'The Vampire Diaries': Rooting for Elena
First things first: Good news for "Vampire Diaries" fans! This week, the CW ordered nine more scripts in addition to the 13 episodes already picked up. While this doesn't guarantee that they'll actually air the full season, it's definitely a step in the right direction for those who can't get enough of the Brothers Salvatore.
After two warmup weeks, it seems that "Vampire Diaries" has finally found its footing in this third episode, aptly titled "Friday Night Bites." I loved the mix of typical high school tropes (Will Stefan make the football team? Will Vicki choose to date Jeremy or Tyler?) and gory, horror-movie scare fare.
Last week I mentioned that I wasn't sure Elena (Nina Dobrev) could stand up to the other teen heroines who made executive producer Kevin Williamson famous. This week, she proved me wrong. It'll be easy to root for Elena after Thursday night's confrontation with Damon.
When Damon dismissed his new chew-toy, Caroline, as irritating, Elena surprised me with this retort: "Caroline does have some really annoying traits, but we've been friends since the first grade, and that means something to me." How refreshing to see a teenager stand up for her friends, when most high school shows today are overrun with mean girls and their backstabbing "frenemies."
I was also impressed by her refusal to participate in Damon's games.
Even with her Vervain necklace, which makes her immune to vampire powers of persuasion, I'm not sure it would be so easy to resist the allure of the elder Salvatore. Ian Somerhalder plays Damon with the perfect mix of devilish charm and coldblooded recklessness. In fact, I had almost warmed up to him when he startled viewers (and his brother) by murdering Stefan's history teacher just to prove a point.
As Damon proves himself to be every bit the bloodthirsty monster, Stefan (Paul Wesley) becomes even more benevolent – and if you ask me, more boring. "Salem witches are heroic examples of individualism and nonconformity," he tells Elena's best friend Bonnie, impressed by her ancestors' historical impact. His words make his quest to conform seem rather hypocritical as he sheds his "loner" status by joining the football team, befriending Elena's ex, and getting into his classmates' good graces with some history trivia parlor tricks.
He even manages to dodge confrontation with Tyler, the high school bully – though I suppose that since he's at least 160 years old, he's had plenty of time to learn some anger management tricks.
Stefan only gets interesting when he's toe-to-toe with his brother. Despite Damon's efforts to unnerve Stefan, Stefan continues to have the upper hand. "Kill me," he taunts. "You've had lifetimes to do it, and yet, here I am."
Sure, Damon toys with Stefan, but trying to steal his little brother's girlfriend isn't exactly the big leagues of vampire warfare. The fact that he hasn't finished Stefan off indicates that he may have a shred of humanity left – but that's dubious, at best.
Of course, "Vampire Diaries" isn't only about the three members of the undead love triangle. The peripheral characters become more well-rounded with every episode. Elena's brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen – yes, the grandson of the famed "King of Cool") is the picture of false bravado, drowning his grief over his parents' deaths in drugs and alcohol while trying to maintain a tough-guy image. Bonnie's psychic skills seem to be sharpening – maybe her grandmother was right about just how much she inherited from her Salem ancestors. And Caroline, powerless against Damon's mind control, is no longer the go-getter we saw in the pilot. Instead she's resigned to being little more than a vampire food supply – until Damon tires of her, which could prove fatal.
The true standout on Thursday night was Matt (Zach Roerig), Elena's ex-boyfriend. The character could've been a cookie-cutter jock, but "Friday Night Lights" alum Roerig plays him with an intriguing sincerity. It appears that Matt may be the most mature kid in Mystic Falls – which is quite a feat, considering that some of the other "kids" are a century or two older than him.
So let's discuss! Has Elena won you over yet? Should I warm up to Stefan or is he still a little too reminiscent of that more sparkly high school vamp? Who is your favorite of the supporting characters? Leave a comment below, and check back after next week's episode to compare notes.
-- Carina MacKenzie
Photo: Nina Dobrev as Elena in "The Vampire Diaries." Credit: the CW