TV Review: Painkiller Jane

Network: Sci-Fi

Premier Date: Friday, April 13th at 10:00 PM e/c

Starring: Kristanna Loken (Jane Vasko), Stephen Lobo (Dr. Seth Carpenter), Sean Owen Roberts (Riley Jensen), Rob Stewart (Andre McBride), Noah Danby (Connor King), Alaina Kalanj (Maureen Bowers), Nathaniel Deveaux (Joe Waterman)

Website: Painkiller Jane

Back in December of 2005 the Sci-Fi network showed off the potential for a new weekly series. The ‘Painkiller Jane’ movie was based on a Silver Bullet Comics series, which most people may have never heard of. Less web slinging and more being shot and thrown through a window, the Jane comic book appears to be a great addition to the television lineup. The movie wasn’t all comic book fans hoped it could be, getting mired down quite a bit in the middle, but the possibility was there. ‘Painkiller Jane’ the series delivers a so-so story dotted with great potential. It’s like a melding of ‘Alias’ and ‘Heroes,’ except it’s not really like either of those shows.

‘Painkiller Jane’ doesn’t continue the story from the movie; it retells the origin of our comic heroine. Jane works for the D.E.A, and on one particular bust she runs into a bit of trouble. A man who is able to make people hallucinate gets in her way. It’s her first interaction with a “neuro” – someone with super neurological powers – and the first time she meets Andre McBride. Jane is offered a position at a super secret government facility, which conveniently is in an abandoned subway station. There’d be no show if she didn’t eventually team up with the black ops boys. Thus sets up the main thrust of ‘Painkiller Jane.’ Sprinkle in a bit of mystery as to how Jane ends up being death proof, along with an endless array of “neuro” targets for the team, and you’ve got a recipe for entertaining television.

I wish it was as easy as all that. There’s an element of ‘Alias’ here that isn’t being exploited as much as it should. One of the drawbacks to the J.J. Abrams show was that it wasn’t a comic book style. With everything that happened to Sydney Bristow, the show kept things grounded in reality. The over the top nature of the series was impeded by that quality, and in fact was detrimental to the show’s allure when the creators crossed lines into the world of fantasy. ‘Painkiller Jane’ doesn’t suffer from that limitation. Unfortunately, what it lacks instead is a real drive and motivation for the beautiful Jane. We don’t so much want to know who or what gave her the abilities as we want to see her walk through a hail of bullets and take out an enemy. In leather pants if at all possible.

Speaking of which, Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3) takes over the role of Jane from Emmanuelle Vaugier. On personal preference I prefer Loken in the part. She has a touch of vulnerability that makes the character a bit more interesting, plus she pulls off the outfits just as nicely as Vaugier did in the movie. I’d hoped the human quality of the character would be maintained amidst all the Wolverine, sans adamantium, powers. Just as they have on ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Sci-Fi needs to give ‘Painkiller Jane’ some freedom to be raw, and that includes letting the star go through life altering events. The most missed element from the movie is Eric Dane. Dr. McSteamy was one of the best things about the movie, and it’s too bad he can’t be here. The rest of the team works in theory, but there’s yet to be any real bond formed between the characters. If we’re to care about the mission, then we need to care about the tech geek as well as Jane.

The first two episodes offer little substance for viewers to tear into. This is a shame because if you can look past that you’ll see the potential. As the show progresses we’ll get into Jane’s back story and what exactly is going on. How is she connected with the neuros, if at all? These are things that we get wisps of in the introduction, but there’s no revelation of a mass conspiracy at the least to get things rolling. Other than gaining super powers, Jane isn’t personally invested in what’s happening. The viewer feels no sympathy, and thus ‘Painkiller Jane’ ends up being an entertaining evening when it could be so much more.

Steve West

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.