The Woman Who Disappeared
Episode 1 of Roar starts with Wanda touching down at the airport in LA. She’s a bestselling author and meets Blake, who has actually changed his name from Ugandan. Apparently no one knows how to pronounce this properly in the US, so he changed it to make things easier. US readers is this true? Can people really not pronounce names from Uganda?
Anyway, Wanda has been given a $15 million condo while she’s working, with a breath-taking view and her career on the cusp of making it into the bigtime. Her memoir is about to be adapted into a movie, and after namedropping several other prolific titles, Wanda’s friend essentially claims they’re all terrible compared to Wanda’s.
When Wanda heads to the office, she finds Blake who spews some exposition about the different workers in the building. Sitting down to meet them, we learn that Wanda’s father passed away and that’s what encouraged her to write her memoir.
The meeting soon takes a turn for the worst when Aaron Fishman, who happens to be part of the VR team, wants to turn her book into a VR reality experience instead. This is something that would allow people to “walk a day in her shoes” and understand what it’s like to live as a black woman.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst when Wanda realizes that she’s inexplicably turned into a ghost. Or at least is starting to. No one sees her at clothing stores, the work lobby is a hazard zone while she’s almost hit by a car crossing the street; things don’t look good for Wanda.
Wanda heads up to the VR party all the same, where the other workers don their headsets and begins to get immersed in the experience. Wanda too grabs a headset and in doing so, finds herself experiencing old memories from her childhood.
The moment in question depicts her crossing the road with her father. However, a couple of police cars arrive and the officers tackle him to the ground, taking him away. For Wanda, she’s knocked out and ends up having a big panic attack and passes out.
After this, Wanda is “seen” again by her peers and after a bit of a pep talk with Blake outside, heads in to the party to confront the others.
The Episode Review
Roar could be an interesting anthology but like many screenwriters in the west, the recent trend of pointing out that something’s bad and not spinning that into something interesting or thought provoking has been well-worn and it’s low hanging fruit by now.
There’s no clever allegoric writing here, it’s simply “racism=bad.” Yes, we know racism is bad and it’s abhorrent how different members of our society have been made to feel this way. But Roar doesn’t do anything to actually address that issue. It does nothing original, clever or interesting beyond actually pointing out the obvious.
The writing and dialogue has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer smashing into a cake, which is a shame because there are some nice ideas here.
Wanda is a big-shot artist who has absolutely made it to the upper-echelons of society. She’s convinced publishers to get her memoir adapted and the general public have embraced her. She’s made a boat-load of money and is about to become a hotshot in Hollywood with these producers intending on making a VR experience so more people can see what Wanda has been through. Maybe it could have been more effective had the producers of this game decided to “spice up” the experience and distort her past for the different investors, that may have been a nice angle to work with.
It doesn’t help either that the episode just stops, right in the middle of this whole storyline with no triumphant speech or twist at the end to make for a satisfying character arc. Hopefully the other episodes in this anthology are better as this one feels like it’s in desperate need of a rewrite.