Kindred, an adaptation of the Octavia Butler novel

Mallori Johnson in Kindred

Kindred, with an 8 episode first season that ends on a nail-biter of a cliffhanger, is loosely adapted from the brilliant science fiction mind of Octavia Butler. Mallori Johnson stars as an African American woman who is inexplicably whisked into the past.

Kindred begins by introducing us to Dana James (Mallori Johnson) and her life in 2016. She’s an aspiring writer who just moved from Brooklyn to L.A. At dinner with an aunt and uncle (Eisa Davis and Charles Parnell) Dana is questioned about her decision to move and her mental state. They argue, then walk off and leave her in the restaurant with no ride home.

Kevin (Micah Stock), the waiter, offers her a ride home and she takes it. He’s the first person she’s met in L.A. and they begin a relationship.

The Basic Premise

Crazy-making things start to happen to Dana. She suddenly finds herself back in time, where she rescues a child. Then she returns to her own time, terrified. Later it happens again. The child is older now. Again she’s terrified.

She doesn’t know why she goes back in time or how she gets back home. She realizes the boy she keeps saving is the red haired son of a slave owner. The boy, Rufus Weylin (David Alexander Kaplan) is somehow drawing Dana to him.

Each time she goes, she stays longer. She’s touching Kevin and he goes with her. They are locked into the world of slavery and plantation life with no understanding of how to leave.

Mallori Johnson in Kindred. She's dressed in slave attire in a rough cabin

Dana is treated as a slave.

Micah Stock in Kindred dressed in gentlemen's clothes from 1815

Kevin is assumed to be Dana’s “owner” and treated as a gentleman.

Sheria Irving in Kindred

After Dana meets the free woman, Olivia (Sheria Irving), things begin to make sense. Olivia is a relative of Dana’s. I won’t spoil it by telling you who she is, but it brings a lot of Dana’s life into focus. Dana realizes young Rufus is one of her ancestors. She keeps going back to save him so she can exist in her own time.

Themes in Kindred

After that much basic beginning is laid out the story delves into plantation life, the brutal existence of slaves, and the mindset of the slave owners.

Ryan Kwanten in Kindred

The plantation owner Thomas Weylin (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Margaret Weylin (Gayle Rankin) have very different approaches to how Rufus should be raised, but they are both vicious in their treatment of their slaves.

Dana sees slavery from one perspective, Kevin from another. Both are appalled. They try to save people, make changes. They go back to their own time. Before they can catch their breath, they suddenly return to 1815.

In their own time they have issues with Dana’s aunt and her new neighbors who call the police because she returns from the past screaming.

The pace is fast, never boring. The characters are well done, especially Mallori Johnson as Dana. The complications are many and the solutions are difficult. The twist and cliffhanger at the end of the 8th episode makes the need for a second season almost visceral. I nearly jumped out of my chair yelling, “No, you can’t stop there!” at my TV.

Kindred was adapted for television by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. All but one of the directors are women. The directors are Ayoka Chenzira, Destiny Ekaragha, Amanda Marsalis, Alonso Alvarez, and Janicza Bravo.

The series is an FX production, streaming on Hulu. Come on, FX, give us another season of this one! Take a look at the trailer. Then go watch it and let me know if you agree a second season is mandatory.

3 thoughts on “Kindred, an adaptation of the Octavia Butler novel”

  1. I loved the book so much that I was scared about this series – especially when I read a lot of negative reviews. But, I watched the first two episodes and didn’t want to throw anything. I hate that they changed Dana & Kevin’s relationship to brand new rather than a long time couple as in the book and I don’t (yet?) understand why they did that. Overall, I’m ok with it so far. I’ll finish it this weekend – I hope I don’t end up angry and hating it. I’m also going to re-read Kindred for the 100th time.

    1. I haven’t read this particular novel, so I wasn’t making mental notes about the failings of the adaptation. If I have any complaints they would be the lack of chemistry between Dana and Kevin and the out of character response Dana makes to a brutal scene in episode 7.

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