Right away with the Vampire Diaries, you can see that this vampire show won’t be a PG-13 knock-off of True Blood; there’s a different atmosphere. The adjective “Twilight-esque” doesn’t apply. The background is dark and foreboding from the get-go, the vampire introduces himself, and we know already that vampires are not a culturally acceptable, if taboo subject. Vampires are still a secret, shrouded in pulp mystery, so dank and hidden, that when you metaphorically pull the cover back, to immerse yourself in the fiction, you have to peel the pages apart with a fingernail. They’re yellow, water-stained, and cheap, but god they hold horror, and in this show, maybe horror will hold you too. In short, this particular show holds promise, and potential, just like any new book, film, or pulp fiction, beckoning you from a shelf, to come over, crack the spine, tear the cellophane, peek into the plastic slip for just a glimpse of the cover… a tiny look. Is grabbing the remote any different? Peeling your eyes away from whatever sports show, cooking show, or romantic sitcom that has held you slack-jawed and barely coherent for the last half hour; now you’ve found something you can sink your teeth into, or maybe, it’s found you.
Two people are killed by a vampire immediately. The vampire narrates, and introduces himself as such; he’s over one hundred years old. We’re introduced to Elena, the female lead, after the murders. The girl has obviously experienced trauma, but doesn’t reveal until later that both of her parents were killed in a car accident, and only she escaped alive. The vampire, Stefan Salvatore, has a fascination with the girl, Elena, because she resembles someone from his past, whom is alluded to as having died violently. Elena and her brother, Jeremy, obviously winding his way down the path of a trauma-fueled rebellious adolescence, live with their Aunt Jenna. Aunt Jenna isn’t much older, but manages to endear herself immediately as someone scatterbrained, concerned, considerate, and extremely busy. Elena is worried about Jeremy, but her brother is guarded, defensive, and indifferent.
Elena’s friend, Bonnie was recently informed she was psychic, but doesn’t take it seriously. She’s obviously the more cheerful, and straightforward counterpart in the friendship between her and Elena. A crow smacks into the windshield while they’re in the car, sparking anxiety in Elena. The moment passes, and they go back to their discussion of Bonnie’s psychic awareness. The town is Mystic Falls, and who could have predicted a flamboyant town name to be thrown into the mix? Not I. The love conflict is opened wide, when we’re introduced to the ex, –the blond varsity type, Matt, whom Elena dumped after her parents’ death. Next introduced is the flaking-around-the-edges blond friend, Caroline. Stefan is checking into the office, and using mind-control powers to secure his position in high school hell.
We meet Stefan at last! His eyebrows are out of control, and he bumps into Elena as she’s coming out of the “men’s room”. She was interrogating Jeremy, who had been pouring Visine in his eyes, and passing out pills on campus. They go their way quickly, but cast glances, and cute puppy dog eyes at each other in classes. Bonnie notices and teases Elena. And the wheels of love roll on over the gravel road, kicking up dust in their tracks… After school, Elene stops at a graveyard to take a dismal emotional inventory of her day, recording it in her diary. A bizarre fog rolls in, and a crow adds some menace to the situation. Elena feels watched, runs away, and stumbles into Stefan, who she mistakes for her stalker. He clears himself of stalking her, at least partially. When he notices she’s hurt, and bleeding, he turns away, red flowing into his eyes, and takes off suddenly.
At ‘The Grill’, the high school kids gather en-masse. We learn Jeremy has been casually screwing Vicky, Matt’s sister, –also claimed by Tyler, the irritating jock, also aggressively possessive. Matt isn’t pleased, but doesn’t say too much on the subject of their “hooking up”, other than calling his friend Ty a douche. Caroline gives Bonnie the lowdown on Stefan, and has managed to collect a Wiki page worth of trivial data and a hefty crush on the guy. Just as Elena’s out the door to meet Bonnie at the Grill, she runs into Stefan, who was “about to knock”, and is there returning her diary, that she left in the cemetery after a hasty flight from her Mystery Stalker. He apologizes for taking off earlier, and promises he didn’t read her diary; she invites him to ‘the Grill’, and he accepts.
