Salvita Decorte as Sarah Source: HBO Asia
Salvita Decorte as Sarah. Source: HBO Asia

Hidden in the city of Jakarta are supernatural beings known as Demit, who are awaiting the signs to reveal themselves. Sarah (Salvita Decorte), a street artist orphaned at a young age, unwittingly finds herself caught between both worlds when she discovers that the mysterious characters from her sketches are real.

What started off as a dry first episode slowly evolved into an intriguing story that made the 30-minute run time per episode not long enough. It was initially a little hard to differentiate the characters due to the dialogue that often switched between Bahasa Indonesia and English. With a mostly Indonesian cast, I’m guessing that the decision to go bilingual was to help the series stay true to it’s Indonesian roots, while still keeping it interesting for the English-speaking audience.

But it was occasionally jarring because some of the actors were clearly not bilingual – at times, I found myself trying to figure out what they were saying, instead of focusing on the emotion/situation of the character.

"Say… You kinda look like that character from a book.." Source: HBO Asia
“Say… You do kinda look like that character from a book..” Source: HBO Asia

The cast is not exactly perfect, but they aren’t too bad either. Some played their characters really well, making me almost believe I’d meet someone like them on the streets, while others took a bit of suspension of disbelief.

Two supernatural characters that definitely sold their performances were Marni (Hannah Al Rashid) and Tony (Reza Rahadian), who sent chills down my spine just by the delivery of their lines. But Nathan Hartono’s Coki was a miss for me, and it was mostly due to the fact that he was playing a musician.

Yes, I get that he sings really well, and it’s a no-brainer to have him sing in the series but isn’t that a bit predictable? It’s always good to utilise what you already have, but in this case, it definitely didn’t work for me.

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“What! I have to sing in this show as well?” Source: HBO Asia

The biggest bugbear for me would have to be the similarities in theme that Halfworlds shares with The Mortal Instruments: It’s also about two different worlds colliding, with a female lead at the centre of it all. At times, it felt like replicated inspiration was happening before my eyes.

One glaringly obvious similarity is the scene when Sarah sees Barata (Arifin Putra), the mysterious hooded man from her sketches. Everything about that one scene was almost identical to the exact moment where Clary meets Jace in the club in The Mortal Instruments.

"I'm your worst nightmare." Source: HBO Asia
“I’m your worst nightmare.” Source: HBO Asia

That said, the one thing I like most about this series would have to be the cartoon graphics that mark the beginning of each episode. Picture the title screen before every episode of Once Upon a Time starts – now, picture two minutes worth of cartoon-comic graphics. This is how Halfworlds gives viewers the gist of each episode.

But the fight scenes were a little rough around the edges from the start, as they looked messy and unprepared. One scene had the character go through toilet cubicles (after having being superman-punched through the walls), only to have the camera catching the damaged cubicle walls with no one in sight. Um… Where’s the people who were fighting?

Thankfully, my worry about haphazard, sloppy fist-bumping was short-lived as the fight scenes gradually got better. Being a HBO original, Halfworlds is definitely not one to shy away from blood and gruesome scenes, although it can’t beat Game of Thrones.

Arifin Putra as Barata. Source: HBO Asia
Arifin Putra as Barata. Source: HBO Asia

As someone who enjoys the supernatural and fantasy genre of shows, Halfworlds is an intriguing series. I think that it has potential to be Asia’s answer to the likes of Grimm and any other fantasy-thrillers.

So, watch out Hollywood – Asia’s coming for you.