The Gates: Vampires and Werewolves and Witches, Oh Dear!

It’s a trend I’ve seen more and more recently. It was fun at first, but now it’s overdone. While I like it in theory, the execution is too often strained, and because it’s been successful before, writers and producers assume it will be successful again. That’s right, I’m talking about large ensemble casts.

You thought I was going to say vampires. But no, I don’t mind that The Gates is yet another show steeped in the supernatural: There are vampires, werewolves, and witches (if that’s what Peg and Devon are), and that’s just what we’ve seen so far. Has the urban fantasy genre been done to death? Surely, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy it. Twilight hasn’t killed my love for a good vampire or werewolf story—I am always down for new ways of looking at the supernatural classics. That’s why I approached The Gates with a mixture of anticipation and dread: I want to like a new genre series, but I’ve been disappointed so often that I can’t get my hopes up too much.

Actually, the supernatural elements worked well in The Gates, which premiered Sunday night. Overall, it was a fun and absorbing hour of television, and I’ve already set up a season recording so I can catch next week’s episode. No, my issue is with that unwieldy cast of characters.

I’ve touched on this before, because I think it’s a problem many new series share. Look at Happy Town, another ABC genre show that petered out despite a fair share of buzz. There were several problems, but to me the biggest was simply that there was too much going on. That’s what happens when you introduce so many different faces, each with his or her own set of secrets, motivations, and baggage. It’s a lot to keep track of, which makes it difficult for the audience—and the show—to stay focused. Indeed, a savvy viewer can usually stay on top of a complex plot, especially if there’s note-taking involved; more often than not, the real issue is that the series collapses under its own weight.

I’m not going to say The Gates will suffer the same fate, but I’m already feeling overwhelmed. In the first episode, we met Nick (Frank Grillo), the new police chief; his wife and kids; vampire couple Claire (Rhona Mitra) and Dylan Radcliff (Luke Mably); their daughter Emily (Georgia Cole); Andie (Skyler Samuels), who befriended Nick’s son Charlie (Travis Caldwell); her werewolf boyfriend Brett (Colton Haynes); dueling witches Peg (Victoria Gabrielle Platt) and Devon (Chandra West); and—OK, I’ll stop there. Get the picture?

There’s something to be said for simplicity. Remember, less is more. But The Gates, like so many shows before it, has decided to cram as much as possible into one hour. I’ll go with it, because—like I said—I still get a kick out of bloodsuckers, but I’m not happy about all the players involved. Here’s my advice for the series: kill off a few characters. Really, go ahead. When you’ve got vampires and werewolves in the mix, we can expect some bloodshed. And I’m not attached to anyone yet, except perhaps the wonderfully seductive Claire, so feel free to go wild.

Otherwise, we’ll go weeks without a focus on our favorite characters. Plot lines will take too long to wrap up. And everyone will become connected in an inorganic and logic-straining way. Need I even mention FlashForward or Heroes? The Gates is supposed to be an exclusive community, right? I don’t see why they couldn’t have left a few of those characters out.

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