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Review: The Gates 1x1

Posted on June 24, 2010 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Gates

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, ABC

'Gated communities' are a largely US phenomenon that haven't quite caught on over here yet. The idea is to build a whole load of houses and 'McMansions', together with shops, schools and other important facilities in a nice area away from not-so-nice areas - then stick a great big fence round it. The aim is to stop bad people turning up, stealing things, killing people and so on, by keeping them out of the community altogether.

There's an obvious flaw in this plan: what if the evil's already inside the community? What are they going to do then to protect themselves against the witches, vampires and werewolves then, huh?

Yes, you read that right: witches, vampires and werewolves. Oh, but hang on, turns out that maybe the witches, vampires and werewolves might create their own gated community to keep the humans out. Because, you know, monsters have issues, too.

Plot
The Monohan family move into their new home in The Gates, an exclusive community of perfectly manicured lawns and friendly neighbors. But things grow complicated when Nick Monohan, the new Chief of Police, has to investigate those neighbors in a missing persons case during his first day on the job. Claire and Dylan Radcliff fight to hide not only their involvement in Nick's case, but their rather unusual family secret. Meanwhile, Charlie Monohan tries to adjust to his new school, finding a friend in the beautiful but unavailable Andie Bates. Just when his family is finally settling in, Nick's world is rocked by a late-night caller with some terrible news.

Is it any good?
It's okay, kind of a PG-13 cross between Nightbreed and Blue Velvet, where the seemingly perfect community is exposed as harboring terrible secrets. But it's not quite sure whether it wants to be a horror story or a black comedy. Which isn't to say it couldn't be both, only that it needs to be doing both at the same time, rather than one or the other.

The show revolves around three groups of people: disgraced former Chicago detective Nick Monohan, who has just become the new chief of police for "The Gates"; their neighbours, the Radcliffs, who are English and vampires (cue jokes about British teeth); Nick's son Charlie who fancies a girl at school - she fancies him back but unfortunately is dating a possessive werewolf who doesn't want to let her go; and a local group of witches who use potions and magic to help the vampires and other monsters deal with their issues (such as not being able to go out in sunlight and their cravings for blood).

Monahan is a bit of an obsessive who goes in all guns blazing so he's quite keen on investigating the disappearance of a contractor, even if his fellow officers aren't for some reason, and neither is the guy who hired Monahan. But it's him whom we follow in getting to know The Gates and he's a reasonable enough if somewhat one-dimensional guy for us to follow - that's one more dimension than his wife has, mind.

Nevertheless, the show is unsurprisingly more interested in our array of monsters, and as with Nightbreed, wants to show that maybe the monsters aren't so different from us. Mr Radcliff is the CEO of a pharmaceutical firm. He may have been the one who 'turned' his wife, but they have an adopted daughter and he's going to try his hardest to make sure she has a normal life - outside The Gates, she won't last long in the vampire community they'd have to return to.

The werewolves have heightened senses and are full of teenage hormones, full of anger and aggression. But they want to fit in and they'll stick by the rules inside the community. The witches seem to have something of a split, with one witch wanting to run her potion business her way while the others remain traditionalists.

Sustaining interest
But as of the first episode, it's clear that two things are going to drive The Gates: finding out who runs it, why, and why all the monsters have turned up there; and waiting to see how long it will be before the Monahan family finds out what their neighbours are really like and what will happen when they find out.

These mysteries are enough to sustain interest in The Gates, which is good because most of the characters and actors aren't (with the exception of former Lara Croft Rhona Mitra (Stargate Universe) who is particularly good). Surprisingly, most of the characters are a little dull and ordinary, the human women being particularly bad served by the script even while Mitra's character fares well.

Along with the occasional effect that doesn't quite work (for example, Mitra's vampire-flying), it's just the occasional forays into black comedy that occasionally let the show down. Look, there's a body in the fridge and the husband's pissed off about it! Very funny. Does slightly destroy the ability to suspend disbelief though, doesn't it?

So, on balance, one to have a look at maybe to see how it develops.

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