Saturday, September 1, 2012

Web Series Review: Riese: Kingdom Falling

Status: One Season Completed Totaling 10 Episodes
Credits: Ryan Copple (Creator/Writer), Kaleena Kiff (Creator/Writer/Director), Christine Chatelain (Riese), Sharon Taylor (Empress Amara), Ben Cotton (Magister Herrick), Alessandro Juliani (Garin)

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars

Synopsis:  This sci fi/fantasy/steampunk hybrid web series focuses on the title character Riese, a former princess who is now on the run after her cousin Amara staged a coup and killed the rest of the royal family. Riese wanders across the lands of Eleysia with her wolf companion Fenrir as both Empress Amara and the religious cult known as the Sect track her down because she presents a threat to the grand designs of each. And meanwhile, a resistance movement battles against Amara’s armies as they also search for Riese hoping that she will serve as a leader and inspiration to their cause.

Review/Commentary: Riese: Kingdom Falling is an original web series created by Ryan Copple and Kaleena Kiff which Syfy took interest in back in 2009 after five episodes had been completed.  The network purchased the broadcast rights and an additional five episodes were produced with the entire first season then airing on, where it is still currently available for viewing.

If the basic rundown of the plot above has a familiar ring to it, that is because the series cobbles together some well-tread fantasy elements along with names straight out of Norse mythology (no actual connection established as of yet), but it adds a unique twist to these by placing the story in a steam-punk setting and it throws in a bit of Orwellian paranoia and anxiety to give it an even darker edge. So while Riese may seem derivative at times, it still throws in just enough in the way of new elements to set it apart from the pack and keep the viewer (myself at least) intrigued.

The production is of course confined by the budgetary restrictions of a web-series, but it makes the most of what it has and avoids the extreme cheesiness of some of the more amateur productions on the web. And it even throws in a few decent CGI shots to gussy up the edges here and there. The acting is okay for the most part, not spectacular but it never derails the production. And Amanda Tapping (Stargate: SG-1, Sanctuary) even lends her voice to the narration, though she provides a rather distant and dispassionate reading. Nothing against Tapping, but I would have much rather had one of the characters of the story, perhaps Riese, provide the voice-over instead. Also, Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar: Galactica) shows up in a few episodes as one of the members of the resistance, and Stargate: Altantis' Ben Cotton lends his talent to the series as well.

Overall, I consider Riese a decent web series and one that has some potential, but I wouldn't place it among the upper echelon of web productions I have viewed thus far like Pioneer One and Cell: The Web Series. The steam-punk setting gives the production its unique atmosphere and that offers the series some potential future territory to explore. But then that's assuming that more episodes will come at some point.  Syfy aired the series on their website back in 2009, and I'm assuming that was a test to see if it had legs to jump to an ongoing television series, sort of like what Sanctuary did.  Nothing has emerged since then, though, as far as either a television series or more episodes of the web series.  But hopefully we will at least get a continuation on the Internet because I think the series could grow into a decent genre entry (and I'd rank it above other Syfy fare like Warehouse 13, Being Human, and Haven).

 It's worth checking out, and if you are new to web-series, this is a good place to start because it’s a quick watch (the eps run between six and ten minutes each) and it’s not as rough around the edges as some other Internet productions. Just don’t go in expecting the same production values that you would see on a Prime Time television series (even one from the cable channels), and you should not be disappointed.

Links:  Riese: Kingdom Falling is still available for viewing on Syfy's website and it is also available over at  It's YouTube channel only has clips now, and it doesn't appear that the show's official website is available anymore.


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