NOW TV review: Yonderland (Season 1, Episode 5)
Andrew Jones | On 03, Dec 2013
Yonderland takes a step into big territory with Episode 5, Closing The Portal, which deals with Debbie’s attempts to balance being the Chosen One and looking after her family. She’s missed Date Night and feels like she’s really letting down her relationship with her husband, just as Elf pops in to ask for help dealing with a cold war across the portal. Debbie asks Elf, and the Elders, for ways to get out of the Chosen One gig, which leads them on a quest to find sacred water, fire and earth from stretches of Yonderland that we’ve never seen before. World building? Drama? Story arcs? Yonderland has grown from a rough narrative with crazy jokes to something earnest, character-driven and, in fact, surprisingly emotional.
First up, we see a hedonistic Las Vegas-style party land where everyone’s really cool and up for anything – of course, until it comes to sacred fire, that’s a little bit of a sticking point by comparison – then a weird land of small fluffy white creatures who sing a song of thanks to Debbie for being Debbie. This is so much more than we’ve seen in the very fantasy/medieval landscapes of the last four episodes and it branches out what we can imagine the show playing with in the future; anything goes now. The doors are wide open.
Even Negatus and his henchpuppets are given a solid spin around, happy to help rather than hinder Debbie’s quest, as it means she might never return, thus leaving Negatus free to do some solid villainy. The episode’s turning on a dime is impressive, making it a mix of middle-of-the-run moments and pushing forward momentum and focus for the next three episodes.
That Yonderland has gone from sketches to deeper, real, surreal plotting is just grand – and while that means this episode isn’t as chock-full of great lines and moments, the inventiveness and imagination is at an all-time high. Each location feels new and breathes fresh air into the universe, and the fact that the main stable of characters get to play into a straighter story allows us to enjoy the journey.
Utterly weird as Yonderland is throughout, Closing The Portal has some really sincere moments; a three-minute song that is odd yet genuinely emotional brings in Debbie’s issues with juggling Yonderland and the real world side by side – even more than last week’s sports day race against time. At the moment, it’s entirely up in the air as to how the next three episodes will progress or regress; one of the next two episodes is sure to be a much sillier, sketch-driven affair, but will the other two bring into play a big series-ending plot? Will Negatus and Debbie have a showdown? Will we get any kind of closure in the first season? Does it matter? It’s all good fun, but we hope that the makers are thinking ahead about the story as well as the great jokes and characters. Whatever happens after this interesting, mould-shifting episode, hopes are high.
Yonderland is available to stream with a NOW Entertainment Membership, which costs an introductory price of £4.99 a month with no minimum subscription length. (From 29th May 2014, this renews at £6.99 per month.)