Hello folks! If you’ve been wondering why my presence on this site’s been so light the last couple of days, it’s because I’ve been investing time catching up with what’s been happening in [[The Gates (TV Series)|The Gates]].
In case you’ve missed it, The Gates is a series about a gated community that unwittingly plays host to vampires, werewolves and other neighbours of a supernatural…um…nature. The Gates are guarded by a private police force which is headed up by a shamed cop who left Chicago for killing the suspect in a series of crimes. And it turns out that he actually knew what he was doing – since he couldn’t gather enough evidence for a conviction, he did the world a favour and shot the bad guy. Oopsie…
So, my marathon re-watch of The Gates yielded a lot of things: murders, teenage werewolves, succubi, and that guy who was married to Brooke Shields on Lipstick Jungle turning up as a bad vampire, intent on leading Rhona Mitra astray.
I’ll start with this criticism: it’s all so bloody grim. No joke. From the moment The Gates first opened, the tone of this show has a darkness, a brooding intensity. Nick Monohan is haunted by the murder he committed, Claire Radcliff is a vampire playing the happy housewife when all she wants to do is gnaw on necks. And that’s the conclusion that we come to about The Gates: no-one who lives there is happy.
This leads to a familiar nit-pick of mine with shows that are this dark – when the characters become humourless and one-dimensional, it’s impossible to like them. And if it’s impossible to like them, it’s really really hard to care whether they live or die or get caught by their husbands draining drunk ladies in alleyways outside bars.
Let’s ask another question: why does the teenage werewolf always have to have an anger-management problem? It’s so unimaginative. We saw the same stereotype on last season’s [[The Vampire Diaries (TV Series)|The Vampire Diaries]]. Why not make the werewolf a charismatic stud, a natural leader, someone ruthless yet loyal? Why are werewolf teenagers always surprised when they start transforming – couldn’t it be empowering for once to realise you have amazing powers, that you’re different from other people?
The reason I’m making this point is because the latest episode – Repercussions – was thankfully absent of the lupine teens and all the better for it.
Still, there have been some incremental plot developments that bear fruit. For instance, saintly Nick Monohan turns out to have killed a ‘bad guy’ because his gut instinct won out over lack of evidence. He tearfully admits this to his wife on the anniversary of the event, and stunningly, she doesn’t judge him for keeping this a secret. And, even better, it isn’t referred to between them for the rest of the episode and the whole of the next episode. Christ, my wife roasts me if I forget to post a letter, never mind withholding the details of murders I’ve committed. Maybe Nick’s wife has amnesia. She’s going to need it to survive the rest of this series.
I loved the plot where the man’s sister arrives at The Gates to exact her revenge. Posing as Theresa, the lil’ lady shacks up with geeky cop Marcus and keeps a watch on Nick’s actions. What’s really inspired is that when she decides to strike, she pauses for a while to reveal her plans. She’s going to kill his entire family, and then him. These lines are delivered with all the hammy drama of a lunatic, but thankfully she stops short of a comedic “Mwuuuuhaaahaaaahaaaa!” Dr. Evil she was not.
Then, in episode 4 and continuing in Repercussions, the story finally heats up. Nick is saved from certain death by Dylan Radcliff. And Dylan can’t hide his true nature as he feasts on Psycho Sister’s jugular. Which means that Nick finds himself in an uneasy alliance with a vampire.
The tension in episode 5 between the pair is palpable, and as Jo Curtis notes in her Shout review, Luke Mably (Dylan) and Frank Grillo (Nick) have a fantastic dynamic on screen. Nick has the added bother of coming to terms with having vampire neighbours and his deputy goes off on a maverick investigation of Dylan behind his back. Dylan’s not happy about that part and gives Nick a minor kicking, suspecting that Nick’s trying to frame him. Well, not frame him exactly. He did kill the girl.
With a supporting cast of witches, werewolves and even a teenage succubi (where were they when I was at school?), The Gates is high on drama with a side order of brooding tension. With the fifth episode, it felt like the series had finally turned a corner: the vampires have been revealed. There’s plenty of scandal to come with the mayor seemingly keeping evidence on all of the residents – blackmail is surely his game plan?
I have to admit though, that each episode has about 20% tedium, which is worrying. I found myself tuning out on more than one occasion, and I hope that the show can find some way to make the characters more compelling and likeable. Because at the moment, I could take or leave The Gates. Repercussions convinced me to stick around for another couple of episodes, but it must get better!