Suitcase City borrows heavily from other iconic dystopian science-fiction stories, particularly Blade Runner, to the extent it even seems to lift snippets of that film’s musical score. Plenty of films have wanted to ape director Ridley Scott’s incredible aesthetic, but there’s a reason it has never been matched. Suitcase City doesn’t manage it, either, but it’s a reasonable attempt on a clearly sparse budget.
The episode opens with an expository set of paragraphs explaining the state of the world circa 2054. Radical groups managed to destroy most of the Earth with nuclear strikes, leaving a single city in the middle of nowhere a viable habitat for the survivors. Consequently, that unnamed haven is also filled to the brim with crime and violence. Police are essentially outlawed, operating as rebels against the criminal administration. One gang, the SR-20s, control most of the city. Because nobody above the law can gain a foothold, people are constantly moving into and out of the city between stays in the wasteland. That’s why it’s known as Suitcase City.
Keith Sutliff, who also wrote Suitcase City, plays its hardboiled protagonist Mason K., a police officer working to lead the resistance against the SR-20s. The pilot episode, “A City Amongst the Ruins,” introduces us to Mason’s lonely existence. He spends most of his time in a fairly clean old factory space, smoking cigarettes and journaling to himself about how hard everything is: “There’s a new mission every day, and it’s fluid.” He doesn’t know what happened to his family. He wears a leather jacket with a cool design on the back. He has a sawed-off shotgun and drives a DeLorean.
Not much really happens in the pilot besides exposition and mood-setting, and from my understanding, no further episodes seem to exist. As a proof of concept, I think it succeeds at proving the vision of Sutliff’s vision for a science-fiction series, although there is no action and little suspense here. It sets up Mason’s search for answers and his desire to fight against the SR-20s. The world around him is destitute, and he just wants to bring a little order.
All things considered, Suitcase City embraces all the tropes and ideas that have been done before and better. But there’s an earnestness to its production and the restless energy of wanting to tell a story beyond its production capabilities. When it comes to genre films, I’m kind of a sucker for that level of ambition. Even if it doesn’t end up with a complete episodic story, it’s at least a neat artifact for Sutliff to show off the fact that he has a vision for greater things.