It's time to forget what you thought you knew about mermaids. Or at least remind yourself of their original mythological conception as deadly, dangerous creatures of the sea. That's exactly what Freeform is doing with Siren, its new show about a literal fish out of water, set in the US coastal town of Bristol Cove.
Siren wants to tell the kind of mermaid tale that you haven't heard of since Ancient Greece, when Odysseus nearly got himself killed by one on his journey home to Ithaca. What's been shown by the trailers so far certainly fits that darker, more mysterious tone, with trouble brewing in Bristol Cove as soon as the eponymous Siren shows up. Have I made you curious yet? Here's 5 things you need to know about Siren, which premieres March 29 on Freeform in the US (a UK date is TBC).
1. Not all mermaids are into Disney singalongs
“What I think we are doing is going a little bit deeper with the darkness of mermaids,” says Emily Whitesell, executive producer of Siren. The new TV show follows a mysterious girl called Ryn (British actress Eline Powell), who comes ashore in the coastal town of Bristol Cove. However, her presence turns the small community upside down and sets the stage for a war between land and sea.
“We really do tell why mermaids might be the way they are,” Whitesell explains. "We’re trying to tell stories with deeper themes – themes like global warning and why people would be driven out of their homes. From there, we tell the story of this mermaid who would like to get home. Ryn is waiting for her sister, who it turns out has been captured so, there’s this story of Ryn on this incredible journey to find her."
2. Ryn hooks a marine biologist
One Bristol Cove resident torn between head and heart is marine biologist Ben (Alex Roe). The hunky local stumbles across Ryn and almost immediately falls under her irresistible spell.
“Ben is this humanitarian, but he’s also an environmentalist,” Whitesell tells Red Alert. “Those issues have always concerned him. Ben realises that mankind might be damaging the oceans and that’s what might be pushing these things to the surface. But he develops feelings for Ryn and that’s the real dilemma. Also, his family owns one of the biggest, unfriendliest environmental companies in the town... and the town relies on that company. So, Ben has many facets and problems.”
3. She can defend herself
Ryn can definitely take care of herself, but that killer instinct has a tendency to get her in trouble early on. “As Ryn says at a certain point in the show, ‘Yes, I am part animal, but I am also part human,’” notes Whitesell. “As human beings, we see the animal side to ourselves sometimes. Ryn is discovering her humanity and then trying to understand what it means and attempting to control both sides. We all have these sides to us. Hers weighs more on the animal [side] in the beginning.”
4. Her song is hypnotic
Similar to the beautiful sea creatures of legend that lured sailors to their deaths, Ryn’s species possess a hypnotic siren song. Its sound mesmerises anyone who hears it.
“I can’t tell you too much about it,” says Whitesell cryptically. “The siren song is used in different ways and it’s trying to figure out its effect on Ben and other people, and what it’s used for in the bigger picture. It will be an enormous plot point.”
5. The government is up to no good
Conspiracy theorists know that secret government organisations are always up to something sinister. In this case, one division snares a mermaid to study her.
“Could they weaponise a mermaid?” Whitesell asks. “What is that siren song? Is that something they could weaponise? Can they imitate it? Then, within the army, you will see a faction split off and have some sympathy, and whether that has to do with being sirened or not. That leads to a very dark place.”
This feature originally appeared in GamesRadar+'s sister magazine SFX, issue 298. Pick up a copy now or subscribe so you never miss an issue.