The vampire genre is weird these days. Imagine if there were tons of movies and shows about lovable reformed serial killers... who still lapse into murder every now and then. Sunday's The Gates was a welcome deconstruction of "nice" vamps.
So what exactly is Nick Monohan's job anyway? As police chief of The Gates, is he there to keep the peace, and protect the privacy of the community's horde of vampires, werewolves and other assorted killers? Or is he there to enforce the law — including possibly prosecuting their previous murders? And just how much should Nick allow himself to buy into the idea that all of the creatures in The Gates have been completely civilized and domesticated, giving up their former predatory habits?
The premise of The Gates, for those coming to it late, is that it's a gated community where all of the night terrors come to live their lives in broad daylight, and agree to behave themselves in exchange for protection. But since the show launched, we've seen plenty of murder and mayhem — the nice vampire housewife Claire has killed a few people, and the werewolf pack has also claimed some lives. Plus we're learning that plenty of these characters have blood on their hands from the past.
Up until now, the debate over whether the vampires could overcome their nature and become "nice" has been confined to scenes between Claire and her secret lover/hunting buddy Christian. She's torn between her nice suburban murder-free life, but he keeps dragging her back to her old life as a serial killer. And he argues that her "real" nature will always be the predator thing. So far, that's the same mean vampire-reformed vampire thing we've seen a million times before.
But when you bring Nick, a human and an authority figure into it, as Sunday's episode does, it suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. To make a long story short, Christian violates Claire in a way that breaks her bond with her husband Dylan, and when Dylan retaliates by chaining Christian to a tree without protection from the sun, he kidnaps their human daughter Emily. Claire and Dylan beg Nick for help, but the more he investigates, the more stuff he discovers about the vampires' unsavory past — including their very recent past.
Eventually, Nick catches Christian and has him chained to a chair — and that's when the episode gets really interesting. Because all of those debates over whether there's any such thing as a nice vampire have huge bearing on Nick's job. Especially once you realize that Nick is busting his ass to get a human girl back to her murderous vampire parents. Whose side should Nick be on, especially after he learns that Claire actually killed the girl's birth parents in the first place?
And then Christian turns out to have done something very clever — he's returned Emily to her surviving human relatives, forcing the vampire couple to claim that they have more right to the girl than her actual birth family. Even leaving aside the fact that Claire killed the girl's parents, it's hard to justify keeping Emily with Dylan and Claire, instead of putting her in a nurturing, supportive environment with an aunt and uncle who won't thirst for her blood night and day. But if Dylan and Claire lose the girl, then their reformation will be totally undone, and they'll have no reason not to go back to being cold-blooded (so to speak) killers. And in Nick's role as protector of The Gates' community, he has an interest in keeping this family together.
So should vampires get off scot-free when they decide to "go straight"? Should there be a special vampire prison where they spend a few decades of their eternal unlives repenting? And would that vampire prison look a bit like The Gates?
Meanwhile, pretty much everybody's figuring out that Andie is a succubus, including the cute werewolf girl who has now officially overused the "my cool band name" line — and Charlie, Nick's ultra-clueless son who's been pining for Andie for weeks now. Unfortunately, the moment Andie admits the truth about herself and says she wants to be with Charlie, he has a huge about-face, freaks out and tells her to leave him alone. Of course, this being television, he'll probably change his mind again next week. But it seems like the Monohan family should have a family sitdown and talk about the monster thing, especially since Sarah was so weirded out by Nick's unorthodox handling of the kidnapping.
Anyway, this was another cool episode of a criminally underhyped show — and since I watched in between a marathon of Vampire Diaries' first season, it was especially nice to see a look at the crimes of vampires that doesn't give them quite so much of a free pass. Or at least, that questions the idea of giving them a free pass more seriously. And I'm left wondering if there's going to be more fallout from this — remember that Claire told Nick she would agree to whatever punishment he thought was fair, and we haven't heard what he decided yet.
What did you think?