Charlie Jade -
01 Boxer -
Karl Lubinsky -
OTHER ALTERNATIVE WORLD SHOWS
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The Fantastic Journey
Parallel universes exist. Charlie Jade lives in on called the alphaverse, a place ruled by giant merciless corporations that keep a Big Brother watch over a populace made rebellious by poverty and the scarcity of resources like water and food. The largest of these companies, Vexcor, has found a way to link to a universe called the gammaverse, a verdant paradise with unlimited resources that the alphaverse Vexcor intend to exploit. Stuck between them is our universe, known as the betaverse.
Charlie is a private investigator and finder of missing persons. One such case takes him in pursuit of the son of Vexcor's chairman to a facility in the desert. Reena, a rebel in the gammaverse, blows up the facility there whilst the link is active and both she and Charlie are thrown into our universe. They begin a tortuous journey to find a way back to their own universes and to prevent the link from allowing the rape of the gammaverse and the destruction of our own.
Playing with three parallel, but different universes and telling a story of corporate greed, scientific endeavour, brainwashing, murder, redemption and a dozen other themes, CHARLIE JADE is certainly not short on ambition. It's also not short of visual flair either. Unfortunately, the visual flair is to the fore, often getting in the way of the narrative and, in its worst moments, making the plainly obvious bloody obscure. There is an extremely good six or eight hour mini-series here, but it is stretched out to 21 episodes and that is enough to try anyone's patience.
There's nothing wrong with a leisurely pace, concentration of character and a show that looks really good, but there also needs to be a story worth following and characters worth liking. Jeffery Pierce's Charlie eventually emerges as one such character, but it takes a long time and a lot of audiences aren't going to wait that long. Michael Filipowich's 01 Boxer is utterly repellant and extremely annoying throughout, only occasionally revealing hidden depths, providing an original villain, but not one that engages. Reena the terrorist (played with conviction by Patricia McKenzie) goes through a story arc of such utter depression that there are times when you wonder why you are putting yourself through watching the show at all and Tyrone Benskin's conspiracy-chasing Karl Lubinsky is the most humane character, but one whose flaws often outweigh his qualities, leaving the audience to wonder if there is anyone worth rooting for at all. There are so many other characters that whirl in and out that it is often hard to keep up.
There are things to admire here, though. The epic scale of the story is to be applauded (if only it could have been told more clearly), the complex characters not over simplified and the special effects that create the world of the alphaverse all impress. Sadly, the rest is such hard work that whilst you might be glad that you persevered right to the end, you almost certainly won't want to return these universes any time soon.
Charlie Jade is a private investigator in Cape City. The only good thing in his life is his top class girlfriend Jasmine. She's certainly better than the visions he has of places and things that don't exist. Just when he thought his day couldn't get any worse, a local cop sends him a drugged up woman who asks for his help. His unhelpful attitude sends her running away, so his guilt is high when the woman turns up dead. He tracks down a single suspect, the son of the owner of the largest corporation on the planet. Charlie chases his suspect to a secret facility that suddenly explodes, apparently because of a bomb placed in the same place in another, parallel universe.
The opening episode of this dimension jumping series is deliberately oblique and confusing. The basis of the plot is laid down, but future episodes will see the mysteries pan out and the plot become clearer. What this episode is about is setting the scene, mainly that of the Alphaverse, a world that is worn out, used up, desperate and hopeless in the main. It's all green filters and crazy angles. It's a pretty standard dystopia. The gammaverse is apparently a verdant paradise and the betaverse is blue, but that's about all we know.
Style is high on the agenda as well, masking the content and making it a little less clear as to how successful the show is going to be. Apart from Jeffrey Pierce as Charlie nobody gets enough screen time to make any impact and even he is a vague character, tough yes and troubled yes, but with what other depths?
I guess future episodes will tell
Charlie wakes up in a world unlike his own following the explosion that formed the climax of the opening episode. Whilst Vex Corp tries to figure out what happened, Charlie tries to figure out where he is. His home is a wreck, his girlfriend has a different name and job and doesn't remember him. An investigative reporter wants to know about him and the terrorist that was responsible seems to be locked in the same place.
Man, is this episode slow. Charlie wakes up, finds that he is in a world not his own, chases (and loses) the terrorist responsible and......well that's the full episode. There is a good deal of wandering around not understanding, which is annoying because even though it might be right for the character the audience already knows what the situation is and wants something to happen.
The terrorist Reena doesn't have a better time as she meets up with a very wierd scientist who mumbles a lot and then blows his brains out. She even gets the voiceover, which is a bit wierd.
The show still looks great, but things will have to happen as well and sometime soon.
Charlie and his new pal search for answers to the mystery of his appearance in the strange town. He is assailed by visions of what is happening to Jasmine back in his own universe - stripped of property, thrown out of their flat, thinking him dead - and he is attacked by muggers in this one. Terrorist Reena's not having a much better time. She's sick and on the run. Finally there's 01 Boxer, determined to up his profile in the company by finding out the location of the scientist last seen driving away from the site just before it exploded.
If you've been having a really good few days and are feeling on top of the world here's something that will bring you back down with a bump. There's not a lot of joy going on in Charlie Jade that's for sure. At least there is more plot, enough that by the end a lot's happened, but nobody's any closer to answering the critical questions about what the hell is going on.
It's still stylish, and now there's a bit more substance to it, but we're going to start needing some answers soon.
The scientist who was seen fleeing the site of the explosion and who hanged himself last week is buried and his girlfriend is interrogated by the state police using every drug available, which on top of the drugs she was given by 01 Boxer leaves her in a catatonic state when Charlie manages to rescue her. Reena, meanwhile, is seriously on the run, but even she isn't able to run fast enough. Jasmine's old owner comes to call, expecting to own her again real soon. Boxer makes his first move to take over Vexcor.
Well, the pace has sped up, but that doesn't mean that very much is happening. Boxer's takeover of the company seems a bit too easy and Reena manages to nab a conveniently passing ambulance after being bottled and Charlie moods around before rescuing Karen (the scientist's girlfriend), but not before he can prevent anything that she has set in motion. The lead character is frustrated and so are we.
The style over sense nature of the show hits its nadir when Reena is in hiding with the ambulance driver, suffering from concussion and nobody can follow what's going on as she's fading in and out and he's on drugs anyway. It just serves to muddy waters further and annoy people.
Charlie sees O1 Boxer pour water over his head and vanish in the middle of an intimate encounter in a dark alley. He learns that Vexcor were responsible for contaminating water in a small town near to the reactor that exploded and that the townspeople all now have special powers. Reena is tortured for what she knows.
CHARLIE JADE grinds to a complete halt. Every line of enquiry that Charlie follows leads him precisely nowhere, which might make for real life but it is stultifyingly boring television. Sure it's mean and moody, but it's also ditchwater dull. The big fight at the end is OK, but it again cuts off a line of enquiry with no results and feels a lot like something put in just for the sake of having something happen.
Charlie takes on an investigation into a missing civil rights activist and finds a world where people are harvested for their body parts. Reena's torture continues until she is programmed to kill on sight.
The search for the missing man is a story out of nowhere that goes nowhere and doesn't connect with anything in the main story. Why it's there at all would seem to lie in the need for 21 episodes in a season. It's pure filler and if the writers can't be bothered to stay on track then why should we be bothered to try and follow it? It is also fast becoming the most depressing science fiction show for a very long time.
On arriving in our universe, Charlie pawned a ring that had singular emotional attachment to him. On going to reclaim it, he finds that it has been stolen and the pawnbroker murdered. Following a trail to get his ring back, he learns of a scheme by Vexcor to create artificial diamonds that will be used to provide the ID implants for every human like on his own world.
We like a show with atmosphere and CHARLIE JADE has atmosphere to spare. The problem is that it doesn't have a plot or characters to care about or dialogue worth hearing to go with the atmosphere. Great photography is no substitute for meaty storyline. There's about ten minutes of story stretched out to the hour by fancy directorial flourishes.
Charlie's search for a way home (more of a mild wish than a quest) doesn't move forward an inch, Boxer 01's scheming to take over the company barely moves, Reena's programming as a suicide bomber fails at the first attempt and we really are no further along and have nobody to really care about.
Charlie takes on a missing persons case thinking that it might lead him into a confrontation with Boxer 01, but learns that the woman in question is living with one of Vexcor's persuaders, a man with whom he is acquainted, of her own free will. Boxer 01 has his own problems, forced to supply life to his father and the target of an assassination attempt. Reena, meanwhile, finds that her saviour is dying of AIDS, leading her to a difficult decision.
Yet another episode in which virtually nothing happens. The introduction of Boxer 01's vampiric father might lead to something (here's hoping) and the assassination attempt adds a little badly needed action, but Charlie's plight is going nowhere and is turning, quite frankly, tedious and Reena's journey is downright depressing.
Charlie finally gets of his behind and sets about investigating the activities of Vexcor, discovering that they are building another facility, like the one that blew up, right below Cape Town. His activities do not go unnoticed, however, and Vexcor security go after him through his close friend Karl.
This is actually an episode of CHARLIE JADE that has some plot behind it and that appears to forward the main plot a bit at the same time. Charlie finally starts taking some action rather than wandering around like a lost lamb and Vexcor responds. As a result it's a much better episode and hopefully a sign of what is to come. The scene in which the Vexcor heavies take Karl out into the woods and threaten to set a burning tyre around his neck are seriously disturbing and the man's unravelling as he faces the victim of his 'betrayal' is certainly believable.
