For what it was, the first Blade film was entertaining (in a devoid-of-intelligence sort of way). Sadly, the franchise took a rather significant nosedive with Blade II, and continued its freefall into crapitude with Blade Trinity. In fact, with the introduction of new vampire hunters in Blade Trinity, it looked as if the series was coming to a merciful end. But while the cinematic demise of Blade seemed to be a done deal, a fate worse than death would present itself for the Marvel Comics' vampire slayer in the form of a television resurrection, Blade: The Series.
Stepping into the boots vacated by Wesley Snipes, Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones takes over the role of Blade, the half-vampire who enjoys all the strengths of his blood-sucking brethren, but none of the inherent weaknesses. This four-disc set features all twelve episodes of Blade: The Series, plus the pilot episode (which has already been released on DVD as Blade: House of Chthon). The pilot and the episodes that followed were all part of one long story arc that continued from episode to episode.
Episode 1 and 2 - Pilot: The pilot episode reintroduces Blade, who is waging his personal war against the vampires. He meets Krista Starr (Jill Wagner), an Iraq War vet investigating the death of her young brother. Turns out baby bro was running with some vampires and ended up dead, and now Krista is going toe to toe with the powerful vampire Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson). But when he turns her into a blood-sucker, Blade recruits her as a spy, hoping she can help him bring down the powerful vampire dynasties from the inside.
The plot of the pilot episode sets up the basic story for the remainder of the series, and despite what anyone may have said, the television debut of Blade was pretty terrible. Delivering even less in terms of entertainment than the films, the pilot held little promise for the series being anything of merit. And while this episode was enough to keep me from watching the series while it was on the air, I figured I would watch the whole thing on DVD. By comparison to the rest of the series, this first episode is definitely weaker, as the series itself proved to have at least of modicum of entertaining moments.
Episode 3 - "Death Goes On": The series still holds no real promise as Blade tries to figure out what Marcus is up to. This episode, along with the pilot, is indicative of what is wrong with the series as a whole. The writing isn't very good, the acting is no better, and the pace of the story is simply too slow.
Episode 4 - "Descent": A new subplot is introduced in the form of FBI agent Ray Collins (Larry Poindexter), who is investigating several grisly murders committed by Boone, the corrupt cop that Krista turned into a vampire in the pilot episode. The series is still not showing any real signs of life at this point, and the thought of watching the remaining eight episodes is pretty painful.
Episode 5 - "Bloodlines": Finally, things start to get a bit interesting. Blade is captured by a gang of vampires who call themselves Bad Blood. It turns out these guys are an old street gang that Blade ran with in his youth, and he is the one who turned them into vampires. For the first time since the series started, Blade actually seems like a real character in the series that bears his name. Up until this episode, he was just a silly caricature that barely said a word. He's still that in this episode, but at least it provides him with some backstory.
Episode 6 - "The Evil Within": By now, it is obvious that Blade: The Series is as much about Krista and her battle with vampirism, and the shady dealings of Marcus and the House of Chthon. But that is not a bad thing, as the whole Krista and Marcus storylines are the only things driving the plot of the show. As their soap opera continues, Blade heads to Berlin, to kick more vampire ass and attempt to unlock the convoluted mystery of Marcus' evil scheme.
Episode 7 - "Delivery": With Blade having liberated a woman who is part of Marcus' dastardly plans, Van Scriver dispatches Krista to get her back. Unfortunately, Krista's head isn't completely in the game, as she finds out her mother is sick.
Episode 8 - "Sacrifice": This is easily one of the better episodes of the series, as it provides more backstory for Blade. Bokeem Woodbine returns as Steppin' Razor, Blade's nemesis from his youth, and he's out to kill everyone Blade holds dear. Richard Roundtree shows up at the end of the episode as Blade's father. What's interesting is that Roundtree was once considered for the part of Blade back in the early 1980s, when plans for a film were first announced.
Episode 9 - Turn of the Screw": Previously on Blade: The Series, with her mother at death's door, Krista attempts to save her life by turning her into a vampire. But as this episode kicks off, we see what a bad idea that was. Actually, we don't need to see it, because it's as stupid as it sounds. Meanwhile, FBI agent Collins continues to try and figure out what's going on--but having seen vampires in action, he knows it's crazy.
Episode 10 - "Angels and Demons": This is one of those episodes that makes you wonder why they call this show Blade: The Series. In other words, this is the Marcus Van Scriver episode, as we get treated to his origin. We also get a better idea of exactly what the sinister vampire is up to.
Episode 11 - "Hunters": The soap opera storyline of the series takes a bit of a backseat in this episode as Blade and Shen (Nelson Lee), his trusty sidekick, take time out to hunt down a legendary vampire called the White Prince. And even though there isn't as much of the treachery and greed as the House of Chthon storyline, there is certainly enough to remind us that it is getting old, and we just want to be done with all of this.
Episode 12 - Monsters": Blade finally teams up with Collins, and they have some fun adventures. While that is going on, Marcus prepares to unleash his diabolical plan, continues to seduce Krista, and must deal with Chase (Jessica Gower), his once-trusted assistant and lover, who may or may not be betraying him.
Episode 13 - "Conclave": Everything comes to an asskicking, blood-splattered conclusion, as Blade squares off against Marcus, who has finally unleashed his deadly scheme. But the problem is that the episode ends with a cliffhanger, and since the series was cancelled, we never get to know how it all ends.
Clocking in at just over nine hours of content, Blade: The Series has probably about four hours of decent entertainment, another two hours of passable filler, and the rest is just plain dull or bad or both. The series finally begins to get interesting with the fifth episode, and from that point on it is easier to sit through. Don't get me wrong, because this is not great television, but it is watchable. The show earns points for being pretty violent, having plenty of profanity, and tons of gratuitous shots a bare breasted women with ridiculously augmented knockers. But all of these elements, which I can only assume are part of what the packaging calls "unrated and revamped" episodes, never seems natural, and comes across more like a gimmick. It is as if the producers watched shows like The Shield and The Sopranos, and figured if they did some of the same things, they would have a hit show on their hands.
The big problem with Blade: The Series is that you pretty much need to watch all the episodes in order to really understand what's going on. Of course, not all the episodes are actually worth watching in their entirety, which provides what some of us like to call a catch-22. And that of course is part of the bigger problem with Blade: The Series, which is that the writing is pretty lame, the acting is so-so at best, and as a result, no single episode ever stands out as television at its finest.
Blade: The Series is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen format. The picture quality is good, and the image transfer is clean; but at the same time, it has the look of a television show. One of the big problems of the series is that it tries to look and feel like a film, but lacks most of the resources, making it even more apparent that it is a television series.
Blade: The Series is presented in 5.1 surround sound. The audio mix is even, but the levels are low, forcing you to crank the volume to hear the dialog that often seems to be mumbled.
The bonus material from the earlier Blade: House of Chthon DVD release is recycled here on the first disc. Turning Blade (62 min.) is an extensive documentary that details the production of the feature-length pilot episode. There are also two audio commentaries, one with writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns, and the other with director Peter O'Fallon. Perhaps, if you really loved the pilot episode, you will want to sit through both commentary tracks, but honestly, the documentary gives you as much information as you could possibly hope to have. There are also some promo TV spots.
Blade: The Series is not terrible, but it certainly is not great television. Fans of the original theatrical films are most likely not going to like the transition Blade makes to the small screen, but when push comes to shove, it really isn't any worse that the last film in the franchise. How is that for a ringing endorsement?
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]