Of all the shows I picked up in Fall 2018, Legacies was my favorite surprise. There are shows that have exceeded my expectations, sure, but with this show it was different… because I never intended on watching it in the first place. But here it was, full of humor, magic, a killer soundtrack and all the borderline-ridiculous drama you’d expect from a CW show… but also heart. Way more heart than I was expecting from a show about a supernatural boarding school.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: What about “supernatural boarding school” didn’t have me sold from the word jump? Well, Legacies is a spinoff of a spinoff, so I assumed it would be deeply entrenched in a canon I knew nothing about except what I’ve picked up peripherally. I remember when The Vampire Diaries started; I was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and therefore vampire lore in general since I was 12, so when a new show about vampires starring Mia from Degrassi was starting, my interest was piqued. But I started grad school that same fall, and believe it or not I didn’t have cable, let alone time to watch much TV.
So the years passed and by the time The Originals spinoff came along in 2013, I was too far behind to catch up, despite the promise of queer witches. I figured I’d just never get to experience this specific supernatural world, or maybe watch it in San Junipero in a hundred years.
But then at New York Comic Con 2018, all that changed. At NYCC, they don’t clear the panel rooms, and Legacies was screening between two panels in the same room my friends and I wanted to attend, and the room wasn’t overflowing, so we stayed put. We got to see the first episode and, well, I was in love. I was over here worried about being 263 episodes “behind” but it didn’t matter at all. There was one or two moments that I could tell were call-backs based on the audience reaction, but my lack of attachment to them didn’t affect my understanding at all, and even as the series went on, every single lore question I hounded my friends who had watched TVD about ended up being answered within Legacies eventually.
Okay so now that I’ve convinced you that you DON’T need to watch the original series, let me tell you why you DO need to watch this one.
Legacies is about a boarding school, The Salvatore School, that mostly houses teenagers but also has an occasionally-relevant elementary school. To the outside world, they’re just another school in Mystic Falls, but in reality they are a school specifically for witches, werewolves, and vampires. And the story centers around a young woman who is descended from all three, the only “tribrid” of her kind.
Hope is close with the principal of the school, Alaric Saltzman, and often finds herself having to work with his daughters, Josie and Lizzie. In the first episode, we learn that Josie has an ex-girlfriend, Penelope, who is still hell-bent on driving Josie mad. And for a while you think maybe they’re the two token queers on the show. But it slowly but surely becomes clear that this school has neutralized sexuality: everyone is queer. Sexuality is fluid. They’re all on equal playing ground, so to speak. But taking the “everyone is gay” approach didn’t rob us of those same themes of coming out and self-discovery. Because in this world, “queerness” is being supernatural. Being supernatural gives them strength, but it also makes them different, and they have to learn how to live in this world that might not be ready for the full force of them. Some of them get kicked out of their homes because of who they are, some don’t know what they are at all yet. There are tensions between different types of supernaturals, and there’s so much self-acceptance that has to happen.
There are so many love stories in this show, and only some of them are romantic. It’s about father’s love for his daughters, biological and surrogate. It’s about the tumultuous love between twins who couldn’t be more different. It’s about the love of friendship and found family.
And yes, it’s about exes who keep finding their way back into each other’s arms.
Penelope starts off being an almost-silly foil for Josie, but we soon learn that Penelope’s snark and trickery comes from a place of love and she’s not just a two-dimensional villain there to drive Josie mad. Their push and pull tugs at the heartstrings week after week, and by the 14th episode, you’ll wonder why you ever dared think Penelope Park was was just a play for laughs.
Every episode of this show is stronger than the last. Of course, it’s not a perfect show (I could use like 30% less Landon), but for every complaint I have, there are at least five more things I could gush about. They never take themselves too seriously, enjoying the hell out of some classic sci-fi tropes and dismantling some fantasy lore. The most powerful people on this show are teenagers; the fate of the world is in the hands of capable young women and men. The grown-ups don’t have all the answers, and my gods, kids are MEAN. The girls know they’re strong and never have to be convinced, the boys aren’t afraid to talk about their vulnerabilities. And, as I mentioned, everyone is queer.
And now you have time to watch Season One before Season Two returns in the fall. (It drops on Netflix on April 5th.) Enjoy! If you need me I’ll be spending the hiatus binging The Vampire Diaries and The Originals…