Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nearly a Month Later, the First TVD Recap!

I've been wanting to talk about this show for a while because I kinda love it like pie. It's cheesy and the first few episodes aren't super great, but almost all of the characters have a surprising amount of depth. I am recapping these with foreknowledge of what's happened because I marathoned them all on Netflix a while back. (As a note, you can find all but like the first four of season three on either Netflix or Hulu). In all honesty, the first few episodes are kinda boring until episode 4, which is when shit starts to get bananas.Need it be said, this contains spoilers about the episode and hints at the season to come.

I was told before I began that "The Vampire Diaries" was like Twilight, with a silly character torn between a nice guy and an evil one. The reality is that the resemblance is superficial, and literally so. In a move that was very self aware, Stefan (the main vampire and overall Good Guy, played by Paul Wesley) resembles Edward Cullen. Nina Dobrev, a brown haired, brown eyed girl plays the main character Elena (who was a blonde in the books), echoing Bella Swan's coloring.  The show also often makes references to Twilight as well- it's very aware of what it's doing here.  "The Vampire Diaries" is roughly based on the series of books by L. J. Smith but, as I understand, the show covers different ground and changes up lots of stuff, including Elena's appearance and personality. I don't know, I never read the books. I may occasionally reference things I heard about being in the books, but I assume they have separate canons due to the race and personality differences. Just so we're clear.

Season 1 Episode 1: Pilot

The episode starts out with a death scene right out of an urban legend. This kind of thing (urban legend death) starts the first two or three episodes and is eventually dropped. In this episode, I *think* it's the hook but I swear to nothing, I'm tired. We later (not that much later) find out it is the work of Damon Salvatore, Stefan's eternal brother, who is played by the insanely hot and talented Ian Somerhalder.

While this plot point is eventually dropped, I don't mind- Damon could easily stage deaths like urban legends for his own personal amusement before something else distracts him.

One of the weaknesses of the early shows, which they later ditch, is the lame voiceover that kind of is all over the place in the earlier episodes. It is far too literal and ruins the subtleties of the acting, which is a shame because the cast is actually really good. Elena starts off telling us how she's gonna fake it til she makes it. Stefan also does VO a lot, and at one point they VO ending in the same sentence. The phrase "gag me with a spoon" comes to mind. I don't blame the actors, voice over is hard to pull off properly.
I'm kinda in love with her myself, honestly.
Jeremy and Elena lost their parents in a car accident that Elena was also in (but survived). I'm unsure of the timing, six to eight months before the pilot I believe. Jeremy is a stoner who also deals drugs, largely pills. Jeremy also has the fashion sense and hair cut of someone who spends a lot of money at Hot Topic. They live with their aunt Jenna, who... isn't really much of an adult to them. She's younger and she reminds me of my youngest aunt, who is 14 years older than me and more like an older sister to me than an aunt. I peg Jenna as maybe 10 years older than them, at the very most. I think she mostly regards them as old enough to take care of their own shit, which is true in Elena's case and not so true in Jeremy's case, for now.
I liked Jeremy right off, but he kinda reminds me of my brother, so take that as you will.
Bonnie is one of Elena's BFFs. She is also eventually going to be a witch. I know this because this plot point is dropped with all the subtelty of a fucking brick, with each episode leading up to Bonnie's revelation being filled with her going "So, my grandma says I'm a witch" and going on about it for a few minutes. It makes her confusion later seem a little artificial and also serves to make the character a little bit annoying and repetitive in the beginning.
Grams says I'm a witch. Did I mention that Grams says I'm a witch? Because she totally does.
Matt spends most of the episode emo-staring at Elena, because they recently broke up. He believes in them but she broke up with him because although she likes him (and, indeed, they remain friends) it just wasn't... enough for her. And props to the show for never shaming her for breaking up with a great guy who wasn't doing it for her and not villainizing either of them. As a result, though, Matt does a lot of staring at her longingly.
Matt and his Emo-stare
Caroline is kinda bitchy, she reveals some of her insecurities in this episode but she also makes snarky comments to Elena and admits to being in competition with her to Bonnie. They are all supposed to be BFFs with each other but it's clear why, early on, Elena relies so much on Bonnie for friendship.
Also, because she always says the wrong thing. But she's working on that.
Stefan Salvatore is the hot new guy who's part of one of Mystic Fall's founding families. He's also got some kind of dark secret (hint: he's a vampire). He's hot, polite, and smart, and so most of the girls in school want him.
He also has the Brow of Brooding and a hair style I refer to as The Cullen
Elena chases her brother into the men's room and essentially kills his buzz because she doesn't approve of his druggy ways. While I dislike how much disapproval is heaped upon the kid for being a stoner when there's a lot of underage drinking in the show which Elena never actively disapproves of (and even participates in), I do think she's more irritated that he's flaking out on school and doing drugs on campus. Later on, though, (mild spoiler) Jeremy does become kind of straight-laced, sober, and nerdy, with a far better haircut, which may prove Elena's "this isn't you" point. Also, Elena just barges into the men's room because she's pissed off, which is kinda awesome.

