This review for Peacock’s Twisted Metal was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors who are currently on strike, tv series like this one would not be possible, and Autostraddle is grateful for the artists who do this work. This review contains mild spoilers.
Anyone who knows me might be surprised to learn that I not only watched Peacock’s Twisted Metal, but that I actually loved it. I personally was less surprised about that and more surprised that it had some queer representation. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, because it stars noted bisexual Stephanie Beatriz, and she’s always looking out for us.
When I heard Twisted Metal was going to be a TV show, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I texted my brother and asked him if that was the video game I was thinking of, the one with the evil ice cream truck. We loved playing that game together, almost as much as we loved playing a similar game with his Matchbox cars, in which we’d draft them and then roll them at each other, eliminating whoever flipped over. Last car standing wins. Talking to him now, 30 years later, neither of us can remember which came first, us loving this made-up game we so creatively called Cars, or us playing Twisted Metal together (we think Cars came first), but I’m not sure nostalgia alone would have been enough to get me to watch this show.
Then I heard Stephanie Beatriz was in it. I needed no more information.
And to cut to the chase (no pun intended): even if you’ve never played or heard of the video game Twisted Metal, this show is worth it for Stephanie Beatriz alone.
If somehow you’re not sold yet, there’s a lot more to love, too.
The premise of the story is that 20 years ago, the grid went down, leaving the world without power or internet and sending it into turmoil. The major cities put walls around themselves, casting out their criminals, and left everyone else to fend for themselves. They drew a hard line between Insiders and Outsiders. And there are people called Milkmen that deliver things between cities, and our hero, who goes by John Doe (Anthony Mackie), is one such Milkman. We meet him while he’s whipping through an abandoned mall in his car, running from and shooting at Vultures who are trying to steal his delivery.
Eventually he meets Stephanie Beatriz’s character, who is trying to steal his car, and who loves to flip him off.
After getting his car back from her, he goes to New San Francisco, where he meets the Big Boss, Raven, who is played by Neve Campbell, and is…incredibly sexy in this role. She tells him that if he picks up a delivery for her in New Chicago and brings it back within 10 days, he can become an Insider.
While on this mission, he ends up finding Stephanie Beatriz’s character again, and they end up traveling together. John calls her Quiet because she doesn’t speak a word to him for a good long while.
The “reluctant partners” trope is always such a fun dynamic, and these two have such great comedic chemistry. It’s like a road trip comedy tucked inside an action movie. Anthony Mackie is charming as hell, and even though know Stephanie Beatriz is a comedic genius, she really shines in this. She gets to be a total badass and a complete goofball, and nails both tones beautifully.
Quiet is one of the few characters in this show that is not from the game franchise, though her and her brother drive a pink hearse that was called Shadow in the games. Other characters from the games that show up are Agent Stone, a mall cop who decided to try to enforce law and order in the lawless and orderless apocalypse; Sweet Tooth, the evil clown that drives aforementioned ice cream truck; Granny Dread, Amber Rose, Miranda Watts, and more. There were also other little easter eggs that this show is based on a video game, like the PlayStation game sticking to John’s window at one point, and him using the “Konami Code” cheat to get his car to do what he wants.
Another thing this show added that the video game didn’t necessarily have is canon queerness. There are multiple hints that Quiet is bisexual, though nothing that would quite pass my Dad Test. In other words, they are hints I’ve picked up on and probably other queer folks caught, but my straight cis father who likely doesn’t know Stephanie Beatriz is bisexual in real life probably wouldn’t have.
For example, she seems to have chemistry and even flirts a bit with a woman who deals in prosthetics who gives her a metal finger to replace the one she lost. There was also a perhaps subtle or perhaps intentional reference to another Stephanie Beatriz bisexual character when John Doe asks her to make her voice deep as they infiltrate another group…and she does it very badly, even though anyone who has seen Brooklyn Nine-Nine knows she’s quite adept at it. Quiet also gets into a tussle with a woman named Bloody Mary (Chloe Fineman) and when Quiet has Mary pinned to the floor, they both admit it’s kind of hot.
Also, Quiet mentions an ex-fling named Adrian/Adrienne but never uses any pronouns for them, so it’s kind of a choose your own adventure.
However, imagine my surprise when that much-appreciated subtle undertone of queerness wasn’t the only gay content we got! Eventually, John and Quiet meet up with a convoy of truckers, lead by Granny Dread, and one such trucker is Miranda Watts (Jamie Neumann), who sends them to get herbal medicine from “the pharmacist.” That pharmacist happens to be Amber Rose (Diany Rodriguez), who we come to learn is her ex-girlfriend. Granny convinces Watts to make amends with Amber, and even my dad, who lets TV happen to him and doesn’t engage with it like we do, would know they are gay.
At one point, when John and Quiet join the group for a little party, it seems that Watts and Amber aren’t the only queer women in the convoy. In fact, when everyone starts dancing, All The Things She Said by t.A.T.u. starts playing, which is all the confirmation I need that the convoy was a majority queer operation.
Related, one fun thing about the apocalypse having started in 2002 is that all of the music is late 90s and early 2000s bops. Champagne Supernova by Oasis, Thong Song by Sisqo, Barbie Girl by AQUA, MMMBop by Hanson, My Immortal by Evanescence. It was needle drop after needle drop of all the songs of my childhood, and I loved every one.
Overall, I had a great time watching this show. I grew up thinking I didn’t like action movies/shows but ever since I saw Mad Max: Fury Road, I realized I just didn’t like action movies/shows that were only about men, and/or lacked story and character development. I enjoy a good car chase or fist fight when I care about the people in them.
This show has a great mix of both verbal and physical comedy, a dash of not taking itself too seriously, and a heaping serving of heart, so I found myself excited during explosive car fights and stressful hand-to-hand combat. It was violent and bloody and cheesy and funny and honestly kind of lovely.
With ten 30-minute episodes, it’s a very low commitment, and it also feels like a low commitment emotionally. Sometimes TV is just meant to be fun, and this show was just that. Fun. They set up a second season rather nicely, and I find myself hoping they’ll renew it.