Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Netflix users will be familiar with falling through the rabbit hole of trying to find something to watch, only to end up scrolling through tons of titles for as long as the runtime of your average film. I’ve been there, but I’ve also used the “Play Something” button, Netflix’s idea of a shuffle feature, to find something when I can’t think of anything on my own. This is how I found StartUp, a series originally created for lesser-known streaming service Crackle and which already has three seasons out, all of which are available on Netflix right now. I’ve only completed one season but it’s been so good and so addictive I just might have to use that shuffle button a whole lot more!
StartUp plays a bit like The Wire meets Billons and while critics have been harsh with Season 1 (it has a 36 per cent rating on the Tomatometer) viewers seem to love it (88 per cent for Season 1 and 91 overall on the same site, Rotten Tomatoes). So which camp does this amateur critic/professional viewer fall into? It’s a bit hard to say with only one season in the bag, but as of right now, I’m hanging with the fans. Let’s take a look at StartUp Season 1.
And this is where the money happens. Or, will happen. Eventually
So some background first. Adam Brody (most famously remembered as Seth from The O.C.) plays Nick Talman, son of a money launderer who helps out his father by investing the laundered money in a tech startup called GenCoin. The startup was created by Izzy, a young but brash and compulsive genius played by Otmara Marrero. To add further problems to the mix, some of the money belongs to a violent Haitian gang, given to Nick’s father to invest by one of the gang leaders, Ronald, played by Kenyan-American actor Edi Gathegi (X-Men: First Class, The Blacklist). All three of them are therefore forced into an unlikely partnership. Things only go from bad to worse as Nick is targeted by corrupt FBI agent Phil Task (Martin Freeman of Black Panther, Sherlock, The Hobbit Trilogy) and this, my lovelies, is just the tip of the iceberg known as StartUp.
With all of the A-List talent on board here, you know the acting is going to be top-notch, but the two characters that I’ve found most compelling are Ronald and Agent Task. Both Edi Gathegi and Martin Freeman turn out stellar performances that leave you hungry for more. Ronald is a man born into a world where opportunities aren’t rare; they’re non-existent. He’s smart, brave, loyal to his family and wants nothing more than to make a better life for them. Phil Task on the other hand makes one bad decision that snowballs out of control, pulling him deeper and deeper into the darkness he has sworn as an FBI agent to stand against. These two are not the only reasons to watch, but they damn sure are the cherry on top of what’s turned out to be an amazing first season.
I feel you man. Kidney stones are no joke
StartUp does a fantastic job of keeping the viewer off-balance as well. Just when you think our leads are going to hit it big or succeed at their endeavour, something or someone does something to pull the rug out from under them in a big way. I’ll admit, it can be frustrating to watch at times, but I think it also adds to the realism of trying to get a company off the ground. Granted most people don’t have to deal with shady agents, violent gangs or corrupt family members constantly getting in their way (that stuff is added for our entertainment after all). Still, there’s a nice balance between the fantastical dramatic elements and the real hardships entrepreneurs tend to go through.
I may have buried the lead here a bit, but the business they’re trying to start up is based on something most of us have heard of but know little to nothing about, and that’s cryptocurrency. In my opinion it’s another smart choice by show creator Ben Ketai, and the writers do a really good job of keeping things from getting too technical (for crypto noobs such as myself) while teaching audiences about the positives and negatives of using a currency that has no government restrictions on it. There’s good and bad to everything in this world and StartUp explores, among other things, the pros and cons to cryptocurrency. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
You’re annoying. Okay. There. I’ve said it
Using Miami as a location was also a smart choice, as it’s a city that has an eclectic mix of cultures and classes, most of which are represented by our leads, not to mention it makes for a variety of locations that are beautiful and never feel stagnant or too redundant. The acting, the story, the visuals, I’ve only been singing praises so far, and you’re probably wondering if StartUp had delivered a perfect first season. While most of it works, and works really well, I will admit there are episodes that pad the runtime a bit too heavily, with moments I didn’t feel were necessary to drag out.
I’m also not a fan of Otmara Marrero’s character Isabelle “Izzy” Morales. Actually, not a fan might be putting it too lightly. I can’t stand her! She’s rude, abrasive, and absolutely obnoxious to her family. And for someone who is a genius, she makes the kinds of decisions and says things that leave me scratching my head. Not to give anything away but at one point after Nick gets someone to invest heavily in their startup (that’s the name of the show!) she tells him they should “fire” Ronald. Fire a gang leader…who they barely know at this point…who she thinks probably won’t kill them because he likes them. REALLY?!!!! This is just one example of Izzy’s brain in action so I’m really hoping as the series goes along the writing for this particular character gets better. Because as of right now, I’m sitting here hoping she gets eaten by a crocodile or alligator. Whichever one hangs out in Florida.
All kidding aside, this is a must-see for fans of shows like Billions, White Collar or Mr. Robot. It’s only been one season for me so it’s hard to say if my opinions will stay the same as I continue watching. But for now, I’m investing all my money (or in this case, my time) in StartUp.
Sommer’s Season 1 Score: 8 out of 10
You can find more Netflix drama reviews below:
Netflix Crime Thriller ‘Lupin’ is Worthy to Steal Your Time
Netflix Miniseries The Queen’s Gambit is a Winner in Four Moves
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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