Once again, Fantasy Island returns, but this incarnation has women as the lead, strips away the horror element, and tries to bring something new to the formula.
|Created By||Gene Levitt|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Fantasy, Romance, LGBT|
|Ruby (Original)||Stephanie Berry|
|Ruby (Series Regular)||Kiara Barnes|
|Javier||John Gabriel Rodriquez|
|Dr. Gina||Gabriela Z. Hernandez|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
It has only been a few years since Elena Roarke became the host of Fantasy Island. The decision to do so wasn’t taken quickly, and someone died when they tried to step in her steed. However, since then, she has accepted the Island and her role but didn’t fully accept she needed a right hand.
Why? Well, Elena is the type who doesn’t necessarily like having help or close ties to people, so it was never a priority. But then Ruby showed up, originally as a guest, and the Island chose her to be Elena’s right hand, this was accepted. After all, Elena has gone against the Island before and saw what happened, so why fight it now?
But what neither may have expected is the friendship that would bloom and what the Island had planned for either of them. Nothing nefarious, mind you, but definitely a plan focused on them growing as people and dealing with the circumstances that formerly held them back.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Why did the Island choose Elena? Also, does her family consider the Island more so a curse than a blessing?
- How did Elena’s fiancé handle her having to leave suddenly and end their engagement?
- Who recommends people to the Island? It was noted they have an ad out somewhere, but who is handling the marketing and booking?
- Because time and space is but a plaything for the Island, how old can a host get in normal human years?
- Considering the Fantasy Island resort isn’t a single secluded island but near multiple islands, does the Island have control over those or just its own?
What Could Happen Next
- Elena’s fiancé coming to the Island and his fantasy being to get back with her
- Ruby’s kids or grandkids coming to the Island, if not the woman she broke up with for Mel
- Dani’s family coming to the Island, and Javier being reminded of what he took from them by allowing Dani to take his place
- Members of Elena’s family coming and perhaps fleshing out Fernando
It Gets Better With Time
One of the burdens Fantasy Island deals with is that it is the third attempt to bring back this series, and the last attempt, the Fantasy Island movie, came out a little less than a year and a half ago. On top of that, it was a better-than-expected movie and a horror spin on the franchise. Also, it was a prequel to the original show. So because of all the history which came before this new version, the burden was on Gene Levitt and their team to not only make this version stand out but not compete with a horror version which, personally, we thought was quite good.
Which, at first, they failed at. The first set of guests may have given us Ruby, but Bellamy Young as Christine was a lackluster story and definitely was not the kind of story to pitch a new iteration of a multi-decade-old franchise.
However, as time went on, the guests improved, as well as their stories. For if it wasn’t a Desi woman trying to choose between an arranged marriage and an interracial relationship, it was a mother, played by Debbi Morgan, trying to reconnect with her daughter. Add in a queer storyline featuring a woman who falls in love with an author, pair that with a trip to Havana in episode 4, and you get a consistent string of quality tales.
How It Pushes You To Question The Island & Its Intentions As Time Goes On
With this being a sequel to the 1977 Fantasy Island with no known connection to the film, or the revival, admittedly, things felt very vanilla when it started. Yet, as time went on, there was the need to question the intentions of the Island, even if it wasn’t being nefarious. There was a need to raise an eyebrow due to the Island fulfilling Javier’s fantasy of being with Elena and whether everyone was fair game for a fantasy.
One key example might be Ruby, who may have inherited the title of second in command, but arguably her fantasy didn’t end once her husband left and she was de-aged a multitude of years. For whether it was Dr. Gina or other characters that pushed Ruby to talk about and deal with her sexuality, it is almost as if the Island took her on as a long-term project.
The Writing For Elena and Ruby
But it is because of how Ruby and Elena are written that you stick around and are in it for the long haul. Ruby, being a woman who was 75 but now is in her 30 something-year-old body, maybe less, and watching her be queer in ways she couldn’t in 1971 is of great interest. Especially because that old fear and hesitation remains.
Her journey towards warming up to the idea of being with a woman is a fascinating watch. Then, when you take note we’re watching a Black woman go through this and pair that with how the Island sets her up to deal with her issues? While not groundbreaking, it is both entertaining and noteworthy.
Then, when it comes to Elena, you have to appreciate how she embraces femininity but not as a whole. Certain traditions or activities, like when Ruby talks about having a Girl’s Night, doing makeovers, and things like that, Elena seems so perplexed, confused, if not disgusted by. Mind you, this is all done without painting the picture that Elena “Isn’t like other girls.” She doesn’t look down or outright put down what many women do or are into. More so, it is just something she isn’t into.
Why? Well, that question isn’t answered, but that is to the benefit of the show. For rather than show Elena have a bad experience, we’re pushed to see her as someone who enjoys her solitude and doesn’t need to have a huge swath of friends. Heck, it even helps to answer why the Island picked her since she didn’t have ties, beyond her fiancé, which would make leaving the world behind hard. Pair this with her not having a strong need for male companionship, in a romantic sense, and it further makes Elena stand out without feeling like she was manufactured to do so for praise.
On The Fence
While the show does set up Javier to have a backstory and everything, at the end of the day, he seems to be nothing more than a potential love interest for Elena. This proposal we’re not completely against, yet at the same time, it feels forced more often than not. Maybe it is because Elena is so perfect on her own that the complications of bringing a man into her life just doesn’t seem worth it?
However, the one bigger issue might be not knowing how her last relationship ended and seeing her flirty while spending time with a guy in Havana. Which makes it seem Javier is less of a first choice and more so a convenient one? But perhaps the main thing which really complicates getting behind the Javier x Elena relationship is that it seems the Island is forcing it. So, considering what happened when Elena rejected the Island’s desires before, there is the need to question if she really wants Javier or if it is just the influence/ magic of the Island?
A Lukewarm Finale
Very few shows seem to create the kind of finales, whether season or series, that are satisfying. But, while many go for the cliff-hanger route or stacking up moments fans have been clamoring for, Fantasy Island doesn’t do that. It feels like just another episode, and even with the reveal of Fernando’s sacrifice, and the return of Mel, it just felt like it lacked impact.
Though considering we’re supposed to get two holiday-themed episodes, according to TV Insider, maybe that’s why the finale didn’t feel like the end of a chapter?
Rating: Mixed (Stick Around)
Fantasy Island (2021) may have had a misstep with its premiere, but it gets better. I wouldn’t say this needs to move from being a summer show to the main stage of being a fall into spring, 16+ episode show, but only because it’s better to leave people wanting more. Which, with the season-ending before Ruby gets into a relationship with a woman or us getting the full details about Fernando, I am left wanting more.
This leads to why this got the mixed label: It’s not for everyone. Fantasy Island does make an effort, but even with the changes made to its formula, it is the kind of show which is fun to watch because it isn’t in direct competition with another show for your time. So here is hoping that, during the dead of winter and summer, Fantasy Island pops out its head for an 8 to 10 episode season and then goes dormant.