TV Review: Moonlight
Creators: Ron Koshow and Trevor Munson
Starring: Alex O’Loughlin, Sophia Myles, Jason Dohring, Shannyn Sossamon and Brian J. White
Airs: Fridays, 9pm on CBS
The first episode of Moonlight almost felt like two separate shows. The first half of the pilot was like an old-school detective movie that was aiming for noir but missed the mark and just came off as campy. But by the end of the episode, it took on a totally different mood. The story went into overdrive, and I found myself caring less about the big mystery set up and more on seeing the main character kick some ass. This was almost enough to sell me on the show but I’m going to have to wait to see how future episodes play out before I make my final decision.
The story centers on Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin), a vampire who devotes his endless hours of free time to helping the helpless. He’s kind of like the title character in Angel, except minus the small band of sidekicks. Instead, Mick has a single friend, Josef Konstanin (Jason Dohring). Josef is a vampire as well and also happens to be very wealthy. Unlike Mick, he embraces his vampire nature by feeding off the sexy ladies who hang around his home.
On the female front, there’s Beth (Sophia Myles), a news reporter whom we learn through flashbacks, was saved by Mick when she was a little girl and kidnapped by Mick’s vampire-bride, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon). Through the flashbacks we see that Mick fought Coraline to save young Beth. Coraline is last seen being trapped in a burning building. I should mention that the rules for killing a vampire are stated by Mick at the beginning of the episode. Crosses, wooden stakes, garlic and holy water are all ineffective when trying to kill a vampire. Fire and beheading are pretty much the only way they can be killed.
Back in the present, Beth and Mick’s paths cross when they’re both investigating the death of a college student. Since the victim had two punctures in her neck, Beth decides to sell the story as a vampire attack. Mick, on the other hand, knows this isn’t the work of a vampire so he continues to investigate the case as well. He spends a good portion of the first half of the episode riding around in his convertible, looking for clues and thinking (we get a lot of Mick’s voice-over chatter throughout these scenes).
With the exception of seeing Mick inject himself with blood (that he obtained from a friendly mortician who also happens to be a vampire), we don’t really get to see a true display of his vampire-ness until the end of the episode. When Beth gets taken by the person who turned out to be behind the death of the college student, Mick races to saver her. He demonstrates super-speed, super-strength and the ability to heal fast. All of this was done well enough that I think if they’d put some of it at the beginning of the episode, it would’ve definitely helped. Instead, the only vampire-ish powers we saw of Mick early on was his ability to smell blood and sneak up on people.
That brings me to my next complaint. Why is Mick so special? Ok, he’s a detective and he helps people but it was kind of hard to truly gauge his character, considering there were only three other vampires in the episode. The flashbacks showing Coraline do seem to indicate that there are vampires out there who are evil but that wasn’t really enough to truly define their nature. As for the other two vampires featured in the episode, they didn’t seem that bad. Sure, Josef comes off as money-hungry and a little bit sleazy but he didn’t seem evil. Neither did the mortician who gave Mick a fresh supply of blood as well as access to the body of the college student. In order to truly understand Mick’s struggle to go against his nature, I think we’d have to see some good examples of the vampires who aren’t going against their nature. If Josef is the best example of that then Mick’s challenge doesn’t seem all that bad to me. The hot chick who let Josef feed off her wrist didn’t seem to mind. It’s not like he’s sneaking into allies and feeding off helpless librarians or something. It probably would’ve been better if the pilot episode addressed the nature of actual vampires rather than focusing on a bad-guy who was part of a group of people pretending to be vampires. Then we might’ve been able to see the contrast between Mick and regular vampires a bit better.
Another problem that the pilot episode seemed to have was a lack of chemistry among the actors. Most of the scenes felt like script read-throughs where the actors were just running lines back and forth. In a lot of scenes there was a severe lack of rhythm in the dialogue. The only scene that really stood out for me was when Josef and Mick were arguing over how to handle the fact that the media was reporting that a vampire attacked someone. I attribute the success of this scene largely to Dohring’s acting abilities. Out of everyone in the cast, he seemed to have the easiest time letting the dialogue flow.
The premise of Moonlight is fine. It worked for Angel and as that show’s been off the air for a couple of years, I don’t see any reason why there cant be a new series about a vampire detective. The problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. The whole first half of the episode seemed to aim for intensity and mystery but it just didn’t work. It was corny. It wasn’t until the end that things started to get good. The hero took a break from being mister mysterious detective and saved the girl. I should also add that I’m a sucker for shows that throw in a good song to set the mood for a scene. In the case of the pilot episode of Moonlight, Evanescence’s “My Immortal” played in the background at the very end as Mick and Beth held on to each other. Was it cheesy? Sure, a little but it definitely worked and I’m wondering if it was this final scene that sold the show to the network in the first place.
Overall, Moonlight needs some work. It’s not a total lost cause though. The previews for the upcoming season (set up in a corny Celine Dion music video) actually looked decent. I just think the writers and directors need to try not to take the premise so seriously and have more fun with it. We saw some of that at the end of the pilot when Mick went all badass with his vampire powers. So hopefully we’ll see more of that and less cheesy “I’m a vampire on a mission” voice-over monologues in the future.
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