When the trailers for the first season of The Vampire Diaries started showing up on TV, I wasn’t much impressed. There was something so enervating about the weird sepia tint and the generic-looking cast… it was like flipping through a Gap catalogue that someone had accidentally spilt some orange juice on! But my sister kept prompting me to borrow the DVD boxset, so eventually I caved to peer pressure and sat down to watch it through to the bitter end… although, without wishing to be pedantic, the season doesn’t really “end” as such. I mean, the main antagonist in the finale appeared out of thin air a couple of episodes earlier, so there wasn’t really any sense of a major story arc… it was mostly just a succession of surprising twists and turns, leading up to yet another cliff-hanger in the dying minutes of the final episode. Consequently, it did leave me curious to see what might happen next, but also painfully aware of the fact that the show may never actually arrive at anything resembling a satisfying resolution. I mean, the main characters are immortal, so they could just carry on dicking around like this forever…
There is clearly a great deal to enjoy and admire about the show, but I have particular issues with the way this season unfolded that prevent me from fully embracing it. Basically, it suffers from what I would refer to as “Only The Good Die Young Syndrome”… i.e., the characters I genuinely care about keep getting killed off prematurely, while the characters I find intensely irritating/boring live to irritate and bore me another day, with their own tedious subplots. Now, I understand the dramatic necessity of killing off sympathetic characters and guest stars, rather than random anonymous extras, to underline how serious a threat is and to keep the viewers on their toes… but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! For me, the watershed moment came in episode #1.8, with the introduction of a vampire called ‘Lexi Branson’, played by the adorable Arielle Kebbel (of Grudge 2 fame). Obviously I’m biased by my pre-existing crush on the actress, but her character was also a welcome breath of fresh air, breezing in to help the tortured, brooding vamp ‘Stefan’ celebrate his 162nd birthday. Not only did she manage to make him forget his woes for a little while, she also bonded with (and reassured) his jealous human girlfriend, ‘Elena’, and casually overpowered his diabolical older brother, ‘Damon’. “Thank God for that!”, I thought to myself, “finally someone’s going to break up the sadomasochistic sibling dynamic, and bring that smug, smirking psychopath to heel!” Ho ho. How naive of me. Poor Lexi didn’t even last long enough to see the end credits of her own introductory episode!
Worser still is the fact that even though Damon killed her in cold-blood (and plain sight), for purely selfish reasons, he was never punished for his actions by the other characters. Apparently I was more effected by the loss of Lexi than her BFF Stefan was, because all he did in retaliation was give his brother a bit of a ticking off, before heading up to bed for a sound night’s sleep in the house they share together. I understand that (according to this show’s mythology) vamps can suppress their messy human feelings at will… but that doesn’t explain why the mortal Elena was so quick to forgive her boyfriend’s beastly brother. They pay lip-service here and there to her initial distaste for him, but apparently his tendency to slaughter unarmed innocents wasn’t enough to dissuade her from bonding (and even slow-dancing) with him in later episodes, despite a total lack of contrition on his part. Either she’s a total sociopath too, or that’s a major plot hole, as far as I’m concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I think Ian Somerhalder plays the part perfectly, and I can totally see why so many screaming female fans besiege him at signings… but I just can’t forgive Damon for what he did, no matter how charming and funny he is… and I can’t forgive the other characters for letting him off so lightly either. If he’d tried pulling that crap in Sunnydale, then the Scooby Gang would have happily shunned him, or staked him, or sent him to Hell… not coddled him the way Elena does!
Yet more lamented lambs-to-the-slaughter were introduced in episode #1.11, when Damon takes Elena on an impromptu road trip to see a witch named ‘Bree’, who may be able to help him with his plan to open a tomb containing his long lost love, ‘Katherine’. Unfortunately for him, Bree was a good friend of Lexi’s and isn’t as forgiving/forgetful as everyone else, so she tips off her gal-pal’s grieving lover (a vamp named ‘Lee’), who then attempts to avenge her death. I cheered Lee on as he beat Damon to the ground… and then yelled obscenities at my TV when Elena started laying a guilt trip on the guy about not “lowering himself” to Damon’s level. For some reason her wanky little speech worked, and Lee foolishly decided to spare the psycho-killer’s life. Tch! And what did Damon do, after being granted such a merciful reprieve? Why, he gleefully ripped out Bree’s heart for betraying him, of course! It isn’t actually clear where Elena was when this happened… but I’d still say she was totally complicit in that murder. Boo! Hiss! Bree was played by Gina Torres of Firefly fame, which may explain my attachment to her… I mean, I wasn’t a big fan of that show either, but she’s a fine looking woman, and I like seeing her play such ballsy characters.
Meanwhile, back in Mystic Falls, Elena’s younger brother had a little “meet cute” in the library with a gawky home-schooled girl named ‘Anna’, played by Malese Jow. At first I thought the way they met was too contrived, and that Jow’s acting was a little off… but those criticisms were quickly quashed by the revelation that she was actually a centuries-old vampire girl, who had been stalking the boy for quite some time, as part of her own diabolical plan. Slowly a genuine romance seemed to blossom between the two of them, and she even managed to make the petulant, whiney brat a little less irritating by association. Still, I wasn’t really as outraged by her eventual death as I was by Lexi’s, because Jow scored a fair amount of screen time, and had ample opportunity to showcase her acting chops… plus the fact that Anna was killed by the season’s main villain, rather than one of its supposed heroes! She was also implicated in enough violence and mayhem to make her execution relatively justifiable… although, I still kinda wish she’d skipped town a couple of days earlier, and lived to see another dawn. Although Jow has a long list of credits to her name, I can’t say I’ve seen any of the episodes/shows listed there… but she is a ridiculously beautiful young woman, and clearly very talented too, so I guess I’ll have to keep an eye out in future.