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Series / Siren (2018)
aka: Siren

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Siren is a sci-fi drama series from the Freeform network, which premiered at the end of March 2018. Set in the quiet West Coast town of Bristol Cove, the story follows Ben Pownall (Alex Roe) and his girlfriend Madden "Maddie" Bishop (Fola Evans-Akingbola) as they—along with several of their friends and family—attempt to unravel the peculiar events taking place in the town, including the disappearance of a local fisherman and simultaneous arrival of a strange, mysterious girl (Eline Powell). Behind the scenes, a shadowy government conspiracy is determined to proceed with its sinister agenda while keeping the public any means necessary.


Siren contains examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: The second season finale has Ben saving a reporter from drowning. The man ends up exposing video proving the existence of mermaids. Months later, Ben, Ryn and others are on the run with mermaids being hunted for everything from their bodies to a rich guy using one as a party favor. It culminates in Ryn herself shot and dying in Ben's arms after his dad betrays him... and then it turns to Ben outside the reporter's car as this is all what he imagines can happen if he saves the guy and thus decides to let him drown.
  • All There in the Manual: The other two merfolk who come ashore in Episode 8 are officially named "Katrina" and "Levi," but their names are never stated onscreen in the first season — and in fact they aren't even given them until midway through the second season.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Ryn and Ben Almost Kiss in Episode 3, and later in the same episode, she climbs into bed with him and Maddie, though only to sleep. In Episode 5, she kisses Maddie and then Ben in Episode 6. Maddie herself seems to be surprisingly okay with these moments. Also in Episode 6, when Donna accuses Ryn of "liking human", the former doesn't specify which human and the latter doesn't deny it. Justified in that Ryn is learning the nature of human relationships and interactions, and like anyone learning, she imitates what she observes. It just happens that the relationship she witnesses most is a romantic one. The latter case is open to interpretation is to what Donna means by "like".
    • By the ending of the fourth episode of season 2, there's nothing Ambiguous about Ryn and Maddie's bisexuality
  • Ambiguously Brown: Maddie's father is of Native American descent while she appears to be a light-skinned black woman. It's eventually stated that he's actually her step-father, but raised her from childhood.
  • Angry Black Man: Or Woman, as Donna and her daughter Cami are capable of carrying a lasting grudge against humanity for harm coming to them.
  • Anti-Villain: Decker, the scientist leading the government conspiracy, becomes deeply conflicted about what he's doing after he learns that mermaids are sentient creatures.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Mermaids apparently have a matriarchal society, and when Ryn defeats "Katrina" in one-on-one combat, she assumes leadership of the pod and orders the rest of them away.
  • Clothesline Stealing: Ryn steals clothes (twice from the same person) to cover up the first couple times she comes to land.
  • Colorblind Casting: Ryn and her sister Donna are played by actresses of different ethnicities, and the other two members of her "family" that come ashore to find her are also ethnically different from both Ryn and each other. It may be that mermaids have a different conception of familial relationships than humans do, but that remains to be seen.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The homeless man that the main characters walk past in Episode 2 returns in Episode 6, where he inadvertently helps the police find and arrest Ryn.
  • Deceptive Legacy: Ben, like all the family, assumed Charles was just a crazy guy who made up the romance of a mermaid to cover an affair. When he finds they exist, he learns from Helen how Charles basically tried to wipe them out over a broken heart and horrified at his ancestor's actions.
    Helen: Genocide. That is your legacy.
  • Downer Ending: "Aftermath:" Donna dies despite everyone's efforts to save her, and Decker commits suicide. Suffering from the effects of the Siren Song, Ben almost drowns himself, causing both Maddie and Ryn to leave him until he gets his head back together. Maddie's father is under investigation by the Town Council for his attempts to cover up all the weirdness happening in town. And Maddie's troubled and absent mother appears poised to come back into their lives. Season 2 mid finale Leverage Cami attacks Zander for his role in her mother's death which sets his boat on fire with him and Calvin still on it. Zander least sends out a SOS txt to Ben. In the water the merfolks destroy the drill however Frank dies which makes them visibly distress as they grab hold on to his body as they being to swim away with it also due to the drill being destroyed the Rigg above beings toppling down all of while being live streamed to an horrified public.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Siren Song really messed Decker up. When Donna dies, he just walks into the ocean. The same almost happens to Ben.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Helen Hawkins, crazy old lady and proprietor of the local tchotchke shop, who knows an awful lot about town history and mermaids. Because she's a descendant of a mermaid who came ashore and started a family.
