Let me preface this review with saying that this is by far the best multimedia incorporated webseries adaptation I have ever seen. And yes, I’m including all my previous novel-to-webseries adaptations favorites.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – NOTHING can be as good as LBD or Carmilla or *insert favorite webseries here* can be, but just give me a moment.
Better yet. Click on the first episode below and get back to me. I’ll wait.
See what I mean? This series is nothing short of enchanting. The Misselthwaite Archives is an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden. The adaptation follows the story of Mary Lennox, a sassy 17-year old played by the brilliant Sophie Giberson – who reminds me of a mix of Bridgit Mendler and Danielle Panabaker (it’s eerie – look them up).
Mary just lost her parents in a car accident, so she’s sent to live with her mysterious, flighty uncle and his sister in Oregon. Mary’s life was slightly-less-than idyllic before her parents died, and this latest move hasn’t helped. Mary feels isolated, so she makes video blogs to her therapist while she adjusts to her new life.
The Youtube media alone is fantastic. The production value is gorgeous – the production team isn’t afraid to take things outdoors, so we’re not confined to the claustrophobia some other series suffer from by sticking to the bedroom set.
The decision to roam makes the setting feel expansive and real – trekking through the Oregon forest with Mary feels like an adventure where you’re walking right there with her. It’s nothing short of wish fulfillment. The sound and camerawork is immersive. You’re exploring the wildlife right there with Mary.
Speaking of Mary, she’s fabulous. Sure, she’s angsty, but her dialogue is sarcastic and witty and magnetic and dynamic. She’s delightful. She’s funny. She’s smart. She’s self-aware. I was never frustrated with Mary and I always rooted for her, a line which could have been easily crossed when portraying a misunderstood teenage character.
The supporting cast also feel like real people instead of characters. From Mary’s intense lawyer aunt to her chipper http://www.montauk-monster.com/pharmacy/inderal tutor-with-six-siblings, Phoebe (Jack Wells, I have never seen you before, but j’adore), the series feels like an intersection of fully-formed lives and storylines that occasionally intersect with Mary’s. The characters are relatable and they remind me of various parts of my friends and family in real life.
This series is the first adaptation where I felt the story was natural, where other series felt scripted. It makes me forget that I’m part of the audience and these are actors talking to a camera.
Misselthwaite also supplements the video aspect of the story.
Following in the vein of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and other recent multimedia adaptations, the crew behind Misselthwaite incorporates both fan materials and writer-generated supplements to advance the plot. These fan-made incorporations range from Tumblr fanfics to custom 8tracks mixes. As with LBD, these supplements from fans become canon when posted on the main website where you can follow the entire Youtube story along with the supplemental materials all in one place (which I highly recommend, even if the videos do stand alone.)
It’s really well organized, very clean, and extremely well done. Each piece of supplementary media really contributes something meaningful to the progression of the story. For example, one of the additional writer-created materials was a newspaper clipping describing the death of Mary’s parents, which was followed by a series of emails to check on Mary’s custodial situation and then her parent’s will, all of which filled in the gaps between videos.
With each piece of supplementary media, another piece of the world’s puzzle clicks into place. Misselthwaite doesn’t thrive off mystery, but there is something mysterious and adventurous about the feel of a sandbox world where the characters and their personalities are authentic and multi-dimensional and drive the plot. This series feels exactly how I felt when I first read The Secret Garden, and I love it.
Final Thoughts: I have no higher praise than I do for this series. From the writing and setting to the cast and production – it’s all brilliant. Check it out.