Vicki Nelson -
Henry Fitzroy -
Mike Cellucci -
Coreen Fennell -
OTHER VAMPIRE SHOWS
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Blood Price - Part 1
Victoria Nelson (her friends call her Vicki) is a private investigator. She used to be a cop, but a problem with her vision forced her off the force, so now she plies her trade privately. She gets more than she bargained for when she gets involved with a client who wants her to prove that the man who killed her boyfriend is actually a vampire. He isn't, but the man who is also hunting the killer is a vampire.
Based on the Victoria Nelson books by Tanya Huff, BLOOD TIES gets off to a relatively low-key start. It's a first episode, so there is always a lot of character introduction, but the actual investigation seems to take a distant back seat whilst the relationship between Vicki and her ex-boyfriend, her history on the force and the fact that she's an all-round hard case are established. The ease with which the vampire Henry is established is a relief in comparison.
There's plenty of sheen on the show, with lots of glossy shots of the city, but the staccato editing (which also overflows into the fight scenes) is distracting and annoying. The fight scenes themselves are a bit limp and certainly very short.
Christina Cox makes for an instantly likeable heroine, though she doesn't quite manage to pull off the hardass routine. Kyle Schmid makes for a very pretty vampire, but little else and Mike Cellucci is an off-the-peg one size fits all cop caricature. It's early days and they all have time to develop a little depth.
Blood Price - Part 2
Vicki learns the truth about Henry and reluctantly teams up with him to find the killer. It is a demon being summoned by a student who wants power over a girl, but the demon is using him to open a portal for Astaroth, a much greater demon that Henry tangled with back as part of the Hellfire club. With her client as the ultimate goal, Vicki soon becomes the final victim needed to release Astaroth.
And so the first of the investigations comes to an end in a vaguely unsatisfactory manner. It's difficult to tell whether it's harder to believe that Henry is the bastard son of Henry the Eighth or that Vicki would immediately be able to reel of his parentage because of a minor in history. It's certainly harder to believe that ten minutes after meeting him, she's offering up her own blood to save him. It does give the show's makers a chance to get her down to her bra though.
The appearance of Astaroth is very poorly realised, for which there is no excuse in this day and age, and the manner in which he is despatched is very underwhelming.
If BLOOD TIES is looking for the longevity of its vampire hero, then it's going to have to try harder than this.
Vicki takes on the case of a woman looking for her brother. She is immediately attacked by what can only be described as a zombie and is drawn deep into the world of voodoo, a world in which little is what it seems and nobody is to be trusted.
The introductions have been made and it's down to business. The plot involving voodoo, zombies, undead brothers and stolen souls is nothing special, but it all hangs together and passes the time entertainingly enough.
Plot is everything, though, with no character development and it is depressing to see, for the second story in a row, that the heroine goes walking into danger when waiting a couple of hours wouldn't have made a difference.
Fine, but nothing exceptional.
When a woman is violently murdered leaving a disturbed daughter, the grandmother hires Vicki to find the absent father. This raises the spectre of Vicki's own absent father issues. Matters are complicated, however, when it turns out that the father left when he was nearly killed by his daughter's imaginary friend.
This is an interesting enough case with a whiff of familiarity, but not enough to spoil it too much. The repartee between Vicki and Fitzroy is beginning to fizz a little as the chemistry starts to work a little. The resolution is a bit better, although the sudden removal of 'buttercup' from the little girl's psyche is nothing short of brutally abrupt.
I don't know what it is about genre show writers that they have such a thing about absent fathers, but it's here again and it's likely enough that a future case will shed some more light on that little piece of Vicki's background.
A defence attorney dies of an apparent heart attack, but his wife thinks that he was murdered by a killer that he failed to keep out of prison. When a second man involved in the case turns up dead and both men's hearts show signs of having been squeezed until they stopped whilst still inside their chest it becomes clear that natural causes don't apply.
A ghost revenge story that is mildly diverting, but neither original nor particularly gripping. If you can't see the solution from very early on then you've haven't watched too much of this kind of thing before. The effects are, for once, very poor indeed.
A succubus is loose in the city. In the guise of a gardener, it is pleasuring the bored housewives of the rich. When those same housewives start dying horribly, Vicki, Fitzroy and Mike are pulled in as a bickering trio of heroes to halt the killing.
This is another story that underacheives whilst still managing to be diverting. The constant sniping between Mike and Henry is supposed to be amusing, but the audience gets tired of it about the same time as Vicki does. Henry's dismay when his legendary charm is dismissed by the women is funny, but there really is nothing here that hasn't been in any other episode to date.
Homeless people near the park are disappearing and the police aren't interested without a body. Vicki gets involved and learns from a native american that the creature responsible is a Wendigo, a spirit that lives on human flesh. She and Fitzroy go after it, but it is a creature that can only be killed by silver bullets. Mike has some of those, but he also has another agenda.
