Firebite season 1, episode 1 recap: Can Shanika escape the tunnels?

Shantae Barnes-Cowan as Shanika - Firebite Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Ian Routledge/AMC+
Shantae Barnes-Cowan as Shanika - Firebite Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Ian Routledge/AMC+ /

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Britain colonized Australia, imagine if they had brought a horde of vampires along with smallpox to decimate the local Indigenous population. The characters of the new AMC+ series Firebite don’t have to imagine because that’s exactly what they’re facing off against.

Set in a remote desert mining town in the Australian outback, Firebite envisions a world where the only thing standing guard between a hive of vampires and their sinister monarch is 17-year-old orphan Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) and her reckless legal guardian Tyson (Rob Collins).

The series, created by Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country) and Brendan Fletcher (Mad Bastards), opens with a bird’s eye view of the vast, arid terrain characterized by a sea of red dust. At night, the only real source of light is the pinpricks of headlights as a lone truck or bus veers down a winding road.

Shanika introduces us to this ravaged land via voiceover. For generations, Opal City has been picked clean by colonizers, leaving behind nothing but the white bones of deserted opal mines and dark underground tunnels that make ideal living conditions for bloodsuckers.

We meet our Australian hunters Shanika and Tyson careening down the road in the middle of the night with a vampire strapped Death Proof style to the hood of their car. Shanika finishes her history project in the passenger’s seat as the vehicle barrels forward, just another night fighting the last remaining colony of vampires brought over by the British in 1788.

Apart from the two leads, we also catch a glimpse of a truck driver hitting a vampire in the middle of the road and the Vampire King (Callan Mulvey) decimating one of his subordinates for questioning his rule. These small moments will become relevant later in the premiere episode.

But the defining character moments for Shanika and Tyson end with them sending their captive vampire back down the tunnel she crawled out of, unaware that it’s been rigged to blow. See, Tyson and Shanika don’t actually go into the tunnels themselves. They’re not crazy. Tyson works solely in “pest control.” He manages the vampires that come to town or stray outside the mining fields. Since taking control, there haven’t been any issues in the local community nearby, at least not until now.

Rob Collins as Tyson – Firebite Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Ian Routledge/AMC+ /

By the end of the first episode, we find out that the truck driver who hit a vamp is a Blood Hunter, a real one with fancy vampire-fighting equipment and everything. If they’re in town, that means something big and bad is coming. It’s not a good sign. Even worse is that we see a pack of vampires kidnap a local Aboriginal man who goes by Black Elvis (Samuel Pilot), another sign that something is changing.

Shanika and Tyson set out on a rescue mission that quickly turns violent. Shanika falls into one of the tunnels during the scuffle, leaving us on a troubling cliffhanger. It looks like Tyson will have to descend below after all if he wants to save her.

Firebite season 1, episode 1 recap: Shanika gets suspended from school

Besides the vampire-hunting, Shanika does her best to live a normal life. Easier said than done when you’re more responsible than your guardian. Shanika is more concerned with arriving at school on time, eating her vegetables and getting a good night’s rest than Tyson is. Firebite mixes in some coming-of-age storytelling and teen drama with its speculative storytelling.

At school, Shanika is bullied by several racist classmates, made worse when she uses her history project as a chance to inform the class of the vampires living nearby. No one believes her. Later, tensions escalate when one of the bullies makes a nasty comment about Shanika’s mom resulting in her lashing out violently and getting sent to the principal’s office.

Since they can’t get in touch with Tyson, his ex-partner Kitty (Ngaire Pigram) steps up to mediate. Kitty thinks Shanika is being treated unfairly. Why isn’t any disciplinary action being taken against the school bully? We all know the answer to that, unfortunately.

For now, Shanika is suspended, and the principal also notifies them that she has reached out to child services regarding Shanika’s behavior and Tyson’s lack of proper guardianship. I’m sure these are problems that will be addressed soon, but the immediate and growing vampire problem is a lot more concerning for all involved right now.

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New episodes of Firebite stream Thursdays exclusively on AMC+.