A study in the re-watch: TVD Season One

Well, it is twenty-two episodes later and I have finished Season One of the re-watch (it is still slightly painful to type that “re”) of The Vampire Diaries! To be perfectly honest I am already well into Season Two. It turns out that just sitting there and allowing Netflix to auto-play the next episode is far less work than writing up a “review”. Who knew? With that being said, I am going to try to keep this review to Season One only. I think it is fair to say that this review will have spoilers (but honestly if you haven’t watched it yet, you probably never will). I think there are three key pieces to TVD: the characters, the romance (obviously), and the plot. Some of you may read that last one, laugh and say, “What plot?”. However, I would argue it is a pretty plot driven show. Whether you genuinely find that plot interesting, or simply want to see what ludicrous lengths the writers will take it to next (this applies more to later seasons), will vary depending on the viewer. Either way, plot is a reason to watch this show. Now on to some Season One specifics!

The cast of characters of TVD can be pretty large, so I will just stick to the core set of characters:

Elena: Obviously we have to start here. Elena is the narrator as well as the audience surrogate. As the show opens she is a sad teenager trying to get over the death of her parents. One thing that comes up in many recaps and reviews of the current season of TVD, is a critique of how Elena’s character has become increasingly selfish and difficult to root for (and really kind of an asshole). I tend to agree with that sentiment, and I do even more so after going back and re-watching Season One. For the most part Elena is kind and genuinely cares for her friends and family in the first season. However, there are also some grating aspects of her character. Everyone is in love with her and sometimes it is difficult to see why. The only answer that’s really ever given is that she is nice, which is a great quality, but I don’t think it is going to have everyone falling head over heels for you. She also begins to put her boyfriend above everyone else as the season goes on, which is something that happens far too often in fiction. Speaking of the boyfriend…

Stefan: If I could only describe Stefan is one word it would be boring. He is just kind of a dud. His defining character trait at this point is that he loves Elena and would do anything for her. Oh, he also secretly has serious self control problems, combined with a holier than thou attitude. Awesome! I think Stefan is the opposite of Elena, in that his character gets better as the show continues. When we begin to see more of his flaws, it adds depth to his character and makes him more likeable. Whereas Elena’s flaws make her appear more shallow and far less likeable. I really don’t have much more to say about him. Wait, he is also brooding (the show loves to call attention to this in a ‘in on the joke’, snarky sort of way) and he hates his “evil” brother who is always ruining everything…

Damon: Stefan’s brother. The villain to Stefan’s hero. He is also probably the most interesting character in the show (at this point). A romance novel would say he has a devil may care attitude, and this has made him a fan favorite. At the beginning of the season he appears to simply be a murderous jerk who values nothing and is motivated only by blood lust. As the season wears on, we find that he is actually motivated by love (twisted love, but love none the less), and may even value friendship and his relationship with his brother. GASP! Most of this changed is sparked by his budding friendship with Elena.

Bonnie: Bonnie is Elena’s best friend and also a WITCH! She is just starting to learn about her powers in Season One. She is very suspicious (with good reason) of Stefan, and hates (again, with good reason) Damon. She struggles with her newfound power and relationship with the vampires throughout this season.

Caroline: Caroline becomes one of my favorite characters in later seasons, but in Season One she is portrayed as neurotic, clingy, and sometimes a bitch. She is manipulated by the evil brother above and jealous of perfect Elena. I’ll talk more about Caroline in later reviews.

Matt: Elena’s ex-boyfriend and  the love interest of Caroline. He is a football player with a bad home life. Matt is boring in this season, which is a common theme throughout the series.

Jeremy: Elena’s little brother. He is dealing with his parents death through drugs and partying. He’s a sad, emo loner. Jeremy dies several times throughout the series and I think he should’ve stayed dead on one of those occasions. He actually doesn’t bother me as much in this season because he is a peripheral character. He should have stayed that way (or dead).

Tyler: Matt’s best friend. The only bigger asshole than Tyler is Tyler’s dad. He is a very minor character this season up until the final episode, when we find out that he and his father have a SECRET! More on that later.

