Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Wreck, on Hulu

Remember how those Alaskan cannery boats used to recruit college students to come work during semester break? That wasn’t such a bad deal. You maybe smelled like fish for three months, but the pay was good and everyone came home safe and sound. This luxury cruise liner cannot make the same claim. Jamie Walsh’s sister Pippa disappeared aboard its last cruise, so he signs up under an assumed identity to sleuth out what happened to her in creator Ryan J. Brown’s six-episode Wreck, which premieres tomorrow on Hulu.

We have a pretty good idea of Pippa’s fate from the prologue, when she was forced over the side by a killer wearing the ship’s duck mascot costume. There is no question Quackie is the most distinctive element of
Wreck. Now, Walsh is looking for answers, but he will have to do so with even more door-slamming chaos, because his friend Cormac Kelly, whose slot on the ship’s roster Walsh purchased, stowed away with him, to keep an eye on his ex-girlfriend.

Initially, Walsh suspects one of the bullying ship’s officers, but than his prime suspect falls into the fool with several suspicious puncture wounds to his torso. As usual, the company sweeps the incident under the rug, because the ship is registered in Panama. That means an easily corrupted Panamanian cop only has twenty-four hours to conduct an investigation. (If you book a cruise, check to see what nation your ship is registered—and what civil liberties protections exist under their jurisdictions.)

Walsh and his new friends, such as runaway Vivian Lim, basically enjoy zero workplace protections. The martinet-like Officer Karen MacIntrye (whose name cannot be a coincidence, given how on-the-nose Brown wrote the series) works the service-help like dogs, cuts their hot water, and then plies them with cheap booze.

Wreck starts out as a promising slasher horror (thanks to good old Quackie), but craters into a risible class-warfare parable. Then it sinks even further when we learn the big secret of the ship, which is absolutely ridiculous and also a tired and predictable cliché. About 75% of the characters are LGBTQ, which is an unrealistic over-representation, even among Millennials and Gen Z, but fine, whatever.

The thing that is offensive about the series is its relentlessly nasty portrayal of veterans. The entire officer ranks are made up of military veterans and they are all violent, duplicitous sociopaths—but surely Brown thanks all the veterans out there for their service. Indeed, there is not one single sympathetic veteran character in
Wreck, which is truly shameful.

Brown’s biases are unfortunate, because series director Chris Baugh (who also helmed
Boys from County Hell and Bad Day for the Cut) stages some nifty slasher sequences, especially in the first episode. If it were more like Terror Train (either of them) and less determined to vilify veterans, Wreck might have been a successful guilty pleasure.

It does not help that Oscar Kennedy is such an underwhelming milquetoast presence as Walsh. Thaddea Graham helps liven up the series with the energy and attitude she brings to Lim, but she is fighting an uphill battle.

Why is it television writers like Brown still feel comfortable portraying veterans in such despicable terms when they would never present other protected groups in such a manner? It is hypocrisy, but it also undermines viewers ability to identify with the characters and get caught up in the story. Not recommended,
Wreck starts streaming tomorrow on Hulu.