The world of web series is no place for bimbos: If you want to excel, you can’t just look good, you have to be smart too. Take Angel of Death, the new Crackle action extravaganza premiering today. Despite sporting high-end production values, a talented cast, and beautiful RED camera cinematography, it still would have been possible for the Zoe Bell-starring series to crash and burn. But it doesn’t in the slightest. And why?
While stuntwoman-turned-actress Zoe Bell (Grindhouse, stunt double for Xena: Warrior Princess and Kill Bill‘s Bride) deserves no small portion of the credit, creator Ed Brubaker is really the answer. Crossing over from the comic book world (where he’s accumulated many awards and killed many superheroes), his writing takes the world web serials to a new level. The clever dialogue and meaty character interaction give the actors something meaty to chew on, and the fast pace and well-structured cliffhangers keep the momentum going — providing the emotional intimacy of a small-screen drama, coupled with spurts of Hong Kong-quality action.
The violence is real, harsh, and occasionally flat-out awesome: Bell’s career was built on making kicking butt look good and Death really puts her through her paces. But Angel of Death is more than just an action spectacular. While it’s easy for the girl-assassin genre to be reduced to an opportunity to fetishize girls and guns, Eve is a fully realized and likable character.
In fact, it’s surprising how likable she is — perhaps it’s because the audience immediately recognizes her as capable and strong, as believable as any male assassin tasked with the same job. At the beginning, we don’t quite know the specifics behind her chosen career and why she’s so driven, but the, um, vulnerable position she finds herself in at the end of the first episode triggers a character arc that deconstructs her fierce persona even as her professional situation takes an abrupt turn.
Crackle is taking a slightly unconventional approach with its distribution of the 10-episode series, hyping it up as a must-see event by releasing an episode every weekday for the next two weeks. My biggest regret is that, as Brubaker explained to Chris Albrecht, it was constructed to work as a feature film as well as a web series — the four episodes available for review definitely represent a slow build to a greater conflict, and as the narrative builds momentum you can sense that this story has a definite ending. And I really wish that weren’t the case, that I had weeks and weeks of the show to look forward to. But in the dangerous world of murder-for-hire, you take what you get. Or so I’ve heard.