Episode 1 -| Review Score – 1.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 2/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3/5
Roar is AppleTV’s latest anthology series and to call it a mixed bag would be an understatement. With 8 episodes, each clocking in between 30-38 minutes, this series promises to be “an insightful, poignant, and sometimes hilarious portrait of what it means to be a woman today.” The trouble is, Roar isn’t particularly funny. It’s also not all that poignant save for a few good episodes and it’s not really that insightful either, unless you count pointing out the ills in our own society. So what we’re left with is a show that’s likely to be well received by some and looked at with indifference by everyone else.
Now, as a 34 year old male I do appreciate this show isn’t tailored for me. However, there have been plenty of female-centric shows over the years that have managed to showcase these issues in an interesting and unique way. The Queen’s Gambit was fantastic, The Handmaid’s Tale has been solid while The Underground Railroad was easily one of last year’s best shows.
When it comes to Roar, and in terms of what this anthology actually offers, the premise feels like a blend of watered down Black Mirror concepts, half-baked around some nice ideas that are never fully fleshed out. There are a couple of stand-out chapters here, including one involving Nicole Kidman eating photos and another about a woman returning her husband to the store, but beyond that, everything else is either forgettable, poorly written or just flat-out bland.
Like any anthology, there’s a wide range of different influences and a fair few famous faces crop up here too. That’s nothing new for anyone familiar with Apple’s TV products, which are usually full of big name actors or actresses. The material here though generally revolves around a weird, surrealist idea, a couple of interesting characters and then a very abrupt ending. In fact, when you actually look at these episodes – even the best ones – the character and plot arcs are shaky.
This feeling of not being satisfied is something the whole show struggles with. Constantly. The only episodes that actually give some good closure stem from a chapter about a shelf and those aforementioned episodes about the returned husband and the photo-eating wife. Everything else almost feels like a prequel or some sort of teaser for a larger film to follow. And who knows, that could actually come to fruition in the future, especially if Apple’s anthology does well on the platform.
Most anthologies are polarizing just by the very way they’re created, but Roar feels particularly egregious in that respect. Again, many will disagree with me but there seems to be a consistent trend among writers in the west to point out how bad certain things are…and offer nothing constructive, original or useful to say on the matter. That’s a real shame too, especially when you compare it to efforts further afield.
Take last year’s COVID pandemic as an example. Everyone used this storyline in their shows, with This Is Us, the wildly popular NBC drama, probably the worst culprit, throwing it in for a season with horrible, ill-fitting dialogue and then abandoning it completely. Characters would break the fourth wall to tell the audience that characters need to keep a 2 meter distance. Masks were worn, hand-wash constantly applied, and all the while we’re constantly reminded of how bad this was.
By comparison, Korean dramas largely sidestepped the whole issue aside from one show – The Devil Judge. Set after the events of COVID, a judge is elevated to prime-time TV to thwart the efforts of evil political figures that rally together to destroy those who have been financially crippled as a result of the pandemic. But then COVID is never mentioned outside the first episode. The point is, no matter what topic you’re covering, bad writing is bad writing.
Ultimately, that sums up Roar. It’s a mixed anthology mired in bad writing, with writers pointing at our society and shouting “that’s bad!” without offering anything creative, interesting or exciting to show for it. So many of these episodes fall into that trap, and the few that actually do take the time to come up with creative solutions (those praised above in this review) are drowned out by the nonsensically bizarre (a woman having sex with a duck?) or end so abruptly that they hang you out to dry.
Women deserve an empowering, small screen platform to show their triumphs but unfortunately Roar is not it. In fact, this show should probably have been renamed whimper.
Verdict - 3.5/10