‘Saint X’ Season 1 Review: A Murder Mystery Not Worth Following Through

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It seems like every single streaming service and television network out there is looking to have its own prestige murder mystery. HBO has been killing it lately within the genre; many others want their piece of the cake. However, what might appear easy to achieve when HBO does it might be quite hard. Saint X is a new murder mystery show that seems to be doing the same things many others have. Hulu is looking for viewers everywhere, but tackling a genre like this without going to the next level, could be a waste of time.

Saint X is a Hulu murder drama created by Leila Gerstein and starring Alycia Debnam-Carey, Josh Bonzie, West Ducovny, Jayden Elijah, and Michael Park. The TV series tells the story of Emily Thomas, a young woman who one day crosses paths with the rapist and murderer of her older sister Alison. While the tragic event occurred many years ago, Emily is still haunted by the memory of her sister. Now that she actually has one of the guilty parties at hand, Emily might want to go on a path that ends only in violence and more tragedy.

The series is an adaptation of the novel by the same name, written by Alexis Schaitkin. Nowadays, there seems to be a trend with shows adapting best-selling movies and making little fuzz about it. The world of literature is an endless well of ideas, but to stand out among the crowd, a TV series needs to have more than just a good blueprint. They need to step up every single department, going from costume and production design to cinematography and editing. Saint X is watchable, but all these departments work on a standard level.

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This is not to say that the people working on the show are talentless or bad at their job. Not at all. Treating the people working on these projects as less than full professionals would be disingenuous. However, sometimes even the efforts of masters in their craft just don’t gel well enough. Saint X offers a very standard premise. The type of premise that has been able to sell countless copies of books like the original novel. So, right from the beginning, we are starting at a standard level. There is nothing great or original in any of these episodes.

As the story progresses, you are given a chance to follow several characters, but none are interesting. The series tells us we should care about them, but it just avoids placing that first hook on the audience. You could start watching Saint X and let it be your background show to make your company, but you will probably just be interested in the mystery and the answers behind it on a very surface level. We need to care about these people if we want to immerse ourselves in the mystery.

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Saint X definitely feels like Hulu’s answer to the White Lotus phenomenon. A series that dwells on a murder mystery set in an exotic locale. Saint X seems to have all the ingredients but none of the charm. Of course, HBO can bring some really big names to its seasonal show, which Hulu definitely cannot do. Saint X’s acting is fine, all the performances are more than correct, but none of them are taken to the next level. There are no characters here to fall in love with. These characters are only there to be seen, nothing more.

The fault seems to fall more on the script and the direction than the acting itself. This can be seen in other aspects of the show, such as the cinematography. White Lotus really goes the extra mile to offer many impressive shots of its locations and settings. It frames the characters on a separate level from their surroundings, making them look and feel special. This level of cinematic language is not here on Saint X. The show defaults to a visual language that makes it feel like any other network TV show from the past two decades or more.

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The entire look of the show also seems to expel a sense of being tired and bored. Because the camera placement, the colors, and the overall visuals are so subdued, there is nothing here to glue our eyes to. Then the character and story shortcomings become more prevalent. For example, our main character, Alycia Debnam-Carey, plays Emily and is a fine actress. She has proven her worth in shows like Fear the Walking Dead and The 100 before this. However, in Saint X, her character is so dislikable and shallow that Alycia’s efforts to elevate it become futile.

The show also feels the necessity of piling on clichés that, at this point, feel like crutches too weak storytelling. For example. The series uses this in media res style of storytelling that jumps back and forth between two different timelines constantly. This, of course, serves to give a wider point of view on the different events surrounding Alison’s death, but so many shows have been using this lately that it all just seems like a way to avoid telling the audience the things they need to know when they need to know them.

There is nothing bad about using narrative structures like this one, but are they really warranted? Does the story really benefit from splitting the characters like this? It could be that the novel also uses the same structure, but it all comes down to an adaptation issue. Not everything that works in one medium works in another. The show still works, but it feels tiresome and redundant in contrast with the rest of the TV’s current environment.

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As it is, Saint X feels like a very run-of-the-mill type of murder mystery. One that can only be recommended to those true fans of the genre. If you are not, then choosing to watch something like White Lotus might be the best choice, as Saint X feels like a watered-down version. The actors are fine, and as something to see when there is nothing more, which can be hard to argue these days, then Saint X will do the job.

SCORE: 6/10

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