Ian Somerhalder is best known for playing Boone on Lost, but mostly for playing Damon Salvatore for eight seasons of The Vampire Diaries, which I am told only ended … two years ago? (Amber Ruffin: WHAT?) He returns this week in Netflix’s V-Wars, another series about vampires. But this one is different, because Ian Somerhalder doesn’t actually play a vampire, but only because he doesn’t have the gene that predisposes him to vampirism.
For viewers who have seen the last two seasons of iZombie, V-Wars is basically a very low-rent, poorly written, humorless version of that without any of the cases of the week, which — no offense — were all that made the last two seasons of iZombie tolerable. Based on the comic series by Jonathan Maberry, Somerhalder plays Dr. Luther Swann, a guy sent along with this best friend Michael Faye (Adrian Holmes) to investigate the disappearance of another scientist in the Arctic. Turns out that climate change unleashed a pathogen from the glaciers, which infected both Swann and Faye.
However, we learn that the pathogen only affects half the population who have a gene that predisposes them to vampirism, while the other half remain human. Michael Faye gets the vampire gene. He has super strength, super hearing, etc., and he goes on a feeding rampage, infecting others. However, the vampires are also kind of like werewolves — they’re only bloodthirsty killers part of the time. The rest of the time, they’re chill good folk just trying to get by in this crazy world. Vampires eat humans, and humans eat at the grocery story, but otherwise, there’s not a lot separating humans and vampire where it counts: In their hearts. Eventually, however, the humans and the vampires — or Bloods — are pitted against each other, and nefarious people within the government try to exploit the situation for more power because terrorism — even vampire terrorism — is good for maintaining the status quo.
A lot of government baddies also try to use Somerhalder’s Swann to their advantage, too. He’s meant to find a cure, but a cure doesn’t exactly benefit the nefarious powers-that-be, so Dr. Swann ends up in a sort of one-man mission to peacefully unite the humans and vampires. There are negotiations between Dr. Swann and Michael Faye, bad faith actors on both sides, and some Benedict Arnolds, but it hardly matters because — spoilers, sort of — the whole first season is essentially designed to tease a second season (which has not yet been greenlit). Spoilers, again: There is zero closure on the first season.
It’s an all-around terrible series — cheap production values, bad writing, hammy acting, amateurish direction — but to its credit, it does seem to be aware of that. It does not aspire to be a good show, which is good, because it is not. It’s basically Generic Redbox Vampire Movie: The Series. It’s like a Skinimax series without any nudity. It’s trash, and yet, it’s also not boring, either. The writing is heinous, the story is nonsensical, and Somerhalder couldn’t act himself through a fart cloud, but it’s not uninteresting to watch. Not because it’s a train crash, exactly, but because it doesn’t even know where the train tracks are. It’s like, “Hey! Look at that train choo-choo’ing through town without a track! What’s going on? Why isn’t there a track?! I think I’ll stick around and see what happens.” I wouldn’t call that an endorsement of V-Wars, exactly, but if forced to choose between it and I-Land, I’d choose V-Wars. That’s as high praise as I’m willing to allow: “V-Wars is not the worst show of 2019!”
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