When VD (that’s right, I went there) premiered back in 2009, my husband and I watched the pilot. We weren’t exactly enthralled, but as lovers of genre, we gave it another shot the following week.
We didn’t watch the third episode.
I’m not even sure exactly what it was that made us stop. The story wasn’t moving forward in what seemed like an interesting way? The characters were flat, and the dialogue felt like it was trying too hard? Whatever the reason, we gave up on the show, despite friends telling us how great it was.
It wasn’t until this summer that we had a reason to revisit Vampire Diaries, and after a binge week of watching about half of the first season, we were hooked. The story moved so fast and was so (bear with me) fangs out. Main characters died or had other life-changing things happen to them. The mythology deepened and expanded in unique and unexpected ways. Sure, they didn’t hit a home run with every choice, but the show was becoming surprisingly good. By the second season (which, thanks to streaming video we were able to start immediately after the first,) it was fast becoming one of our favorite shows.
So. If you’re a genre lover who thinks you’re too good for this show as we did, I’d like to offer up a few reasons why you should give this show a chance. A fair warning – there will be spoilers in this article. I’m going to try to be vague, but since this is a show where the big twists are often the reasons to watch, some story leakage is probably going to be impossible to avoid.
She doesn’t want to be with him forever… necessarily.
Unlike some other supernatural teen romance stories, there’s a point in the second season where everything’s about to hit the fan and people are likely going to die where our Romeo and Juliet stand-ins (Elena and Stefan), share a tender afternoon and talk about their love for each other… and how she really doesn’t want him to turn her because she wants to, you know, live, and isn’t sure she wants to be with him forever because – duh, Stefan – she’s a teenager. A small thing, perhaps, but refreshing in a world where Twilight is bigger than the Beatles.
Caroline is awesome.
Although at first she comes across as a pale imitation of Buffy’s Cordelia, Caroline goes through one of the most dramatic, fascinating, and believable arcs on the show. Actually, now that I think about it, kind of like Cordelia… though for completely different reasons. Caroline deals with some of the heaviest stuff on the show – huge life change, fear of parental disappointment and hate – yet through it all she still feels like that chipper, immature girl we meet in the pilot, albeit one who has been hardened and matured by life.
This may seem odd to laud in a show that frequently uses things like magic rings that allow people to come back from the dead, but Vampire Diaries is absolutely a show where the choices characters make have repercussions. Bring someone back without a magic ring? Well, you’ve just messed with the way things should be and now a rift to the afterlife has been opened in your town. Have fun handling that. Determined to help your brother at all costs? Deal! Become my murderous slave and leave the woman you love.
Mythology that’s still interesting after three seasons.
Maybe that’s not saying much, I don’t know, but Vampire Diaries – despite playing with creatures and tropes that most of us are not only familiar with, but getting tired of – has managed to find enough little wrinkles to keep it interesting. I can genuinely say that they’ve taken this mythology in directions I never expected or even thought about, but always in ways that make logical sense within the confines of the world.
While the superpowered creatures naturally get to have the most fun when it comes to bloodletting – Damon kills people just for the hell of it sometimes, it seems – it also allows the human characters to be pretty active – even if they don’t often succeed. Alaric, with his supply of creature-hunting weaponry and magical protections, is the closest thing they have to Van Helsing. Elena regularly stands her ground against forces that could rip her to shreds. Her brother Jeremy does the same… though he doesn’t often come out as unscathed as her. And recently another human character actually drowned himself (don’t worry, he’s much better now) in order to get information from a ghost. And even though the show makes it painfully clear that normal humans can’t compete physically with their supernatural enemies, there are numerous times where they use deception and trickery to still come out on top.
Moving right along.
But the best thing about the show has to be the pace. A quarter of the way through season one, someone who seemed like a main character had died, returned as a vampire, and then been staked so that they were gone for good… arguably. In three seasons we’ve seen vampires, witches, werewolves, doppelgangers, hybrids (I’m not explaining), thousand-year-old curses, vampire hunters, secret societies, and a vampire that feeds on other vampires. Even when the show isn’t at its best, it’s hurtling along so quickly that you’ll get to the next cool thing before you know it.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler is not a vampire... yet. She has been writing professionally for 10 years. Currently, she’s an editor for PinkRaygun, a geek girl e-zine, and a food and organic living contributor to Savings.com. She has ghostwritten one sci-fi novel and is now ghostwriting a second one. You can learn more about her writing at WeissRoessler.com or follow her geekery and adventures onTwitter@julweiss.