Joe and Terry discuss Hulu’s cruise ship slasher series Wreck, alternating between our respective sites.
Spoilers for episode 1 “The Talented Mr Whippy”
Episode 1.01: Jamie pays to replace a crew member aboard The Sacramentum. He gets a crash course in ship life while keeping a low profile to investigate the disappearance of his sister from the ship 3 months earlier. A crew member is brutally attacked.
It’s time for a new series, Terry, and I feel like this Hulu import of the 2022 UK series Wreck could not be more up our alley. It’s a slasher (check) set on a cruise set (okay!) featuring TWO queer protagonists (double check) and the killer wears a rubber duckie mask and yellow rain slicker (WTF).
Obviously if you’re reading that description and haven’t watched the show, you’ve likely deduced that this is a horror comedy. Created by Ryan J. Brown, the show follows Jamie (Oscar Kennedy), a gay guy who has gone undercover as low-level employee Cormac in order to infiltrate the MS Sacramentum cruise ship and discover the truth behind his sister Pippa (Jodie Tyack)’s death three months earlier.
In true slasher form, Pippa is the opening “kill” as she is stalked aboard the top deck of the ship by the villainous duck after an altercation with her ex, Danny (Jack Rowan). Duckie, as I call him, technically doesn’t kill the girl, though; she elects to jump overboard after yelling that he can’t have her, suggesting that she may have had an idea of who was under the mask.
Who Duckie is and why they targeted Pippa is the central mystery of the series, but there are secondary mysteries as well. One intriguing one: why was the ship, which is alternately described as a “floating city with no police” and a “prison,” so eager to brush off Pippa’s accidental death as a suicide? Suggestions of a cover-up run amok.
It’s clear from early scenes that the ship is run with a tyrannical hand by the crew manager, the appropriately named Karen (Harriet Webb). We also learn that employee Sophia (Alice Nokes) is having a sexual relationship with hunky Officer Sam Rhodes (Louis Boyer). Finally, Danny is dealing drugs out of the walk-in freezer, which Sophia and her hysterical roommate Bethany-May (Ali Hardiman) may also be involved in (the latter says she wants “out,” prompting Danny to threaten her).
So yes, no shortage of mysteries. And at this point in the six episode series, everyone could feasibly be a suspect, though I’ll confess that when Danny is brutally murdered by episode’s end, I questioned whether one of these tiny British girls would be able to drag his body down a corridor and into a secret passage (Sexist? Probably!)
Anyways, I’ll pass it over to you, Terry. What do you think of our two queer leads? Is buff, horny Cormac (Peter Claffey) playing stow-away in Jamie’s cabin going to get stale quickly? Does the (British) humour work for you? I’ll confess that I quite liked the autocorrect joke when Danny’s text swaps “fucking” for “ducking” because…you know, the killer’s a duck.
And, finally, who is your preliminary guess for the killer?!
I’ve personally been excited about Wreck since I read an Attitude UK interview with the cast and creator in which it was described as “super gay.” The fact that series creator Ryan J. Brown is queer himself is just the cherry on top. “The Talented Mr. Whippy” starts the series off on a very strong note and, just like you, I was willing to board for the same reasons you listed. Queer. Horror. Comedy. Ship. Aquatic. Duckie. What more do you need, Joe?
You asked about the British humor and I’m here for it. The mix of sly, absurd and/or sarcastic humor and satire clicks with me perfectly. I will say that it was quite jarring to see Karen laying down the law so quickly after watching a similarly funny (if not specifically horror) Triangle of Sadness. The rules she gives about never saying “no” and doing everything they can to please their very expensive (and presumably demanding) guests gave me flashbacks to that epic comedy of politeness gone awry. I’m honestly hoping for an equally savvy exploration of class dynamics on the MS Sacramentum.
Just with…you know, a killer duck.
I think “The Talented Mr. Whippy” has a perfect slasher opening. It gives us plenty of characters, a lot of secrets and potential drama between the various warring cliques and a pretty surprising attack sequence. I initially wrote “surprising death sequence” but I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of Danny. At least I hope not because Jack Rowan is a hottie and I enjoyed his work in Boys From County Hell, directed by Chris Baugh, who also directed all six episodes of this show.
Speaking of hotties, I would be incredibly uncomfortable rooming with Cormac, particularly with how carefree he is with his body. In college, my first and only roommate was a jock who would lounge around in his boxers like this all day, rearranging himself like Cormac does. Considering they just have the one, very small bed…what’s the sleeping situation like? It sounds like hell. But more on Cormac later.
As leads, Jamie and Vivian (Thaddea Graham) are adorable with the right kind of pluckiness that I can’t wait to see what they get up to.
Okay, let’s talk about the clues we have for what’s going on. Here are things I noted:
- When Pippa is in the elevator and Duckie is hiding above her in the elevator shaft, water drips onto her phone. I’m not sure what the significance of this is, exactly, but why would Duckie be wet? Sure, it’s raining outside but unless he (just using he/him for now) was on the top of the ship, he wouldn’t be wet.
- When Pippa sees Duckie she immediately seems to know he’s bad news; contrast this with the way Danny thinks it’s Hamish (James Phoon).
- Duckie has one of the magic, “entertainers/officers”-only cards that seemingly gives it access to all of the places on the boat.
- We don’t actually see Pippa die and while logic would dictate that she’s dead either from the fall or being lost at sea, I’m not completely counting her out. She could be hiding somewhere on the very large cruise ship. It’s also noted that the ship is registered to Panama and that they only sent a detective for one day. I would hazard a guess that cruise line Velorum didn’t spend a whole lot of time looking for her. As Vivian states, it’d be cheaper and easier to cover it up.
