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'First Kill' slays its 1st season

Vampires might suck, but Netflix's "First Kill" doesn't. – Photo by Film Updates / Twitter

In fair Savannah, Georgia, we lay our scene, from ancient bloodlines to new monster hunters, where civil blood makes civil fangs unclean. That’s right, "First Kill" is a Romeo and Juliet parallel paired with vampires and monster hunters, and it’s so dang-a-rang good that I would suggest you stop reading this review right now and go watch it.

Our story concerns Juliette Fairmont and Calliope Burns, who are both concerned with their respective first kills. They each approach it differently. Juliette is a vampire and knows that she has to take human life to survive. She's pushing it off as long as possible using blood-filled capsules to hold off her cravings — the problem being that the fix is losing its effectiveness, and she may lose control.

Calliope is desperate to prove herself to her monster-hunting family, especially after failing to murder a monster, something her brothers Theo and Apollo refuse to let her live down.

The first episode is excellent in showcasing both how the families interact with each of the girls and the crash course the two are taking toward one another. The show puts both Juliette and Calliope on equal footing both financially and in terms of having supportive families, but families who are waiting for them to become who they are meant to be. Episode one also gives us an Earth that they’re going to scorch in the pursuit of smooching one another.

Juliette herself, played by Sarah Catherine Hook, is a refreshing take on a modern vampire.  While most depictions of vampires are confident and strong-willed, Juliette is painfully shy, meek and continually debating the morality of her very existence. The first episode presents a montage of her failing spectacularly to talk to Calliope and strikes far too close to home for those who had a crush just out of reach of their confidence.

Juliette's sister Elinor, played by Gracie Dzienny, is the exact opposite, a confident and beautiful alpha predator who wants her sister to succeed and doesn’t understand why she can’t just get the kill over with.

It would be easy enough to make this character one note, but instead, Elinor's subtleties make her a complete and complex character whose journey through the season is a delight. Dzienny makes herself irresistible to both the other characters in the show and the audience, itself.

Calliope bears all the opposite traits of her paramour. Calm, confident and with plenty of cool to spare, Imani Lewis plays her with ease. She can handle just about everything that’s thrown at her, whether that be the fight scenes or the more emotional scenes toward the end of the season.

Her brothers, Theo, played by Phillip Mullings Jr., and Apollo, played by Dominic Goodman, start off as one-note characters that go on a journey through the season. Apollo seems to be falling for Elinor for a while, but that thread goes to a place I didn’t see coming and gives much-needed pathos to the character.

Meanwhile, Theo’s journey is one of vengeance, as the events of the show bring up past traumas that he wants to settle.

When it comes to the parents, the show is smart enough not to do what so many other young adult shows or novels do, which is to shuffle one or both parents off the mortal coil to give artificial depth to the characters.

Instead, "First Kill" has both sets of parents having an influence on the girls’ and their siblings’ lives, sparking interesting storylines and drama. For example, the vampires — the Fairmonts — are struggling with power structures both within and without their vampire society and the world that might have caught onto their true identities.

But the real stars are the Burns family, who struggle with their daughter falling in love with their enemy — specifically, Talia Burns, the matriarch of the family. The performance by Aubin Wise starts the season off strong and ends it with superhuman strength as she makes heartbreaking choices and compromises for the sake of her family.

While not part of the family proper, Ben Wheeler, played by Jonas Dylan Allen, plays Juliette’s best friend who is struggling to get the boy he’s been hooking up with to commit, only to be rejected. Despite this, Ben is a really great sport about helping his friends’ problems despite what’s going on in his personal life.

When it comes to lore and information, "First Kill" drips it in like an IV.  Every event gives a little bit more information that makes the world a little bit bigger and more complete. Not to give too much away, but at a certain point, the characters are at school, and an alarm starts going off. One of the characters notes that it’s the monster alarm, and it hasn’t been sounded in years. With this offhand comment, the show changes trajectories completely.

That might seem like the show is directionless if one moment can switch it up, but in reality, sometimes a moment is all it takes for your life to change. The same can be said about the "Big Bad," as it’s called in these kinds of shows. It can change from episode to episode, and it constantly seems to be smirking and saying “oh, you thought.” Every character can be a villain or a hero — and if that isn’t like real life, I don’t know what could be.

As you can tell from the first paragraph, I highly recommend this show. While Shakespearian, it quickly transcends the typical Romeo and Juliet framework by making them continue to face problems and through Juliette’s considerable resistance to death. So pop some popcorn, bring some friends and binge it in a night.

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