The Nine Lives of Chloe King – Goodbye, Chloe!

Cast - Andrew Eccles

How many TV series open by killing off the heroine? So far as I can tell, The Nine Lives of Chloe King [ABC Family, Tuesdays, 9/8C] is the only one. That definitely grabs your attention!

Chloe King [Skyler Samuels] is about to turn sixteen and has a very tuned in mom, Meredith [Amy Pietz]. Her best friends are an Asian guy named Paul [Ki Hong-Lee] and a dark-haired girl named Amy [Grace Phipps]. Since she feels like she doesn’t want to be ‘the good girl,’ she decides to pre-empt the usual pre-birthday ritual to sneak into a club – where she meets a cute guy named Xavier and gets ditched by Paul and Amy.

We get clues that there’s something different about Chloe [balancing on the bench back; an impossible basketball shot into a trash receptacle], but it’s clear that she’s totally baffled by at least some of her new skills, too. Then there’s Alek [Benjamin Stone] the jock who puts the moves on her – totally disregarding the fact that Jasmine [Alyssa Diaz] – who seems at first blush to be a disapproving girlfriend, is glowering right behind him… and Brian [Grey Damon] the guy who comes into the vintage clothing shop where she works [part-time], looking for a tuque [that’s ‘wool hat’ to you Americans]… Before you know it, she’s leaping out of the path of a none-too-vigilant bike rider and discovering she’s got some serious parkour skills.

Naturally, there’s some shady looking dude [shifty eyes, huge scar and a soul patch?] following her and – surprise – it’s the guy who killed her in the teaser! And when she’s accosted by a homeless man, she has a – shall we say unusual – way of defending herself – once again surprising her as much as the homeless guy!

Alek, Amy & Chloe - Eric McCandless

Explanations come from an unexpected source – Chloe is a chosen one of sorts: she’s part of an ancient race called the Mai, more than human; less than a god. The offspring of the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, the Mai are supposed to be protectors of humanity, but they are being hunted by The Order – whose one goal is to make them extinct. None of the Mai, however, has the ability to live through multiple lives, just Chloe – which, according to Mai legend, makes her The Uniter, the one who will save them from extinction.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King is only the most recent Chosen One tale. Its most famous predecessor is, of course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and there are similarities. Both Chloe and Buffy are Chosen; both mysteriously develop strange new powers; both require training/mentoring; both have a mix of human and non-human friends; both have unusual relationships; both inspire loyalty and bravery in their human friends; both are constantly called upon to put their lives on the line, and both have died and come back.

The premiere introduces the core cast and premise in a brisk, efficient manner, handling exposition and establishing relationships quickly but without sacrificing character. The action is mostly exhilarating – the joyful way in which Chloe explores her new strength and agility generates the same kind of fun that we saw in the first Spider-man film when Peter Parker took to the rooftops.

But being The Uniter is not without its downside as Chloe discovers, to her sorrow. Her resulting guilt will lead directly into the show’s second episode, next week.

Chloe in Action - Eric McCandless

Considering how much material the series premiere has to impart, it’s a miracle that the ep doesn’t feel rushed or overly stuffed. That’s a sign of good [potentially great] writing and equally good direction. The Nine Lives of Chloe King might not, yet, be as pop culture referency as Buffy, but it moves well and the entire cast is very good – especially Samuels and Pietz as Chloe and Meredith. The strength of the bond between mother and daughter reminds of Buffy and Joyce Summers – there’s a warmth and trust between them that makes it all but inevitable that Chloe will share her secret with Meredith.

Chloe’s ‘posse’ [as her mom refers to Paul and Amy] feels real, too. Ki and Phipps have terrific chemistry with each other and Samuels. They feel as natural as Buffy, Willow and Xander – and that’s pretty natural.

The ABC Family screener didn’t have any credits, so I can’t name the writer to specify where credit is due, but a press release names Wendy Stanzler – a name I will notice in future. If the series lives up to the pilot, it will be a lot of fun. I may even have to pick up the books [by Liz Braswell] on which it’s based.

Final Grade: B+

Photos by Andrew Eccles and Eric McCandless/courtesy of ABC Family