  • Enthralling Siren: The Siren Song is apparently a defense mechanism: it's sung to distract or enthrall humans. It leads to lingering effects that Ben equates to an addiction; both he and Decker continue to crave the song long after they hear it for the first time. In Season 2 Decker's autopsy reveals that the Song actually caused him some brain damage, and everyone is now worried about Ben.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The sea lions freak out whenever Ryn gets close to them, and for very good reason: her kind are vicious predators even more dangerous than sharks. Though it's less that they detect evil in her, so much as they recognize Ryn as a siren. When they realize she's not a threat to them, they mellow out to her.
  • Fantastic Racism: Donna's experiences at the lab lead her to quickly develop a hatred of all humans, which brings her into conflict with Ryn. A conversation in Episode 6 reveals that even before her capture, Donna had a low opinion of humans. Later episodes reveal that the merfolk actually have a deeply-engrained distrust of humans, due to an incident in the past.
  • Genre Blind: Chris appears to believe that he is escaping the weird government facility he was kept in with a human nurse who for some reason decided to run away with him, despite minor hints something is off like her wearing blood-stained scrubs, not knowing which car was hers, hissing at him when he got too close, clearly not understanding English, her decision to turn off a car stereo by stabbing it, and generally her complete unfamiliarity with...human stuff. Admittedly he's badly injured at the time, and his judgment is likely further impaired by lingering drugs in his system.
    • Related to Chris and crosses over to Villain Ball, but it's a little baffling for the Military (who are trying to cover mermaids up up) to just abduct him and leave everyone else on the North Star alive without explanation. Of course, the first thing his friends do is try to find out what happened to him and his parents predictably call the cops; who then start calling every military base from Washington to Alaska. Did they assume everyone would just forget about Chris. If they had sunk the North Star everyone would had written off his disappearance as an accident, or just released Chris and then no-one would have cared. Instead they spend the rest of season one proving a stitch in time saves nine.
  • Happily Adopted: Maddie is actually Dale's stepdaughter — but you could easily miss that given how happy and comfortable they are together.
  • He Knows Too Much: In the Season 2B finale, Ian, the relentless Intrepid Reporter who tried to abduct Ryn for his story, ends up going over a cliff into the ocean, is left to die by Ben of all people because of his discovery of the merfolk.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Complicated example. The merfolk certainly believe that, and the government conspiracy led by Decker doesn't exactly dissuade them from that opinion. Decker's men were perfectly willing to ruin the local ocean ecology simply to lure more test subjects to the surface where they could be caught, after all. But the incident that led them to hate and distrust humans in the first place turns out to have been a simple misunderstanding. Charles Pownall seemed to have genuinely loved his mermaid lover and their child; he just didn't know how to care for them.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Ryn just doesn't get why walking around naked makes such a fuss.
  • It's All My Fault: In Episode 4, Helen deduces that Ryn blames herself for Donna getting caught, because it was Ryn's idea to come so close to the surface.
  • Last of Her Kind: Helen Hawkins is the last descendant of Charles Pownall and his mermaid lover.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Ryn takes her name from a cartoon seahorse. This also applies to her human surname Fisher that Ben picked out for her in season 2
  • Love Triangle: A very weird one between Ben, Maddie, and Ryn. Ryn being an Enthralling Siren, she has Ben under her spell (however unintentionally), and his mixed-up feelings toward her complicate his relationship with Maddie.
  • Missing Mom: Maddie's mother left her and her father about nine months before the series began. It's heavily implied the departure was not a cordial one.
    • In Episode 6, Ryn reveals to Maddie and Ben that her and Donna's mother died when they were young.
  • Motive Misidentification: When he learns the truth of Charles, Ben assumes that the family created the legend of his "romance" to cover up how they were a party to genocide. He challenges his dad on "the truth" only to find Charles' family thought he was just an eccentric drunk who made up the mermaid thing over his affair. They then created the legend just to increase tourism, not knowing what they were truly covering up.
  • Ms. Fanservice: There's no denying that Ryn's terrestrial form is very pleasing to look at, though her strange behavior and eerie, inhuman eyes subvert it a bit.
