by Claire Lang
There are no sparkles on Thursday nights on The CW. That is a good thing, a very good thing.
Well into season two, at time of publication, The Vampire Diaries has given the viewer a new guilty pleasure. For the fan of romantic vampire fiction, it fulfills a nice middle ground between the chaste, ice cold Twilight and the volcanic heat of gore-nography that makes up HBO’s True Blood.
The Vampire Diaries is set in the small town of Mystic Falls and centers around the students of Mystic Falls High. They are like most television teens. Their lives circle around high school social standing, partying, hooking up, and drinking on the sly. The opening episode starts with the innuendo that a very bad thing happened to one of the schools most popular students, Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and her younger brother, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen). Over the summer Elena was in a terrible car accident with her parents. She survived, they did not. The Gilbert siblings are left to the care of their aunt, Jenna Sommers (Sara Canning). Jenna has no idea how to raise two teens, barely out of the teens, herself. This leaves the siblings vulnerable and falling through the cracks. Jeremy begins to move with an unsavory crowd. Elena begins to sink into herself. At least until Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) arrives.
Like any good teen romance, Stefan is dark and brooding, but not unkind. He instantly grabs the attention of the other high school girls. His sights, however, are set on Elena. At the same time that Stefan arrives in town, a rise in deadly “animal attacks” begins to happen. Each one is the same; at night and with a complete loss of blood. Just when the viewer begins to suspect that Stefan is darker than just his brooding stare, they are introduced to Damon (Ian Somerhalder), Stefan’s wickedly attractive and charismatic older brother. Damon also has an interest in Elena, but his intentions seem more sinister, though not as clear as Stefan’s undying love. Everything about Damon, at first, seems to be more sinister.
There is a healthy supporting cast of characters that, as time moves on, become a tangled web of coincidence and connection. No one is an accident in the story. Much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, each metaphorical gun is, eventually, used once it’s been shown.
The Vampire Diaries gives a healthy nod towards traditional vampire lore as well as taking artistic license to produce more three dimensional characters. Stefan has a dark side that is frightening, Damon has a vulnerable side that is enlightening. Neither character is one dimensional, nor do they act out of character without good cause. This rings true throughout the cast, even the smallest of walk on roles.
The show is well written, especially considering the genre. The dialogue feels organic. The special effects are kept to a simplified minimum that do not distract from the events taking place.
Although this is a teen drama, I would hesitate to let any teen under the age of 16 watch the show. As a parent, I am uncomfortable with the ease in which the show portrays teen sex. As a vampire fan, I find the heavy use of sexuality quite plausible.