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Series / Kindred: The Embraced

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Kindred: The Embraced is an obscure and short-lived supernatural drama produced by Spelling Television and John Leekley Productions. The show is a loose live-action adaptation of White Wolf's popular Tabletop RPG Vampire: The Masquerade and ran on Fox from April to May of 1996.

San Francisco police detective Frank Kohanek (C. Thomas Howell) suspects influential businessman Julian Luna (Mark Frankel) of being heavily connected to the mob and is deadset on bringing him in. While investigating the homicide of Julian's bodyguard on a lead from an anonymous tipster, Frank discovers, through the actions of his girlfriend Alexandra, the secret society of vampires, or "kindred" as they call themselves, that have taken up residence in the city. Unfortunately, Kindred law states that telling a human about the existence of vampires is punishable by death. And Julian just so happens to be the leader, or "prince" of the local Kindred and the one responsible for carrying out that sentence. By the end of the 1st episode, the two men are at odds with each other, with Frank vowing to kill Julian for what he has done. Thankfully, the two get over it really quickly after the death of a mafia informant at the hands of Eddie Fiori (Brian Thompson), the traitorous leader or "primogen" of the Brujah clan. The two form a tentative alliance to take down Fiori and prevent a war between the 5 vampire clans.

Kindred was cancelled by Fox after only 8 episodes. Efforts were made by a US cable network to continue production of the series, but this was abandoned when series star Mark Frankel was killed in a motorcycle accident in the fall of 1996.