This episode looks like being another purely average one and then Julian Sands appears and puts the kiss of death on it instantly. Mike, supposedly an experienced cop, is taken in by a man who offers him up exactly what he wants in Henry Fitzroy and asks not a single question about the man's reasons. It's no surprise to anyone when he out to be other than he professes and sets up the first cliffhanger of the series.
If only we could get excited about it.
Henry is in the hands of a man who just might be 300 years old and still holding a grudge. Mike reluctantly helps Vicki in the search to get him back. They unearth a history that Henry has been willing to bury for a long time.
A little bit of Julian Sands goes a long way to messing up a show and he is unconvincing here as the dangerously lunatic priest sent even further over the edge by the lengths to which his unrelenting search for Henry has driven him. The episode suffers every moment he is on screen.
He is, however, not the only problem. Firstly there is the character of Mike Celluci who is forced to vacillate between wanting Henry dead and wanting to save him every few minutes wherever the plot or character dynamics need him to. Add to that the flashbacks to Henry's past which are altogether too reminiscent of those from ANGEL for comfort and you get an episode that is, at best, dull and pointless.
Vicki starts a missing persons enquiry that revolves around a nightclub. She discovers a statue of the missing person, a statue that has a heatbeat. The only solution would appear to be that Medusa is alive and well and turning young men to stone.
This is a better episode. The plot is uncomplicated and the identity of the killer is revealed very early on, so the audience is ahead of the cast and that works well. The fact that Mike Celluci is being seduced by the killer adds a bit of spice and some depth to the character stuff.
Sadly, the creation of the gorgon is pretty poor, but at least it isn't on screen for too long.
When the body of an ex-boxer goes missing from a funeral home, Vicki gets the job of finding him, not least because it would appear that he was resurrected by someone working Egyptian magic. That leads to a website with film of a fight between two corpses. Another fight is scheduled, which means another body is going to need to be found.
This is the best episode of the show so far. The set up of warriors battling against their will shows up all over the place (last seen in the Torchwood episode Combat), but fighting between reanimated corpses is a new one on me.
The investigation plotline is straightforward enough and there is none of the male bitching that has been less than impressive in previous shows. Even the schmaltzy ending where the hulking corpse only wants to see his wife again doesn't grate too badly.
When a client asks Vicki to find out about a clinic that is holding his wife incommunicado, she and Mike pose as a childless couple desperate for a baby. Once inside, Vicki learns that all is not as it should be with the unborn babies and the rest of the team find out that the person running the clinic is using the powers of a dark elf to create serial killing children.
This is a more low-key episode without any great monster at the heart of it, but the idea of playing with unborn babies taps into the fear that every parent knows of the baby not being their own, or that something is wrong with it. The scenes with the baby trying to press its way out through its mother's skin is genuinely creepy.
The interview process in which Mike and Vicki have to play the loving couple and stir up no end of troublesome memories is also quite fun and probably the best character moment to date. The spooky killer child is not Damien in The Omen scary as he is clearly meant to be (he is dressed the same way and has the exact same haircut), but he is creepy nonetheless.
Norman, the loser who first loosed Astaroth way back in Blood Price Part 1 is released from hell with some fancy new powers, but the same mission, to gather together the three items needed for the ceremony allowing the demon to steal Vicki's soul. His ability to assume any shape proves to be quite useful in getting under everyone's skin.
Considering that it's a season finale, Norman is pretty disappointing. The main plot is a pallid rerun of the original two-parter enlivened by an energetic performance from Michael Eklund as the new, improved Norman. Some of the interplay with the false Vicki and false Henry are entertaining enough, allowing the actors to put a new take on their roles, but it doesn't add up to much in the end.
A bit like the whole series really.
A cop that both Vicki and Cellucci worked with in the past comes to her office to ask her to investigate his own death. Confusingly for his ghost, he doesn't actually appear to be dead.
It is, therefore, very hard to actually raise any interest in.
Mike takes a woman into custody after a man is mauled by a wild animal, but his severed head is then placed on the table, not the act of an animal. Whilst Mike tries to break through her wall of silence, Vicki and Henry investigate just what she actually is.
If there was any less action in this episode then it could be called a costume drama. The interrogation scenes are nothing new and nothing special and nothing entertaining. Vicki's investigation proves to be just as devoid of inspiration.
Vicki gets involved in a case in which leads to a dead man and a box that, when opened, emits an evil that kills herself and Henry. She then wakes up to find herself at the start of the day with another shot at working out the problem. This time, other people get killed, but the day starts all over again.
A variation on GROUNDHOG DAY or the recent DAYBREAK TV show, it manages to take the idea and run with it, coming up with an entertaining story that moves along pacily and has a killer central idea in the fact that what she is chasing is, in fact, Pandora's box - the actual Pandora's Box. Killing off a major character also adds to the strong emotional impact of the episode.
For the first time, BLOOD TIES shows that it really might have what it takes to make a memorable impact on the genre.
