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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Endlings is a Canadian drama series about a family that protects the extraterrestrial beings and endangered creatures they discover. Some of the creatures look scary, and there are tense moments during which the creatures' intentions are uncertain. And some of the adult characters do things that suggest they're motivated by greed and selfishness, at the potential expense of endangered species. On the upside, the family dynamics among the four kids and their foster father emphasize communication, respect, and empathy. The cast offers a positive range of representations -- especially in the case of Finn's physical differences -- but rather than being a matter of conversation or analysis, it's all just part of the family's reality. The show isn't superbly acted or animated, but viewers who can forgive that will find plenty to like in its themes about family and conservation.
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What's the story?
In ENDLINGS, four foster siblings band together to protect a group of creatures that escape when a spacecraft crashes onto their farm. The story opens in the year 2040 with the arrival of Julia (Kamaia Fairburn) to kindhearted Mr. Leopold's (Neil Crone) home after several failed foster assignments. There she's greeted warmly by Johnny (Edison Grant) and Finn (Cale Ferrin), but sharp-tongued Tabby (Michela Luci) doesn't take kindly to the newcomer. Meanwhile, across the globe in Africa, an extraterrestrial being kidnaps Toku, the planet's last African elephant, leaving Toku's caretaker, Abiona (Oyin Oladejo), desperate to find him. When the craft crashes onto the Canadian farmland, Toku and several other "endlings" -- creatures that are the last of their respective species -- are set loose, which brings both Abiona and the members of a secret organization to the Leopold farm in search of them while Julia, Johnny, Finn, Tabby, and Mr. Leopold attempt to keep them secure.
Is it any good?
CGI shortcomings lessen the impact of this mostly heartwarming drama about a nontraditional family and the cause that unites them. In an era that sees the line between reality and animation increasingly difficult to decipher on-screen, Endlings feels like a visuals throwback, made all the more obvious by the fact that the story is set a couple of decades in the future. This -- along with some fairly campy acting on the adults' part, particularly -- adds to the show's somewhat confusing impression on the audience, leaving older viewers especially to wonder if there's meant to be an element of comedy or if that's just an unfortunate mistake.
Even so, there are several things to like about Endlings. In centering on a foster family, the story doesn't shy away from some of the challenges faced by this arrangement specifically and families in general. The kids bicker, there are hurt feelings, and communication isn't always effective, but the loving guidance of a devoted adult helps hold things together. Also effective is the subtle message about conservation. The story doesn't hit viewers over the head with it, but it implies its importance throughout and can inspire discussions within your own family about how and why environment preservation might be encouraged.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how differently certain characters in Endlings react to the existence of the aliens. Whose motivations seem self-guided? Whose consider the common good? How do Julia's and her siblings' experiences make them especially empathetic to the creatures' plight?
Looking at your family and Mr. Leopold's, what family elements do you see that are alike? Is there any right or wrong way to be a family? How does Mr. Leopold's home offer to Julia just what she needs after the loss of her father?
What messages does this story send about conservation? How pressing an issue is this today? What are some simple steps that your family can take to help conservation efforts worldwide? What other causes are important to you?
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