Rarely has a soap opera had so much blood. The third season of The Vampire Diaries kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 15 on The CW. A fairly standard teen drama with the occasional dabble in grotesque violence, the show is more or less what’s on the label. However, the season opening, at least, comes packaged with an amusing B-movie gimmick: vampire-wolf hybrids.

As with nearly all television shows, viewers following from day one are already more than familiar with the show’s ups and downs. To the uninitiated, this show is about the adventures of a girl and her vampire lovers—the apparent hallmark of any romantic fantasy—as they live, love, learn and fight through hordes of the unsavory dead.

This particular episode centers on Elena, the human main character, and her birthday. However, nearly all the action involves the good vampires tracking a pair of particularly sadistic ones.

The undead on this show seem to follow all the traditional rules: aversion to sunlight, garlic allergies, stakes through the heart, etc. The opening scene itself features a vampire-wolf hybrid and regular vampire breaking into a couple’s home to feed. Apparently he’s a “Ripper,” which means he mauls the victims into bits and feels guilty enough to put all the meaty pieces back together. This naturally cuts to a scene where the main characters are bathing and discussing relationship problems.

The “Ripper,” Stefan, is the formerly good brother of Damon, one of the main characters. This and future episodes are likely to revolve around their search for each other and reconciliation.

There are various other elements of the supernatural that are hard to follow for new watchers, such as vampires who see dead people. For the most part, all the ancillary plot points take a backseat to the two brothers’ plotline.
The acting is passable. Every monster seems to have the identical brooding look, with the head tilted slightly downwards and eyes facing out under the brows.

Between all the snarky jokes, most characters spend their time being contemplative and pensive. This doesn’t lend itself well to any kind of character depth. The male characters are extremely difficult to tell apart, the only saving grace being that some of them dislike the sun and some of them love the full moon, which is about as helpful as it sounds.

Overall, the multiple storylines can make this season premier difficult to follow. For someone not well versed in all the character relationships and history, the story can be incoherent and random, seemingly jumping between characters that rarely interact within the actual episode. There are many sequences involving teenage drama and romance, but they generally get in the way of the action.

The visuals are decent enough. Special effects, such as super speed, are barely believable and the production values stay average at the very least. Fight sequences are generally limited to verbal threats and scowls. In this particular episode, the violence is limited to vampires torturing their victims.

Mood whiplash is the key word of this show. Within minutes of a violent torture sequence, the viewer is treated to characters flirting and partying only to be brought back into another gory scene.

There are very few people who love both cheesy love stories and absolutely brutal, gory violence. The few who like to engage in such passive-aggressive entertainment will find much to like here. Anyone else who prefers to keep their love and bloodlust in separate domains is better looking for more concentrated doses of romance or horror.