“Brave New World”, despite a compelling setup, is fraught with bizarre dialogue, incomprehensible character decisions, and a juvenile tone. Not a great start to Netflix’s answer to Lost.
This recap of The I-Land Episode 1, “Brave New World”, contains spoilers.
Netflix’s The I-Land is bizarre — and in a few ways. The Lost-inspired setup is designed to raise questions; a bunch of diverse amnesiacs wakes up on a deserted tropical island increasingly fraught with mysteries and dangers. But what’s truly weird about the show, or at least its premiere, “Brave New World”, is its tone. Nobody here seems to behave in the way they should. In fact, they all, despite being grown adults, behave like teenagers, retreating to a high-school mentality where cliques and who’s good-looking are immediately more important than fresh water and shelter. Everyone speaks in exposition, and some as though they’re reading their lines aloud directly from the script, with no emotion whatsoever.
The premise of The I-Land Episode 1 means that it’s difficult to say for certain whether this is intentional or shoddy writing. Are some of the various islanders imposters? Are they there to keep an eye on everyone else, to make sure things progress along certain lines, to “stumble” on the next important clue? Are the rivalries and conflicts manufactured to elicit certain observable reactions? It’s a dilemma. Either way, “Brave New World” isn’t very good.
Our nominal protagonist is revealed to be Chase (Natalie Martinez), a pretty get-stuff-done type with the innate ability to snatch a knife from a potential attacker — that’s KC (Kate Bosworth), the first survivor she meets, and one of the least friendly. The I-Land Episode 1 is quick to establish the lines in the sand, so to speak, and I don’t mean the desperate “HELP” SOS that the group carve with twigs.
Each survivor — we get to know their names during a scene in which they share a coconut and read the tags sewn into everyone’s matching shirts — woke up with an item; a knife, a hatchet, a first-aid kit, a conch shell, and so on. During a brief excursion, Chase and the mop-haired alpha-jock Brody (Alex Pettyfer) dig them all up. They find a waterfall and potential shelter, then they share a brief smooch and Brody tries to rape Chase. This whole sequence plays like a bad joke. When they both return to the beach and Chase attacks him, Brody plays it off like no big deal. He later approaches her privately to ask for her vote in the inevitable group meeting, like a smarmy political campaigner. He justifies his attempt to rape her thusly: “There’s no such thing as rape in a place like this. There’s either sex or no sex. And we had no sex.”
Yeah, as I said, “Brave New World” is weird.
For some reason, some of the gang, lead by Donovan (Anthony Lee Medina), decide to go swimming. They’re promptly attacked by sharks. Donovan is presumed dead but is later found alive on the beach after Chase wakes up from a nightmare (flashback?) in which she fires a gun at the camera in a bloodstained room. Blair (Sibylla Deen) takes charge of his recovery, which suggests the possibility of a medical background, though after the first couple of scenes of The I-Land Episode 1 everybody seems to stop postulating about their previous lives anyway.
The I-Land makes sure to litter this first episode with potential clues. On the beach, snarky Taylor (Kota Eberhardt) finds a copy of The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. Later, Mason (Gilles Geary) and Hayden (Michelle Veintimilla), the self-appointed dorks of the gang, do some sums and determine they all woke up exactly 39 steps apart. “Isn’t that a movie?” asks Taylor. It is — several, in fact, but if I had to bet I’d say the Hitchcock thriller is the pertinent version.
Ensuing mathematics — accounting for size differentials and suchlike, naturally — lead the gang to a sign in the sand that reads, “Find Your Way Back”. Chase believes this is a clue, but everyone else thinks it’s just an old relic left behind by previous inhabitants. What I was thinking was that it’s ridiculous anyone would have thought to work any of this out. Chase, in a fit of rage, smashes her conch shell. The camera reveals a label inside that declares it “Property of The I-Land”, and that it contained an electronic device that is now bleeping in the sand.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.