By Matthew Moorcroft
Episode 1 (First Kiss) – Solid Recommendation
Episode 2 (First Blood) – Weak Recommendation
- Directed by Jet Wilkinson
- Starring Sarah Catherine Hook, Imani Lewis, Elizabeth Mitchell, Aubin Wise
The first thing to know about First Kill, the new lesbian romance from Netflix and author Victoria Schwab, is that it’s camp. So much of the early reception of the show seems to center around taking it’s plot and characters seriously, and while it’s important to treat LGBTQ+ media with the same level of respect that we treat straight media, it’s also important to recognize what media on both ends of the spectrum is clearly trying to go for the “screw it, let’s have fun” vibe. Taking it’s tone and characters at face value is, frankly, missing the point and you lose out on taking the series at it’s own wavelength instead of what you want it to be.
And on that end, yeah, First Kill is fun! It’s a cheesy good time with some solid performances (and one really great camp performance from Gracie Dzienny) and some interesting lore stuff in the background – that unfournately also manages to slightly overshadow the main central romance that is our hook to the narrative. Two episodes into the 8-episode season and our leads have talked to each other a total of three times, one of which was a steamy make out session in the pantry of somebody else’s house during a party.
The fact the lead vampire is named Juliette is not a coincidence, either. Romeo and Juliet is the name of the game here, our two star-crossed lovers stuck on opposite sides of a brewing conflict between vampires and monsters hunters. The actual background to this makes up the bulk of our first two episodes, setting up how certain dynamics work and building upon new revelations as the episodes progress. The pilot does a better job at this then the second episode, admittedly, as it’s interesting structure that splits the perspectives into two distinct halves that also manage to recontextualize different parts of the episode.
In fact, the show spends so much time on that and other side stuff, especially once the meat in the second episode starts showing up, that the central romance almost seems like a backdrop. This wouldn’t be an issue if it also wasn’t so clear that these two are way into each other and the show seems more interested in rushing to the “good stuff” rather then go through the actual development first. This could change the further we get into the show, of course, but as of right now it seems like the show has it’s interests elsewhere – a damn shame as the actual romance is really solid when they are able to emote with each other. They have solid chemistry and both actresses are giving it their all here with material that is clearly suited for a more over the top angle.
If there is anything that is distinctly a negative here, it’s the weak production values. Obviously the show’s camp leanings negate this a bit, but the weak CGI and the cheap look of the show as a whole is very noticeable. And for a show that is clearly having a lot put into the worldbuilding and the overall scope of the thing, the budget not being quite there for everything is all the more visible. The bizarre choices in terms of music and music placement is just icing on the cake here, with the sequences involving Juliette’s “migraines” being particularly weird and ineffective.
I had a good time with First Kill for the most part, even if by the end of the second episode the cracks are already starting to show. If the next couple of episodes can spend time developing our lead couple we should have a solid time on our hands here, but even beyond that for those looking for some trashy lesbian fun you can do a lot worse then this.