- The ship is massive and apparently contains at least one secret room. We know thousands of people traverse these halls, 24/7…it wouldn’t be out of the question that she could easily hide on ship, especially with secret rooms. How she made it back on the ship…well, I got nothing. But I’m not completely counting her out
- Pippa is a fighter. She runs from Duckie. Hides from him. Attempts to get people’s attention. And then decides to jump, while giving Duckier the, er, double birds. Plus, Jamie mentions that she’s stronger than anybody he knows. She raised him when their mother died and their father gave up. It doesn’t sound like someone who’s just willing to throw her life away without a fight. And if anybody could survive a cinematic fall like that, well, it seems like she’d be the one. Besides, movies have taught me that no body, no death.
So who’s a suspect? As Jaime says, everyone on the ship is, Joe! It’s too early for me to make a guess, though I’m leaning towards Karen’s crew or that they got tangled up in the “mafias” on the ship. A brief, throwaway line suggests that the ship is cliquish and that there are people you don’t want to piss off. Could this simply be drug pushing gone awry?
Hopefully not because that’s kind of boring.
Nobody seems to like the “entertainers” and both Danny and Pippa are in that crew. I guess if I had to make an early prediction, I’d go with the most seemingly unlikely person: The real Cormac. Hiding on the boat, stalking his entertainer ex Rosie (trans actress Miya Ocego…gosh I already love this super queer show), left to his own devices…sounds like slasher material hiding in plain sight.
Jebus I’ve written a lot so I need to throw it back to you, Joe, with the same question: are you ready to make an absurd guess on who the killer (or killers) is/are? Jamie keeps seeing Pippa…are these ghostly images or cinema-friendly hallucinations? Do you have any thoughts on the drama between Bethany May, Sophia and Danny? What do you make of the potential meet cutes between Jamie and Olly (Anthony Rickman)? And did you hear the one about the boy and his lucky duck? Seriously. How does that joke end?
That joke seems terrible, but considering how distracted Danny is, perhaps he’s just not in a place where he can deliver a good punchline?
Danny’s relationship with Pippa is obviously a big plot point in this first episode. It’s clear that he had legitimate feelings for her, even if his behaviour in the opening scene is very creepy (Danny doesn’t seem like the guy who takes rejection well). Hell, he even calls his latest conquest by her name twice during their tryst!
I agree that the ship’s secret black market (likely drugs) is likely at the core of what Bethany May, Sophia and Danny are involved in. Now that might mean dealing to other crew members (like in the freezer), or selling to the high rollers (like the ones we see Mister Allan, the cruise director, personally escort). I do agree with you, Terry, that’s kinda boring.
Pro tip for creatives: drugs are usually pretty boring.
All this to say, this isn’t exactly the most exciting plotline, but it may simple be because we don’t have a ton of information yet. Danny seemed douchey, Sophia seemed like a plastic and Bethany May seemed like a silly shrill (though that could be entertaining if the character is used well).
Jamie is clearly guilt-ridden about his sister’s death, so I don’t see his visions of her as anything other than remorse and a manifestation of his desire to clear her name.
Also: I agree that since there’s no body, Pippa could easily come back. We’ve been trained far too well by horror movies to expect anything else.
So that leaves Jamie and Olly, who are actually pretty cute together! Much like Jamie’s relationship with Vivian, which is immediately fun and supportive, there’s a calm, easygoing energy about Olly. While he hasn’t exactly displayed any physical attraction to our queer lead, it seems pretty evident that he’s the main love interest (and possibly the only sane person on the boat).
Does that immediately make me wonder if he’s the killer? Yes.
Will I be proven wrong and these two boys will probably get a happy ending together? Also yes.
Of all the myriad suspects, I’m going to go for a long shot and point the finger at Officer Hottie, Sam Rhodes. We already know that he’s fucking the young women on this cruise, so it’s entirely possible he was doing the same with Pippa. And judging by the way he fills out his uniform, he clearly has the upper body strength to drag a body.
The other likeliest suspect is probably Karen: she seems like a very tightly wound-up individual. I could conceivably see her target individuals who threaten the ship’s livelihood with illegal trade – ie: Danny and Pippa. If either Bethany May or Sophia go down next, then she’ll shoot to the top of my suspects list.
Back to you, Terry: do you think setting a slasher on a cruise ship is a novelty that’s paying off? Considering how much time we spend talking about them, will Jamie or Vivian’s parents come calling at any point? How long until Cormac gets discovered? And would you participate in a hazing ritual involving a fish?
I have participated in a very benign hazing ritual and now I’m very thankful fish weren’t involved. The way Wreck doesn’t come out exactly and say what went down makes the brain work overtime. That poor fish…
It’s hard to say whether the novelty of a cruise-based slasher is paying off just yet because we’re still just getting to know everyone. That said, I did appreciate the way this initial episode explored how dizzying and maze-like the hallways are. Vivian even tries to connect it to The Shining, as she paraphrases the creepy twins’ iconic “forever and ever” line.
I personally like my slashers isolated (check), but also with a limited number of people and a huge ship doesn’t exactly play into that. There is still social isolation when we have such a large group (and that large group is comprised of wealthy people), though, so maybe Brown and co. can make it feel as lonely as the final act of a slasher.
I hope Cormac doesn’t get discovered just because I find the awkwardness of Jamie and Cormac to be intriguing so far. But the draw of Rosie will probably be too much for him and I do think we’ll see him moving around the ship and probably getting seen.
Finally, I kind of hope Jamie and Vivian’s parents don’t come calling because I don’t want to really see that homophobic family situation honestly. I hope it’s purely confined to this ship…but I guess we’ll see. Speaking of seeing, I’m excited to find out more about these characters when we head to Gayly Dreadful for episode 2!
Wreck is now available on Hulu