"Well, I didn't see that coming."
Those were my words after the last shot of the Vampire Diaries season finale, "The Departed." Though to be perfectly honest, it's possible I have uttered them during or after almost every episode, because it seems like this show blind-sides me at every turn with another plot twist.
Sometimes I feel like I am shouting into the ether when trying to get people to tune in. "Watch it," I cry. "It's awesome!" And you respond, "but it's about vampires...and it's called the Vampire Diaries....and it airs on the CW."
Here's the thing. Remember a little show called Buffy and the Vampire Slayer? It was about vampires, had a goofy name, and aired on the WB. And yet it was completely and totally awesome.
Now I am not saying that Vampire Diaries is as remarkable as Buffy. Sure, they're both in the same teen vampire genre, but Vampire Diaries' awesomeness comes from a different place. Its cleverness derives from the plotting (not to say that Buffy didn't have clever plotting, but you know what I mean). With each season the show has deepened its mythology, introduced new characters, killed off old characters, and kept the stakes high. Pun intended. And then there is just twist after twist...
And this year's season finale was not exception. Without giving too much away, let's just say that the show went to a place that I frankly was not expecting (at least not for a few more years) and set up a TON of juicy stuff for next season. I really can't think of another network drama that is as consistently surprising, well-acted, and well-plotted as this one....
And of course, there is a love triangle in the mix. A really good one at that.
Another thing that the Vampire Diaries excels at is making those twists matter. You actually care about what happens on this show because there are consequences. Remember how terrible Heroes got because we didn't care when someone was killed because they always magically came back? That doesn't happen here. Sure, sometimes a ghost will pop by for a chat, but for the most part (at least with respect to secondary characters) what's dead stays dead. There are consequences for the characters on this show. Which is frankly lacking from a lot of other drama, especially those in the fantasy genre.
So trust me when I say that this kind of situation isn't going to end well.
Just one word of caution: please don't judge the series by the pilot. While still entertaining, I would say it's the weakest hour of the show by far. Stick with it and by the middle of the first season you will be hooked. I'd stake my life on it.