Bitten Series Premiere Review: An American Werewolf in Canada
It's hard out there for a werewolf. Or so I imagine; I've never met one in real life, so my idea of the werewolf experience is based solely on television series, B-movies, and young adult novels. But from what I can tell, life as a lycanthrope is both physically painful and a pain in the ass. You've got the whole full moon thing to deal with, and then you've got this entire family—who may or may not be your real family—that's always up in your business. And that's kind of what Bitten is in a nutshell. Syfy's newest supernatural drama follows Elena Michaels, the lone female werewolf in existence, as she attempts to leave her pack behind and start a new life in a new city. She wants nothing to do with being a werewolf, but since life isn't always fair, what Elena wants is rarely what she gets.
The Canadian import, which actually premiered on the Space network this past Saturday, is based on the first book of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series of novels. On one hand, it's another mostly-generic-but-generally-fine supernatural drama starring an impossibly beautiful woman (Laura Vandervoort), but on the other hand, it does have something that most of its competition does not: the wisdom of age. Bitten isn't set in a high school and there are exactly zero teenagers in sight, which automatically gives the series a leg up, at least in theory. The show's focus on men and women who aren't in the midst of hormonal meltdowns means there's much less angst here than there is on The CW or MTV. It also means Bitten isn't burdened by the typical coming-of-age story that's part and parcel of many of today's supernatural dramas. The fact that Elena's been a werewolf for a significant period of time before the series even begins cuts out the need for her origin story, which is refreshing to see in a TV landscape that's obsessed with origin stories.
But despite being a darker, more adult series (you can tell because of all the SEX), Bitten suffers from a weak plot. Elena's reluctance to return to the ancestral home of her pack in the wake of a dead body turning up in the pack's backyard is mostly a cliche. How many times have we seen this type of story play out? By the end of the episode, she had returned to Bear Valley and Stonehaven, just like we knew she would from the minute that pack Alpha Jeremy Danvers "Summons"-ed her. The series also hinted at something that happened between Elena and her ex-boyfriend Clay that acted as a catalyst for her initial departure from Stonehaven, but as of the pilot, the mystery of what transpired between the two isn't all that fascinating. Unfortunately, it's pretty obvious that their past will be a huge plot point for the series, and right now I'm worried that it will do more harm than good.
Of course, that's not to say Bitten won't be a successful series for Syfy (and Space, where it airs in Canada); it's just that after watching this first episode, I don't think viewers who aren't naturally drawn to supernatural shows will find the show compelling enough to keep watching. The story and characters are in need of some work; even though it's very rare for a series to premiere with fully-formed characters, Elena's relationship with her new boyfriend in Toronto is flatter than cardboard, and it's difficult to keep most of the pack members straight because there's nothing distinguishing about them. And I hate to be That Girl, but since Elena's the only female werewolf in existence, the show is severely lacking in the estrogen department. Now that Elena has returned to Stonehaven and left her one female friend—who also happens to be the sister of her current boyfriend—it'll probably be awhile before we see any other female characters.
But like I said, there's nothing inherently bad about Bitten. Fans of genre shows will probably enjoy the series and its mysteries just fine, especially if the story picks up as the show progresses, but overall, Bitten isn't adding anything new to a television slate that's slowly becoming overrun with supernatural and fantasy shows. If the series wants to make a name for itself (especially in the U.S.), it's going to need to step up its game by developing its characters, adding more action, and giving the pack members some distinguishing characteristics and personalities.
– Why is there no common sense in this series? I'm all for the suspension of reality, but am I really supposed to believe that no one stole Elena's purse from that alley? And that no one saw the wolf RUNNING DOWN THE CITY STREET? Am I the only one who's concerned about these things?
– CGI wolves? Groan.
– Are we entirely sure that Laura Vandervoort isn't some sort of actual supernatural being? She's almost too pretty to believe she's real.
– What did you think of "Summons"?
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