Sinbad 1.03 "House Of Games" REVIEW

TV REVIEW Viva Las somewhere-or-other-in-the-middle-of-a-desert-that-isn’t-Vegas-but-may-as-well-be

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Sinbad 1.03 "House Of Games” REVIEW

Sinbad 1.03
Writer: Steve Thompson
Director: Brian Grant

THE ONE WHERE Anwar loses the Providence in a bet, and Sinbad takes a gamble getting it back.

VERDICT Last week we mentioned how Sophie Okonedo’s savage queen was a bit Aunty Entity, and wondered where the Thunderdome was. This week… we got it –well, a smaller version anyway – complete with cribbed, “Only one comes out alive!” rule book. What next? Sinbad becomes best buddies with a Persian gyrocopter pilot?

It’s an idea that may not be as implausible as it sounds in this show. After last week’s rather plodding, identikit fantasy fare, this week the show seems to have embraced the silly. And it’s all the more entertaining for it. Authentic period details are thin on the ground; from Sinbad’s trendy canvas shows (trendily laced, no less), to men in trilby hats and dialogue that mentions “boy racers” and “dress codes” the show almost exists in a bizarre parallel universe. Forget steampunk, this windpunk.

And it’s fun. Creaky, cheesy and often cringingly conveniently plotted, but at least this irreverent approach injects some quirky energy and identity that was missing from episode two. The Vegas vibe is well-used, and the daft card game Sinbad and his rival play actually becomes tense at times. Harry Potter ’s David Bradley makes a striking impression as an eyeless mage, despite having only a couple of lines. The mad revolving room sequence provides an exciting climax. Even the humour seems less forced this time; even though the cook still gets all the funniest scenes, you have to love the table-cloth being half-inched to provide Sinbad and co with a suitable dress code. This is the kind of playfulness that the show needs to nail, and here – largely – it’s nailing it.

But nagging problems remain. Although there are some attempts to get the crew interacting more this time round, the usual culprits are still rather bland and hard to get a handle on. It’s difficult to care about Rina running off (or, indeed, redeeming herself) because most of what we know about is what other characters have said about her. Nala, although she smiles occasionally this week, still mostly just shouts and moans. The Northman, Gunnar, looks sullen and gets knocked out. It’s still unfathomable why such a bunch of malcontents seem so ready to let Sinbad lead them. And you don’t really believe any of them – Anwar excepted – really care about his curse when he confesses at the episode’s end.

As such, it’s still impossible to tell if some of the acting is wooden, or if the poor actors simply haven’t been given anything to work with yet.

The action back in Basra felt a bit pointless as well this week. The show should either make more of Akbari’s revenge, leave it alone for a few episodes, until it can have a real impact later in the season. Otherwise, it ends up looking like so much gratuitous chicken slaughter.

So, jury’s still out on the series as a whole, but in and of itself, a decent enough episode. Can’t wait for the cook to take centre stage, though.

MOST IMPRESSIVE STUNT OF THE WEEK Coming down those steps in those shoes...? Vic Armstrong eat your heart out.

WHERE DID YOU GET THAT HAT? In an episode that was Immortals -esque in its parade of unlikely headgear, we especially liked this little number. At first we assumed the woman was wandering, disorientated in the desert because the USS Reliant had crashed landed on her head.

COOKING TIPS It wasn’t only the Providence’s cook who was giving out culinary tips this week. Taryn went all Nigella on us while preparing her potion, and also seemed to have a fondue ready for Akbari when he arrived.

TRIVIA Brian Grant directed the Christopher Eccleston Doctor Who episode "The Long Game” as well as various episodes of Hex .

TRIVIA Yes, you were seeing double: Iain McKee played both Faris and Essam.

Sinbad: “Apparently there’s a dress code.”

Read our previous Sinbad reviews

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.