The TV show of Blade ran for another 11 episodes after the pilot. And for the most part, they continued at the same high standard.
Plot threads were developed. Characters revealed new depths and aspects, but remained true to what we had seen. New characters were introduced who had impact on the story. An overarching story took shape, and came to a satisfying conclusion.
By the end of the last episode, the status quo had been shaken up and a new one had not been established yet. We had some resolution, but enough plot threads were left hanging for a good foundation to build a second series on. We had become invested in the characters, and wanted to see what happened next
The End of the Series
And then the show was axed.
The viewing figures had started well – the pilot was number one in the male 18-29 demographic – and they remained pretty good for the rest of the run. But unfortunately, it was expensive to produce, and Spike TV was a new player in the TV market. They just couldn’t afford to keep making it.
It’s a real shame, because I would hold Blade up as a great example of how to do a TV show based on a film.
The team clearly had an idea for what would happen in the show from the outset, and understood the different strengths of television from film. Every episode built on the previous one, furthering the overall plot.
Was it perfect?
No. There were certainly missteps along the way – sometimes the character development was a little rushed, almost coming out of nowhere. Krista’s growing attraction to the vampire world could have been shown more explicitly to set up some points later on in the season.
One point that I didn’t mention in the pilot is a scene where Blade goes to interrogate a tattooist, who is working on a woman who is shown topless. The semi-nudity is entirely gratuitous and seems to have been included either for random fanservice or in order to get an adult rating for the show. This goes on throughout the series, with a woman appearing topless in a single scene and is then never heard of again. The show would suffer no loss if they had been covered up – in most cases they could, and should, have been left out entirely.
There was one, and only one, episode whose main story I would call filler, but even there, the secondary plots were important. It was just that Blade had nothing to do until the other characters had reached the point where the next part of the story arc could move forward.
That episode is actually the most like an episode of Angel – someone is abducting women from a nightclub, and Shen is asked for help by the sister of one of the victims. It’s pretty dull and adds nothing to the series beyond a tiny bit of characterisation for Shen.
Shen, of all the main characters, is the least well developed – this is just about his only moment in the spotlight, except for two scenes in the final episode, and it’s a very lightweight episode. It’s a shame he didn’t get to do more. But it would have been something to work on in the second season.
For the most part though, the good points outweighed the bad.
So how does it compare to the competition?
Blade vs Buffy
The show understood what it was going to be, and stuck to its guns.
Over the course of these reviews, I’ve pointed out some of the similarities with Buffy and Angel. But Blade didn’t try to follow those shows’ direction, even when they covered similar ground.
Blade is a vampire hunter, but unlike Buffy, he isn’t trying to balance this with a normal life. He kills vampires – that’s what he does. No friends beyond his network of allies, no hobbies or interests that we see. He isn’t struggling to find a place in the world – he knows who he is and has accepted, even chosen this life, rather than resenting his destiny.
It’s interesting to note the triumvirate of the vampire baddies at the beginning of the series: the big bad, who acts mostly through his agents; a hulking strong man who gains extra strengths in the pilot; and a rather petite and beautiful blonde woman. Was Goyer inspired by The Harvest? Maybe, but it’s quite possible that it’s just a fairly standard contrasting group that just echoes Buffy. Certainly, from that point, the two series diverged sharply,
Blade vs Angel
Like Angel, Blade was an urban vampire story. There were heavy analogies between the blood thirst and drug addiction. But where Angel was in search of redemption, Blade was only seeking an end to the vampires. If he helped the helpless, it was incidental to his fight.
Goyer has said that, in fact, one of the biggest inspirations for the show was the Sopranos. Being turned into a vampire becomes a metaphor for joining the mafia, with each house being a different crime family, a theme that never really came up on Angel.
Vampire: The Masquerade
Angel had been a vampire for centuries, whose soul was returned and sought atonement. Krista was a new vampire, fighting to hold on to her humanity and perhaps feeling it slip away.
In some ways, the closest thing to Blade is Vampire: The Masquerade.
The vampires can be seen as having Fortitude, Celerity and Potence to varying degrees, but few other disciplines. One common aspect of vampires that never came up in Blade was hypnotism or mind-affecting glamour. But it would be easy to imagine one or more of the Houses from the TV show having such abilities and jealously guarding their secrets, which would be analogous to a Clan Discipline.
It would be fairly simple to run a Blade campaign using those rules. Eliminate or severely restrict most of the non-physical Disciplines, recast the clans as houses and work up some rules for Daywalkers and Blade’s serum.
Films vs TV
The films gave us about five and a half hours of entertainment of variable quality. There was no plan for the series as a whole, with each instalment being divorced from the previous one. They were fun in their way, but didn’t really stick out from the rest of the action genre apart from being based on a comic book about vampires. But they are remembered, or at least the first one is.
The TV show gave us about 9 hours of drama, with a clear direction, well-defined characters who all had their own goals and methods, and a consistent tone throughout. It had the time to develop its ideas and found its own way through the story. And yet, it’s almost forgotten.
You can get the box sets of DVDs for about the same price, and I know which one I would recommend.
Overall, I have to say that I honestly think that the series is better than the films, in every respect apart from perhaps the effects. If the show had the budget of the films, or a network more able to sustain the costs, who knows? People might think of Wesley Snipes the way they do about Kristy Swanson – they were fine in their way, but only remembered as being the one that was cut out of continuity when the real thing came along.
There are rumours of a reboot and possible inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think that it would be easier to do it like Daredevil and have a series on Netflix than to try to drag him into the next Avengers team-up movie. If they do decide to do it, I hope that they go back and look at the TV show and build on Blade’s last outing.
Steve works full-time for the NHS and tries not to spend too much of his day plotting out his series of vampire novels. Away from the office, he divides his time between playing games where he is a vampire, playing games where he hunts vampires, and playing with Lego (he has numerous Lego vampires).