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Peacock’s Vampire Academy Episode 1-4 Review- A surprisingly Addictive Adaptation Begins

Vampire Academy
VAMPIRE ACADEMY — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: Daniela Nieves as Lissa Dragomir — (Photo by: Jose Haro/Peacock)

Peacock’s gamble on the popular fantasy book series turned little-seen movie is paying off. When they tapped Julia Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre, both of Vampire Diaries, to showrun, anticipation was cautiously high. Plec and MacIntyre have a knack for taking well-known and loved literary content and turning it into addictive soapy dramas. The same simmering sensuality that permeated Vampire Diaries is present in Vampire Academy, only amped up. Young adults can curse and shag as they normally would in the real world. That throughline of angst and need is an intoxicating cocktail that fans of these types of shows will love.

Wish fulfillment entertainment is a guilty pleasure. There is something ridiculously amusing about watching impossibly beautiful people thwart danger without barely a hair out of place. The world of Vampire Academy is tailor-made for this kind of story. Three types of semi-immortal beings, the Moroi, a mostly mortal vampire race of royalty who rule over nonroyal vampires, and the Dhampir, human/vampire hybrids born to protect the Moroi at all costs. Rounding out the triad is the Strigoi. They are vampires who mostly behave like brainless monsters. The stakes are very high as our best friends and protagonists, Rose, a Dhampir, and Lissa, a Moroi royal, must fight for the future of their kind even as they fight against the rigid rules they live by.

This is a lovely series. Everyone is dressed in impossibly gorgeous clothing and made up to perfection in that way that only these types of dramas do. It might just be me, but worrying about the proper outfit and best lash length would not be the most important thing on my to-do list if I was fighting for my life. Luckily all the high fashion and shimmering makeup are done off-screen. We only see the stunning aftermath. Between nods to haute couture and steampunk, there are dashes of S and M and cool athleisure. It’s a fashionista’s dream.

VAMPIRE ACADEMY — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) J. August Richards as Victor Dashkov, Mia McKenna-Bruce as Mia Karp — (Photo by: Jose Haro/Peacock)

The rules are established early. We meet Rose(Sisi Stringer) and Lissa(Daniela Nieves) on the worst day of Lissa’s life. Her family died in a tragic and potentially mysterious car accident. Lissa’s brother was set to become the next King of the Moroi, so the possibility of foul play is strong. Flash forward, and Lissa and Rose are tighter than ever, but the dangers of their political and romantic lives are crashing in. When Lissa gets chosen to be the next queen, things get even murkier for them.

Before Lissa can take the crown, she must declare a specialty. Think of it as a magical practice that they are the best at. All magic in Vampire Academy comes from the elements. There are four known disciplines, but none seem to apply to Lissa, which is worrying. It is very rare not to display a specialty. The only other time that has happened is Sonya, who is Lissa’s Godfather’s child. She was experimented on and tortured with electric shock therapy when she failed to show a preference. The Sonya that came back from that experience took years to function even remotely normally.

Before Lissa publically reveals her lack of specialty, her new friend and outcast Christian, a tremendously complex André Dae Kim, steps in and secretly makes it appear as if she is a fire specialist. Christian knows what it is like to feel pressure and be different. His parents are Moroi, who famously chose to become Strigoi and abandon him. Their absence and decisions haunt him. His deception saved Lissa for now but her security is short-lived. Another power player with ambitions on the throne, Tatiana reminds the current queen of an ancient and little-used rule regarding bloodlines and family numbers. She uses that rule to disqualify Lissa, making way for her to campaign for Queen.

This unsettling maneuver all but guarantees that Tatiana knows a great deal about Lissa’s family and may have been involved in their deaths. At the same time as all the political machinations, the Strigoi is attacking other vampire schools. When they attack St. Judes, the same school Christian recently transferred from, it further diminishes Lissa’s bloodline and potentially exposes an anomaly in the Strigoi. Everyone has believed they are beasts with huge appetites and little else. Christian’s parents seem to be looking for him, and when he begins getting strange packages, it appears the Strigoi aren’t as mindless as we have been led to believe. It also becomes clear the protection wards weren’t breached. They were disabled. Someone is working with the Strigoi.

As this situation unfolds, Lissa, Rose, and Christian begin to suspect that she isn’t as powerless as she thought. Rose and Lissa have a connection that can’t be explained by friendship alone. The two share emotions and dreams. Like Sonya before her, Lissa has the power of the Spirit elemental. She can compel others with her voice, and eventually, she may be able to heal others. When Victor(Angel alum J. August Richards) collapses, it seems like Sonya was able to heal him temporarily. Unfortunately, it looks like Victor is seriously ill though. We will have to wait to see how this plays out in the remaining episodes.

VAMPIRE ACADEMY — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Kieron Moore as Dimitri Belikov, Sisi Stringer as Rose Hathaway — (Photo by: Jose Haro/Peacock)

Dimitri(Kieron Moore) and Rose sizzle every time they are together, which doesn’t go unnoticed by her friend with benefits, Mason. Dimitri understands Rose in a way Mason can’t. He feels guilt and responsibility, and Rose can relate to both. Meanwhile, Lissa has her hands full with Christian and Jesse, a distant cousin who she may be forced to marry. Things aren’t exactly Daemon and Rhaenrya Targaryen, but the idea of marrying even a very removed cousin to preserve the bloodline is icky. The fact that Jesse, Joseph Ollman’s obnoxious bro-vampire, is an insufferable tool makes it even worse. An abusive father and nasty little sexual habit make him an intriguing character though.

The focus is Rose and Lissa, but soulful Dimitri is the heart of the series. He knows Christian and Lissa’s secrets as well as Rose’s concerns. The devoted Guardian will have his hands full, keeping Rose and the others safe now that Tatiana has a Strigoi prisoner and the voting numbers to use him to train the novices. She may just be more ambitious than sensical, but she might also have shifty alliances. Dimitri warns Rose always to be prepared. I wonder if he knows what she is up against?

Few have the power of the spirit, but those who do must balance their abilities with a terrible darkness. Power like that comes at a price. Sonya understands that. She will be instrumental in helping Lissa control her abilities moving forward.

Vampire Academy Episodes 1-4 are better than I expected. There’s family drama, romantic entanglements, and political intrigue galore. Not only does the sexuality shimmer in every scene, but in episode three, the urgency of both the want and the need to procreate is front and center. This is less a teen drama than a young adult one, complete with all the ramifications of that. There’s a lot of fighting, and most of it is well timed to driving drum beats and synth-heavy chords. Peacock’s Vampire Academy shows a lot of promise and leans heavily into its non-PG-13 structure. If the remainder of the series is as good as these first four episodes, we are in for a wild ride. New episodes premiere Thursdays, streaming on Peacock.