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The Vampire Diaries: Season 1 - Review

The Vampire Diaries

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE Vampire Diaries was one of the more curious new shows to emerge from America in the past 12 months.

Based on the book series of the same name by LJ Smith and developed for the small screen by Kevin (Scream) Williamson, it boasted bags of potential yet took a long time to deliver.

Indeed, watching the opening episodes often felt like an ordeal with Williamson’s well-earned reputation as a writer capable of putting a clever, modern spin on well-worn genres looking misplaced amid the show’s burning desire to appeal to the Twilight fan-base.

But then something happened… around episode 7 (Haunted) the show suddenly seemed to develop an ability to surprise and add some complexity and grit that had hitherto been missing.

Thereafter, it continued to surprise, culminating in a strong second half that suggests it’s a new series worth sticking with.

The set-up itself was pretty familiar as it followed the exploits of 17-year old Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and her 15-year-old brother, Jeremy (Steven R McQueen) as they attempt to get on with life in Mystic Falls following the death of their mother.

Matters become more complicated for Elena, however, when she begins a relationship with mysterious new student Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), a vampire, who subsequently begins a battle for her soul with his more devious brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder), a bad-boy blood-sucker who has it in for the town.

Caught in between are the likes of Elena’s Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning), her best friend Bonnie (Katerina Graham) and former boyfriend Matt Donovan (Zach Roerig), as well as a host of characters with links to the Salvatore brothers and their bloody past.

One of the biggest strengths of The Vampire Diaries was its ability to keep things moving fast. Hence, storylines that might take several episodes, or even complete seasons, to unfold on some shows often were set up and completed within the space of just a few.

This had upsides and down-sides, with some of the more interesting ‘bad’ characters being lost too easily, while at the same time lending latter episodes a degree of uncertainty that was actually quite gripping.

In former Lost star Ian Somerhalder’s Damon, the show also possessed a ridiculously good-looking ace in the pack… his apparently soulless demon eventually shown to be a conflicted individual capable of the odd random good act. Somerhalder remains the biggest reason for tuning in.

But after a shaky, overly earnest (or brooding) start, Wesley also grew into the character of Stefan, particularly when asked to confront his own dark side, and Dobrev held her own as the feisty Elena, whose historical alter-ego looks set to play a big part in the second series.

The Vampire Diaries still feels a little uncertain as to whether to appeal to the teen audience of Twilight or the edgier, darker and definitely more twisted fan-base of True Blood and, as a result, is often found caught between two minds.

But given the way it recovered so emphatically from its shaky start, there’s reason to be optimistic for the second season, particularly as the cliff-hanger finale to this box set proves it has the guts to go for broke when the situation commands.

Against all early expectation, then, The Vampire Diaries is to be recommended… particularly if you bear in mind the need to be patient.

Certificate: 15
Episodes: 22
UK DVD Release Date: August 23, 2010