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'First Kill' showrunner blames Netflix marketing strategy for supernatural drama's cancellation

The supernatural drama was axed after just one season.

By Matthew Jackson
First Kill Season1 Episode 5

Though you may not have seen it, if you're a social media user you've probably at least heard of First Kill by now. The Netflix supernatural drama launched on the streaming service back in June and quickly built a vocal fan following online, but those fans got especially vocal earlier this week, when the show was cancelled after just eight episodes. Now, First Kill's showrunner is speaking out about her disappointment.

In an interview with The Daily Beast this week, Felicia D. Henderson — whose other genre credits include Fringe and Netflix's The Punisher series — cited Netflix's marketing efforts as one reason the show might not have found a wide enough audience for the streamer to keep it around for a second season. 

“The art for the initial marketing was beautiful,” Henderson said. “I think I expected that to be the beginning and that the other equally compelling and important elements of the show — monsters vs. monster hunters, the battle between two powerful matriarchs, etc. — would eventually be promoted, and that didn’t happen.”

Created by bestselling genre author V.E. Schwab, based on her short story of the same name, the series follows Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook), a member of a powerful vampire dynasty who has come of age and must set out to make her "first kill" and take her rightful place in her family. Things get complicated when she falls for Calliope (Imani Lewis), a new girl in town who just so happens to be a member of a powerful family of monster hunters. Though their backgrounds place them in opposition to each other, Juliette and Calliope can't deny their feelings, even if their connection might spark a conflict much bigger than the two of them. 

The show emerged two months ago with solid early viewer numbers, cracking the Top 10 and, according to Deadline, peaking in third place during its first week, behind only perennial Netflix hits Stranger Things and Peaky Blinders, both of which had just release new rounds of episodes. According to Henderson, though, the big test for Netflix brass wasn't how many people were watching the show, but how many people were choosing to finish it. 

“When I got the call to tell me they weren’t renewing the show because the completion rate wasn’t high enough, of course, I was very disappointed,” Henderson said. “What showrunner wouldn’t be? I’d been told a couple of weeks ago that they were hoping completion would get higher. I guess it didn’t.”

Fans have spent the last several days attempting to rally support for the show on social media under hashtags like #RenewFirstKill, and a petition for a second season has earned several thousand signatures as of this writing. It might not be enough to change the streamer's mind, but for the moment, Henderson is more focused on praising her collaborators and celebrating the time she had working on the series, and acknowledging the work Netflix put in initially to get the show made.

“They licensed the IP, paid for a pilot script, and gave it a healthy production budget,” she said. “The creative team was very supportive when we were shooting the show under harrowing conditions—before there were ‘vaccines for all’ in Atlanta, a very overcrowded production hub.”

Henderson added, “I think this cast is among the most talented I’ve ever worked with. And their chemistry? Fire, for sure. The show is kick-ass and we were in the top five globally and domestically for three of the first four weeks. I was very hopeful.”

If you'd like to see for yourself what the buzz is about, all eight episodes of First Kill's first season are now streaming on Netflix.

Looking for more supernatural drama? Peacock's Vampire Academy premieres Thursday, Sept. 15 on Peacock.

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