Peacock keeps trying to make it happen as a streaming service. Lately, the service has had a bunch of problems when it comes to grabbing the attention of audiences. Peacock just doesn’t have enough interesting content to make people run to create an account for it. It is a shame, but it is the normal course of events when the streaming environment is just so polluted with extreme competition. Peacock will try once again to draw an audience with the debut of Vampire Academy. Let’s review this new series and see if they can actually achieve their goal.
Vampire Academy is a TV series adapted from the series of books of the same name, written by Richelle Mead. The series is developed by Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre. The series stars Sisi Stringer, Daniela Nieves, Kieron Moore, and André Dae. The series tells the story of Rose and Lissa, best friends living in the world of vampires. Sisi is a dhampir, part human, part vampire, and serves as a guardian to the vampire elite. Meanwhile, Lissa is part of the powerful Dragomir family, one of the most important vampire families in the world.
Vampire Academy has always been like a teenage version of the more adult and interesting IP “Vampire: The Masquerade” and as such, it deals with subjects and stories that are closer to a soap opera than to a proper adult fantasy saga. This isn’t bad. There is an audience for every single story out there. However, it is clear that Peacock is aiming for maximum audience reach, and in the process, it has created a vampire without teeth. Vampire Academy doesn’t only feel familiar but also feels very dated.
This isn’t a high-budget production. You can feel it in the costume design, the music, the sets, and the cinematography. This is a series that is made with efficiency, low cost, and quick turnarounds in mind. The result is a TV series that feels and looks cheap and doesn’t really sell the interesting universe that can be explored when dealing with vampires, their politics, and mythology. What we get instead is a soap opera that starts with a good premise, but then focuses on character conflicts that are just too cliché to make us care.
The performances are fine. The actors are doing the best they can with the material that has been given to them. Stringer and Nieves are great as the main characters of the show. They do feel like they have a nice relationship with each other, and that helps sell the fact that their characters are supposed to be best friends in the story. What really hurts the acting is that the storylines and the dialogue are very generic, as it is everything concerning world-building in the show.
The Masquerade is one of the most interesting and expansive media universes in the world. Vampire Academy might not have the expansive nature of that franchise, but it could. Sadly, the series lacks the resources to achieve that goal. Not only do the sets and costumes look cheap, but also the way the series is shot. The directing is very by the numbers, and you can feel that the filmmakers are running against the clock to make these episodes as fast as they can. There is no sense of composition or care in the images we see. It is very jarring.
The same happens with the story. The series just starts, and it feels like you’re missing big chunks of the story. As an introduction to the universe, this season might feel not like “too much information” but like “too little”. These characters need the time to establish meaningful relationships with each other so that we, as audiences, can care about what happens to them. In its current form, the show is focusing too much on cliché plot points and not enough on the characters.
As the series progresses, some developments end up finding their stride, but they never go the extra mile so that they can be shocking or impressive looking. We really need more focus on what makes Lissa and Rose click, and interacting with others in meaningful ways might be what is needed. Will the series have the time to achieve that? Only time will tell, but as it is right now, there isn’t much hope for that happening. The series needs more money and more time.
Even the action sequences, which are so important for a show like this, end up feeling quite tame. The choreography isn’t precisely impressive; it is fine, but the lack of well-shot frames keeps the action mostly confusing. It is the old trick of cutting too much between each punch or kick. The battle sequences end up feeling like a mess instead of exciting and interesting. Not many people are able to do action on camera, it is a hard challenge. Vampire Academy doesn’t over the challenge, at least for now.
Vampire Academy doesn’t have what it takes to bring a new audience to Peacock. The streaming service is just operating at a level that is way below everything that is being done right now in the streaming space. Other platforms like HBO, Netflix, and Apple TV are doing their best, and they are pouring tons of money and talent into their shows. Vampire Academy still feels like something that could have been released 15 years ago. Peacock needs to go for high quality if they want to stand out.