Occasionally there is a moment when I’m in the middle of a fantastic train wreck of a show and I realize that I not only care deeply about these characters but I’m totally, 100% hooked, most recently this happened as I was halfway through Bitten.
Bitten, based off the first novel of the same name in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, is about a pack of werewolves who formally hosted the only known, living female of their kind. Now I actually read this book over a decade ago so when the show popped up on Netflix I instantly remembered huge chunks of the plot. Elena and Clay used to be together but shit fell apart, she’s now living in Toronto with her nice but boring boyfriend Phillip, and at least two of my favorite characters die. Knowing these things did not stop me from watching the show, I’m all about the journey not the destination.
The pilot opens with some truly unnecessary sex. This did not sit well with me and lead me to believe that this show would not try very hard to escape the romantic aspects of the source material. If I remember correctly the opening pages of the book detailed Elena not being able to sleep because her body was itching to change so she snuck out as to not alarm Phillip. I began to wonder how often this would happen. Instead of female introspection would the audience be subjected to saxophone-orchestrated images of white people boning?
Yes and no. There were more than a handful of changes from the book but that was to be expected considering a number of factors most importantly like how to take a novel and stretch it out over the course of 13 episodes with the hope of even more seasons. Logan, another younger werewolf who Elena is closest to, who doesn’t live very long in the book not only manages to survive but also triggers a whole new storyline that further plays into the second season. Nick, who is seen as loveable but easy to write off in Armstrong’s pages is much more fleshed out on screen leaving you wanting many more scenes with him.
Elena does fall into the agonizing trope of stubborn, reckless protagonist. She is constantly going against orders and putting herself in danger for any number of reasons. She doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt, she doesn’t need anyone else’s help, she underestimates the problem, blah blah blah. But I will say though at times it seems like she is written as a jaw-clenchingly, over-powered, typical female badass without any depth there is a good balance. She doesn’t always need to be rescued but she also isn’t the strongest in the pack rendering the rest of the wolves completely useless. She is the best tracker because she was trained to be a great tracker, she is a good fighter because she had to keep up with an all-male species that wants to use or kill her. She is renowned for unchallenged brilliance but her pack highly values her cleverness. Her flaws subtly make her a much better character.
I’ll admit the first half of the season I watched an episode a night as I tidied up my room before bed. It was perfect multi-tasking television. I didn’t need to pay rapt attention while they uncovered clues about who has been leaving a trail of murdered bodies around the pack’s property. Every night I put away my makeup, checked my email, sorted laundry, and occasionally looked up at the TV while the wolves worked out their familial problems. But at some point around the sixth or seventh episode I became engrossed. I can’t pinpoint exactly what happened but the stories finally fell into place and my love for the characters evolved into embarrassing adoration.
On one hand the show is very Canadian, which is to be expected as half the story takes place in Toronto but for someone who watched a lot of Degrassi growing up the slight accents and the just barely noticeable “less-than” filming quality stood out like a sore thumb. That being said, the action scenes were well-thought out and filmed beautifully. Also even though most Americans still think of Canada as the boring apartment above a really cool party their laws on censorship are still far superior than ours. This show featured so many dude booty shots I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The sex scenes were way more graphic than would be allowed on prude American channels. They weren’t HBO levels of nipples and orgies but they were still much more revealing and explicit. Awesome.
The pack is cast with a diverse group of men with strikingly differently personalities. Jeremy the pack leader and only father figure Elena has ever known! Clay the brooding ex with a million secrets and never-ending loyalty! Antonio the beta who wears expensive suits like it’s his fuckin’ job! Pete the most huggable ginger wolf who brightens every room he walks into! So many werewolves to love and so little time!
By the final episodes there are some “big reveals” that were so predictable it hurt but still others that even caught me off guard. In the finale it comes down to the big epic battle at Stonehaven and, man alive, do we witness some gruesome deaths. There were lots of slow motion body flips and smoke bombs but also a ton of bloody demises and again with the lax censorship laws after coming back from one commercial break we given lengthy panning shots of all the carnage as if they were sprawling landscapes. It’s both jarring and entertaining as all hell to see the massacre up close like that.
This show really surprised me and I’m so glad it got picked up for another season. Like most shows I talk about in these articles, it’s definitely not for everyone but if you’re looking for an easy supernatural-themed show that, for once, doesn’t feature vampires then this might be for you. There isn’t a lot of humor but the fight scenes are fantastic and the family bond between the wolves is heart-breaking. Also so many butts. If anything, do it for the butts.