Best show ever! Incredible! Impressive! Amazing!
Those are words being used to describe ABS-CBN’s newest soap opera Imortal. But it is hard to jump to conclusions after a solid, if not uninteresting premiere week.
Imortal is a sequel to the 2008 series Lobo, a heavily buzzed about series as it was actress Angel Locsin’s first series since a controversial network transfer. The series, however, signaled Locsin’s development as an actress and ushered her way to New York City with an International Emmy nomination.
Possibly hoping to duplicate the success of Lobo, here comes Imortal. In both series, Locsin plays Lyka, a taong lobo or a human who can transform into a wolf (or the other way around), sort of a werewolf. Lobo was primarily a love story set against the backdrop of a mortal fight between the wolves and the humans who wanted them eliminated.
Now Imortal is set to continue that story, this time the wolves fighting off vampires. Locsin’s Lyka returns mainly to pass the torch to her daughter Lia (also played by Locsin) who, like her mother, will ultimately be the protector of the taong lobos against the new enemy.
And like Lobo, Imortal is a love story set against the backdrop of a mortal battle between the two mythical groups.
The premiere week was solid, albeit mostly set-up with a big effort to bridge the two series. However, it seems too early to heap praise on the series. While the series had a good start, the question is, where is the show headed?
One of the problems plaguing Philippine series recently has been lack of any meaningful or coherent story, or the stretching of thin plots that aren’t meant for long television runs.
Imortal’s obvious basic premise is the story of Lia and vampire Matteo (played by John Lloyd Cruz) in the typical Romeo & Juliet, forbidden love –slash- prophesized love affair angle.
But what Imortal needs to do is make the series more than that. The same storylines can be seen in non-supernatural soap operas, not to mention they just did it in the series they are a sequel to.
Because they do have that supernatural aspect, Imortal can separate itself from the typical by expanding that world, developing this new mythology. Philippine TV series tend to be neither character-driven or plot-driven, but star-driven, stories written around the actors playing them instead of writing story for story and characters for story.
Imortal can easily fall flat by becoming a star-driven series (like a few of its primetime neighbors) , but it could just as easily run with the potential they have by focusing on character and story and not catering to the name on the marquee.
Admittedly, the series is primarily a vehicle for Angel Locsin who could have been served better with a fresh, new premise instead of going back to a well-received, but already nicely concluded story; essentially playing the same character in a genre she can’t seem to escape, regardless of network.
Indeed, Imortal rewrites Lobo’s 21st century timeline, shifting it back 20 years just to place the sequel in the present day. No one obviously expected a sequel when Lobo ended two years ago.
Bottom line, Imortal does not have the luxury of excellent visuals thanks to the limitations of Philippine television production, which is all the more reason to focus efforts on good writing.
Outside of the fan clubs, it is too soon to pass judgment on the series. But one would hope they don’t succumb to Philippine TV conventions, but instead actually present a worthwhile viewing experience.