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02nd Jan 2023

REVIEW: Kaleidoscope is an amazing idea wrapped around an okay show

Rory Cashin

Kaleidoscope is Netflix’s first big show of 2023

It is a concept that Black Mirror would’ve killed for. Taking place over 25 years, the eight episodes of Kaleidoscope will arrive in each Netflix account in a completely unique way.

Well… sort of.

The first seven episodes of Kaleidoscope will arrive in a random order, all leading up to the same final episode for everyone. So those first seven episodes can be viewed in nine million different ways, but since there are around 225 million Netflix accounts in the world right now, you’ll be one of about 25 others around the world who will get the exact same order.

Still, that in itself is pretty cool. Considering what Charlie Brooker cooked up with that Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, you’d imagine he’d create something really interesting with this idea.

But instead, we’ve got a show created by Eric Garcia, the guy who wrote the book that Ridley Scott’s con-man drama Matchstick Men was based on, plus he wrote the script for 2010 sci-fi thriller Repo Men and produced 2016 horror The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

So, yeah, a bit of a mixed bag there. Which also describes Kaleidoscope pretty succinctly, actually.

The eighth and final episode of the show is titled ‘White’, and it takes place on the day of a huge bank heist, which is very loosely based on the true story of billions of bonds that mysteriously went missing during Hurricane Sandy.

Before that, depending on the order you’ve received, you’ll flit back and forth from 24 years before the heist, to six months afterwards, with the interactions, characters and events all said to hit different depending on your viewing order.

While we can certainly see how that might be the case, unfortunately at its core we’ve got a pretty run-of-the-mill revenge-heist plot. It’s aiming for Ocean’s 11, but we get Ocean’s 6… 6 1/2 if we’re feeling generous.

Thankfully, everyone involved is bringing their A-game, with a gang filled with “Oh yeah, I know them from that thing” actors like heist mastermind Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, The Mandalorian), weapons expert Paz Vega (Spanglish, The OA), super aggressive safe cracker Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad, Terminator: Genisys), not to mention their target, ultra-rich security expert Rufus Sewell (Old, A Knight’s Tale) and his assistant Tati Gabrielle (Uncharted, You).

Each episode does contain its own little centrepiece to hold our attention, be it a smaller heist (to fund the big one), a shoot-out, a double-cross, a prison break, what have you. It never actually becomes boring, but it also never really breaks through to become interesting in its own right, beyond the way it is being presented.

So you’ve got a mediocre heist thriller that is essentially being played on shuffle, suffering from some obvious budget constraints – the big bank heist everything is building towards looks like it is taking place on the set of a game show – but buoyed by some very decent performances.

So, yeah, a bit of a mixed bag.

All eight episodes of Kaleidoscope arrive on Netflix on Sunday, 1 January.

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