Despite the wide variety of acclaimed television shows that people keep telling me to watch, from Money Heist to Stranger Things, I somehow ended up binging The Pentaverate. A show about a secret society that controls the world from the shadows… made up exclusively of characters played by Mike Myers. How could I not be intrigued?
From the get-go, one of The Pentaverate’s main strengths is its production quality. This caught me off guard. The show feels like something pulled out of a bygone era of sci-fi television, evoking the likes of early Doctor Who.
The score is such a fun throwback, with electrifying keyboards and otherworldly synthesisers creating a wave of nostalgia. The special effects and visuals are also fun and inventive. The whole show feels so experimental, playing with aspect ratios, colours, lighting, filters, and practical work in such creative ways.
It also uses several juxtaposing elements that strangely end up complementing each other. It combines the techniques and sensibilities of both decades-old and present-day effects work, resulting in a visual style that feels bizarrely refreshing. On one hand, there’s the modern cinematography, with eye-catching lighting and dynamic camera movements. On the other hand, there are plenty of goofy B-movie effects, such as cheesy green screen and over-the-top practical effects. This clashing of ideas further extends to the costumes and set designs. One moment, Flash Gordon-esque guards are patrolling sterile sci-fi hallways. The next, people are wearing long robes and chainmail in towering medieval chambers. This results in a consistently engaging atmosphere.
However, there is something the series is perhaps most notable for, which many see as one of its biggest achievements- the prosthetic work. Mike Myers is transformed into various unique characters. Each of which looks completely different from the others, whether he’s a naive local reporter or a long-haired Russian man. This does sometimes tread into uncanny valley territory, especially when multiple Mike Myers (Myerses? Myersi?) are all on screen at the same time. However, the prosthetics are an impressive feat, and really help to amplify Myers’ performances.
Speaking of Myers, this is very much his show (he’s like 80% of the cast after all). He is obviously known for his character work, and it’s on full display here. He clearly has a lot of fun becoming these characters, and really throws himself into the madness headfirst. Though not on the same level as his work on films such as Austin Powers and Wayne’s World, some performances stood out. Mainly our protagonist, the kind-hearted newsman, Ken Scarborough. Myers is just so likeable in the role, embodying friendly local reporters perfectly. He’s so pleasant that you instantly form a connection with him and want to see him succeed. That is why it’s such a shame that so many characters feel so one-note in comparison. Possibly due to Myers playing so many different roles at once, many characters, in particular the members of the titular Pentaverate, simply come across as caricatures with one key trait each. I certainly had fun watching them as I’ve always been a big Myers fan. However, they receive barely any character development, which makes them less memorable overall despite their zany appearances.
The show’s concept is so intriguing and full of potential. There’s everything from conspiracy theories and supercomputers to occult rituals and sasquatches. The world the characters inhabit is packed with so much lore. The story is quite enjoyable and investing due to the premise and is helped along by the oblivious yet lovable protagonist. However, the plot becomes surprisingly predictable, with twists just not having the impact they were intended to have. This in combination with the slightly rushed pace made for a story that was probably better on paper than on screen.
Another issue I had was the comedy. And the problem with comedy is that it is completely subjective. Something you find funny mightn’t get a laugh out of someone else. And in the case of The Pentaverate, I found it to be quite a mixed bag.
There were a lot of jokes that genuinely made me laugh, from funny wordplay and exaggerated performances to hilarious fourth wall breaks and visual gags. Where it strayed for me was in its over reliance on “adult” humour.
To put it bluntly, it quickly devolves into a bunch of crude dick jokes. The main crux of a lot of these jokes literally involves characters looking directly into the camera asking how Netflix is letting them get away with it. And I’ve no problem with that kind of humour, but they soon become frequent enough to the point of being lazy, repetitive, and kind of immature. This is made especially apparent when compared to a lot of the show’s more inventive moments of humour.
Other lacklustre comedic elements include Ken Jeong’s character, who was just grating, and certain jokes that just felt like they were random for the sake of being random. For a primarily comedy-driven show, the uneven quality of jokes was a disappointment.
Overall, The Pentaverate is a very weird show. And I like weird. I like seeing Netflix make bolder shows that go in strange new directions. But in the end, I’m on the fence with this one. I love how the show looks and sounds. I enjoy watching Myers have fun portraying the many wacky characters. And I really did get a good laugh out of a lot of the humour. But at the same time, I thought several jokes fell flat, found the story to be overly predictable, felt that many of the characters were far too one-note, and just saw a lot of missed potential. In the end, I’m glad I watched The Pentaverate. However, I do not see myself returning to it anytime soon.