Critics tend to describe the show as a mix of The Godfather and Melrose Place... with vampires. Due to the numerous changes and "sanitization" of the game's elements for mainstream television, there is a noticeable divide between fans of the game and fans of the show. Some are fans of both.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • All of the Nosferatu in the show simply have bald heads, sometimes a disfigured digit and goofy looking ears. (Not even pointed ears. Just elongated earlobes and the like.) A far cry from the much more varied and nightmarish disfigurements suffered by the Nos in the game.
    • There are a few implications that they're uglier in-universe. One episode has Daedalus use a potion to temporarily look normal; when it wears off the girl he was pursuing acts like his real look is monstrously different, even though the "disguise" could have been replicated by a wig.
  • Adaptation Distillation: While a lot of the core elements of the game are kept in (the concept of clans and the masquerade, the basic hierarchy of a Camarilla government, etc.), much of it had been simplified or thrown out altogether to make the show more palatable for non-fans of the game who tuned in.
    • A really noticeable example is the fact that all Kindred can go out during the day if they have fed recently, as well as eat normal food. Usually those abilities are reserved for only the most powerful and ancient Kindred in the game.
    • Another is the omission of the Camarilla's main rivals the Sabbat, the other various smaller factions of Kindred society, and most of the clans (only five clans, the Gangrel, Brujah, Ventrue, Toreador and Nosferatu, are mentioned and represented in the show). Presumably, White Wolf approved the changes, as Mark Rein·Hagen, the creator of Vampire, co-produced the show.
    • Another is the omission of ghouls, replaced by "Licks". A human drinking a Kindred's blood in K:TE makes them immune to vampiric powers and has no addictive qualities, if consumed in small amounts, as highlighted by The Mole during pilot. This isn't explored much and is probably only there to serve as a handwave for why Julian or another vampire doesn't simply use their mind control abilities to make Frank forget everything he's seen and heard.
    • There's no reference to supernaturals from the other role-playing games that are part of Vampire: The Masquerade's Shared Universe, the World of Darkness, i.e. werewolves, mages, wraiths, changelings, demons and mummies (and hunters).
  • Affably Evil: Played with Julian. Initially he gives the impression of being this, being a prince who cares about his fellow Kindred and is cordial to everyone, even his enemies, after the first episode the "evil" part is largely ignored, although he remains connected to illegal activities.
  • Alternate Continuity: Essentially this to the World of Darkness. For instance, the Nosferatu were the first vampires and used to be their rulers before the Ventrue got away from them and took over.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: A rare non-gaming example. The Kindred seem to have only one punishment for anything and that's death. Exactly like the tabletop game.
  • Ambiguously Evil:
    • The Kindred as a whole. At least in San Fransisco, they're implied to not kill humans as a general rule and hold themselves to a reasonable if strict moral standard.
    • Lilly Langtree is another case as she does quite a few unpleasant things over the course of the show.
    • Julian started as this but was re-envisioned as the Only Sane Man by Episode 2.
  • The Anime of the Game: A rare Western and live action example.
  • A-Team Firing: A mook manages to fail to kill anyone, nevermind his targets, in a drive by. With a grenade launcher filled with Phosphorous and targets less than 12 feet from him!
  • Beast and Beauty: One episode features Daedalus trying to start one of these kinds of relationships with a beautiful singer he saw perform at one of Lillie's clubs. It doesn't turn out well...
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Lillie is supposedly Lillie Langtry, a British actress and mistress to King Edward VII of England.
  • Better as Friends: Julian decides this of him and Lilly. Lilly does not take it well.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Lilly, Julian, Daedalus, Sasha, and Archon all live in the same house. Cash might too. It's ambiguous. Not many Sabbat packs are this close.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Julian Luna is a lighter shade of grey but starts off appearing to be a monster to mobster Eddie Fiori.
  • Classical Movie Vampire: Julian exhibits a lot of the characteristics of one, including the widow's peak. Notably, Julian possesses all of the powers of a Bela Lugosi-style vampire which were fairly rare in the game. Then again, all of the vampires seem to have those abilities.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy:
    • Lilly is this, only a more subdued one. How jealous? She tries to have all rivals killed.
  • Decadent Court: The show's premise and what would have made it Growing the Beard (after one episode!). The politics of the show were what separated it from other vampire shows.
  • Death by Origin Story:
    • Stevie Ray, Julian's bodyguard, Cash's sire, and the Gangrel primogen, bites it a few minutes into the pilot episode. His death is what sets most of the plot in motion.
    • Alexandra as well. It hints that she survived the bloodhunt thanks to Daedalus's advice at the end of the pilot though.
  • Dirty Coward: Despite being played by the huge Brian Thompson and being an Elder vampire, Eddie Fiori is one of these.
  • The Dragon: Julian was this to Archon. Cash is SUPPOSED to be this to Julian but Julian does the majority of his own legwork. Which makes Julian a Dragon-in-Chief as well as Dragon Ascendant.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Daedalus was originally a much more monstrous character, Frank was the star, and Julian was Ambiguously Evil. All of this is pretty much tossed out by Episode Two.
  • Easily Forgiven: Lilly Langtree is the source of 90% of the show's drama but Julian seems to ignore it. Mostly because he's in love with her.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Alexandra.
  • Infodump: From Frank, after doing some research in an undisclosed library that somehow has extensive books on Kindred lore.
  • In Name Only: The Brujah are basically just angrier Ventrue, their rebelliousness and obsessive independent streak from the game passed over to the Gangrels. Even in the Gangrels it seems to be mostly aesthetic, with them functioning as Ventrue enforcers more than anything (and they have none of their half-feral ferocity from the source material). The Gangrel are also the only Clan not to manifest one of their signature powers, Protean (most other vampires at least have something like the "Feral Claws" power, while several can turn into wolves, one of Protean's highest-level abilities.)
  • The Mafia: The Brujah seem to have turned into this for the show.
    • Though all vampires seem to operate like organized crime due to Aaron Spelling's conception it was The Godfather with fangs.
  • Morality Pet: Julian makes Caitlin this. His keeping Frank alive (as well as un-brainwashed) is this, too.
  • Only Sane Man: Julian (after Episode 2) is often the only Kindred not engaged in self-destructive behavior of one manner or another.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Follows a simplified version of V:TM's rules with a few exceptions to play up drama and make the show more mainstream friendly. Most notably, they remove or seriously downplay all the elements of personal horror... which were the express purpose of the game.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Julian was the Sheriff (Prince's enforcer) of San Fransisco before he became Prince.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The first shot of Julian in the first episode? Him standing behind a glass door with a white painting of a wolf head on it with his eyes lined up with the wolf's.
    • Alexandra takes the form of a White Wolf near the end of the pilot, soon after the relationship between her and Julian revealed to be very deep.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Julian, being the prince, has investments and agents in nearly every single establishment in San Francisco, including the police department. Later, he buys out the San Francisco Times just so he can make Caitlin the head editor and have more control over her.
  • Serial Killer: The villain of the third episode is a schizophrenic Gangrel fledgeling who uses his newfound powers to perpetrate a series of ritualistic killings.
  • Smug Snake: Eddie Fiori. He's an interesting example of this as he's quite intelligent as well as strong. It's just he becomes something of a blubbering mess around Cyrus as well as Luna.
  • Uncanceled: Almost happened. After being canceled by Fox due to low ratings, Showtime picked up the rights to the show and a revival was planned. The untimely and unfortunate death of Mark Frankel caused them to can it.
  • Vampire Variety Pack: Features five of the thirteen clans from V:tM: Brujah, Gangrel, Nosferatu, Toreador and Ventrue. The differences are significantly toned down from the source material however, with everyone having the same powers. The Toreador and Ventrue especially are nearly identical.
  • Vampires Are Rich: Julian and Lillie mostly, but everyone in Julian's court lives pretty comfortably.
  • Vampires Own Night Clubs: Lillie, the Toreador primogen, owns several, including the predominantly seen "The Haven."
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Due to the Kindred's Lighter and Softer nature, the mention of witch hunters and implications the Kindred would be hunted should their existence be made public comes off as this. The game is more explicit about the nasty things many Kindred do on a regular basis that make hunting them quite reasonable.
  • The Voice: The anonymous tipster that helps Frank discover Kindred society. Though it's revealed at the end of the pilot to be Sonny, who's directly under the thumb of Eddie.