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‘Nine Lives of Chloe King’ – Pilot Recap

In the span of two days, 16-year-old Chloe King sprouts claws, kills a man with her kiss and dies after being pushed out of a tower. This Buffy 2.0 potential has eight more lives to go, however, when she discovers that she’s the descendant of an ancient feline-human race called the Mai.

[Warning: Spoilers follow…]

ABC Family tried some new promotional tactics for the summer premiere of its new show The Nine Lives of Chloe King based on the series of novels by Liz Braswell (originally published in 2004 under her pseudonym Celia Thomson).

[Full disclosure here: I was among the bloggers chosen to participate in the promotion and, as part of the “Circle of Strangers,” I received an iPad2, which I nicknamed the MaiPad, a box of goodies* related to the online scavenger hunt and also several other items sent in the mail also connected to the scavenger hunt. I found the scavenger hunt to be fun and a tantalizing way to drum up word-of-mouth promotion for the new show. I’ve documented it all on my blog if you want more information on the background.]

Obligatory cast photo of The Nine Lives of Chloe King.

So when it came time to watch the pilot on June 14, I was excited with a bowl of popcorn in hand. Many recaps and reviews are comparing this show, and Chloe specifically, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s easy to see why: Both shows feature teenage heroines who discover they have ancient superpowers. We’ll know more with future episodes, but I suspect this is where the comparison ends. Buffy’s Big Bad was more often than not obvious and she had the clear objective of dusting vamps with Mr. Pointy. As the show matured, villains became less obvious, but this core directive remained.

Chloe, on the other hand, will likely face more ephemeral threats for two reasons. One, her directive is not a destructive one, but instead her task is to act as The Uniter and bring Mai and humans together again. Two, her enemies could possibly be her own kind.

Like many teenage girls, as her sixteenth birthday approaches Chloe wants some predictable things: Excitement in her perceived boring life, to kiss a boy and to do something dangerous. These yearnings in and of themselves are the first hints that something fundamental about Chloe is changing, as we later learn that she’s a pretty responsible kid who holds down an afternoon job and is seemingly a good student. Her friends Amy and Paul at first don’t realize the sea change that’s emerging in Chloe, but after she sneaks them all into a club on the night of her birthday they take notice — and the behaviour is contagious if Amy and Paul “making out” is any indication.

I think it’s important to note that the original books were intended for a grade seven and up demographic and ABC Family, not surprising, has generally kept to this age range in how it dealt with violence and sexuality in the pilot. I’d definitely recommend Chloe King for this age group over something comparable like Disney’s My Babysitter’s a Vampire or possibly MTV’s Teen Wolf. (There is still some violence, so it’s advisable to watch is first and make your own decision for your family.)

I wanted to note this aspect of The Nine Lives of Chloe King because it should influence how we compare it to Buffy — and Chloe is going to get compared to Buffy. A lot.

“Newsflash. Dying sucks and I’m so not doing that again.” –Chloe King

Buffy was a much darker show intended for an older audience. For example, when Buffy had sex with Angel for the first time, part of it happened on screen — and then Angel turned into a monster (but that’s another blog post…). Compare this to Chloe’s life-long friends Amy and Paul “making out” off-screen. Sure, as the show goes forward Chloe will likely engage in these experiences too, but I bet much of it will also occur off-screen. This is ABC Family, after all. I’m always looking for shows that offer something different, so I found this approach refreshing.

In about two seconds Brian puts on the kitty cat hat, but is that anywhere on the Interwebs? No.

Chloe has known for a long time that she was adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage, but also learns from mom Meredith, played by Amy Pietz, that her father likely bribed someone to remove her from there. Also, she’s been e-mailing her missing dad unsuccessfully for years, but at the end of the show she finally receives a reply from him: Trust no one. In addition to discovering that she has nine lives, Chloe also begins to use her other feline powers like superhuman speed, hearing, agility and strength. Oh yeah, and the claws. The Mai are descendants of the Egyptian cat-goddess Bastet. From the lore in the books:

“The true origins of the Mai, also known as the Desert Hunters, are shrouded in mystery and legend. One myth says that Bastet, amused at ram-headed Khnum’s creation of man, decided to conceive her own race of worshippers.

“For if the sheep can make so delicate a creation, how much better would be the work of claws!” –Bastet

And once she breathed life into clay gathered from the Nile’s edge, Sekhmet bade her creation to wake, and taught her how to hunt.

