56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Fangtastic (yes I went there!)
, 26 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Vampire Diaries - Season 1 [DVD]  (DVD)
Vampire Diaries is based around Elena Gilbert and her relationship with Stefan and Damon Salvatore. Two brothers. Both vampires. It's set in Mystic Falls, a mysterious place steeped in history. Vampire Diaries was originally a book series written by L.J. Smith -- although it's not necessary to have read them to enjoy the show. For the record this show isn't like Twilight. In fact, Vampire Diaries actively rags on it and attempts to distance itself from it very early on. Vampire Diaries is more adult in tone and would probably appeal more to people who read/watch True Blood or Supernatural than Twilight fans. The first few episodes have a Dawson's Creek feel to them (the showrunner is the guy who created Dawson's Creek!) but Vampire Diaries soon picks up its pace and gradually finds its footing as a successful horror/fantasy melding. The romance is present, but it takes a backseat to the overall arcs of the show.
Going into this show I wasn't expecting very much at all. I thought 'silly name', 'silly tweeny books' and 'ooh Ian Somerhalder! I'm there!' So that was the main draw for me. Upon watching the first three episodes I was surprised that it actually wasn't that bad. It had the odd moment of campiness in the beginning, but as the season progressed the show has proved to me that the writers know exactly what they're doing. Vampire Diaries is rather violent and on the darker side of things; it isn't afraid to kill people off (in the bloodiest way possible); and like Supernatural, the washed-out picture reflects the darker world that exists in Mystic Falls -- the place these characters call home.
The season long arc is played out subtly. With each episode adding another piece to the puzzle that will form the picture of the season -- as the episodes play out you get this slow burn of tension, getting higher and higher. The flashback episodes are fascinating and the only thing I could criticise is that I wish the flashbacks themselves were longer; rather than just mere snapshots of a bygone time. The turbulent relationship between Damon and Stefan is a highlight of the show, with the fascinating layers of their relationship being peeled back over time. The more ordinary secondary characters like Caroline and Matt are lovely to watch and provide a nice contrast to the supernatural characters. Elena is a likeable and grounded protagonist who doubts and questions like any fully rounded person would do. She could have easily ended up as insipid and annoying, but they've instead made her sympathetic and intelligent. I'm also very fond of Elena's little brother Jeremy, their aunt Jenna and the enigmatic new teacher, Alaric.
Stefan is not just the nice brooding good guy vampire who abstains from blood, he has a sense of humour, charisma and a personality all his own. A far cry from the stereotypical types that so pervade the genre. Ian Somerhalder is perfect as the psychotic Damon Salvatore. Damon is the unstable brother; the one who switches on the flip of a coin. He's quite the little hedonist but isn't smug about it. Instead he's manipulative and smart and gets the job done. Somerhalder is intense when the need calls for it and unnervingly light at just the right moments. I was very impressed with the way he played Damon's deep grief in the latter episodes. In the hands of a lesser actor the character would have been a train wreck -- instead he's more Lestat than caricature. Actually, no caricature at all. Just crazy good!
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