Alaric: The new mysterious history teacher who turns out to be a vampire hunter out for vengeance for the death of his wife! He also ends up dating Elena’s aunt. Alaric is yet another character who becomes more interesting in later seasons.

Now on to the romances, and in case you couldn’t guess this show is chock full of them! I have not decided if I am going to use the language commonly used when talking about romance in TV/books/etc. (especially teen/YA). Of course I am talking about the dreaded ‘ship’/’shipper’ and the name combinations (Stelena/Delena/etc.) we’ve come to know and love. Considering that I have already mentioned them, I am guessing it isn’t long before I devolve into using them. But for now I will use real, adult human language!

Elena/Stefan: On my first watch of TVD I enjoyed this romance, I still also enjoyed the Elena/Damon flirtations, but I was pretty on board with the Elena/Stefan romance. Maybe it is because I am older and wiser (code for more cynical and disillusioned), but upon rewatching I am just not that into it. They are sweet, sickeningly sweet. It is very much a typical high school ‘I love you now so I am going to love you FOREVER!’ relationship. Which makes sense for Elena, but Stefan is pushing 140 plus years, so I would think that he would know better by now (yes, he only ever loved Katherine. And yes, he spent years being a ruthless murderer not concerned with love. But still, his first love turned out horribly and he’s had a lot of life experience. Don’t be such a love sick puppy, dude). They do the whole break up and get back together thing a few times during the course of this season, but they always come back to each other because they are (currently) the OTP (God damn it! So much for avoiding the terminology. For those of you not “in the know”, OTP is a term used when describing a relationship between two fictional characters that is meant to be/written in the stars/whatever other romance euphemism you would like to use. It stands for One True Pairing. Now please excuse me while I go shame myself for using that phrase).

Caroline/Matt: Caroline has many boyfriends over the course of the series and I would like to take this moment to address all the hate towards her because of it. She is young, cute, strong, and will (eventually) live forever. She can have as many boyfriends as she wants! Get off her back and quit slut shaming (this also applies to all women in real life). With that out of the way, this is Caroline’s least interesting relationship. For approximately one second I thought this relationship was cute, but then it is simply used to make Caroline seem extremely jealous and insecure, so I was no longer on board. Also, as mentioned above, Matt is boring. Moving on.

Elena/Damon: I know not technically a relationship yet, but I forgot how much sexual tension there is right from the get-go. They are merely friends this season, but even that is interesting. It goes from fear/hatred to acceptance/liking, back to hatred, and finally settles on friendly “platonic” love. It’s nice and their scenes are some of the best of the season.

Let’s close this review out with some plot talk! Season 1 is probably the slowest moving TVD season plot wise. It spends a good deal of time setting up the world, and on Elena finding out about, and then dealing with, Stefan’s vampiric state. Then we have some vampire hijinks (including Matt’s sister being turned and ultimately killed), a secret council made up of the town’s founding families hell bent on destroying vampires, a vampire hunter history teacher with his own agenda, and of course bickering between the Salvatore brothers. All of this leads up to the big reveals of why Elena looks like Katherine (Damon and Stefan’s former lover and the one who turned them into vampires), who Elena’s biological parents are, and what the council plans to do to rid the town of vampires. Like any soapy drama, Season One of TVD leaves us with a juicy cliffhanger: Katherine is back! Yay for doppelganger shenanigans! The plot will thicken in Season Two (and continue to thicken until it reaches the consistency of three weeks old bad milk) and I will be writing about all the juicy (rotten) details!

Overall: Season one has a slow start but I think the latter third of the season makes up for it, and clearly it held my interest enough to compel me to watch Season Two (this may say more about me than about the show however). It is has the outlandish plots points and cheesy romance I’ve come to know and love from TVD, with some added heart that may be missing from later seasons.

Rank: Well this is the only one I’ve reviewed thus far so… season 1 is NUMBER ONE!

Lingering Question(s): So what happened to the whole Damon controlling the fog and (possibly) turning into a crow thing? We’re just going to drop that and never bring it up again? Okay, probably a good call.