If you tuned into the first episode of Face Off and never turned on your television set again, you probably still could have predicted that Connor, Tate, and Gage would be among the final four. The disparity between the contestants' talent levels was obvious from the get-go; a few looked like pros, and a few looked like pre-schoolers playing with Silly Putty. But really, that's the only glaring weakness of the first season of Face Off.
In last night's finale, everything came down to the aforementioned trio vying for the title of Supreme Champion Face-Offer. It wasn't quite clear whether the judges were basing their decision on the competitor's entire body of work or just on their final challenge, but in the end, personality-void Connor emerged victorious, and I have no problem with that. In fact, it was a legitimate three-horse race, as all three were worthy of the crown.
The final challenge was to take a well-known fairytale (Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, etc.) and give it a themed twist (psychedelic, haunted, etc.). Each of the three contestants turned in incredible pieces of work that showed off their particular talents, but Gage's "Industrial Hansel & Gretel" was by far the most impressive. Like the judges said, his work—in which the witch wins—told a story rather that just showcasing rubber glued to someone's face. The addition of Hansel's hands pushing out of the witch's stomach was brilliant; it's that kind of attention to detail that made Gage a worthy finalist.
Tate has shown unparalleled levels of ambition in his work, and his "Post-Apocalyptic Wolf" (of Little Red Riding Hood fame) was a ridiculous achievement given the amount of time he had. And to think he wanted to pull all that off before he knew he was getting help? That's insanity. Nice touch on the spinning gatling gun for Riding Hood, too.
Connor chose "Haunted Frog Prince" as his final motif, and the final product didn't impress me as much as some of his previous work. I thought the witch was a little underdone and his overall vision was sub-par. But that model-controlled throat balloon on the Frog Prince was the single best thing featured on the show all season. Connor clearly has a gift for making prosthetics that move and feel like flesh, and in the world of movie makeup, that goes a long, long way. Connor is the kind of guy who can immediately jump onto a set and be an asset to a special effects team. He'll get good work after this show.
There was a fourth competitor in the final, Sam, but her project was a mess from the start. Because she'd won the previous challenge, she had first pick of the fairytales and themes, and she blew it. "Psychedelic Little Mermaid"? Not the best combination to show off what you can really do. Which is too bad, because the girl has skills.
Face Off is coming back for a second season, and it should. Despite being one of those shows brought in to broaden the Syfy brand so that it appeals to a wider audience, Face Off is also a show that longtime fans of the original SciFi can latch on to. Plus, its focus on talent rather than in-house beef is refreshing. But in the end, the show works because viewers at home can easily judge the quality of the contestants' work: It's not subjective like on Work of Art or untasteable like on Top Chef. We don't need any technical knowledge to tell whether it looks good. It either does or it doesn't.