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acrossthelake
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December 2012
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Kindred: The Embraced: A Highly Biased and Partial Review by acrossthelake

So after discussing it briefly with milkcracker I’ve been inspired to do a long review/rant about the short-lived TV show Kindred: The Embraced. If the name isn’t a dead giveaway it was based off of White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade, which I know that much of my friends list is not familiar with,but when has this stopped me in the past? I will endeavor to make the review at least a bit accessible.


Apparently K:TE was first broadcast around the same time that the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired, and you can see which went on to occupy the California-based vampire TV show niche. As goofy and nonsensical as Buffy always was, it was at least solidly entertaining which is more than can be said for this crap. One of the biggest things about V:TM and the other World of Darkness games was that as full of themselves and pretentiously artsy as they could be, they were still meant to be just really stupid, cheesy fun. K:TE is stupid, but it is not cheesy or indeed fun. It’s just really, really boring. How is it boring, I hear you cry? To begin with, all the characters are completely bland across the board. The plot mostly centers around the vampire prince of the city, Julian Luna, who is one of those annoying milquetoasts who regrets his sordid past of evil vampiric deeds and is always trying to atone for them. This mostly comes in the form of dating the boring (and human) hard-nosed reporter Caitlin and angsting a lot with her about how hard his life is. There’s a boring human cop who Doesn’t Play By The Rules and so gets involved in vampiric affairs—Masquerade-breakingly so, in fact, to the point where there’s no way that he would be allowed to live without being ghouled or Embraced himself. Julian is surrounded by equally boring primogen (representatives of the Camarilla clans, for the layman) whose personalities can be summed up as Generic Buisinessman, Femme Fatale, Tough-ish Guy and The Ugly One.

On the subject of the clans, the show's set in San Francisco which is a Camarilla city. This is fine, but not only are the Malkavians and Tremere nowhere to be seen, the remaining clans bear very little resemblance to the clans whose names they bear. The Brujah, for instance, are all middle-aged white dudes with mob ties, which I’m sure is true for many Brujah but out on the west coast of America which is pretty much Brujah anarch central this is not a representative sample. Also for some reason they have an age-old feud with the Gangrel, who are portrayed as more Brujah-like—they all go around on motorcycles looking like Lost Boys extras and picking fights and not having any animal features at all. So the Brujah are the Giovanni, the Gangrel are the Brujah and the Nosferatu are nowhere near as ugly as they ought to be. One major plot point involves Daedalus, the Nossie primogen, falling in love with a nightclub singer who he’s sure will never love him ‘cause he’s so horribly grotesque. The guy is a pale, slightly dociocephalic bald dude with oddly-shaped ears—you could give him a fucking wig and he’d look fine. Using “alchemy” (wtf?) he basically does this and manages to get with this lady for a night, whereupon she awakens the next morning to see him sans hair and freaks the everloving hell out despite the fact that he looks exactly the same as he did the previous night minus a weird Fabio-looking mullet. (This show is incredibly early 90s, did I mention that? The shoulder pads and giant frizzy perms are inescapable.) It wouldn’t be so bad if the other Nosferatu looked at all different from each other, but it’s pretty much long ears and largish bald heads across the board, without a pustule or missing nose to be seen.

Daedalus, however, remains pretty much the most interesting character of all due to at least having some semblance of personality. (This personality is extremely creepy and leads him to do stuff like stalking the aforementioned singer and abducting a terminally ill little boy from a hospital for company. However, as this is something I would actually expect/enjoy from a show set in WoD, I quite liked it all.) The only other character who has any hint of interest about them is Julian’s great-great-granddaughter who’s sort of a tough biker chick with sadly awful taste in guys.[1] I mean, this is San Francisco. Canonically, this is where Oscar Wilde went after his Embrace! He could have been the Toreador primogen (though if they’d kept the rest of the primogen the same they would probably have all been erased from existence by the force of his sheer charisma compared to theirs.) Lily, the actualfax Toreador primogen, basically exists to hang around being the token girl and also being jealous of Julian’s mortal girlfriend who she (indirectly) attempts to kill at one point in one of the most hilarious episodes which revolves around an evil Nosferatu making a Druidic blood sacrifice of a baby (?) to restore Clan Nosferatu to its original power over the other clans (?) instead of the bleeding-heart Ventrue who are all about trying to keep the Masquerade by acting humane and kind (???). The only allusion to another clan is an appearance by an extremely subpar Assamite assassin who makes two botched attempts on Julian’s life and then gets shot by the eeeevil Brujah primogen who hired her in the first place. [2]

So a great deal of noise is made about the clans and their idiosyncracies but they might as well have not even kept the clans because there’s very little to distinguish them besides a lot of lip service to a defining characteristic. Everyone, for instance, seems to have the same powers—pretty much all of them can turn into wolves, use Protean claws and Dominate people more or less indiscriminately. The loss of all these nuances in what I assume was an attempt to make the setting more mainstream sucked out all the interest of the setting leaving behind a rather hollow shell. They try to pump up the interest by taking the whole “vampirism is sexy” route, but this tends to fall flat due to the lack of anything resembling charisma or chemistry between actors. Nearly everyone is straight and pasty white (again, in San Francisco) and the Bechdel test is basically nowhere with the one exception of a rather nice scene between Lily and Sasha where they talk about dealing with the Beast's encroachment after the Embrace. The rest of my whining is mostly nitpicky stuff. Vampires can be out during the day if they've fed recently and otherwise just start smouldering a bit. Ghouling doesn't seem to exist. Dominate can be used without making eye contact. Did I mention everyone has at least Protean 2? That really bugs me for some reason.

I considered doing a blow-by-blow review of each episode but that would entail watching the whole thing again which I think would just make me hate this whole thing even more. Alternately my BF has suggested doing a MST3K-style mockery of it in character as some of our past V:TM PCs, which if I could get a large enough group of friends together I'd be sorely tempted to do.


[1] Her name was Sasha, which kept making me imagine Sascha Vykos in place of her. This was way funnier than it perhaps should have been.

[2] Presumably he didn’t have the money to hire ms. Al-Faquadi, who would have offed Julian within the first five minutes and then gone on to pray, fix her hair and then walk off into the sunrise looking badass for the rest of the episode.

Comments

Upside down LJ is upside down. Also hi! And Merry Christmas. Now, comments!

Wait a minute. Aren't city leaders traditionally Ventrue? Ie smug uppity bastards?
Vampire with boring mortal girlfriend, how very Twilight.
Just what WOD needs. MORE WANGST!

What, no blood wizards. No wonder your show failed you monster.

Woe, I am bald. This means I am a hideous monster who no-one could ever love. I will disguise my uglyness using A POTION then seduce her.

Wow, it's like they almost understand that Nosferatu are usually kinda creepy.

Nosferatu's original power what?

San Fransisco is well known for its 99% white population and unremarkable night life.

Blow by Blow of every episode? I will summarise for you.
AAAA WHY IS THIS SO AWFUL GOD WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? UGH NO THAT'S NOT HOW THAT WORKS. SO MUCH WHITENESS. THIS IS TERRIBLE WHY AM I WATCHING THIS I COULD BE STABBING MY FACE WITH NEEDLES WHYYYYY.
So now you can do something more fun instead (Read Howl's Moving Castle is my suggestion)

Hi!

Wait a minute. Aren't city leaders traditionally Ventrue? Ie smug uppity bastards?

Yeah, Julian's a Ventrue but he's the most boringly nice Ventrue ever. He does rather talk down to the other clans sometimes but he's usually presented as being justified in this.

Woe, I am bald. This means I am a hideous monster who no-one could ever love. I will disguise my uglyness using A POTION then seduce her.

