Hulu has released the first four episodes of ‘Wu Tang: An American Saga’, and it’s quite a ride for avid Wu Tang fans. The series is produced by RZA himself and depicts the events leading up to the birth of the legendary rap group. The writers do an excellent job of not making the show an obvious ode to the group. At this point in the infancy of the show, most people probably would not recognize that it was about the Wu Tang Clan.
Speaking of the writing, it’s on point. A classic tale of a kid in love with his art, Bobby, just trying to escape the life his brother has had him depending on in order to pursue a career in music. Despite maintaining an identity separate from the already developed name of the Wu Tang Clan, they had to throw some references in here and there. However, they are not blatantly or recklessly used, the references are just for fans of the Wu Tang Clan who might pick up on them.
The series definitely has a rags-to-riches plot. One of the most prominent things in the show is how the main character Bobby is dedicated to pushing drugs for his brother, Divine. Several times in the first four episodes the writers foreshadow the coming together of the famous group. This mostly takes place in Bobby’s basement where he has his DJ equipment set up. Even in the very first episode, Bobby lays down a track for his childhood friend Sha to rap on. After the rap sessions, the show picks right back up with the adversities each character is going through, whether it be criminal activity, self doubt, or struggles with identity. While they definitely endure hardships, each time the characters sit down and begin to rap it is as if they enter a whole other world free of the evils they face on the outside.
Though the show does mainly focus on Bobby, brother to Divine and an aspiring DJ, the show also puts in ample time to develop the other main characters as well. The viewers see Sha, Bobby’s childhood friend, grow and better himself while Bobby and his brother’s organization falls apart and loses their grasp on their turf. Dennis is depicted as a hard and loyal member to Divine’s cause, but also a passionate caretaker for his disabled brothers. Divine himself is a fascinating character, portrayed as the supporting column for his family. He makes the hard decisions and puts his life on the line for his family and comes home to greet his loving mother with a kiss and appreciation for her hard work. Each character in this series lives a dichotomous life. They all have to put on a persona that allows them to survive in the dangerous surroundings they’ve been put in, ultimately to return to what they love to do.
One of the most fun parts of watching the show as a Wu Tang fan is picking out the references to the Wu Tang Clan itself. They’re subtle and sometimes hard to spot, not glaring and awkward. They mostly come in the form of characters watching the classic chinese Wu Tang films with exaggerated martial arts, which is where the rap group got a lot of the samples they use in their songs from. These references serve as a thank you to dedicated listeners who are familiar enough with the groups work to be able to pick up on these sly little additions.
The biggest problem the show has suffered at this point, is the approach it takes when fast forwarding events taking place in the world the writers have created. The writers choose to utilize comic book style montage sequences to speed the show along. While montages are at times necessary to progress a show, they need to effectively continue the flow of the show. The cartoony montages implemented in this show disrupt the flow almost as if they are another show in themselves. A montage using real life B-roll footage would work much better to preserve the tone of the show.
As the show stands, it is definitely on a roll. Packed with engaging writing and dynamic characters, viewers will find it hard to peel their eyes away from the show. That being said, if you’re not already a fan of the genre this series is veering towards then you probably won’t like it. For Wu Tang Clan fans and music afficionados alike, new episodes of ‘Wu Tang: The American Saga’ release every Wednesday on Hulu.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment