I once saw a Wolfblood having a pina colada at Trader Vic’s.
First things first: Forget the Disney Channel logo plastered all over the cover. Wolfblood was made in Wales, and aired on CBBC in Britain. As teen paranormal romances continue to be a hot ticket, the show has made its way to the US, with all 13 episodes of the first season on this two-disc DVD set.
Maddy Smith (Aimee Kelly) is an ordinary teenage girl, except that she and her family are Wolfbloods, transforming into wolves every full moon. Keeping this secret isn’t without its complications, but the Smiths are getting by. That is, until Rhydian (Bobby Lockwood) enters the scene. An adoptee with no knowledge of his birth parents, Rhydian is a Wolfblood, but has no understanding of what that means. So it’s up to Maddy to teach him and watch out for him. She struggles to keep both their secrets, and she struggles with her feelings for him.
The show surprised me in the opening few scenes of the first episode. It begins with a girl alone in the woods, being stalked by a wolf. I thought to myself, “Here’s the scene that begins every werewolf show/movie, where the hero is bitten.” But then, the girl stared down the wolf, and it was afraid of her. This led to another twist, involving the girl and her family which was not only amusing, but revealed a lot about who this girl is. Good job, Wolfblood, you got my attention.
Too bad, then, that the rest of the season failed to live up to this exciting opening. The show isn’t terrible, it’s just bland. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been in any number of other teen paranormal books/movies/shows in the last few years. You’ve got the super-nice girl hero who’s also somehow a social outcast, the handsome yet brooding guy in her life, the quirky-yet-lovable two best friends unaware of the supernatural freakiness, the small town in the middle of nowhere surrounded on all sides by perpetually fog-shrouded woods—it covers the whole teen paranormal checklist.
I recently sat down and actually watched all five Twilight movies—with help from the Rifftrax guys—so I can say with confidence that Twilight is a huge influence on Wolfblood. Anything interesting in the fantasy mythology is secondary to the deep, emotional longings. Effort is made, though, to keep things interesting. The creators come up with ways to play around with the “Wolfblood” concept, such as a Wolfsbane herb having crazy effects on Maddy, or her losing her powers on nights when there’s no moon. Also, when several early episodes in a row deal with Maddy’s “first time” transforming into a wolf, the metaphor is pretty much on the nose. (On the snout?)
The show demands that viewers really buy into the romantic tension between Maddy and Rhydion, which is supposed to be the big draw. It’s the whole “strange circumstances have brought us together” thing. Somewhere between her “responsible everygirl” routine and his “distant, tortured stare” routine, the romance just isn’t there. It’s supposed to be helped along by Maddy’s friends mistakenly believing the two are secretly a couple, but a misunderstood gossip subplot is too much to carry through multiple episodes. And, I’m sorry, but what kind of hokey name is “Rhydian?”
Wolfblood is at its best when Maddy is dealing with her family. For example, when she’s got the ol’ teen mischief going on in one episode, she actually goes to her mom to help her out, rather than keeping the secret from her. Stuff like this had me wondering if the show might have been better off emphasizing the whole family as main characters, rather than just Maddy and her romantic ups and downs.
It’s a little hard to analyze the DVD’s picture quality, as the show’s visuals are so grey and washed out that it looks almost black-and-white at times. Yet, this is how the filmmakers intended the show to look. Video is soft overall, but there are no overt flaws. The 2.0 stereo audio is similarly middle of the road. For extras, we’ve got a short featurette and some cast interviews.
I wanted to like Wolfblood. “Fantasy-lite” shows are among my favorites, but this one is just too similar to everything else in its genre, not doing enough to distinguish itself and stand out from—wait for it—the pack.