Being a teenager during the height of Twilight popularity was wild. It certified a lifelong obsession with the vampire genre. So, to have something like First Kill at that time or shortly after would’ve been incredible, especially for the lesbian representation. This is precisely the kind of thing I would’ve liked to have written.
First Kill is based on the short story of the same name by V. E. Schwab, and it was published in the anthology Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite, edited by Zoraida Córdova, Natalie C. Parker, and Samira Ahmed. The short was adapted for television by Belletrist Productions, the production company for Emma Robert and Karah Preiss’ book club. Having read the story, First Kill is well-adapted and does a good job fleshing out the narrative to create a greater world. This is due to Schwab herself co-writing all eight episodes with screenwriter and co-producer Felicia D. Henderson.
The story follows 16-year-old vampire Juliette Fairmont (Sarah Catherine Hook), who has to make her first kill so she can take her place among her powerful vampire family. While Juliette is reluctant, she cannot put it off any longer: the pills she takes to prevent her body from changing are losing their effectiveness, and her bothersome symptoms — migraine-like headaches, heightened senses, a burning throat, and even tears of blood — are getting stronger. But that’s not all: the longer she waits, the greater she’s at risk of killing someone recklessly.
Socially awkward Juliette sticks out like a sore thumb in her family of charming, charismatic, and confident vampires. She hides her vampirism from her best friend, Ben (Jonas Dylan Allen), a popular gay kid who makes her popular by association. Juliette’s voiceover narration provides some exposition and her inner thoughts, which are effective. It brings us closer to the character while allowing the series to create its own storytelling style. Juliette soon sets her sights on new girl Calliope Burns (Imani Lewis), who appears aloof and standoffish.
Halfway through episode one, the narration perspective changes to Calliope (and becomes mixed after that), who is revealed to be a vampire hunter from a long line of prestigious slayers who is also out to make her first kill. Frustratingly, her family puts her on a pedestal while proclaiming that she still has much to learn. Calliope is more than ready to show what she’s capable of, a direct juxtaposition to Juliette, and aims to be the greatest hunter ever.
First Kill blends the supernatural with teen angst brilliantly. Everything starts with an awkward invite to a party, a spin-the-bottle game leading to kissing, and the kissing leading to a seductive but brutal game of cat-and-mouse that culminates in Juliette and Calliope’s families going to war. But will their love prevail? Calliope has had nightmares about monsters for as long as she can remember. Ones with “claws as long as steak knives and teeth as sharp as glass.” While human-looking vampires aren’t the only monsters in this series, Calliope has been taught that the worst ones always look human. “You didn’t just look like one, but you’re the kind they warned me about,” she tells Juliette. “The kind that leads with a smile.”
The series has excellent pacing, evenly spacing out the action, story progression, and development of its characters, all portrayed by a widely talented cast. It also fleshes out the vampire and hunter lore over time. It’s never too explicit and comes out naturally, though the dialogue throughout is as you’d expect — I’d argue that some awful dialogue is a signature staple for this genre. The soundtrack is exciting and well-suited, featuring tracks such as “Before He Cheat” by Carrie Underwood and “Slumber Party” by Ashnikko. The main drawback is the terrible CGI monsters which don’t look like they’re really there. I can’t say this was a massive issue for me, but it was noticeable and may be particularly annoying to some.
First Kill is easy to watch. It’s sexy and enticing; having fun with a lesbian teen romance that balances the alluring vampire tropes with the star-crossed lover’ trope. There’s lots of humour, but the series is filled with drama and plenty of twists and turns. There’s lots of tragedy and heartbreak, and the series ends on an intensely messy cliffhanger. There’s plenty to explore in a second season; fans will be begging for it as soon as the final credits roll. What’s more, the series is highly binge-able. I watched it all in one day and would absolutely watch it again.
First Kill begins streaming on Netflix starting June 10
by Toni Stanger