Summary : Bitten is a good show, and even with a less-than-stellar blu-ray release, worth one's time in checking out.
Bitten, a Canadian-made supernatural drama that recently aired its first season on the SyFy channel in the United States, comes to Blu-ray and DVD this week in a four-disc set. Based on the best-selling books by Kelley Armstrong, Bitten is an action-packed, sexy drama centered on Elena Michaels (Laura Vandervoort, V, Smallville), the only female werewolf in existence. She is drawn back to the pack she abandoned when rogue mutts begin killing innocent people.
The series is a character-driven drama, despite the other elements. Elena is caught between two worlds, a normal, wonderful boyfriend, Philip McAdams (Paul Greene, Wicked Wicked Games), who offers her the chance at an average existence, which she is trying to convince herself she wants, and hot, uncontrollable passion for Clayton Danvers (Greyston Holt, Alcatraz), whom she loves but doesn’t trust since he accidentally turned her into the same creature she didn’t know he was. It’s more than a simple love triangle because it’s the type of life Elena would have with each, more than her feelings for the men themselves, that drive her decisions.
The show is also bolstered by the pack ensemble, which are secondary to Elena, but still important to the success of the series. Their leader is Jeremy Danvers (Greg Bryk, XIII: The Series), a calm, logical man, who makes the tough decisions while guiding the others on a more peaceful path than past Alphas. His best friend, Antonio Sorrentino (Paulino Nunes, The Firm), could have been Alpha, but chose to step aside. There is also Antonio’s playboy son, Nick (Steve Lund, Haven), and Logan (Michael Xavier, The Best Years), who wants to have a family with Rachel (Genelle Williams, Warehouse 13), something against pack law.
The mythology in Bitten is well-developed. Both the arcs for the central cast and the villains brought in fit into a large picture, a world developed long before the show starts, and one that will continue after we stop watching. The season is both a complete story, and a piece of something much bigger. The pacing is good, and the acting is serviceable. While not the number one show on television, it is better than most of its peers because of the depth and cohesion it exhibits.
Those familiar with the source material should be both satisfied and surprised. Having read books one and two so far myself, with plans to continue with the set, I can say that Bitten hews fairly close to the first book in Armstrong’s Otherworld series in a lot of ways, but in others, including a major character death or two, it departs. I like that the show’s writers know what works for TV and what doesn’t, keeping to the spirit of the piece, but not being a slave to it. I do wonder how future seasons will unfold, as Elena only serves as the protagonist for the first two novels in the series, the second book expanding the structure greatly and moving in other directions. I suspect the show may end up telling us a lot of stories involving these players that isn’t on the page, rather than move away from its core.
There are a handful of bonus features included on this set. Audio commentary is provided for the premiere, finale, and pivotal fifth episode, which gives Elena’s back story, certainly the three installments fans would be most interested in hearing commentary for. An eight-minute “Behind the Scenes” spends most of its time telling us who the characters are, rather than really going into how the show is made, a totally unnecessary inclusion to those who have already watched the episodes (or read this review). Similarly, “VFX – Behind the Wolf” talks about how the characters relate to their animal versions much more than the special effects wizardry that goes into creating the effects. The one semi-valuable feature is for those interested in stunt work, as the disc spends more than eight minutes breaking down a few scenes from episodes 11 and 13, mainly by showing picture-in-picture of the finished product versus rehearsal. There are also about 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes. It’s an acceptable amount of extras, even if the content is a bit weak.
As far as the high definition presented on the Blu-ray, it’s as good as what aired on television, but not a particularly impressive release. The audio is well- mixed, as most shows are these days, but it does not boast surround sound or anything special. The picture is clear enough, but lacking the super crisp detail some series have. My guess is that, because this is a Canadian production, the budget is likely lower than many American series, and the money is mainly spent on special effects, rather than enhancing the video and audio.
Still, even with disappointing extras and an acceptable, but not stunning, presentation, Bitten is a solid series that is both enjoyable and engaging. Maybe there are a few too many shirtless men for a straight male like me, but it’s not sappy like Twilight, and it actually takes time to make a gripping tale. I would recommend watching this for anyone who enjoys the genre.
Bitten – The Complete First Season will be available this coming Tuesday.
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