Last year I was introduced to Aaron Mahnke’s LORE podcast after seeing the first trailer of the Amazon series of the same name. Here was a series that mixed folklore - both well known and obscure - and made it relevant to a modern audience by weaving together threads that allowed listeners to connect with the material. The first season of the show stood out because it had found a balance in its execution of Aaron Mahnke’s podcast. It walked a line between delivering audiences with educational tidbits while also laying out dramatized re-enactments that were meant to unnerve us in order to drive points home.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your own preferences, this format seems to have been lost and left me wanting more. At least, that was what it felt like after watching the first episode titled Burke and Hare: In The Name of Science.
The episode focuses on the story of the Burke and Hare murders that took Edinburgh, Scotland, by storm during 1828. For those of you unfamiliar with the murders, these murders were what primarily inspired the United Kingdom to pass the Anatomy Act of 1832 once the public became aware of how much the medical profession needed bodies in order to conduct medical research. Throughout the course of the episode, we are witness to a dramatic reenactment of what drew William Burke and William Hare to enter the corpse selling trade and what drew them to murder over the course of ten months.
Having expected the episode to be formatted much in the way that the first season had formatted their episodes, I was a bit underwhelmed. The strongest moments during the episode for me happened to be arguably the most creepy. There are a couple of moments where Punch and Judy puppets are utilized to not only inform viewers of what is going on, but underlying the growing psychosis and guilt of William Hare as the months of murder drag on. I felt the acting direction in that sequence was the strongest part and that Emmet Byrne did a wonderful job conveying the downward descent of Hare as his guilt continued to grow with each murder.
There were several editing touches that I greatly appreciated throughout the course of this episode. One of them was every now and again you would get a dictionary pop up that would explain either a slang word or a colloquialism that might confuse the viewer upon hearing. Another one that I really appreciated and thought would help give viewers an insight into what Burke and Hare were thinking when figuring out who to target next was a monetary value would pop up next to a person’s head. This was used most effectively in a couple of crowd scenes and in the concluding scene, which featured a marvelous irony that I will not spoil for you.
All in all, I felt that Burke and Hare: In The Name of Science was a considerably weak episode for what is supposed to be the first episode of the new season of LORE. Again, I had been very familiar with the previous season’s format that combined multimedia elements with Aaron Mahnke’s narration and cuts to the dramatic reenactment of the primary story focus. With the first episode only focusing on the dramatic reenactment, I felt that much of what made the first season great was completely left out going into this episode. Will this be the continued style of format as we move forward in the season? I am sincerely hoping this won’t be the case.
All six episodes of season two of Amazon’s LORE will be released on October 19th.