Navigating high school is hard. Falling in love while navigating high school is harder. But nothing compares to falling in love while navigating high school and being a member of a legacy family either sworn to end all monsters or the “monster” themself. And that is pretty much a large part of Netflix’s latest vampire series, First Kill. Based on V.E. Schwab‘s short story of the same name, we watch as vampire Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) and monster hunter Calliope (Imani Lewis) fall in love and navigate their place in the world. There is no shortage of vampire dramas or star-crossed lovers’ stories. But does First Kill set itself apart from the rest?
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain possible spoilers for the series. Please be mindful going forward. If you wish to enjoy First Kill first, you can stream it on Netflix here.
What initially drew me into First Kill was that it is an adaptation of V.E. Schwab’s short story. The worlds she creates and the characters that live within them have long since been favorites of mine. Plus, being a teenager/young adult during the years of Twilight has created a soft spot in my heart for vampire dramas/love stories. This series found a way into the hole left behind after growing up and coming to terms with the idea that Twilight isn’t as good as I remembered. I needed more than just two people pining for each other and dealing with less than real issues.
The love story between Juliette and Cal drives this story forward but is never the entire plot. Both have stories outside of their romance that holds just as much weight, if not more at times, to how they navigate this path. Juliette is pushed by her well-meaning parents, Margot (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Sebastian (Will Swenson), to follow the same path they have – get her first kill over with and live the life of a true vampire. Cal deals with similar family struggles as she tries to convince her parents, Jack (Jason R. Moore) and Talia (Aubin Wise), that she is up to the task of hunting monsters like her brothers (Phillip Mullings Jr. and Dominic Goodman).
Because of these family dynamics, First Kill thrives as more than just two girls falling in love. Allowing the secondary characters to have voices and storylines outside of the romance helps to make the world feel larger and their choices and advice more impactful. It also provides for more storytelling. I was invested in what was happening outside of Juliette and Cal, which opened more doors for what could happen in future seasons. Juliette’s siblings, Elinor (Gracie Dzienny) and Oliver (Dylan McNamara), and Cal’s brothers could have stories unto themselves.
But, we can’t ignore the romance within First Kill – it is a supernatural romance series, after all. And it’s good, albeit a bit quick. They go from enemies to lovers in just a few episodes without real growth between them. It is easy to ignore the rushed romance with everything else happening around them, but it would have been nice to see a bit more flourish between them. It can be hard to imagine that they are willing to throw away everything for someone they just met. Plus, it has always been a complaint that I have had with the Romeo and Juliet retellings.
Something I am happy about was that First Kill isn’t about coming out or either of them experimenting with their sexuality. It is about two people who are comfortable in their own skin finding love and dealing with the supernatural issues surrounding them. While I love Heartstopper and series that deal with queer coming-out stories, we need more queer existence stories too. Both Juliette and Cal struggle throughout the series, but never because they fell in love with a girl. It’s nice to dive into a series without the queer trauma that tends to come with coming out stories.
Overall, First Kill was a joy to watch. Hook and Lewis are fantastic leads, and the chemistry works well between them. They are supported by a tremendous cast who look and feel like family throughout the season. Enough was left on the table to open doors for future seasons, and we hope they get the chance to continue. We would love to see more exploration into the side characters that were teased in season one. Plus we have lots of questions about where Cal and Juliette stand. Here is to hoping that Netflix will continue this story and soon! If vampire romance is up your alley – we highly suggest giving this a watch.
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