Don’t let the CW candy coating fool you . . . The Vampire Diaries is NOT what you expect

*****FAIR WARNING*****
There will be spoilers here!!!

Having just finished the first story arc of the second season I can not contain my excitement about this show any longer. It may look like your typical Gossip Girl, 90210-esque teen drama on the outside, but on the inside this show is so much more. Don’t be fooled by the candy coating, just suck on it and enjoy the sweetness as events unfold and the storyline runs you through its paces making your eyes widen and your jaw drop at the unexpectedness of it all.

Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore

Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore

I have to admit, I was a little caught up in the girly, emotional high of romance and impossible love from the Twilight books and movies when the first season of this show started last year. I am a female and unfortunately I can be pulled in by that kind of thing just like any other female.  But at least I’ve managed to maintain my dignity and have never been reduced to a screaming crying puddle of mush like so many others of my kind who give us all a bad name. When I saw the commercials I thought, ‘Well . . . I’ll give it a try. I like vampire stories and at least there’s eye candy to keep me entertained in the form of Ian Somerhalder who is a million times hotter than Robert Pattinson’s sparkly ass ever dreamed about being.’

I will say that if you only watched the first couple of episodes of season one, then you probably did walk away from this show thinking it was just a Twilight clone in Gossip Girl wrapping. The first few episodes are all about setting up the impossible love of a high school girl Elena Gilbert played by Nina Dobrev and a century old vampire Stefan Salvatore played by Paul Wesley (sound familiar).  However, there are a few subtle differences that kept me watching a little longer than most and I’m certainly glad they did.

The first of these of course was the aforementioned Ian Somerhalder who plays Damon Salvatore, Stefan’s older brother. While Stefan is a good guy who never wants to hurt anyone and only feeds on animals. Damon is the definition of a ‘Sexy Beast’.  He feeds on humans at will, sometimes he kills them, and other times he keeps them around for future meals, hot sex or both.

Paul Wesley as Stefan Salvatore

Paul Wesley as Stefan Salvatore

The story takes place in the idyllic and fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia. A town with a supernatural history dating back to the original ‘Founding Families’. Those families set up a ‘Council’ that remains a part of the town’s many secrets to this day, and is comprised of the Mayor, the Sheriff and other prominent townspeople, all descendants of the ‘Founding Families’. Included among those were Elena Gilbert’s late parents, as well as her uncle who joins the story near the end of the first season. The ‘Council’ has protected the town from vampire’s since the original vampire cleansing 145 years earlier. Luckily for the Salvatore brothers, the town’s history does not include their transformation and so the ‘Council’ is unaware that the current Salvatore brothers recently returned, are the very same from the original Founding Family.

Unlike Twilight most vampires in the ‘Diaries’ universe cannot walk around in the daylight and they do NOT sparkle. The reason Stefan and his brother Damon are able to do so is because of a couple of rings with lapis lazuli stones, a spell was placed on them by a witch from their past named Emily Bennett. Emily is the ancestress of Elena’s best friend Bonnie Bennett who begins to discover her own powers throughout the first season.

Jasmine Guy and Katerina Graham as Shiela and Bonnie Bennett

Jasmine Guy and Katerina Graham as Sheila and Bonnie Bennett

I’ve been happy with the show’s treatment of witchcraft but . . . I haven’t been a big fan of Bonnie.  She has slowly been regaining my good graces in the last couple of episodes.  At the beginning of the first season when Bonnie first discovers her abilities she is guided by her grandmother delightfully played by Jasmine Guy. If you don’t know who that is then you didn’t grow up in the 80’s with the Cosby Show and it’s spin-off ‘A Different World’. If you do know what I’m talking about then don’t worry, there are none of the irritating quirks of Ms. Guy’s former character Whitley in the persona of Sheila Bennett.

The Vampire Diaries utilizes some typical vampire mythos and creates some of its own. They can be killed by a wooden stake through the heart and without the aid of a magical ring they cannot walk in the daylight. They can compel humans to do their will, or to change their memories. Crosses don’t seem to be a problem however and the herb vervain is toxic to them. One of the first things Stefan does is give Elena a locket filled with vervain so that she cannot be compelled. Members of the ‘Council’ add a liquid distillation of the herb to their drinks to keep from being compelled, and have syringes filled with it to overpower rogue vampires so they can be easily killed. If a vampire drinks the blood of someone who has ingested vervain they can become deathly ill, at least temporarily.

In the beginning of the first season a descendant of the Salvatore family lives in their ancient home and is the one supplying the ‘Council’ with the vervain they use to stay safe. He is well aware of Stefan and Damon’s secret and seems to trust Stefan when he returns, but he fears Damon and hides the fact that he supplies vervain to the town’s citizens. His death at Damon’s hands is the first surprise death to slap you in the face. Granted, ‘Uncle’ Zach Salvatore didn’t have a huge part in the four episodes he appears in. But his death cements the fact that Damon can and will kill, swiftly and without remorse, anyone who gets in his way.

