For a long time, webseries have been a breeding ground for short-form and skit comedy with a healthy side of ‘talking to the camera’ style celebrity figures. That’s been shifting somewhat, as dramas have broken out, though they’re still more rare.
Here We Wait, is its own beast, somewhat hard to classify. It cribs things from multiple genres, eras, and genres, including TV serials, classical films, and modern webseries. It’s got a full credits sequence, complete with lyrical music; it’s got a slow, offbeat pacing and some experimental editing and framing like BBC circa 2010-current; it uses shallow depths of field and wide dimensions; it has a score, not just open-source loops. Forty years ago this would have been an experimental film, with its long pauses, offbeat and misfit characters, and lack of care for codes and genre norms.
The first few episodes dodge the pitfalls of many modern short-form shows which are too proscriptive or expository; there’s no spelling out its premise or giving us scenes with characters spelling it all out. Instead it starts in in medias res, then doles out specifics over time, expecting the audience to pay attention and pick up what’s been laid down. The characters talk and act as if they know what’s going on and we don’t – IE exactly how actual wait staff would talk – instead of like characters explaining things to us. The only downside to this is, sometimes it feels as though the show is holding out us us, cheekily writing characters to skirt around key information. Plenty of movies start this way, but as an audience we can say ‘hold out 20-90 minutes, we should have an answer.’ With a webseries, which currently runs 20 episodes of varying lengths and could have more seasons, there’s no distinct time limit where we’ll have an answer. That can be hard to hold the faith through, especially as it’s doling episodes weekly. What we get to keep our interest meanwhile are visuals and metaphors, and boy do we have those.
The metaphor of restaurant and purgatory also conveniently allows for a low-budget show to keep in one location. Being fired is death, ‘numbers low’ and ledgers mismatched are for poorly performing restaurants and scams and stand for . . . well, we’re still not sure exactly what those numbers stand for, but we’re getting plenty of hints.
Then we have plenty of classical references. At first I read Siv as Icharus, then then she has one line which crystalizes her as Lucifer. More specifically, Siv is a reverse of Lucifer, who fell from Heaven while attempting to be seen as a god, whereas Siv seems to be leaving a purgatory to go . . . well, we’re not sure yet, exactly. Continuing the reversal, Gideon is named after an archangel while playing a Mephistopheles-type, which especially fits as signing the ledger is a play on Faust.
Every episode does well to have an ending left hanging, and an opening which starts answering at least one crucial question (four episodes watched so far; Episodes 3 & 4 will be reviewed here after Episode 4 is released).
Episode 2 continues from the moment episode 1 left off, this episode switches and the conceit plays out. Siv appears, in different clothes, so we recognize how the afterlife and supernatural play within the series.
The staff starts infighting, which exposes how many issues [read: episode fodder] simmer under the surface. Relationships, too, are going everywhere, and used as release, currency, and potentially rule-breaking. This episode is more about getting a sense of each of the characters and how they interact with each other, and getting a better grasp on the vocabulary around the restaurant (and therefore, the extended metaphor).
We see a transaction, Siv disappears for presumably her ‘final’ time, but we still aren’t sure what happens between wait staff and diners. This gives us reason to be propelled forward, into the following eighteen episodes.
– Full disclosure, one of the producers / actors of this series and I are friends, having met via the magic of the interwebs while both working on our own film projects.
– The actor plays Gideon campily enjoying his role as scenery-chewer.