What a wonderful surprise this is! I’ve heard of The Mysterious Benedict Society as it was one of my son’s favorite books growing up, but I myself have never read the bestseller written by Trenton Lee Stewart. I fell in love with this new show within just the first few minutes. After watching the first episode on Disney+, I’m hooked and can’t wait to see what happens next.
The story is very clever, slightly sophisticated and reminiscent to stories like Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. In fact, the series has a similar look and feel to the latter’s Netflix adaptation. The sets, the choices of music (like the Electric Light Orchestra’s “Livin’ Thing”) and the non-descript choices of fashion, cars and architecture give this fantasy a timeless quality to it. Did this happen in the past? Is it happening now? Who knows?
After a brief montage of different orphans, the show centers on one – Reynie Muldoon (Mystic Inshcho), a super-smart, but compassionate young boy. He’s a loner at his orphanage and picked on by the bullies of the school. He has a sense of dread, which makes sense since there is much talk on TV and newspapers about a global crisis known as “The Emergency.” The episode doesn’t give any details on what this “emergency” is or means, but hints at it over and over again. Very intriguing.
One day, Reynie’s tutor/teacher/advocate informs him of scholarship competition to join an elite school if he is able to pass a series of tests. Everything appears to be normal at the beginning, but it becomes clear that some of the tests and puzzles that Reynie needs to conquer are not that obvious.
Needless to say, he gets through to the end and is joined by three other gifted orphans who all display some form of empathy – which is a really nice quality to see highlighted on TV. His fellow orphans are George “Sticky” Washigton (Seth Carr) who remembers everything, Kate Wetherall (Emmy DeOliveira) who was a circus performer and Constance Contraire (Marta Kessler) who appears to be a brat but is a lover of the truth.
Together, the kids find that they have been recruited by Mr. Benedict (Tony Hale) to help save the world from The Emergency crisis by first finding the truth behind the crisis – if that makes any sense. Mr. Benedict relies on a team of adults too including Number Two (Kristen Schaal), the dishelved and mysterious Milligan (Ryan Hurst) and the sneaky Rhonda Kazembe (Maame Yaa Boafo). Not shown in the pilot episode is Dr. Curtain (also Tony Hale) who appears to be behind The Emergency and must be stopped.
I have no idea where this story is going to take me. The first season (and I’m sure there will be more) contains eight episodes – the first two are posted on the streaming service which more released each week. With what we’ve all gone through this past year or so regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, The Mysterious Benedict Society feels very topical and a nice release from the stress that it has caused.
(All images: Disney+)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.