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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

REVIEW: Peacock's Twisted Metal Makes Too Many Pit Stops

Peacock's adaptation of the iconic franchise, Twisted Metal, offers a great performance from Anthony Mackie, and some familiar roadside attractions.


On paper, Twisted Metal, the long-running PlayStation franchise that started in 1995, would lend itself well to a televised adaptation. Each entry more or less adheres to a basic premise: Calypso, a seemingly omnipotent villain, runs a vehicle-based battle royale in which disparate characters vie for the title of sole survivor. Their reward? Calypso will grant them one wish, no matter how big.

With films like the Death Race franchise, The Running Man, and more, the combat-to-the-death genre offers plenty of material for mining. And thanks to 2001’s Twisted Metal: Black’sgrim and excessive backstories, there’s enough in the series’ lore to explain what would compel each tournament participant to compete.


Peacock’s Twisted Metal opts for the scenic route, offering visual callbacks and name references, but foregoes the strictly tournament-based construct for character development. Here, the protagonist is John Doe -- whose video game counterpart is short on details -- played by Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Brave New World), who’s finally given a role that utilizes his charm to weaponized effect.


John’s a courier, also known as a “milkman,” a person who delivers packages of varying import between walled-in cities. In this iteration of Twisted Metal, an apocalyptic event occurred sometime in the early 2000s that had something to do with a computer virus, leading to a communications shutdown and, more importantly, the launching of a whole lot of missiles across the United States.

Now, cities are walled fortresses, where inside, the citizens can remain in blissfully ignorant peace, resuming, to a certain degree, their everyday lives. Outside, however, is a different story. Between each city lies a vast wasteland littered with burnt-out cars, carcasses, and deplorable figures. The people outside are called, you guessed it, outsiders, an umbrella term that includes vultures, seagulls, necros, Holy Men, scavengers, and other names that seem less organizationally optimal than a necessity for understanding courier routes. Hostile terrain; hostile people.


For milkmen like John, the mortality rate is exceptionally high, which makes an offer from New San Francisco’s COO, Raven (Neve Campbell), a particularly enticing deal. The job is to go to New Chicago, pick up a package, and deliver it within nine days. The reward is a chance to lead a relatively normal life inside the confines of the city. For John, whose vehicle, a 2002 Subaru named EV3LIN, it’s just business as usual. But a chance encounter with a scavenger named Quiet (BrooklynNine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz) puts him on a slew of side missions across Twisted Metal’s remixed lore.

Now, cities are walled fortresses, where inside, the citizens can remain in blissfully ignorant peace, resuming, to a certain degree, their everyday lives. Outside, however, is a different story. Between each city lies a vast wasteland littered with burnt-out cars, carcasses, and deplorable figures. The people outside are called, you guessed it, outsiders, an umbrella term that includes vultures, seagulls, necros, Holy Men, scavengers, and other names that seem less organizationally optimal than a necessity for understanding courier routes. Hostile terrain; hostile people.

For those who remember the pleasures of hearing choice cuts from Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe while launching an endless array of artillery into the nearest car, the series might not tickle the nostalgic itch -- at least not for a while. Still, the music-heavy series features hits from SisQó, Alice Deejay, t.A.T.u., Hanson, and Faith No More. Take from that what you will.


Through flashbacks, characters like Sweet Tooth (physically portrayed by Samoa Joe, and voiced by Will Arnett), and Agent Stone (Thomas Hayden Church), whose video game counterparts had morbid, humorless backstories, are given new sequences that explain how they fell into their post-apocalyptic identities. Humor is the main note, as even the darkest of circumstances are imbued with the awareness that this is still a show about driving kitted-out vehicles with the prime purpose of vehicular carnage.

But for all of its attempts to delineate the Haves and Have-Nots, and humanize the characters, Twisted Metal loses sight of its enduring appeal. By taking a free-wheeling approach to its narrative, the story veers off into various side quests while attempting to hit bullet points about key characters, including Stu and Mike, who are given ample time to seem like real people. For some, the exposition might come as a welcome surprise, but for many, it’s like taking a 101 course after you’ve spent nearly 30 years familiarizing yourself with the core concepts.


Eventually, Season 1’s M.O. comes to light, and the projected future of the series is revealed, now complicated by knowing much more about who these people are. It takes 10 half-hour episodes to get there, so it’s up to the viewer to decide if they care about John’s mysterious cargo, or whether Sweet Tooth will ever sport his iconic flaming ‘do. The finale offers a few treats for fans of the video games, but there’s a bit too much “Are we there yet?” and not enough pedal to the metal.

Twisted Metal is now available, in its entirety, on Peacock.



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