Review of “Blood Ties”

Blood Ties, the new Lifetime series starring Christina Cox that debuts this Sunday, plays something like an unholy hybrid of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that is far from being a bad thing. Based on the Blood Books series of novels by out lesbian writer Tanya Huff, the show — with its blend of supernatural mystery-solving and interrelationship drama, plus an ass-kicking bisexual lead character — has the potential to be the next big genre series if it can transcend the storytelling clichés it displays in the premiere episode.

As Blood Ties begins, our hero, former detective-turned-private eye Vicki Nelson, witnesses the first in a series of supernatural murders. She left the police force due to deteriorating eyesight, but her instincts are just as sharp as ever. She soon runs into an ex-partner (and ex-boyfriend), Mike Celluci (Dylan Neal), who is working the case.

Also digging around the investigation is Henry Fitzroy (Kyle Schmid), a charming, 500-year-old vampire who sparks a strong reaction in the usually impervious Vicki. They meet fortuitously at the scene of an attack, prompting an uneasy partnership. Also involved is Coreen Fennel (Gina Holden), a Goth-obsessed college girl who initially hires Vicki to find out who killed her boyfriend, and later becomes Vicki’s assistant.

In true genre show form, the case happens to involve a particularly nasty demon, an EverQuest-addicted dork and an imminent apocalypse. The story plays out in a blend of mystery-solving and demon-on-vampire confrontations, prompting comparisons to the aforementioned series. By the end of the premiere, the stage is set for a world of encounters with various denizens of the supernatural world — demons, succubae, ghosts, zombies, etc. — as well as serious heat between Vicki and her various romantic possibilities.

Vicki herself is a great character. She’s tough, witty and otherwise Buffy-like in every respect, and Cox does an admirable job hitting the balance between emotional vulnerability and tough-cop swagger. Better known to lesbian audiences as Kim from Better Than Chocolate, Cox also does an excellent job of keeping Vicki just sensitive enough to be believably confused and invested in her personal relationships.

It’s apparent that Blood Ties is aiming for emotional drama as much as it is for action and demon killing.

Unfortunately, what isn’t apparent in the premiere is the bisexual aspect of Vicki’s character. In the Tanya Huff novels, Vicki has two exes, one man (Mike) and one woman, and this complicates her relationship with Henry.

Cox herself has stated in interviews that the writers are planning to work this into the show and that this backstory is absolutely integral to the character. Even Huff herself has been happy so far with the adaptation, but the bisexual story line is conspicuously absent from the episode that otherwise sets the stage so completely.

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