The Vampire Diaries has managed to accomplish something that many other TV shows based on books have failed. In fact, having heard from my wife about the book series, the stories are actually better than in the book series written by L.J. Smith.
Centered in Mystic Falls, Virginia, Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev, The Roommate) and her brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen, Piranha) are typical high schoolers, except for their interesting extracurricular activities (and that they never seem to attend school). Elena is in love with vampire Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley, Killer Movie), and she tolerates but sometimes feels friendly toward his vampire brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder, Lost), who is also in love with Elena. Stefan and Damon's love for Elena was spurred on because Elena looks exactly like Katherine Pierce, a vampire they had both loved more than 100 years ago, reappears in Season Two and is also played by Dobrev. Identical in looks, yes, but Katherine was mean and selfish whereas Elena is pure and innocent. Oh, this love triangle (rectangle?) is nothing, but there is an extra in this DVD set that lays out the different love shapes.
Then, there is Elena's best friend and witch Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham, The Roommate), her friend Caroline Forbes (Candice Accola, Juno), her sometimes boyfriend Matt Donovan (Zach Roerig, Assassination of a High School President), and his friend Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino, The Riches). Then finally, the series' adults: Jenna Sommers (Sara Canning) as Elena and Jeremy's aunt and guardian, and Alaric Saltzman (Matthew Davis, Tigerland), the English teacher and Jenna's boyfriend in general. Interestingly, Jenna is the only one not privy to the supernatural goings-on, but that all changes in Season Two.
Slight spoilers ahead, proceed with desired caution.
This highly anticipated second season of the show premiered Sept. 9, 2010, on the CW, and much of the season focused on the return of Katherine. Oh, you thought she was dead? No actually, just entombed for ages. Now she's back and wants to find something called the moonstone. Supposedly, this moonstone can break the curse that relegates vampires to the night but can also release werewolves from having to change unwillingly at the full moon. So yay, werewolves! Needless to say, both vampires and werewolves would like to get their hands on the moonstone. And there are werewolves in Mystic Falls, as soon as Tyler's uncle Mason arrives to mourn the loss of his brother in the fire of Season One.
But that's just one aspect of the entire season, which features Original Vampires - as in the first vampires on earth, who see a way to break the curse of the moonstone through the blood of Katherine's doppelganger, Elena. So with Elena being pursued by the toughest vampires on the planet, Damon and Stefan go into overprotective mode. But it's difficult to do that when you have Katherine pretending to be Elena, Katherine turning Caroline into a vampire, Katherine ensuring that Tyler triggers his werewolf gene. She's just screwing everything up! Meanwhile, Bonnie gets back to her witch roots, which, for a while, include not helping the Salvatore brothers in her attempts to stay out of vampire affairs. She also takes a liking to Jeremy, who needs a love interest after his was killed last season (and after Jeremy unsuccessfully tried to turn himself into vampire after his grief).
All in all, although I didn't really care for the werewolf development, it was great to see Dobrev as she seriously did work playing both Katherine and Elena. I can suspend disbelief, but I didn't even have to as she well played the scheming Katherine and sacrificial Elena. In some episodes, she had to portray pre-vampire Katherine as well and with all of the costuming that comes along with 15th century garb.
Spoilers calm, as is the water.
Among this season's 22 episodes, there are few duds, but most serve as great examples of scripts that are able to move multiple storylines a bit each episode but are still able to weave the different storylines together. And boy, does Mystic Falls have a TON of parties. There's the Gone with the Wind event, a masquerade, and a million different charity events. But, they serve their purpose of bringing the characters together.
Lastly, the cliffhanger for season two ending is a winner, with Elena fighting one of the original vampires Klaus, Damon in danger, and Stefan sacrificing himself to protect the one he loves, once again. If you watch no other episode, be sure to check out the season finale. It's a good one.
22 episodes spread over five discs, all presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen for your bloodsucking pleasure. The source material is as clean as can be and has no edge enhancement that would be troublesome. Fine detail is solid and blacks are consistent through most of the show and provide a nice contrast. Flesh tones look accurate and the color palette looks clear without oversaturation. Good viewing material.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for the effort. I was surprised with how immersive the show's soundstage was at times, with directional effects and low-end fidelity from the subwoofer both present and effective. Dialogue was strong and required little in the way of adjustment, and there was even channel panning present in the show's soundtrack, also a pleasant surprise. Goodness knows with so many pretty people the show has to look and sound good, and the discs certainly do both of those aspects justice.
Of the fairly minimal extras, everything except a commentary on episode seven titled "Masquerade," and deleted scenes are on Disc Five. On that disc, you've got something called "Pages of the Wolf," which is made up of three featurettes, including "The Myth and the Mystery," a five-minute look at the background of the moonstone (which is actually a bar of soap, as you learn in the commentary). "Building the Beast" is another five-minute featurette about the wolves used in the show and how they made a happy-looking wolf look like Cujo. Lastly, "Howling at the Moon," is seven minutes of Trevino as he worked through what it was like to transform into a werewolf. For example, he used real chains while he was changing instead of fake ones to really get the weight of them and feel the pain.
Disc Five also holds some short segments, including a nine-minute piece titled "Her own worst enemy ... Elena, Katherine, and Nina," which highlights Dobrev's ability to be a bad girl and a good girl--sometimes very quickly--and do them both well. "The Perfect Love Triangle: Vampires, werewolves, and witches," lays out the different relationships in the series. This should be a prerequisite for watching this show. Finally on Disc Five, 2:35 worth of so-so outtakes in a featurette called "Second Bite."
Discs One, Two, and Three all have episodes with deleted scenes, but you can only play all of an episode's deleted scenes at once. Disc Two houses the one commentary on "Masquerade," done by Executive Producers/Episode Writers Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec. They kept it informative and talked about the books and their storylines and how they compare to the show. For that particular episode, Kevin and Julie wrote the script all night long, finished at 10 a.m., and started shooting that episode after lunch because Nina had hurt her back. They shared some interesting fan tidbits, like how all the fan forums were calling Alaric the worst babysitter, because in this particular episode, his only job was to keep Elena in the house, and he couldn't even do that. All in all, it's an interesting commentary.
You're rooting for Stefan, or you're rooting for Damon, but either way, the writers keep you guessing in this show with twists and turns that make you stick around for the next episode. I would have liked to hear some more commentary on the episodes, and the other extras are sparse, but I've seen worse. Not to mention, you've got to watch this show, if for nothing else than for Ian Somerhalder's expressions as the tortured Damon. His smirks, eyebrow raises, and lip movements are Oscar-worthy.