Review by Sean Boelman
If you ever wondered what The White Lotus would look like if it were produced by a network such as Freeform, look no further than the new Hulu series Saint X. Although the show is streaming on Hulu, it was produced by ABC Signature — the production company behind several Freeform shows — so it’s not wholly surprising that this show is trite, soapy, and all-around poorly made.
The story follows a young woman who sets out on a quest to discover the truth about her sister’s death that happened while they were on vacation years ago when she was a child. The series cuts between two timelines: one in the present day following Emily (Alycia Debnam-Carey) as an adult, and the other in the past, exploring the time leading up to her sister Allison’s (West Duchovny) death.
The portion of the show set in the past is absolutely plagued with problems. First of all, it’s an extraordinarily trashy teen soap opera that simply isn’t very compelling. However, the fact that we know Allison dies makes it anticlimactic. Sure, there’s a limited amount of “how did it happen?” intrigue, but whereas something like The White Lotus has an actual mystery element, this feels more interested in the melodrama.
On the other hand, the present-day storyline is simply boring. There’s not as many overt problems to pick out of that story other than the fact that it just isn’t interesting. The show attempts to give Emily characterization by showing how her personal life is affected by this obsession to find the truth out about her sister, but why do we care?
A good deal of this show’s issues could have been fixed with a better cast. Neither Debnam-Carey nor Duchovny have a compelling enough screen presence to carry the show. However, even worse are their male co-stars, Sule Thelwell and Jayden Elijah, who feel completely lost in their roles.
One of the more off-putting things about the show is that it sends questionable messages. There is a pretty substantial subplot that’s problematic, and it feels somewhat reductive in the context of what is essentially a bigger-scale soap opera. And to make things worse, there are many points at which the show seems to imply the characters are being punished for their “indiscretions.”
What is perhaps most shocking about the show, though, is that it is so terrible despite having some legitimate talent involved. Acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees (Pariah) executive produced the show and had some director duties, so how is it this bad? It’s really frustrating just how little personality this series has, and — worse yet — that it manages to look ugly despite having a gorgeous setting.
Having not read the best-selling book on which it is based, it’s hard to tell whether something was lost in translation with Saint X or if it was just never going to be particularly good. It’s disappointing that this couldn’t even manage to be trashy fun — it’s just nearly insufferable.
Saint X streams on Hulu beginning April 26. All eight episodes reviewed.