Netflix’s new vampire show hopes a more grounded interpretation and a focus on drama can make the genre interesting again — and it makes a respectable effort.
V Wars (Netflix) debuted globally on December 5, 2019. This review is spoiler-free.
These days, vampires have achieved such a level of cultural saturation that the prospect of making the subgenre interesting again seems a tall order. Unavoidably associated with young-adult hogwash and a proud fetishization that we should be more suspicious of, the cultural bloodlust for bloodsuckers seems to have abated slightly. But perhaps no longer. Netflix’s new ten-episode original series V Wars, adapted from Jonathan Maberry’s graphic novel, hopes to rectify that sense of apathy – and it does a respectable job.
The premise was obviously enough to entice Ian Somerhalder of The Vampire Diaries fame back to toothy material; in V Wars he plays Dr. Luther Swann, whose efforts to cure vampirism are for the benefit of humanity generally and his best friend specifically. That friend, Michael Fayne (Adrian Holmes), finds himself transformed by the virus and living a life of underground leadership which he isn’t entirely comfortable with.
That vaguely Shakespearean setup of warring brothers should clue you in on the kind of vibe V Wars Season 1 is going for. It’s at least in part about that age-old idea of finding renewed purpose in an unlikely place and then learning to embrace that purpose, whoever might suffer as a result.
And with great power comes great responsibility, obviously. The refusal to accept one’s own circumstances is a familiar and rather mundane dramatic device, but it’s given a jolt of energy when one’s circumstances include being a powerful vampire kingpin.
What V Wars is also about is the environment, and its progressivism is by no means subtle in that it draws explicit parallels between the melting of ice caps and the eradication of humanity as we know it. But, you know, vampires, so it’s a bit less preachy and more tolerable than it otherwise might have been, even if its wide-ranging writing and directing credits mean it’s a bit too designed-by-committee to really have a cohesive viewpoint.
Still, it’s a healthy blend of pulp genre shenanigans, human drama, and grounded sensibilities which all amount to, more or less, what V Wars claims to be: A somewhat atypical vampire show that’s perhaps a bit too long but ultimately has good intentions and its heart in the right place, which in the case of this show is probably on someone’s plate.