Book Adaptation: Bitten 1×01 to 1×04

Bitten - Season 1

One thing I could have done without is the show’s tagline: “Who’s afraid of the big, BLONDE wolf?” It implies things, sexist things. Implications about blonde women are never nice.

Here I go reviewing another show years after it started!

I watched the first four episodes of Bitten over a couple of days, while simultaneously rereading the book, and I have THOUGHTS about it.

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten is based on Kelley Armstrong’s paranormal/urban fantasy/romance/whatever it is series that has been around since 2001. However, it was only adapted for television a couple of years ago.

Of course, with the way technology is developing so fast now, there have been changes. There’s an airport scene in the book that (especially in the United States!) could NOT have happened after September 2001. The show version certainly doesn’t have Elena saying she can name all the members of Wham!, and telephone calls aren’t happening on landline phones in the show!

s01_e0101_bitten_09_138956560348Clayton.

The cast is growing on me, even if I found them all a bit blandly Hollywood-style big teeth and spray-tanned sort of attractive at the start. Unfortunately, my favourite character at the moment is the “other man”, who I would give up the werewolf life for in an instant if he offered!

bittenElena Philip episode three

It’s especially unfortunate as I think (from pictures I’ve seen) his story arc in the show is more brutal than in the book!

s01_e0101_bitten_15_138956563428 Clay and Elena episode one

The casting is not as I imagine the characters at all, but I’m mostly okay with the changes. Clay is supposed to basically be the most gorgeous man in the world, with golden curls, amongst other things, but I’m okay with the scruffier version in the show. He has appeal in a different way.

The Elena actress is… I don’t really know… I read somewhere that she is great at playing “The Girlfriend”, but that is the beginning and end of her range. I agree.

Book Elena is a very different person, even if the basics of her looks are the same. But who goes through major fights with perfectly-styled long hair, and wakes up with full eye makeup on?! I also have long (longer!), blonde hair, and when I go out I usually tie it up because it gets knotty in about two minutes! Book Elena is unsure about how to dress nicely, and show Elena looks like she uses a professional stylist.

Clay and Elena find a raver who was bitten, and will become a werewolf.

What sets Armstrong’s books apart and stops them from being paranormal ROMANCE is that the characters don’t follow the moral pattern you expect of a romance hero and heroine. Having spoken personally to the author for some time last year, and having heard her give a thirty-minute speech at a function, I know that she doesn’t consider her books romance – and nor do I.

Bitten-Season-1-bitten-tv-series-Elena Phillip

At the same time, they very much have a romantic thread through them, even if it involves morally questionable behaviour by both “hero” and “heroine” in order for that romance to happen.

s01_e0102_09_138989403096

Of course the TV version was going to play up those romantic lines (and the love triangle aspect).

In fact, it seems whenever the book mentions the word “sex”, the show’s producers decided that was an instruction to include yet another sex scene. The show’s FIRST scene is a sex scene!

s01_e0104_05_139143979231kisselenaclay.

Werewolves in this incarnation are first and foremost concerned for their privacy. They will do almost anything to protect their identities, even if that involves murder.

Crazy as it sounds, what I liked in the books was that very mindset. Too often in the fantasy subgenres, the characters are just regular people with a couple of cool powers. In the book series, they’re totally different and Elena, our heroine, is struggling to maintain her humanity even after being forced against her will to become a werewolf.

Fiona Highet as Sheriff Karen Morgan

One thing they do better than the books is have more than one female character. This book would not only fail the Bechdel test, but would be so low down on the scale it would disappear! They had to really force some more women into the show, and they’re not all that crucial to the plot, but I’m glad they did, because that’s the aspect of the books I find troubling. Elena should at least have a connection to ONE other woman!

When I finally picked up Bitten for a reread in December last year, I was struck by the differences to the normal books I read. It’s not a romance book, because the author takes so many risks and is not afraid to kill off her characters.

I took an educated guess with this series that the character who was killed in the books wouldn’t be the same one in the show. Just as with Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, in order to keep the diversity in the cast, they didn’t kill off the minority characters.

I don’t mind either way, because I wasn’t attached to any of those secondary characters, but I do wish Elena had been there to find the body as she had been in the book. The emotional impact was lost because she was in another COUNTRY when it happened!

I think because the first book is told by Elena, in the first person, a lot gets lost in translation. Explaining the complex mindset of a werewolf isn’t possible without a cringeworthy voiceover, so instead they’ve just made the werewolves more human. Thank GOD they didn’t go for the voiceover, like they did with Outlander.

Clay, who in the book holds humans in contempt and doesn’t understand why it is morally wrong to kill them, is here shown getting upset over the death of a woman and then later a child. His motive for revenge comes not from a need to protect his pack, but because he is personally upset by what happened.

I miss some book scenes in the early episodes. The opportunities for a bit of humour in amongst all the death and destruction are lost. There’s a scene in the book where Elena goads a dog into attacking her in order to cover up evidence, and Clay pretends to comfort her. They find it hilarious while she’s pretending to wail and carry on.

This scene is sort of in the show, but the dog never bites, and the humour is never there.

I think this is a really tricky book to adapt, and they’ve done an okay job. I’m not sure how I would feel about the show if I hadn’t read the book.

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3 thoughts on “Book Adaptation: Bitten 1×01 to 1×04

  1. It’s often really hard for fans to write a comparison of a book and TV show version of the book. The review usually devolves down to one stunk and the other one was awesome. But you did a really good job with this review. I’m not familiar with the book or the TV show, but you clearly explained how the book did some things better than the show and how the show did other things better. It was really interesting reading your opinion. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: The Week: 1st – 7th February | Sonya's Stuff

  3. Pingback: Book Adaptation: Bitten 1×05 – 1×08 | Sonya's Stuff

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