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Twisted Metal season 1 review: a wildly entertaining ride through a wacky wasteland

Kate Harrold

Published 
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Twisted Metal season 1 review: a wildly entertaining ride through a wacky wasteland

Featured Image Credit: Paramount+

You’re going to want to make sure that your seatbelt is fastened before Twisted Metal begins revving its engine. Whilst we’re all familiar with the fact that Twisted Metal is a beloved PlayStation IP, it’s not exactly one known for its narrative prowess. As such, I didn’t know what to expect with this new adaptation and now having come out of the other side of this 10-episode story, I’m not quite sure how to process it either.

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From human-eating butchers to a limb-severing cult, Twisted Metal has truly got it all with more twists and turns than you can possibly imagine. If you accept that Twisted Metal is utterly wacky and look past its watermelon-smashing penis-wielding biker and eager-to-bonk-a-car priest, there’s a lot of heart and depth in this zany and unique take on post-apocalyptic America.

Much of that is to do with its talented and grounding leads. Twisted Metal centres around ‘milkman’ John Doe, portrayed by Anthony Mackie, a motor-mouthed outsider tasked with picking up a mysterious package and transporting it back across the country to New San Francisco. Should he succeed, John will be granted a place as a citizen within this safe walled metropolis. Naturally, it’s no easy task but John comes to find a partner in Stephanie Beatriz’s Quiet, a fellow outsider troubled by the recent loss of her brother (portrayed by Richard Cabral).

We sat down with Anthony Mackie and Stephanie Beatriz to chat about the show.

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Twisted Metal is packed with more quips than words I’ve written today, and yet I was impressed that, for the most part, the jokes land without largely ever feeling forced or overdone outside of the occasional dud. It helps that Mackie and Beatriz have a natural bantering chemistry, leading to a bubbling sense of tension between the two that is oh so very fun to watch, particularly given that this fraught tension is underlined by a more passionate kind, simmering beneath the surface.

The fact that Twisted Metal is a fast-paced comedy should come as a surprise to no one given that it's partially masterminded by Deadpool and Zombieland writing duo Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, alongside Michael Jonathan Smith. It was refreshing to see that the trio knew when to pull back though. I was surprised by just how emotionally invested I became in John and Quiet’s journey.

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The show explores the backstories of both characters and whilst I’ll refrain from delving into the specifics of either, I was wholly impressed by Twisted Metal’s ability to find the balance between both the lighthearted and deeper moments. Just as quickly as Mackie and Beatriz can have you chuckling, so too can they switch on a creeping sense of sincerity.

Twisted Metal / Credit: Paramount+
Twisted Metal / Credit: Paramount+

Twisted Metal is quick to remind you that as ridiculous as this landscape may at times seem, it’s equally brutal - and none of us would like to find ourselves in John nor Quiet’s shoes. Mackie and Beatriz both tap into their respective characters’ loneliness, with their desperation for companionship turning Twisted Metal from a comedy-fest into something viewers can, and will, emotionally invest in.

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With all episodes coming in at just under 30 minutes, Twisted Metal is a quick and easy binge - the whole box set being immediately available on Paramount+ in the UK. Never did the series feel like a stretched-out film with the bite-sized episodes helping the show maintain its fast pace.

While the backend of the season does suffer from a very mild lull after a series of stellar back-to-back set pieces in the first half, namely the introduction of Sweet Tooth and Agent Stone’s gang of lawmen, it more than makes up for it with its action-packed finale that’s about as close to the Twisted Metal video games as the series gets.

It isn’t simply John and Quiet that are here to keep us entertained. They find an unlikely ally in the iconic Sweet Tooth who, yes, is just as bombastic as you might hope. “You know who rules Lost Vegas John,” heeds a warning as the chilling, tinkling tune of an ice cream van creeps in. In many ways, Sweet Tooth is farcical. He’s best friends with a paper bag and murdering those who don’t sufficiently applaud his antics and yet, there’s a believability to him. His thinking might be utterly warped but Twisted Metal seems to somehow justify why this murderous larger-than-life clown is the way he is.

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Twisted Metal / Credit: Paramount+
Twisted Metal / Credit: Paramount+

It would be remiss not to mention the tag team bringing Sweet Tooth to life. It may be Will Arnett’s voice that we’re hearing but, for me at least, heaps of Sweet Tooth’s personality was conveyed by Samoa Joe’s excellent physical performance. It can’t be an easy task portraying a character you’re not voicing who’s face also happens to be entirely obscured by a mask, and yet Samoa Joe is as expressive as any other actor on screen - using gesture alone to perfectly portray Sweet Tooth’s wildly fluctuating moods.

He’s joined by Stu, played by Mike Mitchell, a cowardly former lackey of Agent Stone’s, somewhat adopted as a pet by Sweet Tooth, and then there’s Agent Stone himself (Thomas Haden Church), a common foe of John, Quiet, and Sweet Tooth, attempting to bring peace to the US’ wild post-apocalyptic landscape. While so many of these supporting characters centre around uninventive tropes - the psychopath, the lawman, the cultist, the coward - it somehow works because each member of the cast is able to find some element of human conviction within that trope.

Twisted Metal / Credit: Paramount+
Twisted Metal / Credit: Paramount+

The only character I found to be jarring was Chloe Fineman’s Bloody Mary, an ex-girlfriend of John’s. This certainly wasn't anything to do with Fineman’s performance. It’s simply that the stereotype of ‘the jealous ex-girlfriend’ felt a little underwhelming and contrived. I do hope that Bloody Mary is given a renewed sense of agency should she show up in season two because it’s a shame to waste Fineman’s talent on what is largely quite a bland character thus far.

Twisted Metal isn’t going to be for everyone. The landscape it drops us into is vulgar, crude, and downright bizarre - qualities that are only emphasised by the show’s, let’s say, colourful cast of characters. Somehow though, this cacophonous storytelling works. Twisted Metal introduces us to a world that is unlike anything else on TV, grounding us within Mackie and Beatriz’s investable leads. It’s easily accessible for those with no knowledge of the games whatsoever, although fans of the PlayStation IP will be delighted by more than a few Easter eggs. Whether Reese, Wernick and Jonathan Smith tapped into a weird touch of genius or whether my brain is simply on the same warped wavelength, I do not know but Twisted Metal is heaps of fun. I was happy to have buckled in for this wild ride, one that I look forward to continuing when season two rolls around.

The entirety of season one is available to watch now on Paramount+ in the UK.

Topics: TV And Film, PlayStation, Sony

Kate Harrold
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