and Clyde show up and release two shit bombs in quick succession:
A) This is not the I-Land, this is the 2-Land. The fuck? It was never I-Land, it was 1-Land. Jesus.
B) On 2-Land, there is a cannibal. And there are no chickens! FUUUUUCK! OMG! NO GODDAMN CHICKENS BUT THERE WAS CHICKEN SOUP! FUUUUUCK!
Bad Decisions unbandages her hand and finds she is missing fingers. She ate hand soup. We never see this character again. The cannibal is never seen, but he does get a shout-out when a psychologist outside of the Stupid Matrix says there was never supposed to be a cannibal. Awesome. I went back and watched that soup part three times, because it's hands down (ha!) the funniest part of this whole show.
So by now, you have to be wondering what the point is. Why is the Stupid Matrix a thing? The show brings this question up many times to make you think about it. And the reason? Everyone in Texas is a criminal. There are too many criminals. We have so many criminals that we need a way to rehabilitate them, because there are too gall-darn many of them. And we rehabilitate them by putting them on a simulated island for no reason whatsoever, with no memories, goals, instructions, plans, or anything. If they can avoid being murderers in that simulation, then they ... get to go free? I have no idea what Step 2 is, but that's cool.
I've spoiled seven episodes now, so I'll spoil the ending for you, because it is awesome. It's a twist! M. Night Shyamalan probably panic-shat when he saw this, and you know he saw it. Hero Lady is deemed innocent of her crimes and is no longer a prisoner. But there's something ... else. *Gasp*
Turns out she was on death row for 25 years before the Stupid Matrix, so she's 25 years older and this is the future. OK bye, the end. Can't wait for Seasons 2-16! I want these writers to be forced to come up with a hundred new layers to this mystery, each dumber than the last! It should be illegal for them to stop making this show.
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