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Helstrom's horror-adjacent superheroics, showrun by Paul Zbyszewski, are an outlier in the realm of Marvel TV series — even when not considering that the streaming show is on Hulu rather than Disney+ or Netflix, which the rest of mainline live-action series have called home. The tale about Daimon (Tom Austen) and Ana Helstrom (Sydney Lemmon), offspring of a serial killer, is a little darker than some might expect from the company — which is perfect for the show's Halloween-timed premiere. But now fans will know a little bit more about what they're getting into thanks to the first reviews.
The series — which also stars Robert Wisdom, Elizabeth Marvel, June Carryl, Ariana Guerra, Alain Uy, and Daniel Cudmore — looks to weave a spooky narrative over its first 10 episodes, hinting at plenty of supernatural elements, demons, and more in addition to the dramatic family problems had by the Helstrom clan. But the real question is that, after The New Mutants failed to impress with its own take on a superhero asylum story, does it work?
Critics have weighed in, and the response isn’t as superheroic as some might have hoped:
Here's the rundown:
Daniel Fienberg's review at The Hollywood Reporter calls the "dour and thoroughly monotonous thriller" a series that's full of tropes and seems as tired of them as he is. And as for the comic tie-in? Forget it. "Any similarities to the characters created by Roy Thomas, John Romita, Gary Friedrich, and Herb Trimpe are absent," Fienberg writes. The "muddy and gloomy" show has a few fun glimmers around its middle and a standout performance from Lemmon, but, ultimately, "nothing here is good enough to make an investment in."
Over at io9, Charles Pulliam-Moore wrote that the series "barely manages to make a strong argument in defense of its own existence." Not only is it doing things other shows have done, it also attempts to "play coy in a way that doesn’t quite work" because every genre fan worth their salt will recognize what's going on. Because the show is so banal in its treatment of the otherworldly, "it often ends up feeling like an uninspired spin on a story that’s been told before."
Sam Barsanti, at The AV Club, gave the show a C and notes that "the magical aspect of its world never really goes beyond the fact that demons exist and some people can do magic." Not so genre after all, really. And that's especially damning when Austen's Daimon is described as "dull for a demon-hunter" and Lemmon's Ana being a lonely bright spot — basically, "the central duo could stand to gain a little bit of comic book flair."
TV Guide's Sadie Gennis was more positive, writing that the show, with its "compelling mythology and morally complicated characters, is just the type of spooky adventure I was craving this fall." Gennis doesn't have much to say about the show's strengths, but does call it a "fun" binge-watch that "goes down easy."
Helstrom hits Hulu on Oct. 16.