It's like they based the Nosferatu on the Guruhi from Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom, one of the most racially insensitive WoD books way up there with World of Darkness: Gypsies. The Guruhi, a Nosferatu bloodline, are considered the Ventrue-esque ruling clan in Africa (no specific part of Africa, just "the continent of Africa") and their clan flaw's that instead of being ugly across the board they get uglier as they get more emotional. In K:TE this is reflected in the evil Nosferatu guy and his girlfriend who show up in town looking way uglier than the others because they've "given themselves over to evil" or some crap. Annoyingly, their look, which was a lot more like the generic Count Orlock/Bat Boy-esque Nosferatu look, plus freaky catlike pupils, couldn't have been that much harder to pull off and would have been a much better design for Daedalus et al to boot.

I admit I've given Diana Wynne Jones a look in the past and never really managed to get into any of her books. But hey, I've got a whole Christmas break.

That's not Ventrue at all. What's this "justification" for talking down to people rubbish? You're Ventrue. That's justification IN ITSELF. Well, for a Ventrue anyhow.

Africa's not that big right. we don't need to have different regions and stuff. there's jsut some brown people there right? Oh WOD. At least that appearance would have some justification for "I'm a horrible monster"
So far all I'm getting from the show is "ugly people aren't that ugly", "bald = ugly" and "You're not getting laid because you're ugly" Kinda sending mixed messages here guys. Mixed. And Awful.

And aww. I haven't read anything else she's done so I can't offer handy comparisons. I did enjoy Howl's though. And it's certainly better than this vampire show :p

Julian Luna. Luna . I have to admit that I am sucker for the people-atoning-for-their-past trope, but somehow this doesn't sound like they went out of their way to make it good.

Yeah, they didn't. Near the end of the season it's revealed that his actions when he was what amounted to the scourge led to the Brujah being so angry at the establishment (Brujah need a reason for that now?) but it was all played in such a cliched manner and starring such lackluster people that I really couldn't be arsed to care. And yes, dumbest/most obvious name ever.

I don't get how they could have fucked up the clans this badly. Or the disciplines for that matter. And a goody two shoes Ventrue prince in the fucking Anarch Free State is not going to stay prince for long. Or alive. Hell, even a relatively ruthless prince like Lacroix got his ass kicked.

IKR? The overarching plot for the season with the Brujah jockeying for power and taking the prince down would be the perfect setup for this. Infighting ensues, Smiling Jack swoops in at the head of an anarch army who take San Francisco for themselves, problem solved.

I like your version of the sacrifice reason much better. As it was, my BF and I spent the whole episode making jokes about the "Stonehenge" bit from This is Spinal Tap. They had a tiny henge set up and everything. :D

With Sascha involved, the series would have ended with 'and then all the characters were turned into furniture and San Francisco became a Sabbat city.' Actually, that possibly would have made the series actually entertaining.

Yes. Yes it would. The ensuing pincer movement that would crush the Free State between San Fran and Mexico City would suck, but it would still be more entertaining than this.

Hmm. Know nothing about this 'verse, but also totally hate it when key points are fucked up in or entirely left out of the 'verses I do like when it becomes a movie/show. I feel your pain there.

Fun fact for you: Sasha the biker girl was played by Princess Athena from Quest of the Delta Knights. George lit upon that one time while we were all watching it after a RP session and I haven't been able to unsee it since.

LOL!

You saw this show! That makes, like, three people including myself who I know to have seen it.

Fun fact, according to my sources, K:tE was based on First Ed V:TM, which is why vampires who have recently fed can stand sunlight for short periods. But that doesn't explain the utter mess they made of Clans and Disciplines. UGH.

OK, yeah, that throws some of it into perspective. I assumed that, due to the intense focus on the Camarilla and the randomly making the Brujah bad guys instead of the Sabbat/anarchs, it was a product of an earlier edition but I didin't actually know the sunlight thing. Still, if they were going to go the Camarilla route the least they could've done was include the Malks and Tremere--a few more vampire characters and Frank the Boring Cop could have been edged out completely! (I didn't like him. It's possible I liked him even less than everyone else, in fact.)

Edited at 2011-12-28 12:37 pm (UTC)

Oh you've *got* to be kidding me.