If telly execs were to pitch a YA show with a vampire format a few years ago, chances are they'd have been rejected. Since the 2008 debut of K-Stew and R Patz's Twilight was quickly subjected to memeification, it's been hard for the public to get enthusiastic for an element of the supernatural we've arguably seen too much of. Shows like True Blood and The Vampire Diaries have a noticeable noughties age to their vintage, which has made the sub-genre somewhat off putting to potential predecessors. Yet even in the face of inevitable failure, Netflix's First Kill has been able to provide the updated twist on the vampiricial that might just make it sexy again.
Young vampire Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) comes from a family lineage that's entrenched in their history. Struggling to accept and adapt to who she is, she's often overlooked at school — until newcomer Calliope (Imani Lewis) takes a sudden interest in her. While the two fumble through the high school sweetheart feelings for one another, Juliette is in more danger than she realises, as Calliope's family have been sent to the area to hunt her down.
Even if you're not a fan of the typical YA genre of dramas, there's something sweet and tensely sexy to be found here. A far cry from the hedonistic madness of Riverdale or the bitchy stereotypical cliques of Gossip Girl, First Kill moves forward into a new era with representation firmly on its mind. If anything, it's most comparable to a new age version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The moment of euphoria? Said representation is completely effortless. Fully integrated into its narrative without being a sticking point, the romantic tensions between Juliette and Calliope are never doubted in their conviction, keeping the action firmly fixed on the unspoken truths between the two. Both Hook and Lewis play their roles exceptionally well, straddling the balance between unassuming innocence and a teenage bite that never lacks in dramatic flavour. And extra shoutout is deserved to Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliette's mother Margot — exactly the cool and collected MILF that any young lesbian could only hope for.
What's particularly interesting to note is the absence of the power of friendship, especially in the show's first four episodes. While Calliope is quickly betrayed into life or death circumstances by lifelong buddy Tess (Mk Xyz), Juliette mainstains a friendship with Ben (Jonas Dylan Allen) that feels oddly superficial. In a typical instance where solid friendships triumph all, the narrative choice is nowhere to be seen. While not necessarily a bad thing, it's a striking decision, asking whether the platonic and inclusively romantic can comfortably sit side by side.
Nevertheless, First Kill is laced with impressive dramatic narrative hooks through its 8 episode run, quashing the idea that YA drama has to pale into a second class citizen remit. Aside from the impeccable ensemble acting, this is largely due to the decision to keep V.E. Schwab in the writing driver's seat, transferring her teenage magic touch from page to screen. If you're looking to get lost in the representation you always wanted to see, First Kill is a high-quality choice of bingeing.