THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: “Pilot”
VERDICT: I think I might just love this little show. It has sort of a 90s WB feel to it, with the small town, multiple pairs of siblings, an actual healthy friendship, and the occasional sweet moment. Plus, there’s that whole vampire thing that I’m rather fond of. I’m in. How could I resist? Read on for my recap/ review of The Vampire Diaries pilot.
Warning: While I have kept this post spoiler-free from any future events in the books, I have read The Vampire Diaries novels, and have included some comparisons and contrasts between the two mediums below. If that bothers you, stop reading. Also, I kind of wrote a book. Seriously, this is a long post. You’re going to need refreshments to keep you going.
The episode begins with a voice-over from Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), teenage vampire: “I’m a vampire. And this is my story.” Poor Elena, whose diaries were the inspiration for the book series’ title. She’s been somewhat replaced. Fog. Lots of fog. That’s going to be a running theme. A young couple is driving at night when their car hits someone. It’s either Stefan or Damon because of the ring (hey, the rings have been in all the promos, that’s not a spoiler). Getting hit by the car was just a ruse, and the two innocents get killed vampire-style. Cut to the title card—no credits, as they’re keeping it simple.
Cut to a scene familiar to those who watched the extended preview. Elena (played by Nina Dobrev) writes in her diary. Oh, that kid from Everwood is in this! No not Paul Wesley, but Steven R. McQueen (yes, his name sounds familiar for a reason), who played Ephram’s annoying (to phrase it kindly) piano student. McQueen plays Elena’s little brother Jeremy. I think this is probably an improvement from the little sister in the books, as this character is of an age to really develop as a character. Also, the boy has grown up, quite a bit. His acting has slightly improved too, but it will take a long time before I recover from the horror of Kyle Hunter. Anyway, Elena’s voice-over continues as she writes that she plans to start fresh. She lost her parents in a car crash and now lives with her Aunt Jenna. Wow, Aunt Jenna is super young for a parental figure, so this should be an interesting dynamic. And she’s in grad school! I feel her pain … (sigh of solidarity).
While I was going off on tangents, Bonnie (Katerina Graham) came to pick up Elena, and the girls drive to school. I know, what a thrilling plot point. Some exposition-filled conversation reveals that Bonnie’s ancestors are from Salem, and she is the descendant of witches. In the books, Bonnie was a red-headed Irish girl, descendant from Druids, so this seems like a fair trade. Bring on the magic! Bonnie tries to cheer up Elena, but it’s not really working. FYI, Bonnie was my fave character in the book. So far, she hasn’t really shone, but I’m not unhappy with the casting. Here’s hoping she’ll get some juicier story.
Cut to Mystic Falls High School. The obligatory locker scene ensues, in which Elena attempts to wave to poor Matt, her adorable ex-boyfriend. Matt Donovan (aka Matt Honeycutt in the books) is still feeling the burn from Elena dumping him, so I can’t blame him for turning away. My love for Matt in the books (see, I do like nice guys, occasionally) is allowing me to overlook the fact that jerk-face rodeo hound from Friday Night Lights is playing him. Wow, some of the casting in this show is making me feel like I need therapy. As Elena and Bonnie chat, blonde Caroline walks up and is fake nice and super clingy. She hugs Elena and asks her how she is, without really wanting to know the reason. I don’t love the casting and directing choices for Caroline, as she doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi that I look for in a high-school mean girl. She’s just a little too much on the pathetic side. Cordelia Chase would have eaten her for breakfast.
The girls’ attention is seized by the new boy, our erstwhile vampire teen, and they admire his “hot back.” Whatever. He’s OK, but I’m not swooning. As Stefan glamours the school counselor, the girls make a Seattle joke. Hehe. Because Seattle is really close to Forks, WA, so you know … never mind.
Cut to Elena barging into the boys’ bathroom. Well, she has some spunk, I’ll give you that. She confronts her brother in the bathroom about taking drugs. It seems that the younger Gilbert is having a tougher time dealing with his parents’ death. Poor boy. See, my TV therapy is working … I’m becoming nicer by the minute.
