04 June 2010

Moonlight S1 E1 "No Such Thing as Vampires"

Spoilers Ahead

First there was Nick Knight. Then came Angel. And finally there's Mick St. John.

I mentioned back in one of my Vampire Diaries reviews that The CW is going to start airing the cancelled 2007 vampire series Moonlight on Thursday nights at 9 (after TVD re-runs). I caught the first episode last night and was pleasantly surprised--apparently there is room out there for another show about a tormented do-gooder vampire who fights crime.

It's actually impressive how unlike Forever Knight and Angel this show is, given all the surface similarities (for one thing, all three of our heroes apparently shop at the same car dealership). But Moonlight is clearly its own show.

Unlike the others, 90-year-old vampire Mick (Alex O'Loughlin, Hawaii Five-O) is less broody and more relatable. I'm not sure if it's an act the character is putting on (doesn't appear that way), but Mick seems every bit an average Joe (only, you know, with fangs). You can picture yourself having a laugh down at the pub with him, even if his drink of choice is A positive. He also has a real aura of emotional vulnerability about him. This character is deep and likeable--what more could you ask? An attractive blonde love interest, you say? Done!

Beth Turner (Sophia Myles, Underworld, Dracula) plays an LA internet tabloid reporter who, in the course of investigating a murder, ends up nearly outing the world's vampires. Not bad for the first episode. She's attractive, smart, capable, and has a connection to Mick that only he knows about (for now).

The cast of characters is rounded out by Mick's vampire buddies Josef (old, powerful, amoral, and paranoid; played by Jason Dohring from Veronica Mars), Guillermo (his contact at the coroner's office/blood supplier; played by Jacob Vargas, Death Race), and Coraline (his disturbed ex-wife/sire; played by Shannyn Sossamon, How to Make It in America). There are also mere mortals Steve Balfour (Beth's cameraman; played by Kevin Weisman, Alias), Mo (Beth's boss; played by Tami Roman, Summerland), and Lt. Carl Davis (played by Brian J. White, The Shield). The lesser characters could get annoying (particularly Josef, who is a little over the top) but hopefully they won't get enough onscreen time for it to be an issue.

Being a private investigator, it stands to reason that Mick's going to be solving a crime each episode. In "No Such Thing as Vampires," he and Beth end up joining forces to solve a murder by what appears to have been a vampire. The mystery/crime-solving storyline is meh. Not that interesting and super predictable. Luckily, that doesn't seem to be the main focus of the show. Think of it more as a framework for exploring the relationship between Mick and Beth, which looks quite promising indeed.

Aside from the lacklustre mysteries, the writing is decent, with snappy dialogue and voice-over narration that's neither intrusive nor too heavy on the exposition.

Moonlight's production values are interesting; you can tell they didn't have a huge budget, but what they did have they wisely invested in the vampires. I have to say the fangs look really good (possibly the best I've seen on a TV show). Smart move.

The cinematography was okay--nothing stood out as particularly good or bad (although the SO did comment that the cuts were very reminiscent of Angel). As far as the soundtrack is concerned, Evanescence's "My Immortal" was put to good use at the end of the episode.

The vampire mythology is unusual in a few ways. For one thing, Mick sleeps in a freezer (hope that ends up being explained). Also atypical: stakes don't kill vampires. And sunlight can be tolerated, although the longer the exposure the sicker the vampire becomes. Holy water, crucifixes, and garlic do nothing, and there's no turning into a bat (but Mick allows that would be cool). Mick's personal code of ethics also prevents him from feeding on innocents, women or children. When he's not injecting himself with plasma, he feeds only on those who deserve it (jerks of the world beware!) He also seems to be the only vampire injecting his meals.

There's a rumour that The CW might pick up the show and get it going again. If the rest of the episodes maintain the level set by "No Such Thing as Vampires" (or hey, maybe even surpass it), I really hope they do resurrect Moonlight. If you missed this show the first time around, now's your chance to make up for it (and maybe give Forever Knight and Angel a look too).

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire comes out, then ghostly white eyes and elegant fangs that descend or retract at will. When Mick injected himself with plasma, his eyes turned entirely red.

Strengths: Heightened senses, super speed, super strength, super stealth. Not easily hurt, quick to heal. Ability to levitate.

Weaknesses: Fire, beheading (the only things that will kill a vampire). Sunlight makes them progressively sicker, although they can tolerate it.

Mythology: A vampire will leave a telltale scent after feeding on/biting a human.

Sound Bites

Beth: I mean, obviously she had a thing for vampires.
Mick: Yeah, I guess they're back in style.

Josef: (re: Mick's refrigerated plasma) You seriously drink this stuff? What is it, like nonfat soy vegan blood?

Christian Ellis: When most people hear the word vampire, they immediately conjure up an image of some undead monstrosity running around at night trying to drink human blood.
Mick: I hate that.

Mick: Sixty years is a long time to deny yourself the touch of another, but you do it. Because you just can't bear the thought of seeing yourself as a monster in someone else's eyes.

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 1 "No Such Thing as Vampires." Written by Trevor Munson and Ron Koslow. Directed by Rod Holcomb. From CBS/The CW.

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