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The Vampire Diaries: Better than You’d Think

September 19, 2009

I will say this up front: I like vampires. But, I’m not one of those who likes vampires because it’s a fad. I’ve always liked vampirey things. But, to be honest, I’ve been sick of vampirey things lately. With the phenomenon that is Twilight I was fairly certain I couldn’t take anymore.

So when I heard about The CW’s The Vampire Diaries I wrote it off as just another show about vampires that would most certainly be a rip off of Twilight. And then curiosity overpowered me. Well, that, and iTunes had the pilot of it for free this week. So…I decided to watch it. And I will admit that I am pleasantly surprised.
Having never read these books, I have zero background on what this show should be about or what the characters should look and be like. That being said, I think that this show has real potential. Despite the parallels that exist between The Vampire Diaries and Twilight this show has a look, feel, and story line all its own.
From what I have garnered from the first two episodes, the plot is that Stefan (Paul Wesley) is a vampire, who doesn’t eat people and has returned to Mystic Falls to enroll as a high school student. Elena (Nina Dobrev) is a high school girl who lost both of her parents in a car wreck 4 months prior to the start of the show and looks exactly like Stefan’s old flame Katherine. So, Stefan is attracted to her immediately and vice versa, but the chemistry between them (as opposed to Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart) is palpable and believable. The kicker to the story is that Stefan’s “brother”–it hasn’t been explained if they’re literally brothers or have the same sire–Damon (Ian Somerhalder) has returned to Mystic Falls as well, but he does eat people and basically wants to make Stefan’s life hell.
Obviously there are some other nuances in the plot, but that’s the gist of it. And although this doesn’t seem original or interesting in itself, it’s the intrigue from episode to episode. The audience doesn’t have the full stories of who this Katherine chick is and why she was so important to Stefan or if it’s important that/why Elena looks just like her, and then there’s the unexplained hatred between Stefan and Damon.
While watching the show I realized something: it’s nice not to have all the information and to watch the show unfold slowly. If this were a movie these things would probably be explained quickly so as to get to the “real” story line (if there is one outside of this. I honestly have no idea.) and the audience then couldn’t savor the building chemistry between Stefan and Elena. And then I realized something else: Twilight would have been much better served to be a television show rather than a movie.
Let’s be honest, that movie sucked. Hard. And although I have high hopes for New Moon, I don’t expect it to be great. But I think that The Vampire Diaries is excelling in all of the ways Twilight (the movie) doesn’t. You actually have time to get to know the characters. The plot, relationships, and tensions build slowly rather than instantaneously, and these actors are actually good in their roles. In a lot of ways, Nina and Paul look like they could have been cast as Bella and Edward (if we’re strictly going by the descriptions in the book), but to be honest, the relationship that is budding between the two of them is much more interesting than the Bella/Edward relationship on screen.
In addition, the characters as they are written are stronger than the movie adaptions of Bella and Edward. Stefan is full of mystery and intrigue and he plays the part of the mysterious, brooding man well–if there’s a Wuthering Heights in the works somewhere out there, I nominate him for Heathcliff. Although Elena is recovering from a tragic loss, she’s strong, articulate, confident, and level headed. And Damon is that perfect mix of creepy and charming that villains need to have to be successful.
Needless to say, I’m glad I gave into my curiosity (and I’m thankful to iTunes for giving it to me for free) because if I hadn’t, I would have never watched this show. It’s made me realize that I’m not sick of vampires–I’m just sick of Twilight.
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