Courtesy Netflix

Falling in love may be tricky for teens Juliette and Calliope, a vampire and vampire hunter both ready to make their first kill, but the teen supernatural series FIRST KILL is anything but clever.

FIRST KILL, a series inspired by the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” angst and “Riverdale” melodrama, follows vampire teenager Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) and young hunter Calliope (Imani Lewis) as they fall in love amidst their warring two families. FIRST KILL was developed from a short story of the same name written by prolific supernatural and superpeople author Victoria Elizabeth Schwab, or V. E. Schwab, who also co-wrote every episode in the opening season.

And it shows.

Netflix gave the production order back in October 2020, a good four or five months before the industry pandemic shutdown. The YA streaming series was produced through Emma Roberts (yes, that Emma Roberts) and Karah Preiss’s company, Belletrist Productions Bell, adding showrunner and co-writer Felicia D. Henderson known for some TV heavy hitters from “Family Matters” to “Gossip Girl”.

And you wouldn’t have guessed.

Jet Wilkinson, of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “The Chi” fame, joined in August 2021 to direct the first two episodes. The series received early attention for including and embracing a lesbian relationship between the two female leads. Indeed, from the pilot, there’s little holding back on directing the teen romance scenes just as heavy or sweet as any teen drama found on Netflix.

And it doesn’t matter.

(L to R) Imani Lewis as Calliope Burns, Sarah Catherine Hook as Juliette Fairmont 

Because FIRST KILL, for all its potential, is a very blunt, very boring, and very “Pride Marketing Month” LGBTQIA+ tale. There are exceptions to every rule, but it’s generally not a good idea to have the author of the source material also write every episode in the series when they’ve never written a full series before. Scene after scene of characters literally just standing (or sitting) across from each other talking makes up a majority of the season. Every plot point, every characterization, and every crumb of exposition is stated out loud or sobbed to another character.

This is exactly what an author, who hasn’t worked in the space where showing over talking is required, does. The action scenes raise the stakes but are quickly put down for more talking, moody staring into space, or stress jogging alone down a dark street.

To be sure, the series isn’t subtle. It’s a vampire in love with a vampire hunter, named Juliet (a little on the nose there) and Calliope (named after the Greek muse for some reason, probably because she likes music or something). They’re black and white teenagers. The white family is waspy and the black family is hip, on and on, it’s meant to be a very paint by the numbers “Romeo and Juliet” story. Which can work, even when broad.

The issue is FIRST KILL, outside of the writing, feels like it was created by someone who doesn’t HATE supernatural or vampire stories… they just don’t care about them. Because the sledgehammer characterizations and plot twists would be fine if any of the actual vampire and monster work was attempted beyond passable. For a project that directly referenced “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in their marketing, it’s hard to imagine anyone on this production (aside from V. E. Schwab) has actually seen a full episode… and liked it.

Scene from Episode 3 of FIRST KILL

This is a shame because pulpy, moody, supernatural pieces are so much fun to be invested in. There’s a reason “Supernatural” made it fifteen seasons and it wasn’t for the gay undertones (entirely).

Yeah, the two girls kiss and fool around and they’re more committed to each other physically and emotionally than has been seen in the past… but it’s not that groundbreaking in the current. Plus, with the muted nature of everything else, the steamy girl-on-girl scenes come off Skinemax-esque or just… manipulative.

But take this non-binary, pansexual, fan and author of supernatural content with a grain of salt.

The YA vampiric series, FIRST KILL, is now available on Netflix.

All images courtesy Netflix.

CK Kimball
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