Thursday, September 15, 2022

REVIEW: 'Vampire Academy' - Rose and Lissa's Friendship Evolves After a Tragedy Rocks the Vampire Community in 'Pilot'

Peacock's Vampire Academy - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

After Rose and Lissa's plans for the future are upended by tragedy, a new Guardian puts Rose's job at risk. Meanwhile, Lissa comes to terms with her new role at court as danger lurks beyond the wards.

"Pilot" was written by Julie Plec & Marguerite MacIntyre and directed by Bille Woodruff

Rose and Lissa have been best friends since a young age. They are bonded as family. As teenagers, they are counting down the days until they graduate and can explore the world together. They don't particularly care about the political machinations that dictate so much of their world. Rose and Lissa have long been given special privileges despite coming from different worlds. Lissa is a Moroi from a royal family. Her older brother has been tapped to serve as the next monarch of this community. She's in close proximity to power. Meanwhile, Rose is a lower-ranked Dhampir training to become a Guardian. Her entire life is based around protecting the vampires deemed more worthy. An entire class system has been established. It's a hierarchal structure meant to convey worth based on a set of criteria that must be acknowledged at all times. People can never escape their place in this world. That's what makes Rose and Lissa stand out. They are allowed to be roommates at the academy. They have their future together mapped out. Rose will become Lissa's guardian because she's ranked at the top of her class. Of course, the show barely puts in the effort to back up those claims of dominance. Rose is taken down by Dimitri, Mason and a random Strigoi in the span of its first episode. Sure, she does some cool parkour as she makes her way down the roof to greet Lissa upon her return to school. The choice was simply made to see her get knocked down instead of showing why she is worthy of so much praise and attention. She matters because Lissa is central to the overall proceedings. They share a bond that hopefully transcends the rigid rules of this society. They will clash with all of those expectations. And yet, the basic plot points are really quite blatant to see play out. Family means so much to Rose and Lissa. As such, it's then inherently tragic for those loved ones to die in a tragic accident. The entire order is upset because Andre can't ascend to the throne. The Queen has to stay in her position even longer as she has to navigate what this upheaval means for the royal court. It's really quite complex. It also showcases a desire to be multiple shows at once. The academy is simultaneously a place where these young vampires learn the skills to carry them forward as well as the palace where all these political moves of intrigue occur. It doesn't really commit one way or the other. Lissa isn't tasked with learning the old language of her heritage until she has to step up as the face of her royal bloodline. Rose has to constantly fight for her place. That matters so much to her. She details exactly what Lissa means to her. The Queen takes notice of that affection. It's inspiring for her. Rose and Lissa are simply unable to receive the future they want for themselves. Instead, that's all taken away in service to a plot that deems itself more important.

All of this builds to the Queen declaring Lissa as her new successor. That doesn't appear likely to occur anytime soon. The transition was ready to be made when Andre was given that designation. Lissa barely knows how to navigate through the delicate political balance of this world. That carries its own specific set of dangers. Beyond the walls, the Strigoi can attack at any time. It's dangerous for anyone to be caught outside at night. Of course, the various vampires have to be careful in the sunlight as well. The benefits of not turning into Strigoi are getting to wield magical powers. Christian can bend fire. That's impressive. It's not enough for the entire community to quit shunning him for his parents' actions. He hasn't made the same decisions as them. And yet, he's blamed because he has been left behind. Lissa refuses to alienate him. In fact, she finds him quite charming. The show is already establishing the romantic connection between Lissa and Christian. The same is true of Rose and Dimitri. All of that is rather apparent. The true bond needs to be between Rose and Lissa. They are the ones who have glimpses of feeling strong emotions together. When Lissa is in a heightened state, Rose can experience it as well. That can arguably be used to explain why she fails in her challenge against Mason. She doesn't quite know how to make sense of it either. She understands that she's feeling closer to Lissa than ever before. That can possibly become a detriment. That connection may compromise her ability to be objective in her service to the Moroi. The two are separated following the incident of getting caught outside the walls when night falls. That is even more evidence for Rose not having all the skills to uphold this rigid order that deems Lissa more worthy of protection. Everyone is simply suppose to accept that. No one can challenge the decisions made by the Queen. That doesn't really make this a democracy. The royal families want to believe they wield power. They still dictate how they are more important. Those distinctions have to be made all the time. It means every vampire has to shine their eyes to prove what side of the divide they are on. It's so much pressure upholding a system that doesn't exactly have any merits. None are immediately presented. And yet, a couple of teenagers may change all of that. It's not exactly an oppressive regime they must fight against in the name of some righteous cause. Rose and Lissa play within the system. They follow the rules in pursuit of one day escaping to freedom. That's impossible to achieve because there would then be no show. As such, it's a false pursuit meant to convey defeat upon that realization. It's still a cheap way to build emotions for the audience. It doesn't ultimately succeed in making these characters engaged in a very distinct world that has allegories for the struggles the viewers face in our own reality.