Netflix's new teen drama lacks bite, critics say

Juliette and Calliope stand over a dead body in their high school in Netflix's First Kill TV series
(Image credit: Netflix)

First Kill, Netflix's new vampire-led teen drama, has proved to be divisive with reviewers. 

The Netflix show debuted on Friday (June 10) with all eight episodes in its first season dropping on the same day, as has become Netflix tradition.

Based on the short story of the same name by V. E. Schwab, First Kill is a reimagining of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It follows Juliette Fairmont, a vampire from a long dynasty of vampires who are able to live in plain sight in Savannah, Georgia. 

Approaching her 16th birthday, Juliette, who has spent her life thus far living off blood pills, discovers that the pills are losing their efficacy and she must confront the prospect that it is time for her to make her first kill – something she does not want to do. 

Things are complicated further by the arrival of a new girl in town, Calliope Burns, who Juliette quickly becomes infatuated with. Trouble is, Calliope's family history is just as complicated as Juliette's. She’s a monster hunter raised by a family of monster hunters. Oh dear...

Modern day takes on Shakespeare's plays have proved to be rich source material for teen dramas, with the likes of 10 Things I Hate About You, She's The Man and Get Over It all winning a place in heart of teenage movie goers with their clever takes on The Taming Of The Shrew, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream. So how does First Kill stack up with the critics? Not very well, as it turns out.

Do critics hate it?

They don't hate it, but they're not exactly enamored either. The show has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 55%, which isn't a kicking, but it's not enough to earn the show a certified fresh rating. 

Some critics really dislike it, too. Variety's Caroline Framke wrote that the show was "sunk by a noxious combination of flat writing and flatter directing", while Decider's Joel Keller said that the show's "storytelling is so clumsy it’s just very hard to watch."

A few critics were more taken with the show, though, with Paste Magazine's Anna Govert writing the show was a "...lot of fun. It’s campy, it’s quippy, and it’s melodramatic; everything you could ever want from a modern, teenage, Shakespearean vampire story". Meanwhile, San Jose Mercury News' Randy Myers said: "If you surrender to its delicious cheesiness, you’ll have a lot of fun."

Analysis: Will this "kill" First Kill?

Some spoilers for First Kill follow, so if you want to watch the show, stop reading here please. 

It sounds obvious, but it will depend how many people watch the show. As we've learned in 2022 thus far, Netflix have no problem canceling shows if they aren't bringing in the required numbers. 

First Kill is a short story from a collection of vampiric tales, not a giant young adult book franchise, so it didn't have a baked-in fanbase ready to go. The show does, however, end on a cliffhanger with both Juliette and Calliope alive and kicking, which is rather different from Shakespeare's tragic ending for poor old Romeo and Juliet. The showrunners must fancy their chances, but we'll await to see the audience figures. 

Looking for a new Netflix show to get stuck into? We've up 30 of the best of them. 

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…