the rest is still unwritten

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TV Show and Tell - The Vampire Diaries

I recently purchased a box set of the CW's series The Vampire Diaries. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it...

I mean, when I think vampire, two types come to mind. The first reference is drawn from Anne Rice's creatures -sexy, powerful, sensual, passionate but at the same time conflicted, scared, impulsive, confused - and most importantly interesting. The second, sad to say is Stephenie Meyers' weepy supernatural refuse (being whiny and being vulnerable are two completely different things).

Since The Vampire Diaries is a series spawned in the age of Twilight, I half expected a woe-is-me sort of heroine and a love-that-cannot-be scenario (with hopes that somehow the writers were smart enough to draw some inspiration from Rice). But being a sucker (no pun intended) for vampire-related stories, I decided to give the series a chance.

The show had promise.

The main story arc and its subplots are interesting. The scene is set in Mystic Falls, Virginia; a sleepy little town with a rich history. In 1864, a small group of vampires called this town home. Some lived their lives peacefully, and others - well, not so much. The slew of "animal attacks" came to the secret High Council's attention. The vampires were rounded up, trapped in the church, and burned to their (final) deaths - or so everyone thought.

Fast forward to present day Mystic Falls. Enter Elena Gilbert. She and her brother Jeremy are now living with their Aunt Jenna after losing their parents in a car accident. Elena's character much to my surprise and good fortune, was very different from the whiny, wimpy Bella Swan persona that I expected. Yes Elena was vulnerable, but she was also strong, caring, good-hearted and brave. Unlike Bella Swan who is complicated for the sake of being complicated, Elena is multi-dimensional. (Tangent: At this point you probably have a good idea of where I stand on the Twilight Sag-a).

Speaking of Twilight, let me describe Stefan. Stefan is tall and lean, a bit lanky. Pale pasty skin. Cheekbones. Kind of updated 50's James Dean hairstyle. His wardrobe is some combination of straight leg pants, v neck shirt, lightweight hooded long-sleeved shirt and military-inspired jacket. Uh, Edward Cullen is that you? But styling and undying love and devotion to their mortal girlfriends aside, Stefan is a definite upgrade from Edward. Definitely more interesting and multi-dimensional and much much less annoying.

Although there are other characters that you really enjoy (Jenna, Jeremy, Bonnie, Matt and Caroline  - love the 'new' Caroline - to name a few), their likability is not enough to compensate for the villains. These villains are not characters you love to hate, you just hate them. Period. These are the kinds of people/vampires who hold ideas or do certain things that I cannot tolerate in real life (and apparently my TV screen).

Yes I'm talking about you John Gilbert. Hates him. Hates hates hates him. Speaking of hate, let's talk about Damon. Stefan's brother and the final piece in the Stefan-Elena-Katherine love mess. Damon could be described as a hero-villain. You'd like to believe that deep down he really is one of the good guys, but he keeps doing things that just make you go W.T.EFFF. You develop a twisted love-hate (emphasis on hate) relationship with his character. He does sometimes surprise you with thoughtfulness and self-sacrifice, but all the other heinous things he says and does make these good, sometimes great, gestures seem so insignificant. Like, instead of saying "Thank You," you're more likely to mutter "Yeah, whatevs".

The show's writers also have an affinity for disposing of characters you actually like. A word of caution: if you start to find a new vampire interesting - don't. Chances are they'll get a stake through their heart if not in this episode then the next. Lexie, Pearl, Harper and Anna all had the potential of being really good characters - all dead for good.

That's another issue I have with the series. The physical abilities and supernatural nature of the vampires are so inconsistent and weak. One minute their lifting trucks and bending metal and the next minute they need help lifting a dead body. And apparently they only have super-sensitive hearing sometimes. Seriously, can you sneak up on a five hundred year old vampire? Seriously? Seriously. This doesn't sit well with me. It takes away from their supernatural nature (which drew me in in the first place) and makes them so regular. Not regular in the wow-you've-got-problems-just-like-humans sort of way but in the so-you-drink-blood-and-are-sometimes-invulnerable-big-deal-who-cares way.

Yes the main plot is interesting with lots of surprises, twists and turns; but most turns lead you to a resolution that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth (Vampire Caroline::Love::Dead Anna:Hate). And one other thing: In the first season, the big question on everyone's mind was why did Elena look exactly like Katherine? What did it all mean? Well, they're doppelgangers. Yes that question has been answered, and explained and it's only the second season. The big mystery propelling the drama has been answered in the second season. This does not bode well for the show's longevity... The writers better have some nifty tricks and surprises up their sleeves. Also, humans and vampires keep dying/disappearing and no one else in town seems to care or at least be slightly worried/cautious. Is this normal? Stepfoooord...  

All in all, the show isn't bad at all, but in no way is it great. It's got some really good things going on, but it's also pretty hard to overlook the not-so-good. It's just very alright. Two and three-fourths stars.

So... will I stay tuned to see how the supernatural drama unfurls?


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