Can It Be All So Simple – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Winter Warz – | Review Score – 4/5
All in Together Now – | Review Score – 4/5
All That I Got is You – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Cold World – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Impossible – | Review Score – 4/5
Box in Hand – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Labels – | Review Score – 3.5/5
I Declare War – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Assassination Day – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Since their arrival back in 1992, Wu-Tang Clan have become the prominent face of hip-hop music, boasting an incredible debut album in 1993, setting the group on a path to superstardom. Regarded by some critical outlets as the great hip-hop group on the planet, Wu-Tang: An American Saga is a celebration of the Wu-Tang Clan’s music as much as it is an origin story, depicting the rise to superstardom for Bobby, Dennis and the other founding members of the group.
Admittedly the story does begin a little haphazardly, introducing a whole smattering of characters and expecting the audience to pick up the pieces of who these men are along the way. The crux of drama early on revolves around Bobby and his brother Divine, with the former thrust unwillingly into the world of drugs following his brother’s arrest. This poses a particular problem for Bobby, who finds himself split between his passion and dream of becoming a hip-hop artist with continuing the slippery slope so many other young men in his position take by entering the drug game.
The opening few episodes work well to set the foundation for what follows, as the main story progresses and shifts perspective between different supporting characters through the chapters. While this all feels like a stylistic gimmick on paper, seeing this come together during the final episode as the founding members meaningfully rap, puts into context the drama and ensuing conflicts that have led up until that point.
For a show revolving around hip-hop music, Wu-Tang: An American Saga has a predictably slick musical score, with a whole smattering of rapping – both on the street and in the studio – juxtaposing against the drug game sub-plot. At times, the show doesn’t always get the balance right and the late drama with Atilla, on reflection, does feel more like a gimmick to inject some drama into proceedings than an actual useful plot device. For the most part though, when Wu-Tang focuses on its music it really shines.
The unique visual cues are a nice touch and differentiate each episode, helping it stand out from so many other biographical dramas out there. Whether it be the hand-drawn animated segments or the deliberate use of muted colours, Wu-Tang isn’t afraid to express itself artistically and these jarring differences actually work to cleverly depict the differences for our rappers too.
Although you can go into this with no prior knowledge of the Wu-Tang Clan and enjoy the show, this Hulu Original very much feels like a show designed and tailored to fans of their music. It’s a love letter to the origin of the group and for that alone, the show does an excellent job dramatising the events of each character’s life. The problem in doing this however, is those early episodes can make for some confusing viewing as you scramble to remember who everyone is and what their relationships are to one another.
With plenty of scope to progress for a second season but enough closure to round this out nicely if it’s not renewed, Wu-Tang: An American Saga is a well-written biographical drama that perfectly captures the mood and feel of Staten Island in 1992. The gritty, unforgiving atmosphere hangs over the show for large swathes of its run time, with the shining light of hip-hop acting as the refuge for these young men. Wu-Tang: An American Saga is a love letter to one of the best rap groups of our time and one I’d certainly recommend checking out if you haven’t already.
Verdict - 8/10