‘The Gates’ Series Premiere

“It’s not about the blood,” Claire (Rhona Mitra) tries to explain to her husband and fellow vampire, Dylan (Luke Mably). Even though, as he’s pointed out, he brings home enough blood “from work” to sustain them both, she remains frustrated and agitated. Tearfully, she goes on: “It’s about the car pools and the school committees and the dinner parties and the book clubs. No matter how hard I try, I’m never gonna assimilate like you want me to, not with these… people.”

At this point, near the end of the first episode of The Gates, you’re inclined to sympathize with her. True, Claire’s a desperate housewife (yawn). But she’s also a bloodsucking monster, demonstrated just a few minutes in, when she brings a big lug of a contractor (Johnny Messner) into her home and, when he comes on to her — so crudely — dispatches with him efficiently. “I have a thing for kitchens,” she purrs, arranging him so when the blood starts flowing, it’s captured in the sink. No matter her misery or frustration. Claire’s got a knack for this vampire thing.

Dylan insists that she repress that knack. And much like the prissy boys on Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, he’s got a rationale that emerges from his particular era. If Darren worried about his manhood and Major Nelson his career (arguably, the same difference), Dylan professes a sensitive man’s concern for their young daughter, adopted and apparently a non-vampire. He’s hoping to keep the family intact in The Gates, the extremely secure community where they might feel safe from the dangers outside, that is, he says, the dangers posed by “our crowd.”

Inside, he and the wife enjoy a certain superiority within the local food chain, being surrounded by werewolves and witches along with some humans: they’re also able to walk around in daylight (by slathering on a special lotion), show up in mirrors and videos, and generally not be bothered by the usual vampire rules. It’s not precisely clear how the population here breaks down demographically — those identified include a couple of witches and some white-boy bullies who are also werewolves — but it is clear that the humans are clueless and the non-humans are aware of each other, if not precisely best friends. It appears that they’ve all hunkered down in The Gates owing to troubles outside, doing their best to keep low profiles. Still, as the series begins, they’re running into troubles inside too, mainly because they’re crossing paths with those others that Claire so disgustedly calls “people,” those dreary, weak, and perpetually moralistic victims-to-be.

A set of those people provides your way into this closed community. The new sheriff in town, or rather, the new police chief, Nick (Frank Grillo) and his family arrive from Chicago, thrilled with the extravagant new home they’re assigned (with “a pool!”, squeals daughter Dana [McKaley Miller]) and not anticipating the complications you can see coming from a mile away. “Things are gonna be better here,” Nick promises his wife Sarah (Marisol Nichols). You can imagine that’s pretty what Dylan told Claire when they moved in.

Nick’s got his own outside troubles, namely a career as a Chicago detective that went wrong. A cop who goes by his instincts, he’s immediately suspicious of Claire and Dylan when he heads over to ask about that missing contractor. It appears that The Gates’ “entire perimeter” is under surveillance 24-7, as junior cop Marcus (Justin Miles) tells his new boss, via all manner of super-duper technology. This makes it hard to hide corpses and sneak in and out of the literal gates, though apparently those werewolf kids sneak out at night for macho-proving “runs” (any resemblance to Twilight‘s pack must be incidental, yes?).

Nick impresses his new team by interpreting the videos with a keen eye for detail (that’s his city-cop experience kicking in) and disappoints Sarah when he distrusts Claire based on the fact that “her husband started answering questions for her.” In fact, Dylan’s controlling tendencies are vexing all around: he slams Claire around when he’s mad, he berates her for not following the rules, and he disdains the humans whom views as irritants — even though it appears his cute little daughter with the pink backpack is one of them.

Dylan’s extended family issues aside, the series looks ready to compare some similar het-couple dynamics, where boys don’t quite recognize what’s in front of them — whether the couples are vampire, human, or mixed, as in the case of sweet blond high schooler Andi (Skyler Samuels) and her football player-werewolf boyfriend (Colton Haynes). I’m kind of hoping that in addition to offering a chance to parody Jacob (and his Team too), Brett might also deliver a clever gloss on the ever-earnest Friday Night Lights. For now, like most everyone else stuck inside The Gates, he’s looking righteously restless.

RATING 6 / 10