Reena also decides to focus her activities on the company. 01 Boxer, meanwhile has ended up in the paradiseverse where he has a family and wants to protect what he has.
On the run from Vexcor security, Charlie tries to get new papers, but instead happens upon some identities that have been stolen from Vexcor employees that have travelled from Charlie's home universe. One of these is a woman that Charlie knew when he was young, a woman who has learned some disquieting things about the operations that the company is carrying out.
For the second episode running, the plot runs straight and smooth and doesn't seem to be overly padded out. The stakes are getting higher for everyone as the fabric between the universes appears to be eroding and whole lakes are slipping from one to the other. This isn't half as disturbing as seeing 01 Boxer enjoying life with his family and taking the decision to leave his perfect life in order to save it. It could almost be heroic were he not such an utter scumbag.
This is almost a mini-run of form and there is a real sense of the plot advancing somewhere specific. As a result, it is much more watchable and much more entertaining.
With the help of his childhood friend, Charlie breaks into Vexcor to find out information about how to get home. Instead, he is captured and tortured. The only hope for him is if Gemma is willing to give up herself in exchange for him.
Whilst the story concentrates on Charlie, Emma, Karl and the Vexcor break in then the episode continues the run of form that the show has been on recently. Unfortunately, it keeps slipping sideways to 01 Boxer's slide back into the complete asshole of yesterepisode and a top Vexcor executive's need for a family man's DNA in order to survive, neither of which advance anything very far. Atmospheric it may be, but it's also damned annoying.
Still, this episode ups the stakes by revealing that the Vexcor plan will collapse the three universes into nothingness and gives Charlie more of a human face through his relationship with Gemma and her sacrifice. It's enough to keep us watching, just.
Emma, the friend who traded herself for Charlie's freedom is killed by the company and Charlie finally goes after Boxer 01, but the police get there first. This forces Charlie and Karl to stage a jailbreak before the increasingly desperate Vexcor security troops manage to kill him.
This episode finally feels like the story's taken a big step forward, though to where we're not too sure. Apart from being padded out by Reena's nightmare, which appears relevant to nothing, Jasmine's totally unnecessary getting dressed up in leather and 01 Boxer's cavorting in his nightclub, there is a sense of purpose as Charlie lies his way into the station and then saves his man with the express purpose of torturing him. What he learns galvanises him into action, but that's going to be the next episode.
Apart from the disappointment that nobody's killed 01 Boxer yet because he really is the most annoying character ever, this is a better episode that continues the improvement that the show has been putting up in recent weeks. We only hope that it can continue.
Through a series of persuasive measures, Charlie gets information out of 01 Boxer that finally explains much of the situation that he finds himself in. It also tells him exactly who the enemy really is and what they want. Back home, Jasmine finds that life in her old profession is much tougher after a time with a guy like Charlie.
This episode is an exercise in torture. If you had no idea of how to get information out of someone then this could easily be your blueprint. Some of the methods Charlie employs are downright disturbingly realistic. None of that, however, is as disturbing as the truth about 01 Boxer and his motives. We now have to hate him for who he is rather than what he has done.
Admittedly, most of this information could have been told in about fifteen minutes, but stylistic overload stretches it out to the full hour. Reena's storyline seems utterly irrelevant to what's going on and Jasmine's story has been irrelevant for quite some time now, but at least the backstory is now clear and we can move forward.
Reena supplies Karl with information that leads Charlie to a source inside Vexcor. That source leads back to Reena, but Charlie now realises that she has a double identity, one of which is programmed to be a cold-blooded killer.
So Charlie finally gets to meet Reena and connects with a woman who is as lost as he is. That, though, is the only thing of any importance that happens in the whole episode. The rest is padded out with the show's visual flair. Some of this might give insight into the characters, but precious little else. At least it doesn't feel as static as some of the other episodes.
Even Jasmine's story moves forward a little way rather than just flapping around in welter of camera filters.
A Cape Town cop is contacted by Charlie and he offers to show her that Vexcor is not what it appears. He proves that Julius, head of the company, has no real records, no real history, only fake ones. Reena learns the truth about her programming from Karl and goes back to meet her maker.
The problem with CHARLIE JADE, one of the problems with CHARLIE JADE is its insistence on destroying narrative coherence in search of creating a sense of atmosphere. The fact is that there is about fifteen minutes of plot in this episode stretched out over the full running time. OK, we're learning about the character of the cop, but the question remains moot as to whether the cop has any relevant part to play in moving the main plot forward. Bringing her in means a whole episode dedicated to explaining to her what has already been tortuously explained to us over the past fourteen hours. Do we really need to go throught that again?