Back in the hallway, Bonnie watches Stefan go past, and Stefan runs into Elena. Their eyes meet, and its love-at-first-sight. It’s actually not AS cheesy as I imagined. At least Stefan doesn’t turn his nose up at her
At some point the kids actually make it into a class-room, and it’s History. The teacher is giving them a Civil War lecture–not as cool as the Renaissance, but to avoid being a broken record this is the last time I’ll mention that. The Renaissance is so much cooler than the US Civil War!!! OK, I lied. That was the last time. I promise. And I won’t say a word about the pronunciation of Stefan’s last name Salvatore … nope, not saying a word. Bonnie notices Stefan staring gigantic laser holes into Elena, and texts her the news. I don’t approve of texting in class, especially with improper grammar and punctuation. Manners, people … and spelling! Elena smugly smiles at Stefan smiling at her. Ha! There’s the Elena I know and love.
Cut to Elena writing in her diary in the graveyard, as she is wont to do. It’s not as cool as dusting vamps in the graveyard, but I’ll take it. She’s also wearing converse, so maybe I like her more. Voice-over: “When someone asks ‘how are you,’ they really don’t want an answer.” So true. I really don’t. Kidding! That was pre-therapy Lucia talking. A raven flies up, and there is an increasing amount of fog. Elena gets scared, as she’s seen The Birds. Wise girl. She runs into Stefan. Again. At first Elena is a bit suspicious that he’s a stalker (see world, girls DON’T like stalkers), but he explains his presence: “I’m visiting. I have family here.” Elena is immediately contrite, and her sympathy for the vamp is much increased. Ah, it’s like they’re meant to be. Forever and ever. (Blech. Swoon.) The gazing is interrupted by my favorite line of the episode, uttered by Elena: “It was all very Hitchcock for a second.” Hee. OK, I am starting to think the obvious couple is adorable together … heaven forbid. Stefan seems to sense Elena’s blood, but thankfully he resists wrinkling his nose and looking like he’s disgusted by the hog farm he just passed. As it turns out, Elena is injured, and has some blood on her leg. Stefan’s eyes go dark, and he turns away. Thankfully, Stefan has the grace to disappear quietly without any whining. The close-up on Elena makes me realize that she’s wearing hoops—another reason to like her. Frak. I always relate to the girls wearing the hoop earrings.
Smallville promo!!! September 25th, people—mark your calendars.
Back to the Stefan voice-over: “I’m simply not able to resist her.” Hmm, I didn’t really see him trying, but whatever. We meet Vicki (spelled Vickie in the books, but apparently that’s not hip enough, or something), the somewhat trashy and ambiguously-aged sister of adorable Matt. Vickie and Matt Donovan—get used to it book fans. Vicki is played by Kayla Ewell, who played a mean-girl on Veronica Mars. We learn that she and Jeremy had sex over the summer. Or as Vicki terms it: “We hooked up a few times in a drug haze.” Jeremy thought they had a real connection, but Vicki is more interested in jerk-face Tyler (Michael Trevino). Ick.
Back at the Gilbert home, Aunt Jenna tries to be parental. It’s rather sweet. As Elena goes outside, she runs into Stefan again. Elena: “I get it, blood makes you squeamish.” He returns her diary and tells her that he didn’t read it. He can’t enter (yay, I love when shows follow “the rules”), but then she asks him if he would like to come with her to meet her friends.
Elena and Stefan enter the coffe-house, where Matt, Vickie, Bonnie, Caroline, etc. are all hanging out. Matt is not exactly thrilled to see Elena walk in with Stefan, but being the classy guy he is, he walks up and introduces himself to Stefan. Example of an actual “nice guy,” as opposed to the fake “nice guy” we are often saddled with.
Stefan and Elena have a chance to get to know each other, and Stefan shares some details about his life. He says that his parents passed away. In response to the question about siblings, he states, “none that I talk to.” Exposition continues, as we learn that he lives with uncle.
Cut to the obligatory chest shot. We are at Stefan’s place, or rather, his uncle’s. Placebo’s “Running Up That Hill” begins to play. I love this song from The O.C. and Bones. Good choice. Side-note, Uncle Zach is Felicity’s old boyfriend, recently featured in the Dollhouse episode “Epitaph One.” Zach is all riled up about the death of that couple I forgot all about. Stefan looks at a picture of a woman named Katherine, who looks EXACTLY like Elena, and the photo is dated 1864.
