The pilot episode of ABCs The Gates reveals a seemingly quiet community harboring a number of dark secrets.
We begin in a voyeuristic fashion, peering over the walls of this community called The Gates. Inside are well-manicured lawns, joggers, lemonade stands, children playing, life as usual. Even when we get our first glimpse of Claire Radcliffe (Rhona Mitra), she is working in the garden. Nothing seems out of the ordinary until we begin to realize Claires secret: She is a vampire with an unhealthy addiction to blood.
This new ABC entry into genre programming has been advertised as a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Desperate Housewives. It certainly is similar in tone to Housewives, especially in terms of the suburban setting. It is also similar in that a number of seemingly separate story lines are introduced, with the expectation that they are somehow interrelated.
The new chief of police Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo) has just moved with his family from Chicago, where he left the force under mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, Claire and her husband Dylan (Luke Mably) are vampires trying to live a normal life with their adopted human daughter. There also seems to be a pack of werewolves living in the community, as well as at least two witches.
Devon (Chandra West) is a witch, and she operates a day spa in the community. There is more to her than meets the eye. Her ex-husband is Frank Buckley (Brett Cullen), the developer who designed the Gates. It seems obvious that he developed this community specifically for supernatural residents, but why?
Chief Monohans son, Charlie (Travis Caldwell,) has attracted the attention of local girl Andie (Skyler Samuels) within his first day of school. Unfortunately for him, she is dating Brett (Colton Haynes), who is the captain of the football team. Oh, and by the way, hes a werewolf! This is one of the more predictable plot lines of the episode, however. The werewolf with a girlfriend who becomes interested in someone else and hi-jinks ensue angle has perhaps been overplayed.
The Gates is definitely a prime-time soap with a supernatural twist. Even in the first episode, there are elements borrowed from the aforementioned series, as well as Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, Eureka and even Beverly Hills 90210.
Despite this seeming lack of originality, if all these story lines progress in a satisfying way, this could turn out to be a very interesting series. However, it could just as easily fall apart. At this point, it all depends on the writers. Of the two writers on this episode, Richard Hatem has had more genre experience, having written the screenplay for The Mothman Prophesies and episodes of Supernatural, Tru Calling and The Dead Zone.
Rhona Mitra brings her experience from Underworld: Rise of the Lycans to bear in this role, and it will be interesting to see the mysteries behind her character unravel. The writers adeptly handled the problem of sunlight and vampires by including a scene where she is applying sunblock, misses a spot, and gets burned by a sunbeam.
In general, there are a number of intriguing mysteries in this episode, and it will be fun to watch them unfold. If handled well, this can be an intelligent, multi-layered genre series that will hopefully survive past the summer season.
What Didnt Work
The high school subplots are perhaps too derivative, and most of the predictable moments of the episode revolved around them. It is obvious that the producers are trying to capitalize on Twilight fever, and this could well prove to be the seriesdownfall if it is not handled intelligently.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
"The Gates" stars Frank Grillo, Marisol Nichols, Rhona Mitra, Luke Mably, Travis Caldwell, Skyler Samuels, Colton Haynes, Chandra West and Victoria Platt. "Pilot" was directed by Terry McDonough, and was written by Grant Scharbo and Richard Hatem.
"The Gates" airs on ABC Sundays at 10 p.m. ET.
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