Hulu’s ‘Fantasy Island’ Offers The Perfect Escape – Here’s Our Review

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I remember the original Fantasy Island TV series (I watched it when I went to my grandmother’s house in Bayfield, Wisconsin), so maybe that’s why I was so drawn to this when I was scrolling through Hulu. I’d not heard any mention of it, but it looks like it has been growing in popular mention since its reboot. 

I know there’s also a horror movie by the same title, but this is NOT that. This is ALSO not the 1998 Malcom McDowell dark update. Instead, this version takes that 70’s Fantasy Island show and remakes it for modern times, with Roselyn Sanchez playing Ms. Elena Rourke. In the plotline, she’s taken over as host of the island resort from her uncle, Mr. Roarke (Ricardo Montalbán). Sanchez seems perfect for the role, and it’s not just the accent and the ultra-fashionable white suits. 


“Welcome to Fantasy Island,” Elena says, as she greets the guests. “I transform lives, almost always for the better.” 

In the first three episodes, the topic choices have intrigued me, with coverage that ranges from Christine Collins (Bellamy Young) as a woman morning show anchor who needs a vacation, Ruby Akuda (Stephanie Berry) as a woman dying of cancer, Odette Annable (Daphne Madden) as an adventurer who switches bodies with her husband to gain perspective, François Chau (Brent Lee) as a heartbroken sleeper who must take a chance at life, and Eileen (Debbie Morgan) as an invisible woman who must learn to see who she really is.

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None of them are exactly alike, and each experience offers a new nugget of truth about Elena’s past, what she has sacrificed and why she is really the host of Fantasy Island. Since nothing is ever what it seems, our journey is more about leaps and intimations of the imagination that might turn into a cohesive idea somewhere down the line. It’s a waiting game as we watch the story unfold. 

To spice it up a bit, Charles (Cliff Chamberlain) is a physics professor and astronomer who says, “Everything in the universe is explainable and I find that unbearable.” He wants to experience the inexplicable, as we all do. So, he experiences human connection, something akin to (or that might become) love. Sometimes the most mysterious and inexplicable things of all are matters of the heart.


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Along the way, Elena’s role is to fulfill the fantasies of her guests, but since they are never very fully aware, she’s giving them not so much what they want but what they need the most. Yes, they all arrive at the island to watch their dreams come true, but dreams and reality are funny, enigmatic things. They are rarely what we imagine them to be, and often impossible to pin down or even hope to explain. As Elena quips, “You have to trust the process.”

The guests to the island all think they know what they want, but the island gives them what they really need. The island reveals truths about their pasts via a series of flashbacks, which put them through the hell of revelations. It’s the only way to accept the past and move forward.  

Of course, the island guests are looking for a quick fix. They want to return to a time when things seemed happy, blissful, even perfect. Or, they want to see and believe that anything is possible, that life has meaning, that pain really goes away, and that forgiveness is possible. While anything is possible on the island, life is not as simple as all that. 

One of the beauties and utterly devastating wonders of life is that we learn from our mistakes and we grow as human beings. While the fantasy of returning to the start or picking up midstream and going on is tantalizing, it’s not really how life works, Fantasy Island or not. All that baggage that the guests have picked up along the way is still there — perhaps obscured for a while, but there. 

Elena and Ruby, in her new sidekick role, must listen, learn, and guide the guests down the path toward enlightenment. And, sometimes, they just sit back and enjoy the haphazard experiences that the guests find themselves in. There’s a certain satisfaction in watching the pieces all fall into place in just the right way. 


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There’s also satisfaction as characters begin to literally walk around in one another’s shoes, seeing the world from a different perspective, and beginning to see that life, the world, and relationships are rarely what we’d imagined or hoped for. As we, and they, begin to see the truth, the eye-opening realization makes their hellish fantasy worth it. 

There’s something else about Fantasy Island, though. Elena and her magical resort are not able to make the pain go away. The cancer is still there for Ruby. She’s just able to live apart, outside that reality for now. For others, like the heartbroken François, the reality of loss, sadness, and guilt are all still there. The island may offer a brief reprieve, even decades of oblivion, but the heartache and loss are all still there, waiting for the guests to once again decide that life is worth living. 


Have you been watching the Fantasy Island series on Hulu? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!

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