Saturday, December 14, 2019

V-Wars: Season 1 – review

Director: Various

First Aired: 2019

Contains spoilers

This is a hard one to review. Overall I enjoyed watching it, and did so as a fan of the novels, but the movement away from some of the premises built in the book proved a weakness for the series overall – I get that often the filmed media has to take liberties with the source material but it was a difficulty on several grounds.

The first difference was slight, that the infection reactivating junk DNA was a prion rather than a virus. Once infected then someone with a certain ‘predator gene’ would start to transform into a vampire. The show concentrates on the initial outbreak, rather than pitching through different moments in time as the books do – this was a change that I understood.

arctic suicide
The series begins with a suicide in an arctic research centre. Doctor Luther Swann (Ian Somerhalder, the Vampire Diaries) is sent to find out why contact has been lost and takes his best friend Michael Fayne (Adrian Holmes). They both become ill but Fayne has the predator gene, Swann does not. This was an unfortunate series of changes – Fayne is patient zero in the books but is an actor who becomes infected on a shoot in Alaska. Swann is a folklorist and this makes him valuable to the Government in understanding the threat they face – making him a whizz scientist made the occasions he went out with the troops seem implausible.

Wurdulak bites
The issue (and the biggest change book to screen) with not having him a folklorist is that the vampires are for the most part rather generic; they have improved senses – seeing the blood rush under the skin, for instance – and a maw of fangs. There is an absolute lack of variance, however. We do meet a pair of wurdulaks – Danika (Kimberly-Sue Murray) was a casual lover of Fayne and gets infected that way. She infects her sister Mila (Laura Vandervoort, Dresden Files: Bad Blood, Mom’s Gat a date with a Vampire & Rabid). The wurdulak’s are shown having more traditional fangs and described as injecting a narcotic venom in their victims to keep them alive and pliant (rather than murdering their prey).

Laura Vandervoort as Mila
Whilst it was nice to have a general difference they are described in show (and in the books) as only preying on loved ones – having to forge an emotional bond with their victim before they can feed. We get that and yet Mila is able to eschew feeding for drinking blood bank acquired blood. Admittedly she looks like she is not enjoying it but a wurdulak should starve is they have no loved one to feed from and that was not covered at all. We get a sense that Mila is going out killing other bloods (as the vampires call themselves) but that thread was not taken far enough – but her hatred for her sister was a series highlight.

Adrian Holmes as Fayne
Other than that – as mentioned, the bloods are generic and that was the biggest miss – the programme makers could have had a different vampire per episode and that would have made this much more interesting. Instead we get a conspiracy by the DNS, rapidly constructed internment camps (that did nothing to quarantine people, indeed where was the CDC quarantine) and a villain in the form of Calix Niklos (Peter Outerbridge, Forever Knight) who is less sinister than he might have been. Indeed, the full Government conspiracy seemed somewhat contrived.

Ian Somerhalder as Swann
Not as contrived as the constant Deus ex Machina that leads to Swann miraculously escaping danger very often. Swann has been forced to kill his second wife (Jessica Harmon) and so his son, Des (Kyle Breitkopf, Being Human), is his primary focus – it is a shame therefore that Des is played through as a story cipher often, unfair on the actors who might have built a lot more of their relationship if the script had allowed for it. The last scene we see Swann in is, unfortunately, blooming ridiculous looking.

a vampire
However, if you put all the issues listed above aside, I found myself enjoying this little slice of nonsense. The disappointing part is that it could have been so much more. I hope, if they get a second season, they start exploring the vampire types in much more depth. I also hope that they forget where they took Swann in that coda because it isn’t conducive to an interesting, flawed but rounded character. Because I enjoyed it, 6 out of 10 reflects enjoyment versus the issues listed – not a bad score but given how highly I rate the books, a pity.

The imdb page is here.

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