Sunday, March 6, 2016

‘Sheena’, season 1 episode 10, “Children of the LaMistas”, review

Coming on the heels of the light-hearted, very entertaining, Bionic Woman-esque episode, “Doing as the Romans”, the series delivers a dark and violent turn in “Children of the Lamistas”.

Written by Tony Blake and Paul Jackson, and directed effectively by Scott Paulin, “Children of the Lamistas” is another weighty episode that provides insightful backstory into Sheena’s past, and further deepens the texture of the show. Ten episodes into my “Sheena” binge, and once again I must point out how surprised and impressed I am.  Executive producers Douglas Schwartz and Steven L. Sears have taken the premise and character seriously.

“Children of the LaMistas” opens with very racy (and very erotic) montage of Sheena dressing up standard civilian safari attire, in an effort to take her mentor and adoptive mother Kali’s advice and “learn more about civilization”. As Sheena and Cutter verbally spar, at first the episode feels like a continuous feel-good, sexy jaunt to “Doing the Romans”. But the humor ends abruptly as Sheena (clad in civilian clothing) comes upon a customer of Cutter’s named Armstrong—a sinister character from her past.

When Sheena was a young girl, Armstrong led an armed militia attack against a small village, wiping out most of the people and kidnapping the rest including Sheena’s friend, a small boy named Nakele. Armstrong himself grabbed Sheena, and would have taken her away as well, but Sheena’s beloved lion companion came to her rescue. Sheena escapes, but tragically her lion friend is shot by Armstrong.

The moment Sheena spots Armstrong—she sets out to exact revenge, but is talked down by Cutter who begs her to use civilized law—or at the very least get more information to be absolutely sure it is the same man. So to Cutter’s surprise, Sheena shows up clad in civilian safari gear posing as an animal researcher, and hops on board Cutter’s boat for the monthly transport Armstrong hired him for.

The tension and danger on the boat ride is quite intense. Armstrong is well cast (Antoni Corone). But when we reach the mysterious destination of a secret, hidden plantation deep in the jungle, things get even darker and more dangerous.

It turns out Armstrong is a hired goon for a diabolical mad scientist named Dr. Daniel Miller (Leland Crooke), who is conducting cruel, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, type experiments on abducted animals and humans, including the villagers from Sheena’s childhood.

The earlier violent flashback is quite disturbing in its rendering, as is the depiction of Dr. Miller’s laboratory of horrors. There is a moment in this episode where I was actually afraid for Sheena. Leland Crooke does a nice job of making Dr. Miller a formidable villain.

There is some intense and violent action in the final act, as well as some affecting emotion, although it would have been better if a scene was included showing Sheena freeing all of those poor creatures trapped in Miller’s cruel house of horrors. But still, this a strong episode, more in line with the dark, graphic nature of genre TV in 2016 than the syndicated television world of 2000.

Bottom line:  **** (out of four)

“Children of the LaMistas” is a dark, intense episode of “Sheena”, that continues to add to the character’s development. Gena Lee Nolin is as fierce and luminous as ever and John Allen Nelson continue to shine as Cutter.

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