The Dark Tower (Unaired Amazon pilot)
Posted: June 8, 2020
OK, we’ve all heard about the TV series version of The Dark Tower. Word was that it would tell the story chronologically instead of the order the books were released - a thing that many fans were happy about, myself included. The showrunner is Glen Mazzara, who we all know from TV shows like The Walking Dead. Originally word was that that the TV series would be a compliment to the two or three movies that were supposed to be done. That all changed when the movie didn’t fly and all thoughts on further movies were scrapped. The cast was revealed but besides that there wasn’t much news to find about the series. Time went on and to be honest we didn’t know much of what was happening. We knew they were in Croatia filming a pilot and we did get some photos from the set in a Croatian newspaper but that was pretty much it. This was very different from when the movie version was filmed in the US. Then we got to see photos from different sets and surroundings.
Eventually word arrived that a pilot was done and now we were just waiting on Amazon to release a trailer and a release date. That didn’t happen. Amazon instead decided not to proceed with the series and we now had a situation where we know there was a pilot but almost no one had seen it. Most of us hadn’t even seen pictures of the cast portraying their characters, beside Jerome Flynn who plays Steven Deschain and a few smaller parts that there were photos of in the Croatian news report.
For a while nothing happened but then recently the podcast The Kingcast did a great interview with showrunner Glen Mazzara who told us about the plans he had for the show, what he had in store for the first three seasons and more. The setup for the death of Susan and Roland’s mother Gabrielle. How he was to include the war with Farson, the shapeshifter story from Wind Through the Keyhole, the fall of Gilead and the last stand at Jericho Hill and from there on to The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, possible with a new actor in the role of Roland, and onward all the way to King’s cameo and the ending. Plans that sounded just like what we fans wanted out of an adaptation, all that was lost when they did the movie.
I got a chance to see the pilot and I will take you through it. Before that though I just want to give my thoughts on if this pilot will ever be used by Amazon or any other company. My guess is no and the reason for that is not that it’s bad, it’s actually really good but I think that too much time has gone since it was shot. Actors have gotten other jobs, they have changed their looks, gotten older and so on. This doesn’t mean that someone won’t run with Mazzara’s idea for the series and even use his scripts to make it, but this exact pilot will probably never air.
The pilot is just under an hour long, 57 minutes to be exact, and don’t worry the first thing you see is the text “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed”.
Then we see Roland (played by Sam Strike) traveling alone in a huge desert. Pretty much as in The Gunslinger but here Roland is much younger than in the book. It’s still very clear though that he is chasing Marten (played by Jasper Pääkkönen).
At the same time, we see Gabrielle (Played by Elaine Cassidy), Roland’s mother back in Gilead worried about her son and his friends, yes, his Ka-Tet is intact. No one knows where they are or when or even if they will return. We also see how Roland’s father Steven Deschain (played by Jerome Flynn) is out seeing the damage Farson’s army has caused to people. It’s clear that the war is closing in.
Back to Roland now who after meeting a Taheen (it looks great) in the desert passes out and finds himself in the back of Brown’s wagon. Brown (played by Oberon K.A. Adjepong) save him even if it takes Roland some time to realize this. Brown brings him back to his bunker (instead of a cabin) where we meet his talking raven (who everyone who’s read The Gunslinger will know). From Brown, Roland finds out that Marten passed through just days ago and that he’ll probably be waiting for Roland in Hambry. Fans of the books will now know that we’re now entering into the story plot of Wizard and Glass and we realize that Mazzara have, very successfully merged The Gunslinger with Wizard and Glass. In Hambry we find Susan Delgado (played by Joana Ribeiro) and when we first meet her, she’s heading to Rhea (played by Shobu Kapoor) for a check out in order to be able to marry Mayor Hart Thorin (played by Ivan Kaye). Something her aunt Cordelia Delgado (Ana Padrao) has arranged. As you can see it’s all there from the book and as we enter Hambry we move more and more into the events of Wizard and Glass.
Next to enter the scene is Roland’s Ka-Tet and here there are some changes. Cuthbert Allgood (played by Khalil Madovi) and Alain Johns (played by Frankie Fox) we recognize from the books. Jamie DeCurry is also here but now a woman (played by Joanna McGibbon) and they have also added Ileen Ritter (played by Daisy Fairclough). Ileen is mentioned in the first version of The Gunslinger but not as one of the core members of the Ka-Tet. It’s hard to really have an opinion on how these changes would have impacted the show, the fact that two of the members of Roland’s original Ka-Tet now are women. From what I see in the pilot I have no problem at all with it though, so probably it wouldn’t have been a problem further down the road either. One thing that shows Mazzara’s eye for details is that here, like in the book, Cuthbert has his trusted skull close at hand.
We see the Ka-Tet catching up to Roland just as he has an encounter with The Big Coffin Hunters at the salon after they have bullied Sheemie (played by Daniel Laurie) and almost made him lick Clay Reynolds (played by Aaron Heffeman) boots. In the stand-off we get to see Roland use his guns but also Cuthbert using his slingshot. After the confrontation the Ka-Tet leaves and ends up at the fair where Roland once again meets Susan and this time dances with her. The first time they meet is, like in the book, when she’s coming back from Rhea.
During all this Marten is hidden but present in Hambry challenging Roland and during a shootout at the end of the episode he gives Roland a glimpse of his future where he shoots and kills his mother. The episode then ends with Marten, who is there but not there at the same time, flickering in and out, telling a shocked and heartbroken Roland that “You will kill everything and everyone you love”.
The pilot is very true to King’s story and even though it mixes parts from The Gunslinger with Wizard and Glass in the beginning (Mazzara explains the reason for this in the podcast interview) it works remarkable well and we also get to see both Gilead and Hambry and Mazzara’s versions of the two cities looks great. Another thing that Mazzara did was leave the tower itself out of the pilot. From his podcast interview we know that he wanted Roland and the viewers to find out about that together and I think that is a brilliant idea. It would make the viewers connect with Roland in a unique way and set them up for the hunt of the tower together.
The thing that most people would probably have opinions about is the cast. I have to admit that they look a bit different than I expected them to, but no one feels completely wrong and I think that, if given the chance, they would have pulled it off. Roland is, of course, a young Roland since this is the beginning of the story, but we can easily see that he’s older than the 15 something he is in Wizard and Glass but that is totally fine with me. He looks young and he looks inexperienced but still stubborn and a bit unruly, going his own way and doing things the way he feels they should be done. As I mentioned earlier there are also changes made to the Ka-Tet but from what I saw in the pilot that worked here. Will it cause problems down the road? I don’t know but so far, I’m OK with it. I also like the fact that most of the cast is fairly unknown and you don’t need to associate them with other roles they’ve done.
Lilja's final words about The Dark Tower (Unaired Amazon pilot)
Summarizing what I just have seen though I can state that this pilot has a lot that I missed from the movie version. The cast looks like they would have pulled it off and the plans Mazzara had for it could have, if done correctly, made this series the Dark Tower adaptation we all wanted and wished for when the movie was done.
Glen Mazzara has NOT forgotten the face of his father!