First Death Review: Netflix’s Teen Lesbian Vampire Show Sucks

Watching the trailer for “First Kill,” it was tempting to assume that Netflix’s new teen show got lost on its way to the CW. After watching the actual episodes, however, it’s necessary to apologize to The CW for the insult to a genre that’s been well done for years, and which “First Kill” spends an inordinate amount of energy trying to duplicate without much success.

Based on the short story by VE Schwab, who also wrote the first episode and produces the series, “First Kill” dutifully sets up his YA supernatural show bingo board. There are bitchy sisters and ice queen moms, bossy dads and playful best friends. There are vampires, ghouls and werewolves. There are hapless lovers – vampire Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) and vampire hunter Calliope (Imani Lewis) – caught between their family duties and raging hormones. And yet, for all the work “First Kill” puts into making sure it hits all the right notes, the series feels more like a valley version of what it’s trying to be rather than a story that’s worth it in its own right. only.

Across eight episodes, all released on Netflix today (June 10), when the criticism embargo is also lifted, the drama follows Juliette and Calliope (aka “Cal”) as they struggle to balance their birthright with no just hell. that’s high school, but their immediate attraction to each other. As Juliette’s parents Sebastian (Will Swenson) and Margot (Elizabeth Mitchell, somehow) and Cal’s parents Talia (Aubin Wise) and Jack (Jason R. Moore) repeatedly emphasize, the two can never be together. The parallels in Romeo and Juliet are obviously intentional, but too obvious to be particularly clever, Sapphic flair or not. The same goes for the show’s brazen attempts to be a fresh take on “Twilight,” whose doomed romance gets an explicit scream in the (admittedly catchy) opening credits song.

Sunken by a noxious combination of flat writing and flat directing, the actors can never get past enough to make these characters anything but facsimiles of over-the-top tropes. Pretty much the only actors who come close to making it out alive are Dylan McNamara as Oliver, Juliette’s black sheep brother, and Grace Dzienny as Elinor, Juliette’s formidable older sister with a heart of… well, if not gold, for minus one shiny. brass. It doesn’t help that the scenes that explain each family’s conflicting traditions, of which there are apparently thousands, are filled with serious jargon that gives the appearance of a fully developed world without really creating a believable one.

The worst offense “First Kill” commits, though, is that it never sells the central romance that should be its beating heart. Without letting Juliette and Cal have a single conversation about anything other than their natures and families for half the season, the show needs to make their immediate connection so palpable it hurts. Instead, “First Kill” hangs Hook and Lewis out to dry with uninspired fake “jokes” and poorly staged “sexy” scenes. Jules and Cal are so full of lust they keep pushing each other against the walls and trees and shelves of the pantry must be hot. Instead, Hook and Lewis’ complete lack of chemistry makes their dynamic so stilted that these moments come out of nowhere to land with an awkward thud. (If anyone has chemistry on this show, maybe it’s Mitchell and Wise as their conflicting mothers, but maybe it’s just exhaustion from trying to locate a spark in this show talking.)

On paper, “First Kill” should work. As originally written by Schwab for another medium, perhaps it has. On screen, it’s just more of an awkward shift in relevance than a tale that anyone can really sink their teeth into, and more is a shame.

There is, perhaps, something to be said for the fact that LGBTQ+ teen-friendly shows have apparently become desirable enough these days to be lumped together like this (not every queer show can or should be capitalized meaningful). . But it’s still depressing to witness #representation become a collection of clichés and buzzwords for a chain that tries to thrive on the brownie points of including it.

“First Kill” is now available to stream on Netflix.

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