A drama about vampires, werewolves, vampire/werewolf hybrids, witches and ghosts, “The Vampire Diaries” is currently in its fourth season, airing on The CW on Thursdays at 8 p.m. The show revolves around the unfortunate life of high school student Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and the horror and havoc that are wreaked on her hometown of Mystic Falls as a result of the constant presence of the supernatural. The town of Mystic Falls has a rich history of supernatural inhabitants, and long-time (as in, really long-time; they are each over a hundred years old but, in true “Twilight” fashion, are young-looking and gorgeous) residents and vampires Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) become intimately entwined with Elena’s life, constantly coming to her rescue just when it would seem that the evil of her town is about to have its way with her.
The show is based off of a series of Young Adult vampire horror novels by L.J. Smith, which was originally published in 1991 but has seen several spin-offs and sequels since then in the form of other related trilogies. The show itself has, over the course of its four-season run, deviated greatly from the plotlines of the books it is based off of, but has retained their original premise: that of a young girl who gets swept up in a horror story and then is romantically torn between two vampire brothers. Reviews and ratings of “The Vampire Diaries” have improved over the course of the show’s run, with critics generally agreeing that the show improved as the first season developed and with the second, third and fourth seasons premiering to generally favorable reviews. The pilot episode attracted the greatest number of viewers of any series premiere on The CW since the network began in 2006. The series has won two People’s Choice Awards, (Favorite New TV Drama in 2010 and Best Drama Actress for Nina Dobrev in 2012) and several Teen Choice Awards since 2010.
“The Vampire Diaries” has been widely popular amongst teens not only because of its sex appeal what with the constant on-and-off romances between characters and steamy sex/make out scenes, but also because of the fast-paced and action-packed nature of every episode. Elena, originally an average high school student bordering on the stereotypical (popular cheerleader with the cute blonde boyfriend), gets taken for a spin when she meets Stefan, the “new guy” in school with the “bad” older brother (Damon). Soon after getting romantically involved with Stefan (and eventually becoming torn between the two brothers), she finds out that her best friend Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham) is a witch, and that her other best friend Caroline Forbes (Candice Accola) is soon turned into a vampire herself. The welfare of the citizens of Mystic Falls spirals downhill from there as werewolves and werewolf/vampire hybrids are added into the mix, and the “vampire infestation,” constantly being futilely combated by the town council, skyrockets. Over the course of the series, the narrative has developed from having a focus on the town’s supernatural history to having a focus on Elena’s personal and very mysterious history and the key role that she comes to play in her horror-ridden world. This has been good for the overall quality of the show because it has allowed it to seem less scattered; before Elena became truly central and key to the inner workings of the mysterious events in Mystic Falls, episodes tended to feel a bit chaotic and were layered with the feeling that Elena was simply being thrown into this world with no real connection to it or purpose within it. When secrets are uncovered dealing with both her family’s as well as her own history relative to the vampires, her character becomes better grounded in the show and the show is able to gain a stronger focus rather than erratically keeping track of all of the tragedies and supernatural elements present within Elena’s unfortunate hometown.
The show takes a dramatic turn with the beginning of season four, when Elena is forced to become a vampire; she is run off a bridge and dies with vampire blood in her system, (a requirement for the transition from human to vampire). Suddenly her relationship with the supernatural world takes on a whole new twist, and she has to learn to cope with the violent cravings and urges that come with being a freshly-turned vampire. Stefan has difficulty assisting her with this because of his troubling and violent past as a new vampire, (he did such a terrible job of resisting the urge to massacre humans that he earned himself the title “The Ripper” almost immediately upon his transition). Since Damon has no trouble with helping her at all, a new complication is thrown into their already-existing love triangle; who will be the one to help Elena through this hard time? Elena’s transition to vampirehood further entrenches her in the supernatural and improves upon the show by providing it with an even stronger focus. It is both exciting and heartbreaking for viewers to watch Elena assimilate to her new life as a vampire as she grapples with her cravings and tries to come to terms with the fact that she will never feel fully human again.
Although “The Vampire Diaries” can at times be a chaotic show jam-packed with action and violence, at its core, it is a show that viewers love and continue to watch religiously because of the strong relevancy that it has to its teenage viewers due to the character of Elena. Audiences constantly root for her to prevail against the darkness she is constantly subjected to, and, of course, are kept at the edges of their seats as they wait to see which Salvatore she will give her heart to.