[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
After several successful, critically praised film adaptations, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let The Right One In (2004) has made the transition to the small screen with the help of Showtime and showrunner Andrew Hinderaker. Like the two film adaptations, Let The Right One In follows a vampire trapped in a twelve-year-old's body watching her loved ones age due to the passage of time and the stresses of caring for her to conceal her vampiric nature. Unlike the films and novel, the series fleshes out the role of the vampire’s caretaker by reimagining him as her father, rather than simply a vampiric familiar. The series follows Eleanor Kane (Madison Taylor Baez), a vampire who has been trapped in her childhood body for nearly a decade, who returns to New York City with her father Mark (Demián Bichir) who seeks to cure her affliction by capturing the creature that first infected her.
Soon after moving into their new apartment, Eleanor breaks her father’s rule of staying hidden, instead forming a friendship with twelve-year-old neighbor Isaiah Cole (Ian Foreman). While the friendship is juvenile and joyous, allowing Eleanor to connect with someone for the first time since her transformation, it severely complicates Mark’s life after he discovers that Isaiah’s mother Naomi (Anika Noni Rose) is a homicide detective. Most of the series revolves around Mark’s quest to find a cure for Eleanor, her friendship with Isaiah, and Naomi’s investigation of a series of violent crimes that look suspiciously like vampire attacks.
Let The Right One In isn’t a novel packed with a lot of plot. Rather, it’s an exploration of unconditional love as a vampire must acknowledge the humanity within her monstrous form after befriending a human child. However, to make a ten-episode television show, you need a little bit more than just some love and tenderness. The television adaptation complicates the unlikely friendship between Eleanor and Isaiah by putting their parents at odds as Mark tries to hide and feed Eleanor’s bloodlust, while Naomi’s police investigation circles uncomfortably close to her neighbors. Hinderaker and the writers make the smart decision for Eleanor’s vampirism to be less of an oddity by creating a backstory of violent, vampire-like attacks that have been on the rise in New York City as a new opiate finds its way to the streets. This new drug is the work of drug manufacturer and geneticist Claire Logan (Grace Gummer) who is tasked with finding a cure for her vampire brother Peter (Jacob Buster) after her father passes away.
Unfortunately, by broadening the world surrounding the novel’s central conceit, Let The Right One In feels unbalanced and overstuffed as the show jumps rapidly between storylines and timelines. While the reimagining of Eleanor and Mark’s relationship as father and daughter is an excellent way of creating further conflict, Mark’s motivation of finding a cure causes the show to feel a bit generic. Vampirism as a genetic, curable virus has become a trope with other properties like The Strain (2014) and Underworld (2003) exploring similar premises.
Like its predecessors, Let The Right One In succeeds due to the humanity behind even its most monstrous characters. At its heart, the show is a love story. Eleanor finds her humanity again after years of being treated like a monster because Isaiah loves and accepts her unconditionally, even after discovering she’s a vampire. The love between these two children tests their respective parents as Mark must ease back into domestic life and allow Eleanor to be a child while Naomi must decide if her personal ethics conflict with the police’s priorities as her investigation encroaches upon her son’s only friend. Interesting parallels are drawn between Mark, a devout Catholic who realizes he’s going to Hell by doing anything to feed his daughter’s bloodlust, and Claire, a geneticist who once advocated against the crimes committed by her drug manufacturer father, only to commit multiple human rights violations to get closer to a cure for her brother. The series succeeds as a character study with Demián Bichir and Grace Gummer displaying some truly magnificent performances.
While the show has yet to be renewed for a second season, Let The Right One In is a naturalistic, emotional story of human compassion and strength set in a world where even a child can be considered monstrous. While it’s a tad disjointed, the converging of storylines in the season finale promises a second season full of bloody conflict, ethical quandaries, and the power of unconditional love.