On her way out of the men's room she bumps into future love interest and new hottie, Stefan Salvatore. He lives with his "Uncle" in the family boarding house on the edge of town. It's a really cute scene, actually, and Paul Wesley and Nina Dobrev have a lot of chemistry together as a young couple falling for each other. This is actually one of the reasons I kept watching, because Bella and Edward has as much on screen chemistry as two bits of wood. So I was interested to see where this went, and what happened when she found out Stefan was a vampire. In the interest of full disclosure, I was also interested in Ian Somerhalder. I find Damon, the character, reprehensible at best but incredibly hot.

Later, Elena is writing in her journal in a cemetery. She's sitting at her parent's grave, which is sad and sweet, but still a little weird. She also, as far as I recall, never does this again. But, again, they drop the journal writing voice overs and just take it as read that both Stefan and Elena are journaling. While she is busy writing her thoughts, a big black bird shows up. I'm still not sure if it's a crow or a raven, I'm betting a crow. He caws at her as the fog rolls in, and she tries to shoo the bird away. But things get too weird, so Elena does the smart thing and leaves.
Black bird and fog: also not subtle
She then runs flat into Stefan, who claims he's visiting family buried in the cemetery. (This is a meta joke, as his brother was the one creeping on Elena in the cemetery). He gets all creepy and knows she's hurt herself because he can smell the blood, then vanishes because he 'loses control'. She takes this as a simple aversion, which is actually pretty reasonable of her. I like the vamping-out effect but it seems familiar...
Dark Willow? Is that you?
Stefan later shows up with the diary she left when the cemetery got too real for her, and they bond over writing diaries. They end up going to the Mystic Grill, which is the only hangout in town (like the Bronze, but adults hang there too), crushing some of Matt's hopes and dreams. (Matt is a decent guy and introduces himself to Stefan without being too weird.)

Also, Caroline Forbes, ladies and gentlemen
Caroline: *knows everything about Stefan*
Bonnie: You got all that in one day?
Caroline: Oh please, I got all that between 3rd and 4th period.

There's a teacher known as Mister Tanner (I believe this is a jab at Full House and I don't care if you don't believe me) and he is a dick. He is also the breed of teacher I dislike most: the teacher who is also a coach. It's not that I haven't had good coach/teachers, but nearly all of the worst teachers I have had have also been coaches. But he's a dick to pretty much everyone, and actually gets mad when a student knows things. Stefan pwns him at the town history, largely because Tanner was being a jerk to Elena.
I like to think his first name is Richard.
At a party in the woods, Tyler Lockwood is a dick (this establishes a pattern), and Jeremy is a Nice Guy to Vicki, who is interested in Tyler and is kind of Jeremy's ex. Caroline also continually corrals Stefan at this party because, as she later claims, it's a competition against Elena. Stefan shuts her down after she offers to take her on a private tour of the falls.
Tyler Lockwood: also a bit rapey.
Vicki later becomes a victim to the "mysterious" vampire while, once again, Stefan is off screen. When the attack is discovered, Vicki is sent off to the hospital. Matt is sitting with her and she utters the word "vampire".
Snack. Also, hard to get an image of her smiling this episode. She's really pretty in an angular way.

Stefan goes home to his "Uncle" (who, btw, calls him "Uncle Stefan") and tells him there was another vampire. Then, Damon shows up. It's the first time we actually see him, of course.

Damon reveals that drinking human blood gives vampires more strength than Stefan's diet of woodland critters (he refuses to eat people blood of any kind) by roundly kicking Stefan's ass. The show ends later this same evening, with Caroline revealing all her insecurities while Damon is in earshot, looking smug.
His default look, really.
If it seems like the supernatural stuff is kinda on the backburner, that's because it is. Things improve next week on As the Vam Pires! If you want a different perspective, and/or information from someone who knows more about the book, I recommend this recap/lesson.


  1. I've never seen Vampire Diaries, and never felt particular inclination to see it, but your recap intrigued me enough to at least consider it. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see some Twilight-esque tropes done better.

  2. There are definitely several scenes really early on that you're like "this is what it would have been like in Twilight if that had been handled competently!" I was basically thinking that the whole time watching the first, I dunno, 4 or so episodes.

    Everyone (well, almost) does like Elena, kinda like everyone likes Bella, but it's because Elena's a townie who recently lost her parents and is also an extremely nice person in her own right. Stefan does do that 'mysterious loner' thing Edward tries to pull off, but he is also genuinely personable, stands up for people, and has real chemistry with Elena. That sort of thing. I liked it enough to start mainlining it off Netflix, but YMMV.

    Thanks for coming by and commenting!