She Did Something
Make It Stop
Off The Rails
Friends Let Us Down
The Witch Is Coming
You Can Never Go Home
Kiss Me First should be a genre-defying, thought provocative series used as a platform to showcase the darker side of our ever evolving digitalised world. Despite a strong opening few episodes, Kiss Me First destroys any credibility it builds until this point with an incoherent, disjointed story that fails to answer key questions raised in the series. It’s so bad in fact, there’s moments where you feel like an episode is missing as the plot jumps to different locations and situations without warning, leaving you scrambling to catch up. It’s a shame too as Kiss Me First has a lot of potential but it’s squandered in a show that loses its way and never recovers.
After attending her Mother’s funeral, introvert Leila (Tallulah Haddon) finds her world changed forever as she comes to grips with life alone, struggling to pay bills for their flat. Finding refuge in the online VR game world of Azana, an invite to join a secret group called Red Pill turns her world upside down. It’s here that Leila meets Tess (Simona Brown) and the two end up meeting in the real world. Cutting back and forth between the virtual and real world, the cult-like group called Red Pill slowly dissolve its facade of paradise to reveal a dark and sinister secret that spills into both realities. At the heart of all of this is Adrian (Matthew Beard), the leader of Red Pill, whose softly spoken, cool demeanour juxtaposes a more sinister edge that’s slowly revealed over time.
It’s worth noting that the CGI and visual effects in general are very good throughout the series. Animations are smooth, realistically rendered with an exquisite use of colour. Contrasting the bright, vibrant world of Azana with the dark, dreary London is a clever one and really helps solidify some of the series’ themes that are explored in detail here. Ideas around isolation, loneliness and our attitude toward digitalisation; using a video game for escapism is one that resonates with our world today. Some of these themes are handled elegantly, presented in an impressive manner as the series shifts effortlessly between the CGIed virtual world and the real world. Others, like the gamification of the real world, are handled so poorly they feel contrived and disjoint an already troubled storyline.
When it comes to the characters, Kiss Me First does manage to craft some believable ones, especially the intimate scenes showing some of the side characters. Seeing one character come away from the fantastical world of Azana to witness the horrific fighting between his Mum and Dad downstairs while fighting back tears is one example of just how touching this series can be. Unfortunately moments like this are fleeting, regularly overshadowed by some truly baffling character logic and, especially in the case of Leila, complete 180 degree transformations in a short space of time. Seeing Leila change from a timid, shy girl to a confident, reckless freedom fighter in the space of 20 minutes is not only unbelievable, it’s borderline lazy from a writing perspective and only further underlines some of the juxtaposing elements going on in Kiss Me First.
Kiss Me First is arguably one of the most frustrating show’s we’ve watched this year. The opening few episodes are excellent with some relevant and touching themes explored in a mature way. Unfortunately, Kiss Me First falls apart around the middle of the third episode and quickly spirals out of control with a plot that turns into a convoluted, indecipherable mess. A lack of closure for any of the plot threads leave massive questions unanswered for a second season that may or may not be green-lit at this time. If we’re rating episode to episode, the first couple are excellent and well worth watching but based on the entire season, it’s difficult to recommend Kiss Me First, which is likely to be remembered for the wrong reasons, ending on a whimper rather than a triumphant roar.