TV Talk: Thoughts on Bitten Season 1
Unless you’ve been living outside of North America, you probably know that Kelley Armstrong’s werewolves have come to TV thanks to Canada’s Space channel in Bitten, a show named after the first book in Armstrong’s Otherworld series. The show was later picked up by Syfy in the States but it hasn’t debuted anywhere else to the best of my knowledge. As a Canadian, this meant that I got to watch it from Day 1, which was great. But then I lucked into my job in the UK and I moved mid-series and so I wasn’t able to keep up. I’m on holiday now I’m Canada so I figured I’d use the time to find out how things ended. I actually ended up binge watching the whole season over the past two days and decided to share my thoughts with you.
Before proceeding any any further, I should point out that there will be spoilers for both the TV show and the series. I’m assuming that anyone who continues with this post has either watched the series and read the books OR doesn’t mind spoilers. You have been warned!
How faithful is Bitten to the Otherworld series?
Bearing in mind that I’m writing this without re-reading BITTEN, I’d say that the show has retained the spirit and sensibility of the books, though there are some deviations from Armstrong’s novel. The world is very much as Armstrong created it: Elena is the only female werewolf, having survived being bitten by Clay; she’s in Toronto trying to lead a human life with her human boyfriend, Philip; Clay is still in love with Elena; changing into a werewolf ain’t fast or pretty; the Pack rules all and mutts are forced to live by the Pack’s rules or face the consequences; and the names of Pack members and mutts are the same). At first blush, it’s definitely the world that we know and love. There are some small differences but nothing that materially changes the nature of the characters or the setting, at least not right away. Logan is a psychologist in Toronto in the show, for example, and he lives with his girlfriend, who didn’t exist in the books. Phillip is a lot younger and hotter on TV than in the books, and Elena is very involved with his family. He has a much bigger role in the show, as well. Clay is no longer Southern-sounding but he retains his origin story. He’s also a lot more conflicted about his role as Jeremy’s enforcer, which probably makes him more likeable on TV. It could certainly have some interesting implications down the road. Jeremy’s no longer a translator — just a painter. None of these changes were problematic for me; after all, television is a very different medium from the page and Bitten needs to work for a broader audience to be commercially successful. Some of these alterations are going to really affect the series as they move into Season 2, especially Logan’s girlfriend.
The show is also fairly close to the book in terms of plot. Much like True Blood did with DEAD AFTER DARK, the first season of Bitten sticks to the major plot points of BITTEN: the mutts are biting human criminals to feed their war on the Pack and Elena is torn between her human life and her duty to the Pack. Again, the writers make some changes to the details of this storyline but it lays some very interesting groundwork for the next season. Fans of the book series could probably guess about at least one of these things (*cough* James Williams *cough*) but knowing where that storyline was heading didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the show. The show also gives some interesting backstory to unexpected characters, like Zachary Cain.
The development deal for Bitten was just for the werewolf part of the world so we’ll never get to see Jeremy and Jaime fall for each other, which is a bummer. But it does mean that the TV series doesn’t have/won’t be able to stick to the novels as closely in future episodes.
What about the casting?
I wasn’t entirely sold on the casting at first, mostly because they took away Jeremy’s Japanese heritage, but I’m a huge fan of Greg Bryk’s work so I couldn’t be all that upset. I also wasn’t blown away with the idea of Laura Vandervoort as Elena because I didn’t love her as Kara on Smallville (mostly a character issue, not an actor one) but she’s actually a fantastic Elena. She has off-the-charts chemistry with Greyston Holt, the actor playing Clay, plus she shares some steamy scenes with Philip. The rest of the cast does a great job of bringing their respective characters to life. Karl Marsden is really different from the books but I think Pascal Langdale serves the role well. He’s not the right physical match for the descriptions in the series but the character fits with the adjusted tone of the series.
Younger-than-the-book Philip took a bit of adjusting to, but a younger Philip also means that there’s some extra smoulder between him and Elena. In fact, there’s serious smoulder between pretty much all of the characters who get romantic. There’s also a lot of nudity in Bitten. Man chests galore is one way to describe the series. There’s also a lot of behinds. Apparently, the series got edited for US viewers but Canadians get the full, pushing-the-boundaries-of-a-10pm-timeslot nakedness! 🙂 I think they have the uncut version on Netflix so I guess American viewers will have a chance to get the full experience if they’re so inclined.
How do the wolves look?
Truthfully, not great. The graphics get better as the series progresses but they’re not the greatest. The series shines the actors are involved but I didn’t love the way the wolves were realised. I can only imagine how challenging they are to render. It’s not to say that they look terrible — but there are definitely some ways that they could be improved. The movement looks good but the fur could definitely use some tweaking. But, like I said, things start looking better as the series progresses so this is a minor quibble at best. Sorry to go back to True Blood again but the wolves on that show look way better!
So, is it any good?
Hell, yeah! I was a bit skeptical because I’m such a fan of the books but I thoroughly enjoyed this season. All 13 episodes are jammed full of action. The fight scenes are really well choreographed, especially when the werewolves aren’t holding back. Every episode ends in a way that has you eager for the next, including the season finale. Bitten is a solid show that everyone should be watching! Get caught up before Season 2 starts next year!