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Throwback Thursday - Forever Knight - Dark Knight

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past. 

Vampires have always been with us, from the Babylonian Lilith and the Lamia of Ancient Greece, to the more recognizable vampires of today's pop culture, inspired by the symptoms of porphyria. It was the 80s that saw vampires modernized, fueled in part by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They became younger, sexier, and, no longer the mysterious Eastern European, they became your neighbor, or your high school best friend – or a police detective in LA called Nick Knight. It was from this 1989 TV movie that we would get Forever Knight.
Running from 1992-1996, the setting shifted to Toronto, with an all-new cast (except for John Kapelos), and some tweaked characters (Natalie and Stonetree). This Throwback Thursday looks at the two-part premiere, Dark Knight, and Dark Knight: The Second Chapter.

He was brought across in 1228 – and that’s where Dark Knight begins, with Nicholas’ first moments as a new vampire. It should be noted, for as divisive as the series finale, Last Knight, may be, the series concludes with what appears to be Nick’s last moments. That move must be appreciated, even if it isn’t liked.

In 1990s Toronto, Nick Knight (played by Geraint Wyn Davies) now works the night shift as a homicide detective. Nick’s been in Toronto for three years by this point, and he seems to have made the decision to work at this particular precinct based on where Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher) works, but it’s unclear how long Nick has been in this role. The local journalists know him by name, yet he contaminates the crime scene like a rookie. Nick and Schanke (John Kapelos) know one another, but they’re not yet partners.

The first murder of the premiere takes place in a museum. The guard is killed, and a jade cup is stolen from a case. Homeless are also being murdered, specifically those with type O blood. These murders – the guard and the homeless – will ultimately end up unconnected, and the fear of blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis and HIV will show their influence on the genre. Other influences stand out too. The Interview with the Vampire influences are clear, so too is The Lost Boys’ influence on Lacroix’s appearance, but Forever Knight’s influence on the genre was just as important. Would Buffy The Vampire Slayer have had a character like Angel without Nick? And we wouldn’t have had Moonlight without Forever Knight.
Forever Knight was subversive in introducing a vampire who was trying “to repay society for his sins”, who drank cow’s blood and whose only wish now was to become mortal. All those who came after with similar goals have Nick to thank for their existence.

Can you get AIDS from sharing food? That’s a question a poster on the wall in a hospital scene asks. This show was made in 1992, and it shows. What is vampirism if nothing more than a blood disease when it’s being explored through a scientific lens and not a spiritual one? And while future episode of Forever Knight explore the impact of HIV and AIDS on vampires (season three’s Fever, for example, shows vampires affected by a virus that is ultimately cured by HIV-infected blood), it is the loss of a loved one after a Hepatitis contaminated blood transfusion that motivates a man to seek revenge on Toronto’s homeless.

In an early scene, Nick and Nat flirt easily over the body. We see from their first interaction that Nat is trying to help him with his “condition”, and we see how close they are. They’re just two years into their six-year friendship here, and the frustration and pining is yet to seep in. He’s the biggest research project she's ever taken on, but he is also her best friend. Nick and Nat balance the religious aspects of vampirism with science. Nick believes himself doomed to an afterlife in Hell. It is Natalie who finally helps him see it from a scientific point of view, who studies his blood and tirelessly works to cure him.

Nick showed his good heart from the start. He offers the homeless his garage to sleep in, takes them food, and only drinks the blood of cows. While we do see him drinking out a jade cup similar to the one stolen, it soon becomes clear he already had this one in his possession and is not the vampire responsible for the guard’s death.

“I kissed her, and then I almost killed her.”

Nick’s brooding after he almost bites museum curator Alyce Hunter (Christine Reeves) could put Heathcliff to shame. Walking into his loft mid-pity party, Nat draws the stories of the other vampires out of Nick. She learns of his master, a vampire named Lacroix (Nigel Bennett), who would do anything to keep Nick immortal. It shows how hard Nat’s had to work at each brick she’s knocked out of Nick’s wall. Two years and she’s only now learning about Lacroix. Nick has been in Toronto three years and, with Lacroix on his radar, finally catches up with Janette (Deborah Duchene), a vampire present the night he was turned.

Nick is correct. Lacroix is back, to torment him, remind him who his master is, and make sure he isn’t straying from his vampiric ways. Lacroix is the one who broke into the museum and who stole the jade cup for the sole purpose of taunting Nick, because Nick believes in ceremonial magic, and believes having both cups could grant him mortality.
When Alyce secretly follows Nick to his confrontation with Lacroix, her presence is noticed, and Lacroix forces Nick to choose between Alyce or the cup. Nick chooses to save Alyce, and the cup is lost, dropped by Lacroix to shatter into shards on the derelict warehouse’s floor.

Alyce escapes and when Lacroix threatens to decapitate Nick, Nick throws him back and Lacroix is impaled on a steel rod. He does not die, however, and remains impaled as the scene ends, a sinister smile tugging at his lips.
As the story concludes, the man responsible for killing the homeless is killed by Lacroix, and Alyce too has her blood drained by the ancient vampire. Out of pure revenge, Nick pierces Lacroix’s heart with a flaming wooden stake and he burns away until only clothing remains. Alyce, however, doesn’t die, and in the final scenes we see her in her new vampire form, something she had begged for, and been given by Lacroix. A mistake, because he thought her dead? Or intentional, to get back at Nick and torment him some more? Sadly, we never see Alyce again, something that feels like a missed opportunity.

The two-part pilot introduces us to all the characters, their personalities and motivations. It injects a little humor in via Schanke, and moves along at a consistent pace. The flashbacks introduce us to Nick’s first, dark, night as a vampire, and we see his first kill. The lighting hues chosen add color and atmosphere. Blues and greens have never felt so sinister before. And the night itself is as much a character in this show as Nick Knight. In dark alleyways, steam rises up, hugging the sides of buildings, and shrouding the figures in the night. Forever Knight is a show to be watched in the dark as midnight approaches.

Final thoughts:

A young Nicole de Boer plays homeless teen Jeannie.

Of the three captains that led the precinct over the series run, Stonetree (Gary Farmer) was always my favorite.

This ep partners Nick and Schanke up for the first time, and it’s hard to believe how likeable Schanke becomes, or how much his death in season 3 will ultimately hurt us.

The effects don’t always hold up, but that’s part of this show’s charm.

Lacroix is theatrical to the extreme at times, but that always makes him more believable. When you’re almost two-thousand years old (he was brought across in 79AD), you’ve earned the right to become a little camp.

Natalie’s first hints of considering vampirism are uttered at the end of the second chapter. “It’s very seductive, isn’t it. The idea of never dying.” While this isn’t something that consumes her character, it is something she thinks about. It’s a desire that will show up again in A More Permanent Hell, when being turned may be the only way to survive the end of the world, and again in the series finale, when she can no longer bear a life alone and persuades Nick to drink her blood. It is an ending that’s not so abrupt when you consider the six years spent with Nick – even if the fates of these characters aren’t what we might have hoped for. But that’s a topic for another Throwback Thursday.

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