Face Off 4.1: Of Kings and Queens

SyFy's best series Face Off (well, best among their current line-up) is back with a slightly modified format that raises the quality of the show in the best way possible. Host MacKenzie Westmore's father, Academy Award-winning makeup artist and Star Trek creature designer Michael Westmore, is now the permanent mentor for the contestants. The father/daughter team tour the studio and offer actual advice to the contestants. Face Off 4.01 WestmoresIn previous seasons, Ve Neill, Glen Hetrick, and Neville Page would visit and check on the contestants. They couldn't really offer advice because that would be favoring one contestant over another. Now, Michael Westmore and even MacKenzie herself can offer advice and suggest changes/techniques to fix the makeup before the judges see it because they're only there to support the contestants. It's a great change that resulted in the best execution for a first challenge so far on the show.

This season, 14 contestants are playing for a guest lecture series at Make Up Ever Academies in New York and Paris, a 2013 Fiat 500, and $100000. They'll compete in two challenges a week--a Foundation Challenge to win an advantage or smaller prize and a Spotlight Challenge to design a full body makeup--until, presumably, they crown the winner at a live season finale.

The Foundation Challenge this week got rid of the environmental elements that failed miserably last year (but worked great in season 1 and 2) and instead gave the contestants crowns for inspiration. Each artist chose a unique crown to design a Queen makeup around with wardrobe, wigs, and identical makeup kits provided. They had to show their personal style and approach to makeup as well as create a design that fit with the crown they chose.

The winner of the Foundation Challenge was Anthony. He created an alien queen with a prefab bunny nose prosthetic that looked good enough to film. Other standouts included the wild horror makeup of Eric F.'s Queen of Lost Souls and Jenna's warrior queen that was all about strength and beauty.

The Spotlight Challenge picked up right where the contestants left off: kings. Specifically, high fantasy goblin kings. The contestants were randomly split into seven teams and each had to chose an environment from an ancient fantasy map for inspiration. Each team had to design a king and a crown that matched the environment they chose.

The top three teams in the Spotlight Challenge were Anthony & Megan, Eric F. & Jenna, and Eric Z. & Autumn.

Anthony & Megan created a Mountain king who actually looked like rock. Michael Westmore stressed how important the accuracy of the rock formations would be to the success of the makeup and the team took it to heart. This really looked like the rocks were slowly overtaking the old king, with only the slightest hint of humanity left in the softer left side of his face. This was a really well-executed makeup from conception to fabrication.

Face Off  4.01: Anthony & Megan

Eric F. & Jenna went to horror town again for their Desert King. The team sculpted their design so fast that they actually had their main molds poured, cured, and separated before the end of the first day. That meant they had the entire second day to work on fabrication and extra touches, like sheets of raw flesh to cover any exposed body with. The fast work and careful execution paid off big time with a powerful makeup that read great up close and at a distance.

Face Off 4.01: Eric F. & Jenna

Eric Z. & Autumn had the most trouble in the studio but pulled off a really cool look for their Jungle King. They created a living Tiki with natural wood detailing for musculature on the arms. The paint job on the wood was really strong and their fabricated costume elevated the concept enough to be noticed.

Face Off 4.01: Eric Z. & Autumn

Ultimately, the judges were so blown away by the level of detail in Anthony & Megan's painting and sculpture that their Mountain King was declared the winner. Anthony was given the challenge win--making him 2/2 this season already--for his sculpture work.

The bottom two teams were Michael & Troy and Wayne & Alex.

Michael & Troy didn't do anything particularly wrong with their Volcano King. They just did nothing right. They fabricated a costume that completely covered up their chest sculpture--Ve stressed many times it was the best part of their makeup--and created a cartoonish crown that was completely at odds with the actual applied makeup. There was no concept beyond streaking lava on the model and it showed.

Face Off 4.01: Michael & Troy

Wayne & Alex screwed up their time management on their Swamp King. Michael Westmore said they would easily win if they got the paint job right; they didn't even paint it. Their concept was a gator king and they sent out a gray scaly blob with armor that looked like washboards. A better paint job would have distracted the judges from the mishmash of bayou cliches going on in the armor.

Face Off 4.01: Wayne & Alex

The judges decided that Troy was responsible for the single worst element of the Volcano King, the face sculpt, and he was sent home. I can't disagree with the judges on this one. I honestly would have loved to see them critique all the contestants since I thought Alam & Kristian's Forrest King and (especially) House & Katie's Arctic King were very strong, as well. If this episode is an indication of the talent level this season, I do not envy the judges having to send someone home each week.

Did you catch the season premiere? What did you think? Sound off with your thoughts below. And let's give it up for SyFy bringing back their excellent photo galleries to showcase the designs and contestants in the best way possible. You can check them all out here.

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