Facebook Watch adapts the popular podcast into a tight mystery thriller, with a few hiccups.
Apparently having covered on Facebook Watch original feature, The Birch, has forever marked my browser with a big old bullseye for Facebook to relentlessly stalk me with adds. After a month of being continually bombarded with ads for Limetown, I broke down and gave it a view. I’m glad I watched it…now leave me the fuck alone, Mark Zuckerberg!
Limetown is based on a popular podcast, one that is itself derived from fictionalizing the allure of True Crime shows like Serial. It uses those tropes effectively, though does tend to be a little heavy handed at times with characterization. A rivetting premise and some nice stylistic flourishes help it to overcome a few stumbles.
Investigative journalist Lia Haddock (Jessica Biel) doggedly tries to solve the cold case of Limetown. A commune of scientists secluded from society, Limetown became a national sensation when all 327 residents went missing…including Lia’s beloved uncle (Stanley Tucci). A decade later, Lia finally breaks open the case when a purported survivor asks to be interviewed by her on her true crime podcast.
Episode 1: I Have Heard the Future.
The mystery of Limetown haunts Lia Haddock. Her career has stalled out as she continues to pour all her efforts into an investigation into the mysterious disappearances, even as national interest has dried up. A cryptic phone call reignites the case when a strange woman asks for Lia to interview her, claiming to be a survivor.
Limetown starts out strong, really digging into the surreal horror of the situation. The pacing, deft sound work, and reticent performances all give the program an otherworldly feel. Jessica Biel’s Lia is severely damaged but determined, clinging to the case as the only lifeline she has left. There’s plenty of riddles to hook you in, and several great moments of horror to keep your attention riveted.
Episode 2: Redacted.
Lia agrees to meet her new source, only find a woman with dubious credibility (Kelly Jenrette). Paranoid and combative, the woman refuses to follow Lia’s lead and instead seams to be goading her into another line of questions. Eventually, Lia’s encyclopedic knowledge of the case seems to break down the other woman’s defenses, leading for another lead…and a macabre piece of the puzzle. Back at Lia’s hotel, a demented man leaves her a gruesome warning.
The second episode nicely builds upon the riddles of the first. We get pieces of the interaction between Lia and the her dangerous visitor in the first, enough to create some tense horror elements. Now we get the scene again in a new light, giving the show a bit of an X-Files, conspiracy theory angle. The interview is engrossing, and nicely builds up the world of Limetown just before the tragedy with flashbacks.
Episode 3: Rake.
Lia tries to decode clues to lead her to her next subject in Rake, Wyoming. At first she suspects a man suspected of a deadly fire, but she begins to believe another resident of Rake may be her real target.
The third episode stumbles. There’s a bit too much procedural stuff; while it builds up the world of the show it also drags the pace to a crawl. Lia feels a bit too broken, almost a trope instead of a character. Once in Rake, we get a chilling tale, but none of the flashbacks or sound work that made the first two episodes so unsettling and effective. The twist at the end doesn’t quite do enough to justify the frustration of this episode.
Binge or Purge: Limetown?
Limetown gets off to a great start. The cast is mostly strong; Biel makes Lia intriguing despite some heavy-handed aspects. Stanley Tucci is engaging and enigmatic as the uncle, only showing up in flashbacks. Lia’s co-workers are very tropey, and kind of annoying. The consistent oddity of the tone makes some guest stars great and some exhausting.
Overall, the strong visual and sound elements, paired with a strong premise and plenty of riddle boxes makes me want to continue on. It does indulge in melodrama, much like other podcast adaptations like Lore. As much as episode three frustrates, it hints at the next leg of the journey being even darker and more shocking than the first. Binge.