  • Mugging the Monster: A lowlife tries to rape Ryn in his car, and throats him before smashing him through the windshield.
  • Naked on Arrival: The mermaids when they first come on land, since they don't wear clothes in their natural habitats.
  • Non-Idle Rich: The wealthy Ben devotes his time to oceanic research and conservation.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Maddie and Ben both get subtle yet epic ones when Ryn is knocked into the pool in Episode 3. Subverted when the non-ocean water fails to trigger her transformation.
    • Ryn and Donna both get one when Donna brings two other merfolk to bring her back to the water and they both realize that they're actually there to kill her. Apparently they didn't tell Donna this either, so they both become fugitives.
  • Older Than They Look: Merfolk are apparently very long-lived. Donna's daughter Cami doesn't look much younger than her mother. When Ben questions Ryn about her age, she is unable to give him a straight answer, as Merfolk reckon time differently. They tell time by counting annual whale migrations, and Ryn only says that she's seen "many."
  • One-Word Title: As a reference to mermaids.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: An aquatic humanoid race who are capable of transitioning into a form with legs when they have to come on land, but the transition (from land to sea, at least) is neither quick nor clean. Those who do step out of water have to eventually return to the ocean (and subject themselves to a Painful Transformation), or their bodies literally break down. They have much denser bones and far greater strength than humans as a result of living in the ocean's crushing depths. Their eyes are larger than human eyes, but their pupils are smaller to compensate for the different way light behaves when traveling through water (as opposed to air). Also, only ocean water triggers the transformation, meaning Ryn can be in a bath or pool and still be in human form.
  • Painful Transformation: A mermaid's transition from terrestrial form to aquatic is neither smooth nor painless; see Transformation Horror below. The transition from sea to land is less visible, but appears to be very painful as well.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Ryn is 5'4" and rather scrawny, but is fully capable of snapping a much larger man's neck, smashing that man through a car windshield, and throwing a metal rod with enough force to pierce through a wooden post. In this case, it's somewhat realistic and justified. Ben and Maddie's tests reveal that she weighs almost 200 pounds, probably because her body tissues (bones and muscles especially) are much denser and stronger than humans' as an adaptation against the higher pressures in the deep ocean.
  • Rose-Tinted Narrative: In-universe example. Bristol Cove's famed local legend is a cutesy story about town founder Charles Pownall falling in love with a mermaid. It's even the subject of a cheesy kids' pageant in the pilot episode. The true story is more complicated than that: Charles Pownall did fall in love with a mermaid, but they conceived some kind of mutant baby that Charles gave away to the local Haida tribe because he had no idea how to care for her. The merfolk believe that he killed the child, and have been hostile to the humans of Bristol Cove ever since. In actuality the child survived, was healed by the Haida, and had descendants, of which Helen Hawkins is the last. And to further complicate things, because Charles was already married at the time, the modern Pownall family think that this was just an extramarital affair that's been conflated by legend, and consider it to be the old family scandal they'd just as soon forget about. Ted Pownall is apparently paying Helen off to keep quiet about it.
  • Scary Black Man: The African-looking merfolk are this when they are aggressive, specifically Donna, her daughter Cami and Levi.
  • Scenery Censor: When the mermaids are Naked on Arrival, the series makes liberal use of plants to hide their naughty bits. It almost becomes a Running Gag.
  • Ship Tease: Ryn gets some very blatant teasing with both Ben and Maddie. It's quickly approaching Threesome Subtext levels.
    • In Episode 1, she uses her Enthralling Siren song on Ben.
    • In Episode 2, she gets very handsy with Maddie, yanking her by the hair and touching her breasts (specifically the feather tattoo on her right breast, but still).
    • In Episode 3, when Ben is measuring her dimensions, she starts feeling his muscles and they Almost Kiss, but he pulls away at the last moment. Later, after getting knocked into a pool, Maddie tries to dry her off and Ryn, sensing that Maddie is afraid of her, attempts to assuage her fears by laying her head on her chest. Finally, when it comes time to go to sleep, Ryn climbs into bed with Ben and Maddie, though only to sleep.
    • There's not much in Episode 4 due to Ryn's worsening condition, though there is still a Held Gaze or two in the early parts.
    • In Episode 5, Ryn compliments Maddie's dress and they have an emotionally intimate conversation about family and love. Ryn tells Maddie "You are love" and "I miss you", and then they share a lingering kiss—full on the lips.
