TV Review: Face Off: Season 3, Episodes 1-3

Genre: Reality | Sci-Fi | Competition

Air Date/Time: Tuesdays at 9/8c

Network: Syfy


A new season of infinite imagination and fantastic make-up magic ignites with the third season of Syfy’s most popular unscripted series, Face Off, premiering on a new night and time, Tuesday, August 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The season will introduce a talented group of special effects make-up artists who will meet face to face in Los Angeles to compete in a series of elaborate challenges that will ultimately determine just who has the skillful hand to win Face Off.

Face Off is an authentic depiction of the high creative standards necessary for a special effects make-up artist to succeed in their craft. Returning to the lab for the new season is actress and host McKenzie Westmore, along with judges Ve Neill (The Hunger Games, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Glenn Hetrick (Mad Men, Heroes). Patrick Tatopolous will sit on the judges’ panel for the premiere episode, before he starts production design on his latest project, 300: Battle of Artemisia.

Joining the series as the new judge is Neville Page, Lead Creature Designer on the highest grossing movie of all time Avatar, Character Designer on Ridley Scott’s recent blockbuster Prometheus, Lead Creature and Character Designer on J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, Lead Concept Designer on Tron: Legacy and Creature Designer on Super 8. Page’s upcoming films include Creature Designer on The Amazing Spider-Man and his most recent work on J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated next installment of the Star Trek film-franchise.

The Face Off contestants will be whittled down week by week as they compete to outshine their competition. The winning artist will receive $100,000 and will also be given the opportunity to become a guest lecturer at the MAKE UP FOR EVER Academies in New York and Paris.

I am not, as a rule, a fan of competition shows, unless they involve something I really enjoy (in other words, not Survivor, and not any cooking show), and focus on the subject matter and not on personalities. Face Off is for me one of the very best competition shows around. Every episode features a new makeup and costume challenge, and as a fan of sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV shows, I find it absolutely entertaining.

One of the things I most dislike about other competition shows is the drama. You know. “I CAN’T WORK IN THESE CONDITIONS!” “I HATE HIM/HER SO MUCH!” “I AM SO MUCH BETTER THAN HIM/HER/EVERYONE ELSE!” While there is one such uncomfortable situation in Episode 1, it appears to be isolated. Of course there are disagreements, but this show seems to be less middle school-ish in its contestants’ interactions than most. There are almost no “house scenes” in the first three episodes (yes, during the competition they all stay in the same beautiful house), and that says a lot about the fact that this show has its focus on the right elements.

Another unfortunate element in many other competition shows is the straight-out nastiness of the judges. Again, this is not an issue here. The comments by the judges are educational for the viewers and rarely if ever too cutting to the contestants. The newest judge, Neville Page, who comes on in Episode 2, is a very nice addition to the three-judge panel. The three judges from the first two seasons seemed to have a very similar somewhat edgy vibe, and the replacement (due to work commitments) of Patrick Tatopolous with Page adds a different, fresh but not harsh voice that adds a nice and somewhat more neutral tone.

There are guest judges appearing periodically in this show, and they add a nice twist. Fortunately the major challenge every week is judged by the professionals, but it’s interesting to get another perspective from someone tangentially involved in the business. Sean Astin, as an example, is the guest judge for Episode 1, and given his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and his lifelong familiarity with the theater, he has a few ideas about what works.

It’s an interesting mix of contestants this season. There is a nice age range, from 20 to 47, an abundance of pink hair, and even a set of twins. But they’re all engaging, talented, and at least somewhat grounded. Except for the one incident in the first episode, you really do root for all of them to do well.

The challenges for the first three episodes are interesting and varied, and produce a huge range of results. Star Wars, pirates, and Chinese dragons. Random teams of two and individual work. Directed inspirations and near-total freedom. They are always mixing up the style of the challenge, and so far it has revealed some really terrific work, and some near-spectacular failures. You’ll want to see them all.

Extra-long jury duty meant that I watched all three of the first episodes of this new season (the third airs tonight) in a marathon session, and really enjoyed it. If you haven’t watched any of the season yet, I recommend doing the same. There’s a nice variety in the challenges and in the way each contestant approaches each one, that make each of the first three episodes a good and recommended watch.

I give Face Off, Season 3, Episodes 1-3, Four Out of Five Stars.



Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for