A young man dies in an alley outside a goth club. The body appears to have been badly chewed up by insects. Coreen asks Vicki to look into the death on behalf of a friend who owns the club. All the signs point to a very different kind of drug being involved. Henry and Mike, however are on the trail of another killer, a vampire moving in on Henry's territory.
This is a better story with hints of what is to come. Henry's sire is in town and is looking to take him out. That ought to be worth looking out for. The main story is straightforward enough, but the bug demon was working on killing Vicki and that means that someone else is after her. Who and why remains to be seen.
The final fight sequence promises much and then is over just before it really gets going.
Christina, the vampire that turned Henry, has come to town against all the vampire code. She claims to need help defending herself from a newly-turned vampire that has decided to rid himself of her. Vicki and Mike aren't so sure that her story is true, but Henry is determined to see that justice is done.
The run of better stories continues as Christina moves into Henry's life and starts manipulating him in ways that it is clear she has always used before. It is the twisted relationship between the vampires that forms the core of the story and gives it a bit more depth than some of the others have had.
It does, however, also evoke comparisons with that other vampire series ANGEL, something that it has always struggled to escape. Episodes like this won't help.
When the artist ex-boyfriend of a woman with whom vampire Henry has a family history suddenly goes missing, he turns to Vicki for help in finding the man. When the gallery owner later turns up dead, Detective Celucci gets involved and Henry is even more certain that the woman didn't do it. The answer seems to lie in some of the disturbed paintings of an artist that Coreen has just started dating.
If you haven't figured out the whole plot of this episode by the time that you're ten minutes into it then you really haven't been paying attention. It's tired, familiar story isn't helped by the fact that the story takes time away from the character interplay that is the only thing that keeps this show from being terminally dull. It's also becoming a rule that the final confrontation that is supposed to be a climax of the whole thing is totally underwhelming.
Some gang members accidentally manage to revive a millennia-old mummy that is practically invincible but for its need to take the lifeforce of others. Henry's lifeblood, as another form of undead, will give the mummy life eternal, but Vicki is not about to let that happen, no matter what she has to do to save him.
Despite ripping its entire set up straight out of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER episode Inca Mummy Girl (although it does swap a pretty young girl with the much less pretty Danny Trejo), this episode starts off bright and cheerful with some snappy banter that shows what BLOOD TIES can aspire to at its best before it descends far too rapidly into some dark and dangerous places. For once it really needed more time, perhaps a double episode, to do the darkness some justice. Sadly, though, that final meeting with the bad guy is a real let down. Don't these people know how to come up with a climax?
A man who confessed to decapitating a woman tells Vicky that he now believes that the killer is in direct telepathic communication and is about to kill again. Detective Cellucci believes that it is the work of a copycat killer, but Vicky discovers disturbing evidence of experiments carried out on three brothers that might explain the case.
Who really carried out the killing? It could almost be an episode of CSI for all the supernatural element. It seems strange that Vicky has access to all her old case files. Wouldn't they be kept by the department? She certainly spends a long time running through them, having black and white flashbacks of no discernable value and getting on the nerves of just about everyone she knows.
In short, there is nothing new, or even interesting going on here and everyone seems to have suffered terminal humour bypasses.
Vicki takes on the case of a 15 year old who claims to be an 'old soul' - a man reincarnated time and time again to be with his love. Only this time, he was kept alive in a coma when they both died, so he's a decade younger than her this time. She's also married, pregnant and not too keen on going through yet another life with. Love can overcome death, but it can also drive a man to murder.
At last a case that doesn't have a monster, doesn't have bodies everywhere and still manages to make for an entertaining episode. It starts out with the usual light banter, but then goes all dark. The trouble is that the kid is really, really annoying and you can't believe that anyone would come back from the dead to be with him even a second time. He can remember being a soldier and a thief and total details about his past life when the plot wants him to be a credible threat to the husband and the woman, but then he can't remember something incredibly useful about her such as her being a haemophiliac when the plot doesn't want him to find her straight away.
It's nice the way that Coreen finds the whole thing so lovely (at the beginning anyway) that they are in dire danger of needing to send out for tissues and there is some snappy dialogue, but it is somehow still not firing on all cylinders.
Coreen asks for help from the demon side to help Vicki choose between Mike and Henry. Astaroth slips through the veil and seizes control of Coreen's body. Capturing Coreen, the trio put their lives and relationships in danger to bring Coreen back from beyond death.
Relationship problems are not the first thing that you think of when looking for a compelling plot for a genre show, but this at least has the virtue of a strong supernatural tale underpinning it. The possession of Coreen and the absence of her heart gives strong motivation to all, Mike's career hanging by a thread and Henry's threatening to leave are all personal crises. On top of that, Vicki has to make a decision that will end her friend's life or free Astaroth into the world.
That's a lot of story and theme to get into one episode and the build up to it hasn't been that convincing throughout the season, but at least we are left with a situation that is interesting enough to make us hope for a third season.
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