The Vampire Diaries is one of those shows many people consider a guilty pleasure. It’s a holdover from the sexy teenager days of the CW, which are finding new roots once more in Riverdale. Like every CW show, it’s filled with unrealistically beautiful and ambiguously wealthy people doing horrible things. And yet, it works. Longer than Twilight or True Blood. But The Vampire Diaries never commands the audience or recognition it deserves. And now, at the end of its final season, let’s take a look back at one of the few sexy vampire shows on TV.
The Vampire Diaries is often overlooked; easily confused for contemporaries like Underworld, Twilight, and True Blood. And that’s a shame because it offers something unique to the sexy vampire genre: escalating stakes and incredible plot momentum. Beyond the bright CW-sheen of pretty white people having pretty white people problems, The Vampire Diaries is the best kind of trashy soap opera goodness. Characters hook up, break up, and snap each other’s necks regularly, all the way back to the first season. It’s often cheap, but never cheats the audience. It’s often clichéd, but never formulaic. The Vampire Diaries is often melodrama, but almost never dull.
Spoilers ahead for the series finale…and, well, everything.
“Stefan smiles. Alert the media!”
The Vampire Diaries stars Nina Dobrev as Elena, a sexy small-town girl caught between sexy vampire brothers Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan (Paul Wesley). She’s joined by her sexy best friends Bonnie (Kat Graham), a witch, and Caroline (Candice King), a vampire. Everyone has sex with everyone else, and a whole lot of people die. That’s it. That’s The Vampire Diaries. But while that initial set-up makes the show work, it’s not what kept it going for eight seasons. Even with the Season 6 departure of Elena, The Vampire Diaries succeeds because of one thing: plot.
The best thing about The Vampire Diaries, and the single feature that should be held as an example to other shows, is its plot momentum. Story arcs that, in other programs, would normally be season-long arcs resolved at alarming rates. To give you an example from Season 3, which features the main characters trying to kill a group of Original Vampires (for more info see the CW spin-off, The Originals): the main characters find out how to kill the Originals in one episode, find the only weapon to do so in the next, use it in the next episode, fail—and then, keep going. That might not sound impressive, but that’s an entire season of The Walking Dead or Supernatural right there. All in about four episodes of a twenty-two episode season.
“Well, I’m naked. So…I’m gonna go.”
I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but The Vampire Diaries‘ plot momentum is a big deal. It’s rare to see a network TV show kill its darlings or write itself into a corner so regularly, and that’s what makes The Vampire Diaries a show to watch. Not just the sexy cast, but the breakneck storytelling. While there are definitely filler episodes here and there, most of these fast-moving plot points lead to other fast-moving plot points. When they lose their lead character going into Season 7, the show simply jumps ahead a few years in time. Nothing seems to stop it. Nothing slows it down.
While the first couple seasons is vampires vs werewolves, it doesn’t take long for The Vampire Diaries to introduce a bevy of other concepts. Unlike other shows, each new creature is introduced with subtlety. Hybrids, witches, hunters, dopplegangers, sirens, siphons, and even the Devil all find relevance to the main story. With each new element comes a new villain, but none shine as brightly as Chris Wood’s malevolent Kai Parker from Season 6. He is a joy to watch, and expertly chews the scenery, delivering lines better than anyone before or since.
“God, you’re hot. Now go away.”
Which brings us to the first and last episodes. For as good as The Vampire Diaries is at times, it has several frustrating flaws, all of which can be seen in the pilot episode. Emotional scenes can sometimes ring hollow, relationships can often seem insincere, and the entire affair can feel completely fake. The pilot—let’s be clear—is awful. But the series finale wasn’t. The final episode brings old faces back, and gives our heroes the emotional send-off that they deserve. Considering that many characters die throughout the series, it’s a clever move to set the final moments in the afterlife. It’s subtly done, and not entirely clear at first, but works in several tearjerker moments.
The Vampire Diaries is not a perfect show, but appeals to its fan-base with eight seasons of entertainment. While the acting is often stilted, the writing isn’t, and should be commended for its swift pacing. It’s a guilty pleasure show and knows it, but nobody should ever feel guilty for liking something done well. And The Vampire Diaries did sexy vampire violence very well. Elena, Stefan, and Damon will be missed, but the finale brought closure for longtime fans, and the pacing will win over new ones for years to come.
My Rating: 6.5/10