Friday, June 06, 2008

Moonlight – season 1 – review (TV series)

Directed by: various

First Aired: 2007

Contains spoilers

Moonlight, which has just concluded its UK run on Living TV, concerns a vampire detective, Mick St John (Alex O’Laughlin) following him as he solves cases around LA – often with internet news reporter Beth (Sophia Myles) in tow – and laments his vampiric existence, wishing for a cure.

At first glance this sounds awfully like series gone before. Forever Knight had a cop solving crime and lamenting his vampire existence, Angel, the Buffy spin-off, had a vampire detective, in LA, lamenting his vampire existence and, more recently, Blood Ties had a vampire who became involved with a detective and, whilst he seemed comfortable with his vampirism, was a moody git.

The similarities are patently there, though there were some lore aspects that changed and the series, despite what defenders might say, did appropriate aspects of previous series. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if that produces a worthwhile whole, after all the vampire genre has appropriated and developed ideas and lore through the centuries. The series, unfortunately, did start weakly. Derek, over at Sacred Monsters warned me about this but suggested that I stick with it – it gets better. This was true but I do not think it ever reached the heights it could have done.

Our main character, Mick, is only recently (in vampire terms) turned and hates his vampiric existence. He seeks a cure. He was turned by his wife Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon) and more recently killed her when she kidnapped a little girl who grew to be reporter Beth. Meeting Beth again, who is the girlfriend of DA Josh Lindsey (Jordan Belfi), sets a romantic entanglement thread going and, to me, we have just hit upon the two weakest aspects of the show.

I am getting really sick of vampires who hate their ‘condition’; it has become a tired staple of the genre. Let us examine human nature, and admit that I am a cynic, but power corrupts. It seems less than likely that a person who is given a power – in this case vampirism – is then going to lament it. They are more likely to revel in it. Take Josef Kostan (Jason Dohring), Mick’s vampire friend. He, to me, was a far more interesting character and more true to his nature.

The other problem area was the angst filled, we are from two worlds, romance. It isn’t original – Forever Knight had a similar thing going on but it was far less central to the plot – and in respect of Angel, the relationship baggage brought from the previous Buffy series was more interesting as there was a real cost to the relationship – his soul. That said, I find Sophia Myles a personable actor and she is becoming a genre staple, having appeared in both Underworld as a vampire and the recent Dracula adaptation as Lucy.

Coraline comes back into the show and, it seems, has become human. Nothing new there to be honest as a vampire ex-lover returning as a human was also done in Forever Knight. This storyline, however, became interesting. Mick doubting his own sanity and senses and then everything added regarding the source of the cure, which was temporary, and the background to it. This dated back to the French revolution, the guillotine was created to deal with vampires and there seems to be a shadowy body of French aristocrat vampires. Interesting but then dropped as a concept thereafter – perhaps it would have been expanded had the series been picked up for a second season. I will mention the episode, also, in which Josh died – one I found to be powerfully shot.

Lore wise things are slightly different, the show putting its own spin on vampirism. Blood exchange is necessary to turning and it can go horribly wrong. A stake through the heart does not kill but immobilises (which, despite not being mainstream lore, is not original), thus pulling the stake out lets them move again. Silver hurts but sunlight does not destroy immediately and the vampires can stand some exposure. One oddity was sleeping in fridges. Why? Research suggests that it is because, during the day, they decompose and it slows the process and thus stops them smelling. Begs the question as to what they did pre-fridges, were there a lot of smelly vampires wandering around?

Other than that they are super strong, can leap far, senses are heightened and they can gain flashes of events from the smell of blood (useful for the detective that). Vampire blood can be processed into a drug that gives humans a feel of being a vampire – again, not original: vampire ash was a street drug in Blade the series and vampire blood could be ingested for short moments of vampiric existence in Dance of the Damned for instance. Beheading and fire kills and there is a crew of vampire cleaners to disguise their messes.

This was okay and perhaps, if it had been allowed to run, it would have grown into something worthwhile. A conspiracy against the LA vampires was hinted at in the finale coda, something that threatened their secretive existence. There were some standout moments and I did like the French clan storyline (and was disappointed when it petered out). That said there were also some rather boring moments and some tired old aspects (I hate being a vampire and cannot love the mortal girl!). I can’t do much more than nudge this just over average 5.5 out of 10.

The series imdb page is here.


Derek Tatum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek Tatum said...

Josef me, was a far more interesting character and more true to his nature.

Ever get the impression that we were watching a show about the wrong if the producers wanted to do something truly original, "Moonlight" would have focused on the fun-loving vampire playboy instead of the earnest vampire detective? It still could have had the French vampire subplot (sadly not fully realized) and the cast of colorful characters. But the lead would be a fun character instead of "earnest vampire detective guy." Though, I did like Mick's bashing of modern emo. They was an angle they could have played up if the show lasted - Mick as hip music elitist.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Derek - absolutely spot on the money... we were watching a show about the wrong vampire!

Josef was an interesting character and, despite the vampire playboy aspect (which was great), he had some depth of character... I'm thinking to his failed turn and the revelation that he was falling for another mortal despite his own rules.

Yet even within the more pathos orientated aspects they threw in his irrepresable, happy to be a vampire, nature came out.

All news indicates that Moonlight is dead, having been dropped. Time then for the Kostan spin-off series?

Derek Tatum said...

Yet even within the more pathos orientated aspects they threw in his irrepresable, happy to be a vampire, nature came out.

That's it exactly...a show could have been built up around Kostan, showcasing a more "fun" approach to vampirism while still having a level of sadness.

Heck, if they wanted to go the romance route, they could have the show's central storyline being about how Kostan was happy being a vampire and following his self-imposed guidelines when a mortal woman "comes into the picture." How would this affect his POV?

Simply by nature of him being a playboy, you could introduce the other elements...maybe he is the scion of these uppity French vampire lords, but they see him as a flippant embarassment.

I've put way too much thought into this. But I think my point is, earnest vampire detetctives are done. We've seen that, and they are as cliche as a Lugosi impersonator in a Grade Z horror flick.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I've put way too much thought into this.

lol - if that is true then God help me!

I think you really have nailed it Derek - get on over to CBS immediately and fulfill your destiny Sir.

Derek Tatum said...

Can you tell that I am a Ventrue fan?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

lol - I'll let you guess which clan I'm a fan of (original Masquerade)

Simon Dyda said...

The AO Neg blood group thing was really stupid. The O stands for zero, as in zero presence of both A and B proteins. Gah!

miss.yip said...

Hi! :)
Do you know where can get the link to watch 'Moonlight' ?
Thanks for sharing. :D

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Like many of the films and series covered here they are available to buy from most good retailers (certainly in the US and UK)