Shining Vale Season 1 E01 & E02 Bleed Horrifying Potential: Review

On March 6th, Starz' Shining Vale premiered the first two episodes of the horror-comedy series starring Courteney Cox and Greg Kinnear. The roughly half-hour dramedy focuses on the Phelps family's move from city to suburban life after a personal scandal. Moving to a new home is already difficult enough, but for the Phelps', it becomes a whole new journey when their new abode holds more than it seems at first glance.

Shining Vale Season 1 E01 & E02 Review: A Story Full Of Potential
Courteney Cox as Pat Phelps. Source: Starz

I'm going to go ahead and say I'm torn between how the structure and timing of the episodes felt, specifically with the fact that they premiered the first two half-hour episodes right away. The episodes were complete and structured well by themselves, making it completely fine if shown a week apart, but it did leave me in a sort of limbo state. The first episode, "Chapter One- Welcome to Casa de Phelps", presented a good yet brief introduction of the family. If you didn't understand the level of camp and specific comedy coming at you it would be initially confusing and would take time to adjust to. If it's not for you, that's honestly fine, on the other hand rather enjoy the mix of dark and camp-like humor, especially the kind we see from Pat Phelps.

The general amounts of awkward moments could have easily brought down the series from the get-go, but in a unique way it helped ground this horror-comedy back to a sense of, "well that could honestly have been what my family would be like", or "I can too easily relate to [insert whichever Phelps family member] at this moment, I'd be the same way". Don't get me wrong, there are some cringe-worthy moments in the writing that I can see were testing the waters. It's there, but it doesn't mean it should have been. What doesn't come off as cringe is Pat's job and her writing of women-centered erotic stories, which is something I was cautiously excited about before watching and now I feel at ease. They go about her profession in a clear-sighted way, not ignoring the stigma that still resides in society regarding sexuality and the sex lives of women.

The following episode, "Chapter Two- She Comes at Night", was way better when compared to how we saw the Phelps family in the first episode. Small yet important scenes featuring Gaynor, Jake, and Terry are added in at the perfect time and honestly, I'm thankful for it. Shining Vale does a good job at keeping my attention with the witty dialogue and surreal moments with both visuals and the musical score, eerie sounds, and angled shots. The distortion of time is excellent in this series, twisting the reliability of what the viewer comes to believe is happening or not in some instances. The reactions from the Phelps family when talking to neighbors or people in town make this series redeem itself from the moments of ultimate cringe. I was taken by surprise with the level of emotion and connection I felt to Pat at many moments, especially in the second episode.

Shining Vale takes you to an odd place, but for some reason, you want to stay there and take some time. It becomes an insistent poke in your side, again and again, asking why and what reason we give for not believing women, particularly in trauma and horror. With the reflection of iconic horror and honoring of the odd and absurd TV shows before it, Shining Vale succeeds. The switch between moments of comedy and realistic gut punches will leave you confused, concerned at times, but coming back for more every time. Not a perfect series, but Shining Vale has a lot of potential in its veins and I'm excited for what's next.

Shining Vale S01E01 "Chapter One - Welcome to Casa De Phelps" / S01E02 "Chapter Two - She Comes At Night"

Shining Vale Series Premiere Review:
Review by Brittney Bender

STARZ's Shining Vale had a less-than-smooth start with the premiere episode, which I would have given a 6 out of 10 on its own. The second episode redeemed whatever was lost in the first, which would've scored a 9 out of 10. The horror-comedy series reflects on the absurdity of horror and comedy (with a little reflection on scandal along the way) in a unique and exciting way that shows a lot of potential after its initial rocky start.

Shining Vale

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Brittney BenderAbout Brittney Bender

In love with media, from TV to film, you'll find me writing recaps, reviews, TV news, "Top 5" content, opinion pieces are everything and anything, and more! Bisexual creative mess with a love for dark humor, promoting important projects, and sharing interesting finds.
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