This Siren review contains spoilers.
Siren Season 3 Episode 3
War is coming. Tia seeks to regain leadership of her tribe, and to unite all the world’s mermaids against humans. Ryn is an obstacle, but Tia has shown her capability, both in water and on land. She is a formidable opponent, and Ryn recognizes the threat.
Ryn, still hurting from her fight with Tia, sets a plan of action for her clan. Some go back to the water to patrol and protect their territory, while Ryn and others remain topside to heal, and train to be stronger fighters outside the water. Ryn asks Maddie to teach her to read because Tia is “more human” and Ryn acknowledges the advantages that gives her enemy. Ryn is both keen and naive, but she learns from every encounter, and comes out of every situation stronger and more capable.
Ryn will be tested in ways she hasn’t been before, and like every time she’s gone up against an enemy, her victory isn’t ensured. In Siren, people never feel untouchable. Ben and Maddie are smart and resourceful, and mostly coming from a place of genuine good, so things tend to work out for them. But there is never a certainty that they will win, or come away from things unscathed. Their estranged relationship is proof that things can break, and that nothing is safe.
Nothing is safe, and no one is perfect. Ben, who was the paragon of virtue in season one and throughout most of season two, is the perfect example of someone who can be pushed to do questionable things for the “right” reasons. First, letting Ian die at the end of last season, to protect Ryn. Then, in this episode, exhuming Donna’s remains to carry out the same exploitation of her body that he chastised Kyle for— so his mother can continue her stem cell treatments.
The treatments are working and Elaine is regaining movement in her legs, while also, it seems, gaining new abilities, like being able to hold her breath underwater for minutes at a time. But just because the treatment works doesn’t mean she’s entitled to them, if there is no ethical way to continue. But white men gon’ White Man.
Ben is a well-meaning person, with decent morals, and a genuine desire to do good. But he is above all else, a white man, and one who comes from means, so he is doubly privileged. The show has touched on this privilege before, in his relationship with Xander and Calvin and the fishing crew they were a part of together, before he left for college. The writing hasn’t always positioned Ben as the wrong party in that dynamic, but there is always an undercurrent of unexamined privilege with Ben.
Ben castigated Kyle for desecrating the body of Ryn’s dead sister, Donna, to further his own (self-serving) agenda. But with Kyle no longer around to be the Bad Guy, Ben immediately resorts to the same tactics— something he will justify by insisting it’s selfless, for someone else’s benefit. In another situation, I might be concerned about whether the writing will take him to task, but Siren has shown a propensity to confront, test, and criticize their characters and those character’s choices.
There are a lot of questions of morality in this show, and not many clear right and wrong answers. Our perspective of mermaids comes from Ryn, and experiencing our world through her eyes. But mermaids are apex predators, who can kill even the strongest humans bare-handed. They are, in actuality, a legitimate threat. Xander is excellent at reminding us of this.
Ryn is smart, and can learn and teach others how to “behave,” but a mermaid’s natural instinct is still dangerous to humans. Xander lost his dad to mermaids, and he was just… A fisherman. He wasn’t someone who was trying to exploit or harm them, but he died anyway. It’s no wonder Xander felt compelled to apply for a job in law enforcement. Instead of trying to get people —Ben and Maddie, and Sheriff Bishop— to treat mermaids with the proper level of fear, he’s empowering himself to be able to do what’s necessary whenever the threat reveals itself.
Another morally ambiguous group is the hybrids, who were introduced last season. Like Helen, they are human descendants of mermaids. Unlike Helen, they are a clan, who share the secret, and try to preserve the genetic line through selective mating. Ben stole Ryn’s harvested eggs from Kyle, and took them to the hybrid’s personal doctor, Leena, who implants one in Ryn, and —unbeknownst to everyone, but Bryan— the other in a hybrid woman, Meredith. That same night, Ian kidnaps Ryn, and her pregnancy doesn’t take.
In the previous episode, Ryn has abdominal pain, which she charges to her fight with Tia, but it coincides with pain Meredith is experiencing. In this episode, that pain worsens, so Maddie takes Ryn, and her niece Camille, to see Leena. Leena realizes Ryn is experiencing the contractions Meredith is having. She confesses to implanting the other egg, but says it’s dangerous for them to go to Meredith because Bryan is there. Ryn and Camille steal Maddie’s car and follow the Doctor to Meredith. Ryn sings to the baby which soothes them, and alleviates the pain. And Camille takes Bryan out, though it’s unclear whether or not it’s permanent.
Meanwhile, the question of whether it was wrong to secretly implant Ryn’s viable embryo into another person without her knowledge is muddled by the fact that child has come to term, where the one implanted in Ryn did not. Acting without consent is wrong, always, but the implications of a successful mermaid birth are major, since mermaids haven’t been able to conceive. A healthy newborn mermaid changes the stakes for the entire species, not just Ryn’s clan, and it’ll be exciting to see how that influences the coming conflict with Tia and the united tribes. I can’t wait to see what other trouble will wash up on this season of Siren.
- Xander is a Black man trying to be a cop, and there are a lot of things I could say about that, but this isn’t… That kind of show. So I will note it, but not examine it further, unless the story calls for it. And while I don’t expect that to happen, I would be… not happy —impressed?— if the writing manages to broach the topic in any significant way.