But back to Chloe’s three wishes, namely the kissing a boy part. When out at the club for her birthday, Chloe meets Xavier and spontaneously kisses him before heading home for the night. He later ends up dead and we, along with Chloe, learn that the Mai cannot be intimate with humans without killing them.** This stinks, most especially for Xavier who, after the best kiss of his life, shortly thereafter ends up stone-cold dead on his apartment floor. In his underwear. Poor guy.

This has far-reaching consequences, though, as Chloe has also just met “kitty hat” guy Brian Rezza, played by Grey Damon. Oh, and also, Brian’s dad wants Chloe dead. So, the girl can’t even kiss her new dreamy boyfriend and his dad really seriously hates her.

In about two seconds Brian puts on the kitty cat hat, but is that anywhere on the Interwebs? No.

The day of the premiere, ABC Family sent a final e-mail to the Circle of Strangers hinting that one last item in the box would prove to be important in the pilot, a copy of Romeo & Juliet. Many of us expected this story to have a literal place in the show, but it didn’t. Chloe and her friends weren’t reading it in class or anything like that. However, I won’t be surprised if Brian and his father, Whitely Rezza, are part of a Mai insurrection and linked to the cause of the Mai’s separation from humans eons ago. Human assassins might be after Chloe and her ilk, but they’re employed by other Mai. On the one hand, this is a win for Chloe in that she won’t be able to kill Brian with a kiss (always a plus), but on the other hand she might have to kill him with her claws instead.

Overall, I enjoyed The Nine Lives of Chloe King. I enjoyed the symbolism in the subversion of the fairytale kiss and the princess actually falling out of her ivory tower. However, the acting was a little weak in places and while the writers nailed teenage-girl dialogue, I hope they use a light hand with it in the future. In the opening, I didn’t understand why Chloe was running away from a crowd up people and toward a tower with no exit at the top but down. Those seemed to be poor decisions, but I’ll cut her some slack because she’s not a kick-butt heroine yet at this point.

I usually give pilots a pass on a somewhat rough entry as the writers and actors have only just begun to understand the characters and a brand new world to inhabit. They’ve set up a young heroine discovering a whole new side to herself and superpowers she’s only just started to understand, so I’ll be tuning in to see how they develop that story.

Emo montage song at the end: “Animal” by K$sha.

*I didn’t get this box though. Jealous!

**I hope Skyler Samuels isn’t getting typecast since she portrayed succubus Andie Bates on the short-lived show The Gates.

3 Comments on ‘Nine Lives of Chloe King’ – Pilot Recap

  1. And there are often a lot of changes that occur between pilots and second episodes, too.  The “pilot movie” for Babylon 5 is quite different than the first and subsequent seasons…

  2. A few thoughts after viewing without my full attention:

    Lyncathropy as a metaphor for adolescence has a long history in comics & on cinema.  I don’t know when it has been done before on TV.

    The different target audience for 9LCK makes the content different from BTVS as well as how that content is portrayed.  It’s more than whether intimacy occurs on or off screen –  Chloe marks her 16th birthday by visiting an adult nightclub.  Buffy marked hers by losing her virginity to her adult boyfriend.

    I suppose it’s typical for TV, but Chloe’s apparent social isolation was curious.  So was the low-key manner in which Meredith King celebrated her daughter’s 16th birthday.

    (Coit Tower was the scene of the fall.  No, a long time SF resident would not have been likely to evade a pursuer by climbing the stairs to the top.  The assassin probably took the elevator.)

  3. I’m obviously not the target audience because I was busy having grown up thoughts like —

    Why are these kids running around on so many school nights?

    Do any of them have homework?

    And their parents are where?

    If a large guy pinned me against a school locker and started to sniff me like I was a bitch in heat, I’d scream, not be attracted.  What kind of naive idiot is she?

    If this girl is poisonous, why hasn’t she poisoned her adopted human mother with baby kisses and close proximity?  

    If this girl is poisonous, why are those watching her who know this not telling her until she murders some poor guy?  

    The story set up is problematic.  She’s an easy target for an assassin if she remains in her current life.  If I wanted to kill her, I’d hire a sniper with a high-powered rifle to blow her head apart then have someone else cut her to bits.  No amount of non-magic healing skill can heal that.

    She also has so many friends and family who can be used as weapons against her that’s she’s completely vulnerable.  

    Unless she runs for it, I’m guessing that Brian talks his evil Daddy into not killing her in hopes of recruiting her though “love.”

    Hormonal teenagers with the survival instincts of lemmings aren’t my thing so I won’t watch again. 



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