Charlie's visions return, a plot component that has been conveniently set aside since the early episodes. Is there a reason for their return? The director's visual tics are also really annoying.
The scene in which a man programmed to remember Julius is suddenly attacked by a hallucination of spiders emerging from a hole in his arm is pretty chilling though, especially for arachnophobes.
Whilst Reena searches for a way to control her own mind, Charlie looks for help in controlling his visions, but instead finds a way home.
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Karl is sat in a bar feeling sorry for himself. A man walks up and says that he thinks Karl has a story to tell and so Karl tells the story of Charlie Jade, a man from another universe and how he changed Karl's life forever.
Having trouble following the story of CHARLIE JADE? You probably wouldn't be alone because, whilst the show's plot has a lot of facets, it would be straightforward enough were it not told in a manner set on muddying waters that are murky enough anyway. This is a recap version of the tale to explain everything that has gone before it for those having issues in the hope that it will win back viewers for the run in to the series climax.
It has to be said that if the show can be so completely summarised in a single episode's length that the fact it has taken sixteen episodes to get to this point would suggest that the story has been spun out beyond its length. This episode just provides proof of that.
Charlie is back in the alphaverse, but instead of rushing straight home to Jasmine, he visits a friend and uses a phrase that is picked up the constant monitoring and gets her arrested and sentenced to death. Meeting up with the detective now looking after Jasmine, Charlie gets in to see his friend and she tells the truth about Vexcor's activities to the whole world. The head of Vexcor, takes a trip to the gammaverse and kills his son's family, bringing Boxer 01 back to the alphaverse to kill him in return.
More happens in this episode than probably the whole of the series to date. Whilst it is hard to understand why Charlie doesn't rush straight back to his loft to find his beloved Jasmine, his detour sets up a series of events that ought to undermine Vexcor, but instead just causes them to put the spin machine into action. His meeting with the woman that he has inadvertantly sentenced to death is pretty intense, but that is nothing to the moment when we realise that Brion Boxer intends to 'take care of his son' by the slaughter of his whole family. That this will lead to his own death is irrelevant because the travelling between universes is killing him already. This gives some more insight into the character of 01 Boxer.
The whole thing is drenched in the usual visual gimmickry and overdirected to within an inch of its life, but the special effects realising Cape City are still very impressive and it is nice to get a storyline that isn't chopped up into a million pieces for the sake of it for once.
Charlie is back in his universe, in his loft with his Jasmine and yet it is not as it was, he is not as he was and in one troubled, sleepless night he is visited by the memory of the Capetown cop he befriended and tells of one his cases, a story of deceit, betrayal and murder.
This episode is absolute filler. Charlie's story is about a woman who killed her husband and tried to frame him for it. It introduced him to the cop who has been looking after Jasmine in his absence and so might have had relevance were he telling it to her, but as it is a memory of another woman that's not the case. That it's Charlie struggling with his conscience about not tackling Vexcor's plans now that he's home is obvious, but it's a long-winded and utterly unnecessary way of going about it. Any audience that was willing to stick with CHARLIE JADE as far as this is smart enough to get what it's trying to say without all this.
Charlie decides that he is not going to let Vexcor re-establish the link between universes. As the countdown continues, he initiates the search for a medical technician who will provide the key to deposing the head of the company and installing Boxer 01 as the new chairman, a chairman with no love for the link.
As a way of ending the threat posed by the link, making 01 Boxer the chairman of the company in a corporate takeover is hardly the most dramatic or action-packed, but it is at least a story that fills out the whole episode without deviation and with less time for overcomplicated direction and visual trickery.
Despite his promise, 01 Boxer has not shut down the link and so Charlie, Karl and Reena must go the Vexcor facilities in Betaverse and Gammaverse to stop it. 01 Boxer isn't going to allow that to happen and it seems that Charlie is destined to become the key to saving three universes.
CHARLIE JADE goes mental - well, seriously surreal at least. Shifting between the universes leaves him flitting in and out of a place that doesn't exist in any of them, with projections of all his friends there telling him to remember. What he is to remember is that he has the power to hold the universes together forever, but there's going to need to be a major turnaround in 01 Boxer's behaviour to make it happen.
The 'real world' action of this series finale is actually exciting as 01 Boxer attempts to establish the links and the rest of the cast attempt to stop him. The story twists and turns, but in good ways. Unfortunately, it's twisted around the metaphysical stuff about Charlie and 01 Boxer's fates and a final scene in which the mysterious 'men in suits' are running a whole different story - clearly something to be explored should there be a second series.
That would seem unlikely as CHARLIE JADE proved to be much too hard work for the viewer to get through than is normally popular and than was really necessary. CHARLIE JADE is likely to remain a single ambitious, but failed curiosity in the genre.
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