Cut back to school, in History class. The teacher is giving a lecture on the Battle of Willow Creek (wimpy name for a battle, methinks). He starts to demand answers from various students, but none are prepared. Teacher: “Cute becomes dumb in an instant.” The teacher is kind of a d#@% to poor orphaned Elena, and everyone else in class. Stefan stands up for her, and dresses down the teacher. Hey, I don’t approve of that attitude—teachers are to be respected!
After school’s over, the kids party it up in the woods, small-town style. I like this show. There’s a little moment in which Stefan’s super-hearing is revealed. Again, I like that this show observes the vampire rules. As the girls are hanging out, Bonnie touches Elena and is startled by a possible vision of the future … or the past. Is she really psychic? She sees a crow. Dun dun dun.
Breaking up the creepiness, Elena and Stefan get to know each other better, and have a romantic moment. Elena tells Stefan that she and Matt were never “passionate.”
Meanwhile, Jeremy is sad to see Vicki go off into the woods with Tyler, and poor Vicki will rue that decision soon enough. Jeremy rescues Vicki from Tyler’s attempted date-rape, but she brushes him off. Then Vicki wanders in the woods, alone. Oh, this will end well …
Stefan was conveniently in the woods when Vicki was attacked, so he’s a potential suspect. As no one has discovered Vicki’s body yet, Caroline obliviously hits on Stefan. He turns her down, very firmly: “You and me? It’s not gonna happen.” Good for him for being forthright.
Meanwhile, Elena sees that her brother is very drunk. She goes after him, and is right behind him when he trips over Vicki’s body. She is bitten, but not dead. Stefan looks perplexed and concerned rather than guilty.
Stefan rushes home and tells Zach that someone else was attacked. Cue the crow. Slow reveal on Stefan’s brother Damon (played by Ian Somerhalder, aka Boone from Lost). He’s wearing a little too much blush for a vampire. The undead rarely have rosy cheeks, in my experience. They banter back in forth. It’s been 15 years since the brothers have seen each other, and they are NOT close. Damon knows all about Elena, and he wants her too. Uh oh, we know where this is headed.
Back in the woods, Matt gets into the ambulance to ride with his sister. Bonnie comments on her earlier vision, and is scared.
Back at Casa Salvatore, the vampire boys discuss Katherine—the girl they both loved and lost. Damon: “When’s the last time you had something stronger than a squirrel?” In these vampire rules, the animal blood doesn’t strengthen vamps as much as the human blood. The pigs-blood never hurt Angel, but it does make sense. Damon seems to be getting lots of human blood. Things get heated, and Stefan jumps Damon. The brothers fall out of window. Down on the ground, Damon makes some jokes and is rather hilarious. I’m going to like him. Stefan wants his big bro to stay away, but Damon’s not having it: “I promised you an eternity of misery. So I’m just keeping my word.” My other favorite line of the episode. Cheesy, you say? Shut up. Damon continues to bait his brother: “Where’s your ring?” Then, in leaning in to return the ring, Damon attacks. He’s so sneaky. “You should know better than to think you’re stronger than me,” he taunts. Damon’s expressions are cracking me up during this whole encounter. A bit over-the-top, but super fun to watch.
Meanwhile, Elena comforts Jeremy. Both are very upset. I’m still not feeling the sibling relationship here, but at least I’m not screaming at my TV every time Jeremy comes on screen. Progress from McQueen’s turn on Everwood, let me tell you.
Bonnie and Caroline are back at the coffee bar, trying to sober up. Caroline is full of self-pity: “I try so hard, and I’m never the one …” She is desperately jealous of Elena, who gets everything so effortlessly. She has the Blair Waldorf complex, but is not even slightly as awesome. Bonnie tells her it’s not a competition, but Caroline doesn’t agree.
At the hospital, Matt is at Vicki’s bed-side, and she whispers “vampire.”
Closing montage time! Cut to more Elena’s diary VO. Then, more Stefan’s diary VO, and we see another glimpse of Katherine’s photo. Aunt Jenna looks on as Jeremy mourns. Uh oh, Damon makes eyes at Caroline. Still too much makeup, but he is rather adorable. Stefan goes over to Elena’s house, and she invites him in.
Phew. If any of you made it to the end, I welcome your comments below. What did you think of the pilot?