Roush Review: Showtime’s ‘Let the Right One In’ Tells Another TV Vampire Story

Showtime's 'Let the Right One In' cast
James Minchin/SHOWTIME.

Let the Right One In

Matt's Rating: rating: 3.0 stars

TV vampires come in all shapes and sizes these days. There’s the dynamically steamy duo of Lestat and Louis burning up the screen in AMC’s Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (soon to be adding the adolescent—in this version—Claudia to the mix). There’s the chunky, funky Reginald the Vampire clowning around on Syfy and the insipid teen vamps in Peacock’s derivative Vampire Academy. And now, courtesy of Showtime, we meet the eternally 12-year-old Eleanor (a soulful Madison Taylor Baez) in a new adaptation of Let the Right One In, the chilling Swedish novel that has inspired two movies (go with the Swedish original) and several stage versions.

Aiming for a more grounded realism, creator Andrew Hinderaker (Penny Dreadful) clutters this once-haunting fable with traditional TV elements including the police procedural and a sci-fi thriller subplot. Individually, these new angles are relatively well done and compellingly told, but the overall effect is to render something once so wonderfully strange and eerie into a perfectly acceptable but stubbornly ordinary TV show.

The first, and most essential difference, is to present this story largely from the perspective of Eleanor’s devoted widower dad, Mark Cane (the reliably excellent Demían Bichir), who for the last decade has been protecting and providing for his damaged daughter the best he can. Always searching for a cure, Mark has also become adept at procuring victims to satisfy Eleanor’s insatiable appetite for human blood. As the series begins, they’ve moved back to the New York City area where their ordeal began, with a series of suspicious murders suggesting another creature like Eleanor is on the loose.

By coincidence, which happens a lot here, they settle in next to Naomi, an NYPD detective (Anika Noni Rose, well cast) who’s investigating these very same crimes. When her nerdy, magic-loving son Isaiah (Ian Foreman) strikes up a friendship with lonely, frustrated, isolated Eleanor, fans of the original Let the Right One In will begin to feel more at home. Their bond, which escalates when Eleanor learns he’s being bullied at school, becomes the series’ emotional core, even more than that of Mark’s increasingly desperate efforts to keep his beloved child free from the taint of vampiric murder.

Demián Bichir in 'Let the Right One In'

Francisco Roman/SHOWTIME

To flesh things out to fill a 10-episode season (and presumably more), we spend way too much time with Mark and his former BFF, Eleanor’s godfather Zeke (The Walking Dead‘s Kevin Carroll), as Mark goes back to work as a chef at Zeke’s posh eatery that they opened in happier times. Hey, even a dad’s got to eat.

As Zeke reluctantly gets drawn back into Mark’s family crisis, the series spins further away from this narrative, introducing us to the scientist Claire Logan (Mr. Robot‘s Grace Gummer), who learns to her dismay that her despised and disgraced pharmaceutical-mogul father (Zeljko Ivanek) has been racing to develop a new drug to treat vampirism before his own fatal illness carries him away. His motives hit very close to home, and before long, Claire is spending time in the Logan estate’s macabre lab.

All of these paths will almost surely, inevitably cross, but until that time, you might be left wondering what happened to the uniquely nightmarish bite on which Let the Right One In built its reputation.

Let the Right One In, Series Premiere, Sunday, Oct. 9, 10/9c, Showtime (available Friday, Oct. 7 on streaming and On Demand)