Tuesday, September 6, 2011

5 Reasons You Need to Watch The Vampire Diaries

When The Vampire Diaries first came out, I got through 1.75 episodes before I kicked the series to the curb.  I remember exactly when I turned it off: Blonde Annoying Girl was babbling about something, trying to stir up trouble at a dinner party she hadn't been invited to. Snark and fake smiles went back and forth and I suddenly had a, "Nope, just can't do any more of this" moment and gave that series the boot.  Multiple people over on io9.com had told me I needed to give The Vampires Diaries another chance, so a couple weekends ago I caved and picked up season one for 20 bucks on Amazon.  I vowed only to get through the entirety of episode six before turning it off this time.

And I did indeed turn it off - 6 hours later, after being glued to the television for 8 episodes in a row.

Here are five of the things that turned me from a hater into a fangirl. (Mild spoilers.)

1.  This is not a mopey Twilight ripoff.
There's a tendency that's developed in the last few years for people to look at anything that involves a love triangle and a vampire and go, "Hurr, it's Twilight!"  This makes me want to cut people.  Like there were no vampire stories before Twilight?  Grr.  On the other hand, at first, The Vampire Diaries did seem a little Twilight-y - I mean, you've got beautiful, sad vampire Stefan and sweet human schoolgirl Elena.  Stefan is the hot, mysterious new guy and oh, Elena has a crush. Gag me.  Fortunately, evil badass vampire Damon promptly shows up and kicks the living (ha!) shit out of his little brother Stefan.  After they became vampires in 1864, Damon swore to make Stefan miserable for all eternity, and seems to do so with a deep, personal joy as he commits a ton of horrifically savage acts.  It's nice to see a vampire being bad, for a change.  When these vampires feed, it is absolutely brutal.  Seeing the horrible marks left on a pet human that Damon decides to keep was actually a little disturbing. The best part is that there's just not a damn thing Stefan can do about it, since he's weaker than his brother.

2.  The secondary characters are real people.
Bonnie, the witchy best friend, struck me as a Willow wannabe for a couple of episodes.  Once the show started following her story without Elena being with her, it was clear that was not the case.  Bonnie is her own person going through her own troubles - she's a witch and as her powers manifest, she is freaking out. Blonde Annoying Girl, Caroline, gets similarly fleshed out as she ends up being Damon's Happy Meal and his thrall - she had made me turn off the show initially, and yet when I saw what Damon had done to her, I gasped in horror.  She had stopped being Annoying Girl and started to be just Caroline without me even noticing.  Pouty little brother Jeremy, quarterback Matt, dickhead Tyler, and druggie Vicki are all real people whose lives intertwine to show us the story of the town. It makes the show feel a lot broader than just the central love triangle.

3. There is zero filler in this show.
Imagine your favorite urban fantasy book playing out on the TV in front of you.  You know, the one that you should have put down hours ago because it's really late but at the end of every chapter, you have a cliffhanger that leads you into the next chapter and before you know it, it's 3am and you have to be up at 6 - and you still don't put it down?  Right, it's like that. The show is super serial.  There are no monster of the week episodes, no clip show crap, nothing but the latest developments that spring out of the complications that seem to constantly arise.  This show never insults your intelligence by trying to reintroduce the show every episode for the first six episodes the way some genre shows do.  We dive right in and shit gets real immediately.  Also, everything that happens makes sense, it's not just Dramatic Chipmunk stuff that gets thrown in for the sake of hijinks.  I watched all of season 1 over the course of three nights and it played out like the smooth, well-planned narrative it is.

4.  The mythology is convoluted and awesome.
At first, we just see sweet, sad Stefan and mean, bad Damon and we know in our hearts that Damon must have done something horrible to have gotten poor Stefan into this - and to add insult to injury, that terrible Damon keeps tormenting wonderful Stefan.  Ha!  As the story of what really happened in the summer of 1864 comes out over the course of the first season, it's shocking and sad and fascinating.  So many lives were destroyed and the ultimate reason was nothing I expected.  There are no good guys, and even the bad guys have motives you understand (even if you want to punch them in the face).  It's tough to figure out who to root for and who you'd like to cut - and that sometimes changes two or three times in the course of a single episode.

5. The cast is great.
I love Elena. I love to hate Katherine. They are both Nina Dobrev, and she pulls them off beautifully.  There's a scene about 6 episodes in where a newbie vamp gets in Stefan's face, and up until then, we've only seen him be sweet, long-suffering Stefan.  This vampire threatens Elena's family and Stefan is suddenly a menacing, frightening monster.  He backs that newbie down with just a steely gaze and a soft voice. The fact that Paul Wesley can sell tormented love interest and scary monster in the same scene? Awesome. Then there's Damon. I'm not certain I can think of another actor who could pull off some of the lines Ian Somerhalder does as Damon.  He can say something that would sound silly on paper ("I'm playing with your naughty minion.") and make it sound as menacing or as natural as you could want.  Weirdly, I've come to love Caroline, aka Blonde Annoying Girl.  That's a combination of great acting on the part of Candice Accola and great writing.  She's sweet, annoying, has no filter between her mouth and her brain and has her share of snark - what's not to love?

Seasons one and two are a single story; book one, if you will.  This story is a beautiful combination of watching Elena grow up and learning more about who Stefan and Damon really are - or were - and may become.  I like that Stefan can be extremely unpleasant if he feels he has to, and Damon can be very sweet, too.  Well, when he gets his way.  Sometimes.  Once in awhile.  After the developments of the season 2 finale, I will be very interested to see where the series goes next.

Do yourself a favor and get caught up on The Vampire Diaries before season 3 starts September 15th.  It's totally worth it.
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  1. I have dismissed Vampire Diaries after reading 100 pages of the first book and didn't even bother to have a look at the show. Maybe I should.

  2. I've never watched it but I've got friends who work on the crew. When I was in Atlanta last year I got a tour of the set. For nothing else other than seeing some of the behind the scenes and some of the "undressed" sets, I rated that "Super Cool"

  3. @Desiree: I looked at the books because I thought the show was pretty good. The books just look super, ultra, mega lame. I think this show is one of those "based on" adaptations that is a positive thing for not slavishly following the books.

    @Steve: Why hallo thar, sir! I want to go see the sets, too. :(

  4. I'm like desiree, I dismissed the show 30 mins into the first episode. Don't know if i can hope on the band wagon, though I must say my two sisters love it!