So, the new review's up. You can watch it here.
This show, despite its early troubles, was saved almost entirely by something that gets overlooked in the performing arts pretty frequently: chemistry.
All three pairs of siblings started out with great chemistry, and that made The Vampire Diaries enjoyable to watch from the start. When the plot was bogged or MIA, I knew that I could count on the interactions of Stefan and Damon, Matt and Vicki, and Jeremy and Elena. They quickly gave the impression that they had known each other for years, that they knew each others tendencies and automatic responses, in short, that they were siblings.
Sounds elementary, no? And yet, a ton of television disregards this simple feature that enhances immersion and overall quality immensely. Heroes started out with no chemistry between its various families and it was painful to watch with few to no redeeming features. Stargate: Universe opened in medias res with characters that had been working together for years but acted and spoke as though they had just met, and its pacing and character development suffered for it.
There are a few points early in The Vampire Diaries where this chemistry really shines; early in the first episode when Elena follows Jeremy into the men's bathroom to see if he's been doing drugs; when Damon and Stefan imitate each other (which doubled as impressively funny, to boot); Matt's reactions to Vicki's priorities and her messing with Tyler and Jeremy.
They were little touches, but they kept me watching a show that I might have given up on otherwise. They also impressed me with the actors, none of whom I'd seen anywhere before, and most of whom I'll keep an eye out for, because I've seen that they can pin down an elusive and rare quality and bring it to life as few can.