Steven R McQueen as Jeremy Gilbert

Steven R McQueen as Jeremy Gilbert

The second death to come out of nowhere is the death of Vicki Donovan. Vicki is the sister of Matt, Elena’s childhood sweetheart and still close friend. Abandoned by their mother and with a serious lack of self-worth Vicki has become a drug addict and wild child. She’s sleeping with Elena’s young brother Jeremy for drugs.  Jeremy is the definition of troubled youth in the beginning, he’s improved a lot since then. In public Vicki is dating the Mayor’s son Tyler Lockwood, Tyler tries to  keep his relationship with Vicki as private as possible due to disapproving parents. Of course Vicki is a perfect target for Damon and after spending the day partying with him, you practically jump out of your seat in sheer surprise when he walks up to her declaring his boredom and snaps her neck with a brutal ease that leaves you stunned.

It is only when they come back from commercial that you learn for the first time how vampires are made in the ‘Diaries’ universe. It seems Vicki and Damon had exchanged blood during their day of frolicking and Vicki is not dead . . . yet.  All of her emotions are heightened as she becomes a vampire and so she is obviously a train wreck waiting to happen. You find yourself hoping for her, mainly because of the sympathetic characters of her brother Matt and Elena’s brother Jeremy, who is completely in love with her. Tyler Lockwood figures very little into this equation and until recently has been the least sympathetic character on the show.

When Stefan discovers what Damon has done he tries to convince Vicki not to drink human blood and this is when we discover that if she doesn’t feed within twenty-four hours of ‘dying’ with vampire blood in her system then she really will die. Unfortunately she ducks both the Salvatore brothers and it is Jeremy who is unfortunate enough to cross her path first. Elena and Stefan are forced to stake her to save her troubled brother. Up until that point Vicki had been a prominent part of the intricate storylines weaving through the town of Mystic Falls and her elevated status as vampire after what you thought was her shocking death, leaves you lulled into a sense of security that Vicki will be around for quite a while stirring up trouble. Her much more permanent death right in front of poor Jeremy’s eyes was a definite surprise.

Nina Dobrev as Katherine

Nina Dobrev as Katherine

Those are only a few examples of the surprising twists and turns that The Vampire Diaries takes as it leads you through the story of Elena Gilbert and the two Salvatore brothers who are in love with her. Why are these two brother’s so drawn to the young woman still grieving from the loss of her parents? Well . . . you discover in the first episode that Elena bears a striking resemblance to a woman both of the brother’s loved in 1864 by the name of Katherine Pierce. It isn’t until later that you find out that Katherine is the one responsible for the transformation of the brothers into vampires. Katherine is now believed to be entombed in the ruins of an old church in the woods outside of town, along with all the other vampire’s rounded up in 1864 and sealed inside by Bonnie’s ancestress Emily Bennett.

Even though I’ve given away several things about the show I don’t want to give away too much more. So let’s just say that much of the first season storyline revolves around Damon’s single-minded intent to release Katherine and his discovery afterward that leads him down the path back toward humanity, but not without his rough edges still intact. Having shut off his emotions for more than a century he has a hard time dealing with his feelings for Elena and his pain over Katherine. When he does do the right thing he struggles with it, usually only doing so to stay in Elena’s good graces.

Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert

Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert

Elena may look exactly like Katherine but she is the polar opposite in every other way. In the Season One finale Katherine returns with a vengeance and during the first story arc of Season Two she has been portrayed brilliantly by Nina Dobrev with no overt campiness. Where Elena is pretty and good and easily liked, Katherine is sexy and selfish and deadly. After just a few episodes it is easy to tell the difference between the two and that is no small feat for a single actress to accomplish.

There is so much more I could say about this show, the first season was only a set up for the shocks and surprises of Season Two and with every episode it has just gotten better. There hasn’t been a single filler episode this season. The story moves at lightning speed and you are never sure what’s going to happen next. There are hints that we might be learning more about the origin of vampires and possibly werewolves in this universe soon and the hints leave you to believe it will be a totally original origin story, so I can’t wait.

Candice Accola as Caroline Forbes

Candice Accola as Caroline Forbes

I strongly suggest you give it a try, suffer through the first few episodes that allow the storytellers to set the scene and then sit back, suck slowly on the candy coating as an added bonus and enjoy the ride. As a female I know I tend to focus on the strong and swoon worthy male cast of the show but male viewers will not be left wanting either, this is a CW show and everyone in the cast is beautiful. Nina Dobrev is a stunning young woman and as Katherine she is smoking hot and deliciously bad. And without giving too much away, Caroline Forbes, a character I HATED in the first season, has become an awesome addition to the supernatural part of the cast in Season Two. Her first confrontation with Damon was fantastic!!

I wanted to include a video for you of an awesome scene that perfectly illustrated the lightning fast surprises this series has around every corner, unfortunately youtube won’t allow an embed 😦 I’m including the link if you want to take the time to click it and watch. It’s only two minutes and it’s worth checking out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAMjRiUVitk

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