“The Gates” is the latest entry in the vampire craze that has overtaken the visual media in recent years, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it brings nothing new to the table.
It’s fitting that the show is set within the confines of a gated community, a society completely sheltered from the problems of the real world where private sector police monitor every street corner and every backyard with 24/7 surveillance, kids are schlepped off to exclusive schools, and nobody comes and goes without passing through the massive, wrought-iron gates. And while this slice of manufactured paradise seems like picture perfection, there’s more than one dark secret lurking in the shadows.
Even if you’ve been ignorant of ABC’s media blitz surrounding this summer series, the show blows its supernatural wad in the opening minutes through the introduction of Claire Radcliff (Rhona Mitra – the future Ms. Fini, surely), a vampiric housewife struggling with the need to feed off of human beings. It’s the newly appointed Sheriff (and Gates resident) Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo) who suspects something isn’t quite right with the stunning beauty.
In the months leading up to “The Gates” premiere, people likened this hybrid series as some sort of cross between “Desperate Housewives” and Twilight, and while I’d hoped that would be little more than a surface impression, I’m sad to say that it’s a more than accurate representation of the material on display. The subplot involving the Sheriff’s high school-aged son, Charlie (Travis Caldwell), is the most recycled as he meets a potential love interest with a temperamental werewolf for an ex-boyfriend. Charlie sparks the ire of this wolfpack, who will more than likely make all sorts of trouble for him in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, Mitra’s character suffers lots of conflict in addition to being at the center of the Sheriff’s missing persons investigation. Unhappily married to her sire, she must also contend with rivalry in the guise of another bitchy housewife while struggling to raise a creepy little girl who may or may not be some kind of creature of the night.
By the end of the first episode there’s no shortage of subplots, but “The Gates” leaves viewers feeling like we’ve seen it all before. Werewolves look like Twilight rejects, resembling actual wolves more than supernatural creatures, while the vampires slop on UV gel in order to venture out in broad daylight. I’m not asking for wall-to-wall gore, but these creatures come off as little more than neutered versions of once-classic monsters. There’s a decent cast of actors on hand, but even they can’t prevent the show’s lifeless sheen from making it feel like an uninspired bore.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with “The Gates” in coming weeks. I certainly wasn’t blown away by the premiere episode, but there remains the potential for some interesting stories to be told. The show isn’t likely to satiate the horror audience – nor does it seem all that interested in doing so – but I implore the showrunners to remember the roots of their source material for future episodes. It was a marginal success for ABC last night as it managed to win the hour time slot, but exactly how many of those viewers will be compelled to tune in again remains to be seen.
If you watched “The Gates”, will you be back?
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