Netflix’s queer, vampire romance First Kill just dropped its entire first season on June 10th, leaving fans with eight episodes to sink their teeth into. For a genre that’s been killed, resurrected, and killed again, the series creates unique mythology for both its vampires and monster hunters, which is refreshing for any fan of classic vampire stories. With all the elements that made Twilight and The Vampire Diaries as addictive and globally successful as they were, First Kill offers its audience a story of love, loss, and betrayal that desperately needs to continue beyond its first outing.
The first season follows teenage vampire Juliette Fairmont (Sarah Catherine Hook) as she increasingly becomes ill from putting off her first kill, as well as following teenage monster-hunter Calliope Burns (Imani Lewis) as she struggles to make her own first kill. After the two girls officially meet at a party, they become rivals, but not before their own feelings start to get in the way. Their families, led by stand-outs Margot Fairmont (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Talia Burns (Aubin Wise), struggle with their daughters’ connection as they refuse to deviate from their natural hatred of the other. With a slew of other monsters, estranged brothers, and monster-phobic Southern moms to contend with, the series successfully revitalizes the tired teen-vampire genre while leaving a number of loose threads to tie up, unfortunately to its own detriment.
After Episode 7’s shocking cliffhanger, which found Cal’s brother Theo bleeding out in Apollo’s arms after interference from Juliette’s sister Elinor, Episode 8 (titled “First Betrayal”) tries its hardest to create as many cliffhangers as it possibly can. Seemingly competing with similar Netflix original Warrior Nun, which ended its first season quite literally in the middle of the epic boss battle the show had been building up to, First Kill also ends right in the middle of a majority of its storylines.
While cliffhangers have been a central part of the television experience since the birth of episodic, this uniquely Netflix problem of treating the first season of a show like a pilot rather than just a single pilot episode creates frustration in viewers as well as a lack of a fully realized story. The traditional season finale will leave questions unanswered, of course, but it will also wrap up a number of season-long plots along the way. Both First Kill and its predecessor Warrior Nun only did the former, leaving every question unanswered, making a second season a requirement instead of an opportunity for another story to be told.
In the middle of the final episode, Margot and Sebastian receive a letter requesting their presence in two days to defend Fairmont matriarch Divina’s position as Keeper of the Emerald Malkia; a meeting which is sure to end poorly for the Fairmont clan considering Sebastian, you know, ate her. But the woes don’t end there for the Fairmonts, as Juliette got the ultimate revenge on her sister by turning her over to the police, handing them the key to her “murder locker.” While none of these points are truly resolved, they’re all incredibly interesting, especially with series stand-out Grace Dzienny delivering the cherry on top of her season-long comforting yet chilling performance as Elinor.
With the Burns, there are also a number of unresolved cliffhangers, including the Burns’ relationship with the Guild and the mystery of which Legacy vampire killed Theo’s mother. However, where First Kill manages to successfully round out its story is with the relationship between Theo and his step-mother Talia. When he is turned into a vampire, the entire Burns family turns against him. His own father insists that they must “put him down,” because his blood “cannot be [a monster].” Talia, on the other hand, refuses to let her son die, and instead sneaks him out of the house before he can be staked.
Talia’s open heart at the end of the series exemplifies the series’ main question: Who is a monster? To Talia Burns, who would’ve claimed that vampires were monsters in the beginning of the series, the answer now might be her own husband, who refuses to give up his morals and ego for the life of his oldest son. This question, one that persists through the entire first season, is the core of First Kill. The first season aims to make every single one of its characters examine their morals and biases by holding up a mirror to them all, to great success. In the end, every character in the series does something monstrous, and the show asks each of them to alter their own perspectives to see another side of their own behavior.
In spite of some of the loose threads, where the series truly shines is with Calliope and Juliette. To the show’s detriment, they are missing for almost 20 minutes in the middle of the final episode, but once they are back on screen, everything falls back into place. The climax of the episode, where it’s revealed that Juliette turned poor Theo into a vampire by accident, could not have come at a better time, and highlighted the very best of leading ladies Lewis and Hook. Watching Calliope realize what has been simmering in the background since the very beginning (that she’s been loving Juliette in spite of her vampirism) carries the scene, and ultimately the entire season, home. As Cal vows to do everything she can to find out the secret way to kill Legacy vampires, Juliette realizes she’ll always be a monster in Cal’s eyes, and maybe she always was. The tearful and angry performances of Lewis and Hook are the things sad video edits to Taylor Swift songs are made of, and will surely stand out as one of the most heartbreaking moments of the series.
Some elements of First Kill look awfully familiar, including someone resurrecting their partner’s brother (hi, canceled Netflix original Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), but the show’s commitment to telling a queer story takes all these storylines and makes them fresh and new. Even every cliche Romeo and Juliet reference feels like uncharted territory because we have never seen this story told with two women at its heart.
As frustrating as it is to see the show end with very little in the way of resolutions, including a major cliffhanger involving Oliver and his monster army, it only serves to create excitement for a potential second season. With Netflix’s track record of renewing sapphic shows, if you love this show and want to see more of it: Fight for it. There have been so many teen dramas that have featured/starred queer women that have met their demise after a single season at Netflix (RIP Teenage Bounty Hunters, in particular), and it would be a true shame if this incredibly unique take on vampires and hunters got its own life cut short.
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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