Blade: The Series (Unrated DVD)
Reviewed by Debi Moore
Starring Kirk "Sticky" Jones, Jill Wagner, Neil Jackson, Jessica Gower, Nelson Lee, Larry Poindexter, Emily Hirst
Directed by various including Peter O'Fallon, Alex Chapple, Félix Enríquez Alcalá, and Michael Robison
Distributed by New Line Home Video
Vampires. They've taken a beating over the past several years; yet, they still keep on ticking. Just recently we've seen them enjoy a bit of a resurgence thanks to such films as the Underworld franchise, 30 Days of Night, and (if you can still call the creatures in it vamps) I Am Legend. So it just figures that at least one television network would try to get into the act although I doubt anybody thought it would be Spike TV! But that's indeed what happened back in mid-2006 when "Blade: The Series" premiered to many fans' groans and somewhat snide remarks, especially once word of the casting came down: Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones (interview here) would be playing the lead. As it turned out, the pilot wasn't half bad so I, like many others I'm sure, set my DVR box to record the subsequent episodes while waiting to see if Spike would keep the show on the air before investing a ton of time into it. Of course they didn't (the final episode aired September 13, 2006), so I figured that was that and deleted everything sight unseen.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when an unrated boxset for "The Series" arrived in the mail containing said pilot (packaged as a two-part mini-movie renamed House of Chthon) and the remaining 11 episodes. I'll defer to Syxx's previous review of House of Chthon (click here) rather than rehashing old news since our opinions track so closely to each other and instead just focus on the show as a whole. Over the course of "The Series" a number of storylines intersect and play out in an increasingly engrossing and entertaining fashion, the primary one being Blade and his assistant Shen (Lee)'s alliance with newbie vamp Krista (Wagner) to bring down power-hungry Marcus Van Sciver (Jackson). Van Sciver killed Krista's brother and is the one who turned her, so she has more than enough reason to want to see him go down. She pretends to accept her fate in an effort to grow closer to him and before long realizes he is on a mission to destroy all the Pureblood members of the House of Chthon so that he alone can oversee its minions.
Before we get to that, however, here's a little history. In Blade's world there are 12 vampire houses working together to keep their ranks safe from the outside world, and Chthon is the most influential. They don't much like this forced cooperation and often do things behind each other's backs, but it is a necessity if they want to survive what with a Daywalker like Blade constantly on the hunt for them. Purebloods (those born vampires) control the houses and boss around the lowly Turnbloods like Marcus and his ilk. But a class war is brewing with Van Sciver at its helm. He's in cahoots with Charlotte (Hirst), one of Chthon's ruling Purebloods, to develop a vaccine codenamed Aurora that will render vamps impervious to sunlight, garlic, and silver. But we soon learn all is not as it seems with either Marcus or Aurora, and the true nature of the virus is but one of the twists "The Series" takes leading up to the season finale.
A secondary plot concerns FBI agent Ray Collins (Poindexter), who is investigating a series of particularly gruesome murders and gradually coming to the realization that vampires are not just the stuff of books and movies. Naturally it is only a matter of time before his and Blade's paths cross. Yet another subplot follows Chase (Gower), Marcus' former main squeeze who is none too happy to find herself jockeying for position with Krista. She doesn't like or trust her newest rival for Marcus' time and affection, and before long the audience is left wondering where her allegiances lie. Chase's story arc -- and Gower's performance -- is without a doubt one of the show's highlights. "The Series" takes a few standalone detours here and there including one about ashers, people who go around staking bloodsuckers in order to snort their ashes and catch a buzz, and another wherein Shen gets to help a damsel in distress by enlisting Blade's help in fighting a creepy character named The White Prince; but overall each installment builds on what has gone before such that the show should be watched as a whole in order to derive the most satisfaction from it. And there is much satisfaction to be had.
A significant strength of "Blade: The Series" is that, much like the Holy Grails of TV horror "Buffy" and "Angel," its writers aren't afraid to kill off major characters that the audience assumes are in it for the long haul. It also looks surprisingly good for something that was cranked out on a TV production schedule. Couple that with this unrated version's graphic violence, sex scenes and nudity, and liberal sprinklings of profanity, and we have a truly adult program that sadly was yanked off the air before it could develop its full potential. The season ends with some resolution, but the events that transpire in the finale only serve to leave the viewers with cliffhangers and even more questions.
While Jones' acting isn't quite on par with Wesley Snipes, the "real" Blade in most people's hearts and minds, he does have the right attitude and look, and by about the midway point in the season, I was totally in his camp. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd say he winds up close to a 3. The producers wisely surround him with some pretty heavy hitters, especially Jackson, Lee and the aforementioned Gower, who steals every scene she's in. Lee is pitch perfect as Blade's often put-upon feeling sidekick, and Jackson's Marcus is a complex character whom we alternately loathe and feel sympathy for once his backstory is revealed. Wagner, too, does a fine job portraying the conflict Krista feels over her distaste for Marcus and a desire to experience her true vampire nature and all the sensuous pleasures it brings. She's convincing as a former soldier "tough chick" -- something I'm a very hard critic of -- and has great chemistry with both Jones and Jackson, certainly not an easy task for an actress to pull off. Krista is obviously drawn to both men, and not being able to see how that triangle resolves itself is a big disappointment.
Another letdown is that New Line apparently doesn't feel "Blade: The Series" is worth spending any additional time and money on beyond the extras that were already included with the prior House of Chthon DVD release. Yep, if you bought that one already, be prepared for a double dip and nothing else. Again I'll point you toward Syxx's House of Chthon review for an overview of whether or not the interviews and commentaries provide an ample amount of bang for your buck. Whereas he thought they were more than sufficient and rated them highly, I feel cheated and can only award them an average grade despite all the revelations and information they impart.
I'll also borrow a quote from Syxx to summarize "Blade: The Series": "This was a series that just needed a little more money, advertising, and freedom to really work. Blade isn't officially dead, so keep that support rolling and it may get picked up." I have no idea if that's really the case and Spike might seriously consider reviving the show, but do I hope he's right about that possibility? Every goddamn day!
4 out of 5
2 1/2 out 5
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