‘Vampire Diaries’ offers fresh look in fantasy genre

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Ian Somerholder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley help keep the supernatural romance genre compelling in the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries.” (Photo Courtesy of Art Streiber/The CW)

ChinLin Pan

Forget glittery Edward Cullen and your traditional bat-turning, cape-wearing and victim-stalking vampire fiction. The CW’s drama-fantasy “The Vampire Diaries” offers an incredibly addictive improvement to the genre, which is currently bombarded with corny, romantic supernatural fantasies that can cause more laughter than thrills.

Set in the fictional Virginian town of Mystic Falls, “Vampire Diaries” centers around Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), who becomes involved with vampire brothers Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley). She quickly gets sucked into the underlying supernatural world that exists in her very hometown. With the return of the Salvatores (who lived in Mystic Falls in their human days, back in the 1860s) comes life-changing experiences for Elena. Elena and Stefan fall in love, and by season two, werewolves and werewolf/vampire hybrids are introduced and Elena finds herself in danger. In season two, she’s wanted by Klaus (Joseph Morgan), an original vampire who can be considered an ancestor to present-day vampires. A trueborn hybrid, Klaus must drink Elena’s blood to the point of death to break the curse placed on him that nullified his werewolf side.

Currently, in season three, Elena has survived the ritual and Stefan is forced to become Klaus’s comrade, and Elena, Damon and their friends now must face the tyranny of Klaus and his hybrids.

Despite the eye candy provided by the show’s gorgeous cast, only a handful of the actors deliver convincing performances. Dobrev’s portrayal of Elena is good — not spectacular — but much better than Kristen Stewart’s emotionless Bella Swan in the “Twilight” franchise. However, Dobrev shines as Elena’s doppelganger, the ruthless vampire Katherine Pierce. Viewers will find Katherine’s threats more believable and convincing than Elena’s cries for help.

For two seasons, Wesley delivered a mediocre performance as the “good vampire.” But in the current season, it’s clear that Wesley does a much better job (and probably has more fun) playing the bad guy who’s trying to out-villain Klaus. Much like Dobrev, Wesley’s performance visibly improves when his character is antagonistic. But in terms of acting, the spotlight belongs to Somerhalder. His portrayal of the much-loved bad boy-turned-hero, Damon, is dynamic. His small gestures and snide comments he makes adds to Damon’s witty personality, satisfyingly rounding out his character.  

Writers and producers Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson know how to tease and please. However, they often leave the viewers with more questions than answers, dragging out their mysteries unnecessarily throughout multiple episodes. They definitely need to work on answering those questions to provide a clearer picture for the fans. 

“The Vampire Diaries” offers a little bit of everything for viewers: drama, romance, suspense, supernatural fantasy and mystery. Just the plot enough could hook people in, and any fan of vampire fiction would be wise to give “The Vampire Diaries” a chance before dismissing it as just another typical addition to the genre.