The Divergent television show is on its way, and it sounds absolutely awful.
Imagine, for a second, a show that’s based on a series of Hunger Games knock-off movies that nobody really asked for.
Veronica Roth’s Divergent books are absolutely, perfectly fine. They’re not terrible, not amazing, but hit the perfect mix of authoritarian dystopian future and teenage clique mentality at just the right time. Divergent is essentially The Hunger Games mixed with the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. Society is divided into sects, and young kids are given a psychotropic personality test to decide which group they belong to – which they can totally ignore and just pick the coolest one.
Naturally, the story follows a young girl named Tris who is tired of being a Hufflepuff, so she joins Gryffindor so she can get cool tattoos and embrace the hedonistic lifestyle of a group who, according to the movie, must all die in stupid train-related accidents before they hit forty.
There’s also some other stuff going on, but really the only this that sets the franchise apart from Hunger Games is the fact that the movie’s “heroes” are constantly jumping onto moving trains, like a bunch of idiots.
The Divergent movie did well enough at the box office to get a sequel, which then scraped its way to justifying a third instalment. The franchise was losing traction, but as long as it still turned a vague profit, nobody at Lionsgate was going to quibble.
Inexplicably, the series did actually attract some decent talent as well (we’re not talking about Jai Courtney here). Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, hey, even Ansel Elgort – even more so than The Hunger Games, this franchise feels like a Who’s Who of up and coming movie stars. We’re never going to see any of the kids from The Maze Runner again, but the Divergent kids apparently have Hollywood staying power (yes, even Jai Courtney!).
But then came the third movie in the franchise; Allegiant Part 1. As is the trend at the moment, this story took the last of the three Divergent novels, split its story in half, and attempted to pad the runtime with lots of scenes of characters looking sad.
It was not exactly a box office smash.
To Lionsgate, the solution seemed simple: cancel the final movie, and instead make a television show that would stretch the story from half a novel across the entire first season of the show. Purely logical decision-making, right?
Unsurprisingly, none of the stars of Allegiant Part 1 have been overly enthusiastic about returning for a TV show when they’d been promised a movie. It’s not yet known whether the show will feature any of the actors from the films, or even if the plot of the new show, titled Asdendant, will even follow up on any of the cliffhangers left in the last movie.
So, to recap: Ascendant sounds like the worst television show ever made, and it doesn’t even have a cast yet.
That said, whether you’re a fan of the Divergent movies or not, you should probably give this ridiculous thing a chance.
This is far from the first time that the creative team behind a mediocre movie has been given the inexplicable chance to take their bad idea and make a TV show around it. The classic example is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is an absolutely awful movie, but a pretty darn fantastic TV show.
Ascendant feels a lot like Buffy in many respects – first and foremost, it feels like the expansive, complex world of both stories fit better on television than in movies.
Nobody really cares about the dull, whiny characters of the Divergent franchise, but there are plenty of stories to tell in a world that decides on social status based solely on a fancy Pottermore. The best thing the new Ascendant show can do is ditch the characters that we’ve seen in movies (and their expensive actors), and invent some new heroes with compelling story arcs that the show can take a long time to explore.
With a few tweaks, the Divergent formula can fit really well on television, showing us more of the world in which the characters live, and maybe explaining in gruesome detail what happens to all the old people who join the Dauntless train-jumping faction of society, or presenting a gripping drama about a guy in Candor (the group defined by their honesty) when they have to keep some enormous, life-threatening secret.
There’s good stuff in this world, even if it all sounds like the dumbest mish-mash of teenage fandoms. A TV show is the perfect format to give some meaty speculative storytelling to audiences who are desperate for more young adult dystopian fiction.
The Hunger Games is finished. Jennifer Lawrence is never going to punch Woody Harrelson again, and we have to get over it. But Ascendant might just turn out to be decent, and it’s at least worth giving it the benefit of the doubt.