Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: FOREVER KNIGHT: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1992 - 1996)

Here's one vampire series that defies all the odds. It's a low-budget, Canadian TV show with no stars, low-rent effects, and which has dated considerably. Yet, despite all that, Forever Knight (1992 - 1996) is still one of the most beloved and trend-setting cult shows ever to air on TV, with a late 80's, early 90's vibe that is irresistible.

Here's the story: An 800 year-old vampire, Nicholas Knight, decides to turn his back on evil and redeem himself by becoming a detective with the Toronto Metro Police. Haunted by his past deeds, thwarted by his mentor and sire LaCroix, and constantly fighting his dark nature, Knight struggles through his nocturnal existence while trying to solve murder cases and clean the streets of his city.

If the concept sounds familiar, that's because it has been copied ad nauseam. But Forever Knight is the original, warts and all. But let's make one thing very clear: Forever Knight, despite the aforementioned faults, is a good show; sometimes even a very good show. From the get-go, it's obvious that everyone involved with the show is giving it their all, especially the cast and the writers. The first season gets off to a great start with a fast-paced, atmospheric two-part pilot that sets the tone and bar for the rest of the series. The twenty episodes that follow are filled to the brim with ideas, mood, and good writing, establishing a cast of memorable heroes and villains.

The second season is even better than the first, with more polished production values, more ambitious stories, and some truly outstanding episodes. And it is with this season that the series reaches its peak, with a near-perfect mix of mystery, noir, and supernatural horror.

Sadly, things go downhill with the third and final season. Moving to the USA network, the makers of Forever Knight had to accede to the demands of the network, which include removing certain characters, adding others, and cutting the budget down by 15%. The results are mediocre at best, with the first half of the season being almost unwatchable. Gone are the rich mythology, the ambitious stories, the attention to detail. The second half of the season fares a little bit better, but not enough to redeem it. The final episode, titled "Last Knight", remains to this day a point of contention among even die-hard fans, because of its overly dark tone, needless killing of a number of main characters, and a final shot that is beyond ambiguous. It still packs a punch, but it's a somber, unsatisfying ending to what was once a compelling, ambitious series.

Yet, twenty years later, we're still talking about the show, and I for one know why: When Forever Knight was firing on all cylinders, it was one of the most enjoyable vampire shows ever put on TV.

N.B. Forever Knight began life in 1989 as a CBS pilot called Nick Knight (1989), starring Rick Springfield as Detective Knight. It's a great late 80's TV movie, with tons of atmosphere. Recommended.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2015 - 2016.

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