There are few things The Vampire Diaries does better than a gritty cliff hanger and, after a peaky fifth season that left us all with high tensions and emotions at breaking point as we eagerly waited for more, everyone’s favourite vampires have returned to our screens with plenty of bang for our bite. The new season opened with the classic horror trope of a couple camping in the woods before becoming the victims of a vampire attack, and as the series harks back to glory days of season one with their latest offering, there’s never been a better time to tune in and find out why The Vampire Diaries has been running for over 100 episodes and counting.
Set in a small town called Mystic Falls, The Vampire Diaries centres on Elena Gilbert, a high school student, and her circle of friends as they get embroiled in the world of the supernatural, prompted by the return of Stefan Salvatore, a 120 year old vampire, who wants to get to know the girl who looks exactly like the woman he loved a century ago. Since season one, we’ve seen the world expand beyond vampires to include witches, werewolves, doppelgangers and an original family of vampires – characters so popular they spawned a spin-off series, The Originals – and as each season progresses, we learn more about this world that the show runners have created. The story takes us through origin stories, century-long grudges and what happens to supernatural beings when they die, but each new revelation draws us deeper into the lives of characters we genuinely come to care about.
Promoted as a teen drama with a love triangle between two vampire brothers and a less-than-ordinary human, and painted with the initial tagline ‘love sucks’, you’d be forgiven for writing this one off as an unrealistic instalment in adolescent angst. Watch an episode of the show, however, and you’ll realise that the producers really struck gold with this one, and the entertainment factor runs much deeper than the expectation of pretty people backstabbing one another and stealing each other’s girl. In this version of vampire lore, when you’re turned, your emotions are heightened and the writers capitalise on this to great effect; happiness becomes euphoria, sadness becomes despair, and The Vampire Diaries is always at its best when the characters experience either of these extremes.
The show tackles some big questions, exploring the role of morality, humanity and redemption, and the characters are constantly evolving to live up to these prominent overarching themes, but what I love most about the show is that there is also that element of cheese and predictability – moments that get your head racing ahead and waiting for the moment where you can announce (to an empty room, if necessary) ‘I knew it!’ at the ultimate revelation – and that’s all part of the fun.
It’s reassuring to know that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a good trait to have in a show about vampires, and one that True Blood lost a couple of seasons in. Even through its worse episodes (looking to you Season 5), The Vampire Diaries always manages to pose that one question you need answering and leaves you counting down the days until the next episode.
Ultimately, the episode count speaks for itself: six seasons in and with no signs of slowing down any time soon, The Vampire Diaries has proven itself to be a fantastic series that constantly works to keep producing fresh ideas and big bads to keep the entertainment alive and kicking on our screens.
The Vampire Diaries is currently airing its sixth season on Tuesdays at 9pm on ITV2.