StartUp: “Seed Money” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Unless you are a fan of finding out how comedians take their coffee or the types of cars they fancy, you probably haven’t paid too much attention to Crackle or the content that it has available for streaming. That was probably fine for the last few years as it tried to pick up the scraps of old sitcoms and cartoons that Hulu and Netflix didn’t really care for, but Crackle decided to start serving up original content for their viewers to consume … a few years ago.

After finding a Crackle series on my drafting schedule this season, I was surprised to find during my preliminary research that the folks at Crackle have actually been putting out original content for a few years, but less surprised to find that I had not heard of any of the television shows—even though I have been using the service to watch the previously mentioned Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee since it first aired in 2012.

That being said, all series are created equal until we at the Watch get a chance to review them—so, let’s put Crackle’s less-than-stellar record behind us and hope that their new series, StartUp, is the breakout hit they need to put their streaming service on the map.

The Characters

There are a handful of characters introduced in StartUp‘s premiere episode”Seed Money”, but I’ll focus this review on the four that the story seems to be revolving around in the first episode.

The episode opens up with an uncharacteristically menacing Martin Freeman, as the corrupt federal agent Phil Rask, putting the screws to Andrew Talman—a man who clearly already has enough on his plate after stealing a bunch of money from some dangerous mobsters. Unfortunately for Andrew, Rask isn’t the type to let a little bit of danger (for Andrew) get in the way of his cut of the stolen money.
Luckily for Andrew, he has a son who works as a financier at a bank to reluctantly help him launder the stolen money for him through some accounts. Nick Talman (Adam Brody) doesn’t have the best relationship with his corrupt father and it appears he has spent a lot of time and energy to distance himself from his dad and move on to a life on the straight and narrow with his new “girlfriend” (they aren’t putting labels on it) in their fancy new home together that his would-be father-in-law paid for. There is definitely some conflict there that I am sure will be explored in a later episode, but that is a conversation for another time.
Outside of the Talman-Rask storyline, we have Izzy (Otmara Marrero), who is probably the most important character in the entire series. Izzy is a coder who has spent the last seven years of her life perfecting the alpha of her cryptocurrency called GenCoin which boasts a level of security and independence that puts even BitCoin to shame—though, it is never really explained how it is better. Either way, Izzy has finally gotten to the point with GenCoin that she is looking for financial support and she ends up pitching the cryptocurrency at the bank where Nick works.
… and how would any crime drama worth its salt be complete without a point-of-view character on the wrong side of the law? Ronald Dacey, magnificently portrayed by Edi Gathegi, is easily the show-stealer for “Seed Money”. Dacey’s opening scene is a single-shot sequence of him waking up in his home as the loving father-of-two and husband, followed by him walking down the streets of Little Haiti to interrogate a man while eating the breakfast his wife prepared for him. Through his interactions with the other members of his gang, it appears Dacey is all about the business aspects of their operation and less the bloodthirsty soldier that his subordinates want him to be.
I’m certain that won’t cause issues later.

The Conflict

While I’ve touched on some of the points of tension earlier, it is important to look at how they tie together to see how the series is going to unfold. The Talmans have some mob money to maneuver while avoiding the federal agent (Rask) and mobsters (Dacey) that definitely want to make sure they get their cut, while Izzy has to make sure that she can succeed in bringing something as intangible as a cryptocurrency to mainstream consumers, and that is only after she can accomplish the herculean task of finding someone to put up the money to get her started.

Given a few episodes, I’m sure we’ll move past the stage of these folks working against each other and move towards them working against some force together—whether that be trying to get people to actually use GenCoin or Rask and Dacey cutting their ties with their organizations to get rich off of GenCoin while avoiding the FBI and the Haitian mob, I’m sure there will be plenty of fresh hurdles to come.

The Criticism

We have a rule of thumb here that we must watch at least three episodes of a television series before we decide whether or not we’re going to drop the show, but I have a feeling I am going to take my time watching this one. With a week devoid of any television premieres that I am scheduled to review, I still don’t see myself tuning in to watch any further episodes of StartUp this week.

The Conjecture

I think the folks behind StartUp have laid down some clear tracks to where the show is headed—by the next episode or two, I would expect all of the story lines to have converged to some extent and our characters will know about the threats they pose to each other to some extent. There will be struggles for Izzy and Nick as they bring Dacey in to the GenCoin business and try to avoid letting Rask in on the truth of what happened to the stolen money.

Since all of Crackle’s previous original content seems to be renewed despite being relatively unknown, I expect StartUp will get a couple of seasons to explore what it has to offer. I could see the first season ending with GenCoin being pushed out to the testing phase—maybe as a way for the Haitian mob to do business without worrying about their money being traced by the government. I would like to see the final season break away from tangible threats (such as the FBI and the mob) and focus more on the code for GenCoin being broken into and exploited by hackers, but I’m not even sure I’d still be along for the ride at that point.

The Conclusion

I didn’t hate the time I spent watching StartUp, but there is something to be said about the fact that all of the episodes are readily available and I have yet to watch the second episode after a week of mulling the series over. It is a moderately interesting series that is easy to access and completely free to watch, but it just didn’t engage me enough to make me want to continue with it right away.

If you’re still on the fence about this one even after my review, I would probably lean towards spending your time on something with a bit more promise. StartUp looks like it is trying to be The Wire meets Silicon Valley, but it lacks the depth and charm of either series.

If you’re interested in the series, StartUp‘s first season is available right now on Crackle. If you’d like to see what else Daniel is watching, you can check his Trakt page to keep up-to-date with all of his shows.

About Daniel

I'm a guy who spends way too much time playing board games and watching television with his friends. View all posts by Daniel

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