Netflix’s Vampire Romance First Kill Brings Fresh Bite to the GenrePhoto Courtesy of Netflix TV Reviews first kill
Twilight. The Vampire Diaries. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. True Blood. It’s safe to say that vampire romance has been done to death, pun intended. However, we’ve never seen a vampire romance quite like Netflix’s First Kill: A sapphic Romeo and Juliet-inspired story set in a world where fair Verona is Savannah, Georgia, and the Capulets and the Montagues are elite vampires and ruthless hunters.
First Kill, based on the short story of the same name written by series creator V. E. Schwab, follows teenage vampire Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) and teenage vampire-hunter Calliope (Imani Lewis) as they navigate a star-crossed romance in the midst of an ages-old feud. From showrunner Felicia D. Henderson and executive producers Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, First Kill seeks to unravel the powerful Fairmont vampire clan, led by matriarch Margot (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her husband Sebastion (Will Swenson), while simultaneously disrupting prestigious slayers Talia (Aubin Wise) and Jack Burns (Jason Robert Moore). In eight hourlong episodes (all of which were available for review), vampires, hunters, monsters, and mothers all fight for the right to call Savannah their home.
The pilot of the series follows the original short story, published in a collection of vampire stories called “Vampires Never Get Old: Tales With Fresh Bite,” almost beat-for-beat. What transpires beyond the first episode builds on the original premise presented in the story, while adding more layers to its own vampire and hunter canon. The strongest elements of the series stem from its source material, including the cat-and-mouse game played between Calliope and Juliette.
More than anything, First Kill is a whole lot of fun. It’s campy, it’s quippy, and it’s melodramatic; everything you could ever want from a modern, teenage, Shakespearean vampire story. With enough cheesy and dramatic vampire romance to make fans of Edward and Bella swoon, the series shines the brightest when Cal and Juliette are front and center. The series lives and dies by the chemistry between actors Lewis and Hook, who deliver in spades anytime they share a scene. It’s incredibly easy to get swept away by the whirlwind romance as they revel in the customary awkwardness of world-shattering crushes and butterfly-inducing first kisses. Whereas all the other characters in the show want to pull these two girls apart, viewers will want nothing more than to see them together, even more so than the series allows. The true enemies-to-lovers progression is also incredibly convincing, especially since the undercurrent of intrigue and respect is there from their first meeting.
Everything about Cal and Juliette notwithstanding, the rest of the series feels a little too ambitious and potentially overstuffed, especially for just eight episodes. First Kill introduces a number of very interesting plots, including some intriguing vampire politics for the Fairmont clan, as well as equally intriguing hunter politics for the Burns. Ultimately, the limited runtime acts as more set-up for a potential second season than a fully realized story. This wouldn’t be so upsetting if Netflix wasn’t literally on fire right now and their track record of renewing sapphic shows didn’t, well, suck.
Despite the few issues mentioned, First Kill is still a hell of a good time. After so many years of vampire romance only being for the straightest and whitest of couples, it’s incredibly refreshing to see the genre taken in a queer direction. It’s about time queer people got to have their own vampire flick, with just as much camp and just as much melodrama. It’s not going to win any Emmys, but it doesn’t have to, because it can’t be understated how important it is that queer people can finally have our own version of the same cliche vampire stories straight people have been spoiled with for decades.
Furthermore, the inclusion of not just a Black queer lead, but an entire Black family allowed to thrive on screen in a supernatural fantasy is incredibly important. In a genre famous for excluding or vilifying its Black characters, First Kill presents a story where its Black monster-hunters are as central and fleshed-out as its white vampires.
First Kill is definitely worth its binge time, allowing the audience to be transported to a fictional Georgia overrun by Southern white ladies who are actually vampires, and where high school feels like life or death because it is. Though this show might not be for everyone, it’s definitely for all the queer girls who were Team Bella during their Twilight phase, or anyone who just wants to see a new take on a tired genre. First Kill flips genre conventions and romantic cliches on their head to tell a story about belief, betrayal, and love for all with patient ears to attend.
First Kill premieres Friday, June 10th on Netflix.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in Chicago. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert;.
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