Thursday Nights on the CW

I wanted to take the time to pay particular praise to two shows that have been growing on me more and more over time. The CW has taken to rebooting itself over the last few years (starting with Gossip Girl and now picking up on the trends–vampires, spies, and now, zombies) and while I was initially skeptical about Vampire Diaries and felt just okay with Nikita, both shows have really stepped up.

Season One of Vampire Diaries was slow. The voiceovers that were Stefan and Elena reading from their diaries killed each episode before it started (I know, that’s where the show gets its name but unless their diaries are insightful who cares to hear it?). As a character, Elena was extremely lame (she was the damsel in distress with little to no personality). Caroline was just the annoying bossy girl. The moral complexities in the show were not so complex. But the show has really come into its own (I kind of want to go buy the books now), thanks to some big twists and new characters: the relationship between vampire Caroline and werewolf Tyler is stronger than either of the two characters ever were pre-supernatural phase (they have fast become my favorite part of the show and were sorely missed in last night’s episode), Damon has become both good guy we root for and bad guy we get disappointed in, Elena finds her strength (she actually stabs herself in the stomach in order to kill Elijah!), Katherine shows up and becomes one of the most riveting villains (who knew Anna Dobrev could be so talented?), and it turns out Stephan killed Elena’s ancestors! Basically, the show developed a real mythology that let us become invested in the story (and make it okay to have doppleganger ancestors).

Then there was Nikita, which was a fun pilot but left me feeling lukewarm about Nikita herself. I thought Maggie Q was fantastic (though she is so thin it is hard to believe she can kick butt as well as she does), I just didn’t think the show developed her backstory solidly and emotionally enough for me to really care about her. The story about her murdered lover was sort of force-fed down our throats and we did not get a chance to really connect to the relationship that was lost. But despite a so-so past, the other parts of her past are much stronger. Her relationship with Michael, for example, which took a pseudo step forward this week (when will she turn him, you can’t help but wonder). I still wonder about her life pre-Division, but I don’t know if we will ever see it. For me, the best part of the show actually comes with Alex. She’s the young recruit, playing double agent. Where all of Nikita’s actions are pretty clearcut and righteous, Alex must live in Division and therefore walk a finer moral line. Does she let her friends and training mates continue to live the lie that they are fighting for the country? Does she sabotage their missions and make it harder for them to succeed? How far does she go to keep her cover? And we’ve only just started to scratch the surface of her past (this week we got a peek at her corrupt father and her druggie/sex trafficking life pre-Nikita). Lyndsy Fonseca really doesn’t get enough credit for how excellent she is on this show. The show has also shown it is not afraid to kill off a character that we think will be around for a long time, which is always a plus when trying to raise the stakes. Has anyone else noticed the rising death toll on the CW as a whole?

Remember back in the day when the WB’s strong night was New Tuesdays? For me, it is Thursday nights now. I can only hope that the Awakening and the other new shows they have picked up for next year are just as solid as these shows have become.

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