I’d be the first one to admit it – I’d make a terrible vampire. Sure, I avoid the sun, but I also lack their predatory charisma. In lieu of a six-pack, I have more of a keg. And I’m usually trapped in my own head, full of anxiety and doubt, evened out with a little absurdist humor. All of those elements could also be attributed to Jacob Batalon’s brilliant turn as Reginald the Vampire.
The first episode of the new Syfy series gave me Scott Pilgrim flashbacks in the best of ways. Reginald is an awkward yet endearing character. He works a dead-end job at the Slushy Shack in Akron, Ohio. His boss is a total douchebag named Todd (because of course he is). Todd enjoys making fun of Reginald’s weight, calling him all manner of cruel nicknames. Reggie takes it in stride and gets feisty in return, which made me love the character all the more.
Though his work environment has definite problems, he has one thing going for him – his coworker, Sarah. She’s dorky, cute and quotes movie lines to Reginald in her free time. As one might expect, Reggie is madly in love with her, but afraid to ask her out. This is where his new best friend comes into play, a vampire named Maurice.
Unbeknownst to Reginald, Maurice has been known to take a sip from him on occasion, compelling Reggie to forget everything. Despite all this, it’s quickly made clear Maurice genuinely enjoys Reginald’s company. He goes out of his way to check in with him and discovers how he pines for Sarah. So the vampire uses his compulsion for good and gives Reggie the push to ask Sarah out on a date, which he does. There’s just one small problem. The day he does, Reginald dies. Actually, first, he prays to god for a better life. And he gets it, in a matter of speaking.
Maurice is a bit of a black sheep in the vampire community. See, he has a conscience and tries to help people, and mostly drinks from those who have it coming. As a human, he was a Black Panther, and even after he was turned, his sense of justice and social reform remained. Which is why his maker, the queen bitch Angela, wants him out of the picture.
Her delegates arrive at the Slushy Shack as Reggie is getting ready to go on a date with Sarah, and he becomes a vampire sandwich. And if you’re asking, no, it’s not any fun being the meat in that particular sandwich. Two gorgeous, soul-deprived vampire women drain Reginald in front of Maurice, callously leaving him for dead. Maurice offers the dying man a chance, warning him of potential consequences. Despite not knowing what he’s getting into, Reggie takes him up on it and is reborn as a vampire. This is where the fun starts, and his daily problems get much more dangerous.
A key theme of Reginald the Vampire is not fitting in, but being all the better for it. Though Reggie isn’t a very capable vampire in many ways, his unique attributes make him something better. Like his maker, he wants to do the right thing. Admittedly his vampiric hunger does get the best of him briefly, but he quickly showcases a game-changing skill. Though he’s not great at compelling humans at first, he’s the only vampire able to compel others of his kind. Which makes him incredibly dangerous, and leads to some fun with Italian food. Reggie’s inherent intelligence also gets amped up as a creature of the night, giving him photographic memory and the ability to speed read.
Though he’s hesitant to share himself with others, Batalon’s character quickly surrounds himself with a quirky group of friends and confidants. He manages to get closer to Sarah, who not only shares a lot of personality traits with Reginald but who also proves herself a strong, independent young woman. There’s also a young miscreant named Claire, a constant purveyor of slushies. She has a lot of pain and hurt she’s hiding, and a surprising ability. Then there’s Ashley or Ash. She also works at the Slushy Shack, and she’s the first to start realizing that Akron might have a vampire problem. She’s tough and determined, and in another universe might become a Slayer. Then there’s Maurice. He’s loving, charming, and a sort of father figure to Reginald. He’s also occasionally a complete hard ass, pushing Reginald too hard in a misguided attempt to protect him.
Besides the main cast, there are others that bear mention. Mike is Maurice’s current lover, an Asian vampire I liked a lot initially. I feared he was about to be killed off early on, but instead it was revealed he’s a bit of a double agent. There’s also Angela, Maurice’s maker and a cruel and authoritarian regional director with an iron grip. She has a bad tendency to rip out the hearts of those that fail her, and she’s torn between her past feelings of love for her progeny, and her desire to put him in the ground. One of my absolute favorites is Nikki, the slayer vampire for hire. She’s brought in to take Reginald out, but instead falls hard for his singing voice, and becomes his temporary vampiric lover (kind of). She’s also totally crazy and ditzy, but no less dangerous because of it.
As you can probably tell, the entire cast of the show is pretty incredible. Almost everyone is a dynamic and layered character who you’ll root for (other than perhaps Penelope and Lebron). Hell, even Todd goes from a complete waste of genetic material to Reggie’s meal plan to someone I’d share a slushy with. Throw in some fun cameos such as Julian Richings as Logan and Danny Wattley’s Abraham, and you have a show that’s always engaging. When it wants to be, Reginald the Vampire is also pretty hilarious, often leaving me literally laughing out loud. Some iconic moments include Nikki’s musical intro to one episode, and another is the shockingly funny reveal of a caucasian vampire’s full name.
When the show doesn’t always land its jokes, it keeps things pretty lighthearted most of the time. Which isn’t to say it can’t get bloody and sexy in equal measure. One episode goes into Maurice’s tragic backstory and shows why he’s determined to kill his maker. There’s also some good lore-building in an episode called The Odyssey. It follows Reginald in the wake of some pretty horrible “sucking and fucking” decisions and leads to him getting his life back in focus. It also reveals that vampires and archangels are direct descendants of Cain and Abel, after god made the mistake of bringing both brothers back to life. There’s a lot of good stuff in just this first season, and it makes me eager to see the show get more seasons to expand on the story.
While I typically don’t watch any show for romance, I really grew to enjoy Reginald and Sarah’s budding romance. They’re just so perfect for each other, which makes it all the more painful when Reggie’s impulse control leads to his breaking her heart. It also meshes well with this dark, sexy world that Reginald has been thrust into. Put simply, most vampires reject Reginald entirely for how he looks. So much so that he’s forced to take an assessment that’s certain to end in his death and torture.
But for all the good Reginald the Vampire did in season 1, there were also some weak points. Such as how I felt they mismanaged Mike’s character, leaving him very little to do. Or how Claire suddenly got really interesting after bringing Nikki home, but the show didn’t really explain how or why the young girl has such interesting powers. And much as I appreciated getting the full download for Maurice’s motivations, I was upset that the episode totally ignored our titular hero.
All in all, Reginald the Vampire is easily one of the best new shows to premiere on the Syfy network. I wasn’t sure how well Jacob would shift from a lovable nerd sidekick to a full-throated vampire hero, but I felt he did a good job. His portrayal keeps his nerdy charm intact but also injects a little welcome darkness and horror into the mix (don’t ask how he eats his ice cream sundaes). The show wasn’t always hitting home runs, but it definitely got my attention and kept me invested. Reggie may not be a textbook vampire, but he’s more than ready to remake the dark world in his own image. Here’s hoping he gets a chance in a second season.