Star power of ‘Game of Thrones’ actors rises in US ‘Rebellion’ reviews

Reception for ‘Rebellion’ in the US likely to sway RTÉ’s decision on whether to bring it back for a second series

The US reviews for RTÉ's 1916 Rising drama Rebellion, which aired on the Sundance channel this week, were not uniformly kind, with the chief TV critic of Variety, Maureen Ryan, concluding that it sabotaged itself regularly "with questionable pacing and an ungainly bunch of underdeveloped characters".

The Wall Street Journal's John Anderson was more of a fan, finding "poignancy" within the melodrama and hailing in particular the "remarkable" performances of Brian Gleeson and Barry Ward as brothers Jimmy and Arthur Mahon.

One point that was picked by both the New York Times and Variety was the relative star power compared of Irish actor Michelle Fairley, who is known globally for her role as Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones.

The New York Times noted that the "generally capable will be largely unfamiliar to American viewers" with the "significant exception" of Fairley, while Variety complained that the "well-known and experienced" Fairley and her Game of Thrones co-star Ian McElhinney were "mostly wasted" in the supporting cast as the disapproving parents of Charlie Murphy's character.

The €7 million five-parter – a mini-series in the context of US television – was made for RTÉ by UK company Zodiak Media and its subsidiary, Touchpaper Television, with Sundance helping Zodiak recoup its investment by signing on as a co-production partner.

The reception that the drama gets in the US is likely to sway RTÉ's decision on whether to bring it back for a second series, which if commissioned would follow the characters through the events of the War of Independence, while a third would tackle the Civil War.

Rebellion premiered on Sundance on Sunday night in the same Eastern Time slot as the return on HBO of the Belfast-filmed Game of Thrones.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics