Danger Gal Friday: The Gates

If you haven’t seen the season finale of “The Gates” yet, be warned, spoilers follow.

“Now that you know what we are, try not to forget who we are.” —Claire Radcliff

This week’s Danger Gal post profiles two characters from ABC’s summer offering “The Gates”: Claire Radcliff played by Rhona Mitra and Leigh Turner played by Janina Gavankar.

In researching other articles about “The Gates,” I noticed the tendency to assume a similarity between any TV/movie dealing with vampires to “Twilight.” While “The Gates” does indeed have a teen love triangle storyline — and one of the players is a werewolf — that’s about as far as the comparison can be taken. The other two involved in the triangle are a succubus and, as of the season one finale, a human-turned-demon. The community is home to all manner of supernatural creature not just vampires and werewolves. So far, we’ve met characters who are demon succubi, witches, and victims of Voudoun abuse. More than a few articles describe the show as “Desperate Housewives meets vampires” that could be described as “suburban horror.”

Part of the fun of any paranormal story involving vampires or werewolves is discovering what the unique rules are for that story universe. The writers of “The Gates” have doled out precious few parameters that govern the creatures who inhabit the exclusive community. So far, all we really know is that vampires can venture out in the daylight, but only if well-fed and for limited amounts of time. Otherwise, they will burn. However, if Christian’s rebirth is any indication, burning won’t kill a vampire. About the werewolves, we know next to nothing except a change seems not to be strictly tied to the full moon and that teenage weres have problems keeping their transformations in check.

So, from a world-building perspective, the writers haven’t provided much detail on the specifics of their creatures, but that leaves them with plenty of future options. It’s my guess they’ll continue to carefully dole out only a few details to keep viewers watching and wondering.

What I like about the show

What I find interesting about paranormal creature stories is the way such characters can be used to comment on present day society. “The Gates” uses the assumptions we make about each other and the public faces we create to examine the human condition.

I mean, we all know that social doyens like Claire Radcliff with her impeccable frocks, perfectly decorated McMansion, and high-brow dinner parties will suck the life right out of you, right? They’re high-society monsters. Not to mention that so many police officers have become jaded to the point that they might as well have had their hearts ripped out like Leigh Turner, right?

Instead, we’ve seen Claire struggle to contain her inner self in a conflict right out of “The Feminine Mystique.” The writers seem to be making the case that all the money in the world won’t make you happy, and that to really, truly be happy you have to stop lying to the world about who you are.

“The Gates” police officer Leigh Turner, on the other hand, has her own secret. Turns out, a former love quite literally ripped her heart out using Voudoun magic. She keeps her heart in a box. The obvious metaphor makes me giggle and I wonder where the writers will take it. I’m sure we’ll meet the old boyfriend in season two. I expect the writers will use this connection to, at least temporarily, turn Leigh into a classic zombie control by Voudoun magic. he real questions is, though: What will Leigh do with her heart once she finally has it back where it belongs?

What I don’t like about the show

There’s one aspect of the show shared by Claire and Leigh and it’s a characteristic that could disqualify them as Danger Gals: both of them are or have been controlled by the men in their lives.

We learned fairly early in season one that Dylan turned Claire into a vampire against her will. Later, in “Dog Eat Dog” when Christian bites her —again against her will—and breaks her blood bond with her husband, Dylan is very quick judge and judge harshly when he says: “Well he’s the only one. He’s the only one who wants you.” Because Claire’s value as a person is utterly dependent on who wants her, right? Christian’s actions are an attack—a vampiric rape. The fact that Dylan blames Claire for this is despicable and almost made me stop watching the show. In both scenes, though, Claire stands her ground first by being firm and clear with Christian and later by not accepting Dylan’s accusations (“That is precisely what he was hoping you would say,” Claire said. “But I told him he was wrong.”) Some viewers think Dylan’s reaction here is him rethinking his initial anger, but I’m not so sure.

Also, Leigh’s account of her heart being ripped out tells the story of a man who wouldn’t let her go (sound a little like Christian?) and like so many perpetrators of partner abuse with the goal of “spoiling” her for anyone else (sound a little like Christian? I’m noticing a pattern here.)

The reason I’m profiling these two characters despite this aspect of the show is that I hope the writers are setting the stage to further develop these two characters and show them growing beyond these bounds. Leigh’s former boyfriend has made contact with her coworker Lucas, so I’m assuming he’s going to be a recurring character in season two. Also, as of the season one finale, Claire and Dylan have yet to renew their blood bond. I’m hoping that ultimately Claire refuses in an effort to exercise her new-found freedom.

Overall, I’m cheering on representations of the numerous paranormal heroines in this show that aren’t limited to just Claire and Leigh. Teenage Andie is a demon succubus; also teenage Lexie is a werewolf; spa-owner Devon and doctor Peg are witches; working mother Karen is a werewolf — even new human resident Sarah is temporarily turned into a type of “zombie” for Devon. In paranormal romance at least, we’re very used to the paranormal character being the hero, so it’s great to see some heroines getting in on the fun.

Other articles on The Gates

TV Fanatic: The Gates “Moving Day” Review

IO9: The Gates Tells The Real Truth About Vampires