We all know that feeling of indulging in a new television show. You’ve just discovered it, maybe it’s only just aired and you’re enjoying it for the first time, happy in the knowledge that others in your country are sat in front of their television doing the same. Or maybe you’re jumping on the bandwagon late, and have the daunting yet exciting task of catching up on a seven series TV show. Either way, if you’re a TV junkie, the feeling of getting a new show obsession is familiar to most people.
Cult is an enthralling, gripping and addictively dangerous television show, which goes one step further in exploring the interaction a show can have with its fans. In this day and age when social media can be used to interact, we’re more connected than ever. This show, to air on the CW midseason, perverts the idea of a fan following, to the extent where the fans would kill. The concept is confusing, especially with little to no knowledge of the show aside from the trailer and various interviews conducted with the actors and actresses. In its most basic form Cult is a show within a show.
The opening scene of the trailer presents us with our protagonist, Jeff Sefton (Matt Davis of Vampire Diaries fame). The camera cuts various times to settle on his face, brooding and pensive in a gas station at night. The setting already brings forth a sense of foreboding. Coupled with the eerie voice of a man who calls “Hey, you.” Jeff turns, thinking he has been addressed. The voice, however, belongs to a man on a television screen. This man is Billy Grimm, played by Robert Knepper, and he is the main character of a hit TV show inside this CW show, Cult. Elusive, charming and dangerous, Billy Grimm is entirely fictional in the world of the CW’s television show, but Jeff’s brother believes him to be a wholly dangerous threat.
“It’s not just a TV show, it goes beyond that.”
The trailer then cuts to four or five different scenes of a group of people, seemingly happy and merry. This is Billy Grimm’s cult following. Although they seem happy enough, the chilling voiceover of Billy Grimm reassuring us, in an entirely unreassuring voice, that he is “completely harmless” says otherwise. Billy Grimm does not seem harmless at all and him having control of a large group of people, men, women and children alike, is terrifying.
We are drawn in particular to a young blonde, seemingly someone Billy favours, as she is depicted more often than most others. This woman we have come to know as Kelly Collins (Alona Tal), a former follower of Billy Grimm’s dysfunctional cult leadership. Kelly has escaped his grasp, is now a police officer and devotes her time to bringing him and his cause down. The dynamic between these two characters seems to be an interesting one, as we are unaware as to where they currently stand or how long Kelly has been outside of the cult atmosphere. Despite her knowledge that Billy is a dangerous man, the former clips suggest that Kelly’s relationship with the cult leader was once a loving one. This is sure to be something deeply developed within the show, and I’m sure it will be exciting to learn the ties that bind Kelly, whether it is her love of Billy or her devotion to the cult lifestyle. Her motivation for bringing him down seems to lie with her sister, as we see her pleading with a half-conscious man to tell her of her sister’s whereabouts.
This only draws more blurry ties from Kelly to others. But let us not forget that Kelly and Billy are merely characters from the show within the show, and we know nothing of the actors who play them or their relationship.
Skye Yarrow, played by Jessica Lucas, is Jeff’s accomplice. She lets us know that the fans believe messages are coded within the show. It appears Jeff has acquired her for her help in searching for his brother, who has become immersed in the dangerous world of the Cult TV following. The shots that follow this realisation are haunting as we watch various crimes and events take place. These include Kelly kicking down a door, Billy Grimm’s outstretched palm holding a pair of glasses, a woman being hustled into a car, a seemingly kidnapped child and a body rising from a tank of water. The confusion is already imminent as we have no clue as to what is actually happening and what events are taking place on the show within the show. The fracture in this is confusing, yet intriguing. The not knowing is what makes me personally crave more. I want to know which crimes are fictional and which are being mirrored from the character of Billy Grimm.
I’m also yearning to know about the many sides of each character on the CW show, as there are actors playing actors playing characters. Confusing, but intriguing nonetheless.The trailer ends with the haunting voice of Robert Knepper’s character. He chants “you’re next” in a menacing voice, and we watch as our protagonists glance on it confusion and horror.
Cult is going to be a confusing prospect to pick up, that’s for sure. However, it’s also unlike anything the CW has ever attempted before, or any other television channel for that matter. It’s unique style and sense of confusion is what will inevitably keep the audiences watching and what will have me personally tuning in midseason. After all, this is a television show about the people watching. Finally a television show has been created about fans, about cult followings – even if it does depict us as psychopathic and murderous. It plays on the idea of how far devotion to a television show, to actors and actresses, will actually go. The idea of fan following is more dangerous than ever, and Cult addresses this in a new and extremely inventive way.