Bitten / Screen

The Gang’s All Here: Bitten ‘Prodigal’ Review

Bitten‘s pilot was a relatively tame opener, light on the action and heavy on the building of Elena Michaels and the pack she abandoned to pursue a life of normalcy, but the second episode “Prodigal” delved a bit deeper into Elena’s past with the pack.  Picking up right where “Summons” left off, with Elena meeting Clayton at the gates of Stonehaven, tonight’s episode explored the life Elena’s been so eager to set behind her and the people at the center of it.   Like the premiere, “Prodigal” was a fun episode albeit a flawed one with more questionable dialogue and the unwelcome addition of short and needless flashbacks.  In many ways the premiere would have benefitted from a two-hour block as “Summons” and “Prodigal” felt less like standalone episodes and more like ones that would have played better back-to-back, with the latter filling in the gaps left by the premiere but finding a mostly bad way of doing it. 

Last week I lamented how Bitten left out large pieces of information vital to the main plot of the homicidal mutt, not to mention Elena’s special werewolf status, and “Prodigal” attempted to rectify that with a terrible voiceover that explained all the nuts-and-bolts of the werewolf system. It followed in the footsteps of the source material which was written in first person and full of info dumps just as clunky and cringeworthy as the one featured in tonight’s episode.

Long story short, there are rules that come with being a werewolf including secrecy and not killing humans unless the change happens in front of one of them (which would go back to the secrecy part thing).  Mutts are lone wolves who are “policed and punished” by the packs, and with Elena’s superior tracking abilities and former pack-appointed duty of dealing with the mutts, she’s the natural choice to locate the problem one now.

The flashbacks seemed like they were meant to fill in some blanks of Elena’s past, but they filled in blanks that had already been filled, making them unnecessary and flat points of the episode. The revisiting of Elena’s first visit to Stonehaven didn’t do anything more than confirm that Clayton and Elena were in love at one point and the second flashback showing Elena killing a man who was about to expose the existence of werewolves, didn’t do anything that earlier dialogue hadn’t already done.  It was already pretty clear that Clayton and Elena were romantically involved, and Elena had already talked about killing Jose Carter.  If flash backs are going to be there, they should be there for a reason, adding to the present day occurrences in more of way than simply illustrating what we’ve already been told.

Laura Vandervoort still had to wade through some wonky writing (as did her castmates), but she did solid work, and there were plenty of instances in which the relationships between the characters made for more compelling viewing, and allowed the cast to coast a bit on their chemistry.   Her scenes with the rest of the pack (excepting Clayton) were high points of the episode, as their interactions were familiar and funny at some times and sincere at others.  At times they dipped into over-exposition (if there is such a term), telling us about Jeremy’s rocky relationship with his father and Peter killing a groupie while on tour.  It wasn’t a bad thing to try to flesh out parts of these characters, but at this point there’s no reason to really care about anyone besides Elena so these forays into Jeremy’s and Peter’s pasts didn’t hold much attention.  If there’s anything that’s guaranteed about Bitten, it’s the appeal and importance of the pack dynamic.  Learning about Peter and Jeremy’s semi-tortured pasts this early on didn’t take, but there’s no reason to believe that the intrigue won’t pop up later.

That being said, I’d take learning loads of backstory on the rest of the pack members than dealing anymore with Clayton. I’m certain I’m supposed to find him less annoying than I do, though less clear is why that is.  The self-proclaimed “local psychopath” is aggravating and clingy, following Elena around despite her vocal desires for him to do otherwise, touching her even when she tells him not to and generally forcing himself into her space against her wishes.  Sex dreams aside, Elena’s more than clear about how she feels for Clayton, and whatever conflicting emotions she’s dealing with personally don’t erase what she tells Clayton she wants him to do: leave her alone.  The two of them having the same conversation over and over (Elena tells him she doesn’t like him/wants him to leave her be, he makes a joke out of it and hints at her still-present feelings) was tiring.   It doesn’t help that Vandervoort and Greyston Holk aren’t exactly exploding with chemistry.  No one is really, but the writing at least does a decent job of establishing everyone in their fun, sibling-esque relationships, but the same can’t be said of Elena and Clayton. Their “sexy” scenes are just uncomfortable with Elena’s continued protestations in her waking hours being so ignored by a guy who’s supposedly still in love with her.

Perhaps part of Bitten‘s struggle right now is its relatively strict adherence to the source material.  With the exception of a few minor alterations, these past couple of episodes have played out exactly like the opening chapters of the book on which the show is based.   There’s nothing wrong with being a loyal adaptation, but some things don’t work in television the way they do in novels so some tweaking is necessary to tell the best story possible.  The writers of Bitten, however, seem either unwilling to break form or unable to think of better ways to get the novel’s more complicated points across.  Actually, a better usage of the flashbacks would have been the explanation about the mutts, packs and female werewolves. If we’d found Elena a few years ago having it explained to her, that would have worked way better.

Random observations:

  • Clayton is still not cute.
  • Elena and Nick’s sparring match was well done, though the budget showed with the very long shots.
  • Everything Elena does appears to be marked by a little, annoying asterisk to inform us that she isn’t  like other girls (because other girls are, you know, inherently terrible or something). From her aversion to shopping to even the very large part of her story that is her being the only female werewolf because other women aren’t “strong enough” to survive the bite, it’s all over the place. 

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