I know that the show is based on books, but I have no idea how close to the books this series is. I do know that I've been very, very impressed with the stories. The way they introduce arcs, mini-arcs, characters, etc. while we're still going with the rise and fall of other stories so that we keep getting cascading climaxes is excellently done. The show also has fabulous climaxes. There have been several episodes so far that could actually have been season-enders, they were that strong.
Fantastic characters. FANTASTIC! I may prefer Damon with Elena, but I don't dislike Stefan and Elena, and I actually like Stefan. I also like Caroline, love Bonnie (where the heck has she been the last four episodes? I know she's mourning grandma, but come on!!), like Jenna, like Jeremy, like Matt, love Alaric, love Damon, love Elena. There is literally not one character I do not like. And I love how these characters interact. It's not just the love stories, we see the girls and guys hanging out as friends, we see family together as family. Those relationships are highlighted as important as the teenaged, tortured angsty epic love stories. And I love that. These characters are round. Not a single one of the leads is a flat one, and in fact, most of the supporting characters are multi-layered as well. Other than a few moments here and there, the characters are so well-done that even the non-exciting vampire stuff is compelling to watch.
I also love that the females kick-ass. They don't just sit around waiting to be rescued. Sure, they do have to be sometimes, but nine out of ten times, they're thinking and fighting to get out of the situation themselves even if they don't always succeed.
My favorite characters in order are: Damon, Elena, Bonnie, Alaric, Caroline, Stefan, and Matt -- who so looks like a cross between Zach Gilford (Matt on Friday Night Lights) and Bradley James (Arthur from the BBC's Merlin) it's uncanny.
Yeah, I like Damon and Elena. I find they have the most chemistry. But I'm not anti-Stefan/Elena. I found them incredibly boring in the beginning, but now I find them on par with Buffy and Angel, in that I personally may have found the actors lacking in chemistry, I could appreciate the story (even if I preferred Buffy with Xander, I know, I know). The same is the case here. I may not think the actors/characters have chemistry, but I can appreciate the story the show is telling me. Still, I do much prefer Damon and Elena. The scene where he put the necklace back on her was WHOAH! and I watched the preview for the upcoming episode!! SQUEE!!!
Ooh, speaking of the triangle, I read on TWoP that the way the writers have written about a certain pair of the three that it's obvious which they prefer -- unfortunately the poster didn't say which pairing. Does anyone know? Is it Stefan/Elena or Damon/Elena? I'm not sure my heart could take another vampire show where the producers ridiculously ship the way more boring pairing of the two (Bill/Sookie over Eric/Sookie -- and I say this even though Stefan/Elena so kick Bill/Sookie's ass, B/S are that bad, in my opinion).
I also have a soft spot for Caroline and Matt, but that's just because I like Caroline so much. I'd like to see her get someone who actually does put her first, because deny it all he wants, Caroline is just a place-holder for Elena to Matt. Oh, and I kinda like the idea of Bonnie and Stefan, but I don't really expect anything there, but Paul Wesley and Katerina Graham have much better chemistry than do Wesley and Nina Dobrev. Of course, she's got loads of chemistry with Ian Somerhalder. And who also has great chemistry (although, imo, of a different kind) is Somerhalder and Matt Davis (Alaric Salzman). I LOVE how these two are working together now. I get such a kick out of their scenes. Damon was right. Those two are bad-ass! And I also can't help but get a kick out of Damon and the Sheriff. Oh, Damon.
Paul Wesley (Stefan) tends to be a bit stiff, but it fits the part. Somerhalder (Damon) is definitely the break-out star; all of those complaints about his boring, pretty-boy nothingness as Boone on Lost have been dispelled. Nina Dobrev (Elena) is good, she's not outstanding, but she grounds the show very well and interacts beautifully with all of the necessary characters with a believable warmth. She could have done a better job differentiating between Elena and Katherine -- the script did most of that -- but she wasn't terrible. Katarina Graham (Bonnie) is fantastic. All of the guest-stars thus far (Gina Torres, Jasmine Guy, Kelly Hu, Malese Jow, Melinda Clarke, the list just goes on) have been amazing.
Damn, damn good show and I'm so glad I gave it another go. It's awesome!