It’s the age of the vampire.
Yes, yes, vampires are the new pink, but that doesn’t mean that every show doing the supernatural tango is getting the steps right, as the CW proved last night with its double-header of The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural.
Last night’s debut of the CW’s new teen vampire show, The Vampire Diaries, is being noted by some as a racier successor to Twilight (this despite the book series on which it was based having first come out long before Stephenie Mayer dreamed a dream of sparkly marble Adonises). The story of a high school girl and the two vampire brothers who want her, it’s pretty easy to see the appeal of the show from the outside.
I mean, this isn’t just a case of being special because the OMG hottest guy in school wants you. This guy’s lived hundreds of years, he’s seen it all and he still wants you. You are extra-special, and he’s all brooding and mysterious, and with The Vampire Diaries, you can just double that because also Ian Somerhalder wants you. And I do mean you, because these shows are so much about wish-fulfillment that it would be silly to pretend otherwise. Plus on The Vampire Diaries, there’s the extra bonus of implied reincarnation — your love is so special, death couldn’t part you.
Now, I’m as happy as the next person to give my brain an hour-long vacation and watch some fluff, even (especially) vampire-related. There’s nothing wrong with a good dose of escapism — we all need it sometimes. I find it doubtful, though, that I’ll be returning to The Vampire Diaries, and not just because of their special guest star, Twelve Tons of Fake Fog.
Any pilot should be given the benefit of the doubt, of course, because the writers and network have forty-two minutes to sell you on characters, plotlines, set up and get you hooked enough to come back to them, and that means that most pilots are shoddy compared to anything run mid-season. That, however, doesn’t excuse acting that feels hollow at best, poor writing and a dual-voiceover. I’m pretty sure it was the part where Stefan and Elena are writing in their diaries, each reading in voiceover, their narration intersecting, overlapping and sometimes spoken in unison that completely killed this show for me. You’re SOULMATES because she looks like some (un)dead chick, I get it.
As one of those uninitiated to the joys of the book series upon which this is based, maybe I just don’t get the appeal. But I certainly don’t think I’m being too hasty. While I at least appreciate that the show more closely follows the strictures of vampire lore than some other recent vampire hits do, you can count me out until these kids learn how to act and someone figures out how to explain satisfactorily the reasons why any vampire would choose to go back to high school.
Following it up with Supernatural only seemed like a good way to drive home just how bad The Vampire Diaries is, too. This is how you do it, guys. In the space of four seasons, Supernatural has grown out of (most of) its clunky writing, early uncertainty and poor acting into this dynamic landscape of an intriguing and ever-growing mythology. Plus the Winchester boys finally learned how to act. That’s not to say the show is without its flaws — no show is — but they’re flaws I can live with, especially given that, judging by previews for next week, my major pet peeve with the show might be about to fade.
Last night’s season premiere, in my professional opinion, kicked ass. With a strong mix of humor and drama, it powered forward, opening up the plotlines for this season in interesting ways. The Prophet Chuck is always good for a laugh, Jim Beaver continues to rock the show as Bobby and it was pretty awesome to see, albeit in a new guise, the boys’ old nemesis Meg again, just another reminder to Sam and Dean that they can’t get a break — their worst enemies rarely disappear for good. Misha Collins spent the summer goofing off on Twitter only to turn around and remind the audience that Castiel is, in fact, a badass, and it was a pleasure to see the return of my old friend, Sam Winchester’s Incredible Performing Puppy Eyes.
It was, however, guest star Bellamy Young who stole the show. Her turn as Lucifer, assuming the form of the wife of his next choice for vessel, was masterful, and the writers’ choice to present Lucifer as a more Miltonian version of the demon was a smart one. The soft voice and earnestness coupled with the devil’s own logic was jarring in the best possible way. We have already seen the angels as less than holy; it was a pleasure to see Lucifer rendered in equally uncertain terms. It just makes the battle between good and evil that much more interesting if you aren’t really sure if you’re on the side of the angels. Castiel, of course, aside, although I am truly excited to see who they bust out to play Michael and how he’ll be handled.
All in all, it’s pretty clear that Supernatural has very much grown over the last few years, maintaining its sense of humor while gaining a greater sense of depth and darkness. This season might just be their most promising yet. The Vampire Diaries should Netflix the last four seasons and take notes. You want to grow out of your extreme cheeseball stage into something better? Well, I’d start by losing the smoke machines.
What’s the verdict, readers? Am I being too harsh on the Salvatore brothers, too lenient on the Winchesters? Tell us what you think of the CW’s Thursday line up in the comments!