“Why don’t you sparkle?”
“Because we’re in the real world where vampires burn in the sun.”
When I saw the posters for the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, I was entirely convinced it would be a complete Twilight knockoff. Or worse: Twilight meets True Blood: The High School Years. Even in the posters the big-haired lead looked like Not-Edward-Cullen… it seemed bad. Really bad. But thanks to Netflix, I decided to give the pilot a go. What’s an hour of my time, right?
The show follows the Salvatore brothers, Stefan and Damon, who have just returned, for very different reasons, to their birthplace of Mystic Falls. Stefan becomes smitten with a tragic high school girl named Elena (sounding familiar… give it a second) who, while she has good reason to be tragic, is actually astoundingly strong as we find out as the series develops. And that’s the thing — this show develops. As it should be on a serial drama, every episode asks more questions than it answers, but it answers a lot. I don’t want to give anything away because the reveals are SO satisfying. Seriously.
What makes this show so good? A couple of things that the aforementioned major vampire franchises are missing:
- Outstanding writing. Okay, True Blood’s got this as well, but the writing on The Vampire Diaries is simply phenomenal. The relationships make sense. The explanations and the folklore are convincing and not at all cheesy. The pacing is intense, and, *gasp* they’re not afraid to let sympathetic characters die in this dangerous world. It’s amazing.
- Chemistry. The major irony of True Blood is that I don’t feel there’s any real chemistry between Sookie and Bill, played by the real-life husband and wife duo Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer. And while I do think the Twilight saga kind of gets the chemistry between Bella and Edward right, they’re just such unsympathetic characters (and I’m speaking as someone who actually really loves the Twilight saga films) that it just doesn’t work, again because the acting and writing is SO bad.
- Lead characters who are more interesting than the supporting cast. In both True Blood and the Twilight saga, I couldn’t care less about the lead couple. I want to know more about everyone along the sidelines. (Team Jacob!) But here, the supporting cast are truly supporting. There are some who are lovable, some who are simply despicable, and that’s how it should be. The focus remains on the leads and because the characters are so three-dimensional it’s easy to love them. You get the feeling that even with her deep feelings, Elena would get along just fine without Stefan, and that’s something pretty freaking fantastic for this genre.
- Acting. The acting on the Twilight series is terrible. And while True Blood has some major talent, the acting on the Vampire Diaries. The performances are to be admired and they’ll never get the credit they deserve because they’re on a show about vampires. That’s just sad.
- Damon. The “evil?” brother… yeah. I kind of want to eat his face. YUM.
The Vampire Diaries has far exceeded my expectations for a series, and while I’m only a few episodes in to the first season, it’s satisfying my True Blood withdrawal like I didn’t think anything could. It’s possible *gasp* that I’m actually enjoying it more…