Maybe we should just mention that Matt still has a thing for Elena, and seems like a decent guy rather than the usual hostile jock. Probably because Elena has good taste and wouldn’t be interested in a hostile Matt discusses the torch he carries for Elena with Bonnie; then Elena enters with Stefan. Needless to say, all confidence, or potential confidence, has disappeared. Matt introduces himself, doing the classy thing. Later, the group of friends and the newcomer agree to go to a back-to-school party. Stefan reveals that he’s staying with his uncle, and his parents are dead. Stefan is actually staying with his nephew, Zach, who later in the evening, accuses Stefan of murdering the two people in the beginning of the show. Stefan denies it, but Zach still thinks he shouldn’t be there, and it’s hinted that there was some huge scandal in the past concerning their family. Zach leaves him, and Stefan looks into an old wardrobe; it’s filled with diaries dating back over a hundred years. He chooses one, and in the front is a photograph labeled “Katherine 1864”, of a woman who could be Elena’s twin.
Stefan demonstrates an uncanny knowledge of Civil War-era Mystic Falls in History. Later he seeks Elena at the party, naturally littered with signs of underage drinking. He’s dragged off by Caroline first, while Bonnie and Elena discuss where he might be. Elena suggests Bonnie use her facetious ‘psychic powers’ to find him. Elena hands Bonnie a beer bottle dubbed the ‘crystal ball’, and Bonnie has a startling vision: She recites the experience Elena had in the cemetery. Bonnie is shocked, and worried about her friend. Bonnie excuses herself as drunk, leaving Elena, with Stefan suddenly standing in front of her.
Three important things happen at the party. First, Elena tells Stefan about the traumatic loss of her parents last spring, and he sympathizes. Second, Ty almost rapes Vickie in the woods, but Jeremy followed, and tells Tyler to leave. With Tyler gone, Vickie tears into Jeremy for being infatuated with her. She takes off into the woods, leaving him feeling like an idiot, while Stefan firmly, and thoroughly, dismisses Caroline, who takes it pretty badly. Third, –a girl alone in the woods with a homicidal vampire tear-assing around? Yeah, she’s attacked, then discovered by Jeremy, trying to escape his sister, following her drunk brother into the woods. They carry Vickie into the picnic shelter. Matt, who sees Stefan back away and leave, is immediately suspicious. Stefan runs home, tells Zach there’s been another attack, and heads to his room. A crow flies in to meet him, and we’re introduced to Stefan’s sexy brother Damon, who unfortunately is the homicidal vampire terrorizing Mystic Falls.
Damon harasses his brother, and reveals that he knows about his interest in Elena. Vicky is bustled away into an ambulance, and an animal control unit searches for the creature that attacked her. Before they break up, to go their separate ways into the night, Bonnie confronts Elena and tells her that she doesn’t believe she’s psychic, but that when she had the vision, she felt it was only the beginning. Apparently, Damon is a malignant nutcase, but god, he’s sexy. He and Stefan fight, and Damon reveals that Stefan needs his ring to walk in the daylight, is weaker than Damon because he doesn’t feed on humans. It’s hinted that he and Stefan killed Katherine. Truth be told however, it’s also revealed that Damon has the better sense of humor. At a diner, Caroline miserably compares herself to Elena, while Bonnie tries to listen sympathetically. At the hospital, Matt watches over Vicky, who wakes up and whispers “vampire.”
Elena and Stefan wind their evening down by writing in their diaries; Jeremy stares sadly down at a framed photo of his parents, and a stranger smiles at Caroline from across the room. She smiles back at Damon. Elena is finishing her entry when she sees Stephan in her yard; she greets him at the door and he tells her he just needed to make sure she was okay. The episode ends with an ambiguous answer to his question, and her inviting him inside.