Netflix’s First Kill focuses on the forbidden romance between Legacy vampire, Juliette Fairmont (Sarah Catherine Hook) and vampire hunter Calliope “Cal” (Imani Lewis) – think the same-sex version of Buffy and Angel.
Their relationship sparks a feud between Juliette’s Legacy family and Cal’s monster hunter family. Like Sunnydale, there are more monsters than just vampires in this town, and while the town has been monster-free for many years, the adults remember the last time the monsters had control and fear the return of that time. The series is based on a short story by V.E. Schwab who produces the show and also wrote the first episode. A cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and Romeo and Juliet – the series tries to do too much in its first eight episodes, and in doing so, accomplishes very little.
Juliette is the youngest member of a matriarchal Legacy vampire (legacies are born vampires, not made), and her thirst, kept at bay until now with blood pills, is becoming too strong for the pills to suppress anymore – something that usually leads to a young vampire’s first kill which is then celebrated (in females, matriarchal, remember?) by the equivalent of a debutante ball. Cal is new in school, as hunter families move around a lot, and recently had the chance at her first kill, but was tricked by a shapeshifting monster and had to be saved by her mother causing her to be benched for all subsequent hunts.
Juliette and Cal have an attraction to each other, Juliette being plagued with the clumsiness that comes with adolescence instead of the preternatural vampire grace (that comes with the first kill I suppose?) bumps into Cal and drops her bag, spilling her pills – which is how Cal knows she’s a vampire. The two end up at a high school party together and wind up in the pantry for Seven Minutes in Heaven where their mutual attraction leads to some intense making out before Juliette’s passion ignites her thirst and she bites Cal, who in turn stakes her – and each believes they have their first kill. This is the catalyst for everything else that goes wrong for these girls and their families in ensuing episodes.
Cal is not dead because Juliette didn’t drain her, and Juliette is not dead because Legacy vampires can’t be killed with a simple wooden stake to the heart, but Juliette’s bite did form a link between her and Cal, and they appear in each other’s dreams. When Juliette’s mother thinks she’s had her first kill, she quickly plans the “coming out” ball, inviting their entire Legacy clan, and when Cal’s mother figures out that she was bitten by a Legacy she calls the Hunter’s Guild for reinforcements. The hunters attack the legacies at the big event, the legacies don’t die and fight back, and Juliette and Cal run off together – right to the high school theater’s production of Romeo and Juliette’s set. A bit on the nose, no?
First Kill is supposed to be about a teenage lesbian romance, but there isn’t enough focus on the central relationship.
Everything that I’ve covered in this article takes place over five episodes, which indicates there is so much more at play here – although none of it appears in the trailer. For a show that is supposed to be focused on the forbidden romance between the two main characters, there is very little development of that romance. Juliette and Cal have an unexplained magnetic attraction to each other, but they never have those heart to heart talks about themselves and their lives, and they declare their love for each other without ever discovering the other’s true identities beyond vampire and hunter – all of their talks revolve around their families (whose complicated relationships take up way more screen time) and the crazy situation they find themselves in. How can a person (or monster) be willing to kill and die for someone when they don’t even know their favorite color?
While the demand for teen LGBTQIA+ literature is refreshing, and celebrating the author V.E. Schwab who is an out lesbian author writing young adult, middle grade, and adult fantasy fiction is well deserved, this show misses the mark. Teenage lesbian romance has been depicted better in shows like Sex Education and Atypical, and lesbian vampires have been the focus of television and movies since Dracula’s Daughter in 1936. The speed with which Juliette and Cal find themselves hopelessly in love could be a version of the U-Haul lesbian stereotype or teenage hormonal libido, but regardless, these two really don’t have enough chemistry to pull it off. The fact that they got eight hour-long episodes from a thirty-four page story tells us just how far from the source material they travelled. If deciding whether to spend precious binge-time on this show or not, I say don’t.
First Kill also stars Elizabeth Mitchell (how did she ever sign on for this?), Will Swenson, Aubin Wise, Jason R. Moore, Gracie Dzienny, Phillip Mullings Jr., Dylan McNamara, Dominic Goodman, and Jonas Dylan Allen. It premiered on Netflix on June 10th and is currently streaming.
What did you think about Netflix’s First Kill? Sound off in the comments!