    • In Episode 6, after seeing Maddie give Ben a kiss and tell him "I love you", Ryn does that too. Not on the cheek, mind you, but full on the lips. Ben and Maddie seem unsure of how to react, though Maddie does mention the kiss from previous episode. Then, when Donna accuses Ryn of "liking human", the former doesn't specify which human and the latter doesn't deny it.
    • As of season 2 episode 3, it's officially no longer a tease, as Ryn led Ben and Maddie to bed at the episode's end and there was no ambiguity as to what was going to happen.
  • Shout-Out: Ryn uses a picture of Frozen's Anna and Elsa to communicate that she's looking for her sister.
  • Sirens Are Mermaids: The mermaids have a captivating song.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Merman Levi is the one who killed Xander's father, but in Season 2 became remorseful and guilty for the killing and even apologized to Xander for it, telling him he was Just Following Orders.
  • Tragic Bigot: Merfolk are this towards the humanity, especially Donna for the torture she was subjected to, while Xander is this towards the merfolk for his father's death in retaliation for Donna's torture.
  • Transformation Horror: Ryn's transformation back into her aquatic form is about as far from The Little Mermaid as you can possibly get. First, her teeth grow into shark-like points and her fingernails lengthen into razor-tipped claws. Then her dorsal fin bursts painfully out of her back. But the worst is yet to come, as her legs bloodily and graphically fuse into her tail accompanied by the delightful sounds of tearing flesh, ripping muscles, and snapping bones. And all the while, she's shedding her human skin, but it's not like that of a fish, oh no. Instead, her skin sloughs off her body, falling off like a leper. And even before the transformation, prolonged periods away from seawater turn her eyes yellow and bloodshot, while her skin becomes scabby, flakey, and blistered like dried-out mud. Contact with even small amounts of seawater can trigger the transformation, though it is fortunately reversible in that scenario. When they go from sea to land, it appears that a merfolk's tail literally splits underneath the scaly tail, leaving it behind. It's only been seen once on-screen, and not in great detail, but the merfolk's reaction clearly indicates that it's also painful.
  • Uncanny Valley: invoked Justified and done deliberately with the mermaids. Ryn's eyes are larger than a human's, while her pupils are noticeably smaller than would be expected, causing her irises to appear more striking than normal. Her behavior and mannerisms are completely alien, and even after she's spent some time adjusting to land, her movements and walking are still not quite the same as that of good ol' Homo sapiens.
  • Uneven Hybrid: Helen Hawkins is the descendant of Charles Pownall and his mermaid lover. She says she's about one-eighth merfolk. She doesn't have any mermaid powers, but she knows a lot of lore about them - and she has a weird skin condition that may or may not be related.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: Donna really takes the cake. She thinks all humans are evil as the result of the admittedly inhumane treatment she was subjected to at the lab. However, she conveniently forgets that if it wasn't for Chris, she would very likely have never been reunited with Ryn.
  • We Have the Keys: In season 2 the military are working on a plan to capture a mermaid for study. This will obviously require some serious force, given what happened the last time they tried this... except then Lieutenant Martinez realises that Ryn is friendly towards (some) humans, so she just walks up to her and asks for her help.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Xander gives Ben this treatment for not telling him about the existence of merfolk after his father is killed by them.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Many of the main cast are Fake American, and they make valiant attempts at a generic American accent with varying degrees of success (Alex Roe has the most slippage among them). Rena Owen stands out in this regard, speaking in some kind of amalgam of her native New Zealand and an American accent that actually ends up sounding like Maritime Canadian.
    • In-Universe: Maddie claims that to her mom that Ryn is a Finnish Native when Susan asks Ryn where she's from.
  • White Sheep: Downplayed example. The Pownall family aren't exactly evil, just snooty and avaricious. Ben is the son who left the family business to do environmentalist work, and his parents still get passive-aggressive with him whenever he decides to show up for family functions.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Spoken verbatim by Helen when a pack of half-drunken teens from a "mermaid party" converge to swim at the very lake the renegade mermaids are using to refresh in.
  • You No Take Candle: Ryn speaks this way, since she not only hasn't any experience speaking English, she has no experience with any human languages whatsoever. She learns quickly, but still has a long way to go.

Alternative Title(s): Siren


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