The Dead Lands - Season 1, Episode 8: “The Sacrifice of Innocence” TV Episode Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Premiered on Shudder
Directed by Michael Hurst
Written by Glenn Standring
2020, 45 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered on Shudder on March 5th, 2020
Starring:Te Kohe Tuhaka as Waka Nuku Rau
Darneen Christian as Mehe
Kirk Torrance as Kā
Vicky Haughton as Turika
Nathaniel Lees as Te Kaipō
Rob Mokaraka as Hako “the Terrifying”
Here we are, folks: the end of the line for the first part of the tale of Waka Nuku Rau (Te Kohe Tuhaka) and Mehe (Darneen Christian) as they attempt to halt (if not stop) the spread of the dead across their land. It’s been an intense journey, with each episode seemingly topping the previous as we’re assaulted by revelations and confronted by ever greater horrors.
Waka, along with Hako (Rob Mokaraka), is returning from his mission to rescue the three young shamans from the legendary dead warriors. He runs into some trouble in the form of a betrayal, reminding him of what he’s known all along: The dead lie. Meanwhile, Mehe is seduced by Te Kaipō’s promises of meeting her ancestors and saving what remains of her people. Both are in more dangerous positions than they realize. The end is near, but will it be anything like what they have been working for? And will Waka’s redemption be derailed by the brutal truth of the staggering odds he faces?
As strong as the finish to Season One is, I’m taking a moment to applaud the chemistry and relationship that’s built between Waka and Mehe. “The Sacrifice of Innocence” contains the kind of heart string pulling (that in no way needs to be cheesy or ham-fisted) not often seen in genre fare. The layers to that connection, from the humor to the aggressive flirting to the deep bond that forms, are a joy to watch and only enhance the drama and horror onscreen.
And you’d better believe they’re bringing the highest level of violence, gore, drama, and twists yet! Even the twists that you had a pretty good bead on at this point are effectively delivered, and the ending is a legit rollercoaster that promises far more story to come. There had better be a second season, because this bad boy is just getting started. I uttered the phrases “You mean to tell me….” and “Are you serious?!” multiple times in a powerful 45 minutes.
The visuals on display in the season finale, from the tear in the world to the change of the land, are rooted in ancient belief and speak to a part of the soul that speaks a more primal language. It’s another touch of authenticity in a show that’s dripping with them. Also, as good as Waka and Mehe are, Nathaniel Lees steals every scene as Te Kaipō and his stylistic counterpart, Rob Mokaraka as Hako “the Terrifying”, is just too much damn fun.
That sense of humor and playfulness can be overlooked in a show that gets as dark as The Dead Lands does, but it adds another facet that pulls you in. In much the same way that we all love to see the players on SNL try to keep a straight face, the cast of The Dead Lands are clearly having a good time. The jokes are timely and never derail the intensity, instead keeping it lively and active. Comedy and horror are kissing cousins, after all, but that doesn’t mean that watching your cousins kiss is often comfortable.
The Dead Lands is at the forefront of where television is headed in the 21st century and should be applauded for bringing us perspectives that we’ve never seen before. It’s a show that can stand shoulder to shoulder with historical heavyweights like Vikings. The attention to detail, authenticity, and dedication to craft is something you don’t see every day. No one is “mailing it in” here. Everyone is on point and determined to bring you something that’s entertaining across genre lines while being as hardcore as horror can be and still showing massive respect to Maori culture and traditions. Frankly, it’s breathtaking.
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