Netflix original series review + The changes that season 2 needs badly
I woke up this morning and loaded up Netflix and binged the entire thing. To say I was sucked in would be a critical understatement!
Ultimate Beastmaster is a truly wild ride that runs you through a gamut of emotions that pays off incredibly. I laughed, I cheered (a lot), I felt empathy and inspiration.
What is it?
If you’re at all familiar with the obstacle course competition shows such as Sasuke or Ninja Warrior (The western world’s equivalent cousin), then this show is probably going to be a pure joy to watch. If you’ve never heard of those shows then I strongly urge you to check out Ultimate Beastmaster.
As mentioned, the show is a competitive obstacle elimination course that will test challengers from 6 nations to the very limits of their physical abilities. The course itself is thematically designed to represent a mythical beast with the obstacles taking place inside it’s body over 4 separate levels. The setup is reminiscent of various classic video gaming elements from Super Mario Bros to Sonic the Hedgehog and more.
The course is aptly named “The Beast” and not because designed to look like one. The obstacles are diabolical and not for the faint of heart. Sets range from insane jumps across a series of suspended metal columns and rotating platforms, to impossible looking rock walls and trapeze.
How does the game work?
Contestants, male and female, are placed together from 6 nations (USA, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, South Korea and Japan) and are eliminated by score; unlike similar competitions where setting a time record is the goal.
Each set of obstacles is worth a set amount of points on completion with some having a “point thruster” lever in some of the zones. The points thruster, of course, is optional and carries greater risk of failure if the contestant attempts to reap the reward.
The scoring system is a refreshing change from the haste format, though time still remains a factor. Each course has a very fair time limit set on it and being that there is a finite amount of points that can be earned per level, completion times are used to decide tiebreakers during elimination.
Contestants are expected to always go the distance instead of accumulating enough points to avoid elimination in that level, as the score is accumulating until the finale.
What else makes this worth watching?
Ultimate Beastmaster does a number of things incredibly well. There are 2 presenters/commentators from each of the nations represented; the presenters for our US audience being Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson. Though the athletes are representing their country, the show doesn’t degrade itself into flags and borders. Naturally each set of hosts are rooting for the home team, but there’s an incredible sense of camaraderie and chemistry going on between them all. Funny moments occur such as playful ribbing when the Germans step into the Brazilian commentator box to have a very tongue-in-cheek exchange of competitive banter, yet you get the sense that they’re genuinely rooting for everyone participating.
Pictured above : Brazil Presenter - Anderson Silva, with USA Presenter - Terry Crews
The performances from the athletes are all incredibly inspiring and draw you in with anticipation as they attempt each section. The moments that leave you holding your breath as they make an attempt at an impossible looking leap, the moments that leave your jaw dropped with empathy and palm to forehead as you watch a favorite tumble into the drink, the moments where your jaw hangs in amazement as someone sticks the landing with finesse on a section that has been absolutely grinding everyone, those moments where you can’t help but yell out “ATTA BOY!!” when that guy’s muscles are vibrating, he’s losing his grip and is certainly going to fail until he digs deep and comes back from the fucking dead.
The show is a unisex competition that approaches things very progressively, which was good to see truly equal treatment. Obstacles were always exactly the same specifications for both genders with no point leads or advantages because “she’s a woman so it’s harder for her because no winky.”
Kudos on that factor and for not blowing your own horn about the equality either.
What did the show get wrong?
Honestly? I loved it way more than I would have thought and looking at it objectively is admittedly incredibly tough. There were only 3 things in total that were absolutely glaring and had me pissed off, but I’ll cover those in the last section. Everything else is a nitpick.
For starters we don’t always get to see a contestant’s full run at a course, which is understandable because the pacing needs to fit the shows typical 45 minutes per episode.
The competitors are only from 6 nations in this big old world, but they aren’t making a giant song and dance about it being an international competition, so whatever.
(Straw grasping, I know)
What needs to change for Season 2?
(Aka, my legit complaints)
First thing! I know that some of the runs need to be cut for pacing and you basically show us the abridged version, but for the luvva Bob STOP spoiling the highlight by having the announcers telling us that so and so falls off the mag-wall or fails obstacle X before it happens!
I want to experience that disappointment for myself when Japanese/German/Brazilian/Murican/Korean/Mexican/Guy/Girl/Catdog falls in the fucking drink! You telling us right before it happens robs me of that *gasp* “Nooooo” moment. We’re not children that need the blow softened first.
On the subject of spoiling, have a word with your footage editors, as they tend to show failures in the episode intro. This is Netflix! There are no commercial breaks you need to suck is in on before we go pee because we can afford to do so while Jake from State farm tries to sell shit with humor. I hate when TV does that! It’s annoying, patronising and one of the reasons I have streaming subscriptions.
Last but not least is my biggest annoyance with the content of the show. Sometimes you switch the difficulty of obstacles within the courses, which is a plus, but during the faceplant obstacle could you just always use the plastic covered chain when they leap off the tilting platform?
I legitimately got pissed off whenever it was switched to actual rope. Nearly everyone got pretty nasty ropeburn whenever it was out. It looks like an accident waiting to happen, it is an accident waiting to happen, and it’s not fun to watch someone getting ropeburn. There’s enough potential for injury already and ropeburn is limiting competitors in a competition where there’s an awful lot of gripping/climbing/hanging/swinging.
Addicting and brilliant! Netflix best get to greenlighting season 2.
Check it out immediately! That finale was un-freaking-believable.