The Sapphic Vampire Series Resurrects The Highs And Lows Of Soapy Paranormal Romance

When “First Kill” operates at its simplest form (aka its best), the crux of the story is the young love blossoming between Calliope and Juliette, despite their parents fighting desperately to keep them apart. Juliette proves a problem to her parents even before they discover her love affair with a slayer: she resents the vampire part of herself and wishes she were human. It baffles her sister, who revels in the reality of being a Legacy vampire. It has perks: they can eat human food, walk in the sunlight and easily blend into the human world. Plus, they’re part of a matriarchal vampire structure that they’re next in line to inherit. But to take her place in the family, Juliette needs to make her first kill — an act that she considers unthinkable. So while it hurts her to cause her family pain, her crush on Calliope is a welcome escape from her impending vampire future.

For Calliope, having feelings for Juliette is much more complicated. Cal feels at home with her family: she’s grown up surrounded by strong slayers, fighting to protect the world from monsters. She’s thrilled at the opportunity to take her place among them — if only they’d let her. With two older brothers, she’s seen as the “baby sis” who still needs training wheels. But Calliope is fierce and headstrong, so when the chance for her first kill arises, she’s quick to take it. Then along comes Juliette, who has the power to make Cal question everything she once believed about monsters.

Lewis and Hook share a chemistry that’s more natural than electric, but when the show makes the case for the power of young love, they embrace it. The Shakespeare references say it all — the feeling of being together is powerful enough that they’re willing to risk everything. It’s enough to make YA connoisseurs like myself swoon, even though they’re making terrible decisions every five seconds, they’re fueled by that need to treasure the budding love. The show is at its best when it’s them, battling their every instinct and upbringing for the sake of being close. And when their families get involved? It just gets better. Where Juliette’s mother Margot (Elizabeth Mitchell) could’ve been an ice-queen stereotype, the show imbues her with surprising humanity. And as Cal’s monster-staking mother Talia, Aubin Wise is an MVP, emotionally grounding a show that otherwise has a tendency to float away. Speaking of which, that’s the main problem with “First Kill”: the tensions that make the show work so well end up being only a fraction of a story that otherwise meanders. It’s pretty fitting actually — “First Kill” was obviously made for and by fans of those popular paranormal romances, and while it’s embedded with all the same virtues, it’s also guilty of the same sins.

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