Ian Somerhalder is back on television, just over two years since “The Vampire Diaries” wrapped up its final season over on The CW, and he’s still busy staking his claim to the title of TV’s foremost vampire authority.
He was the one baring pointed fangs on “Diaries,” as the roguish Damon, a vampire whose transformation from sneering sociopath into a convincing romantic hero marked one of the show’s strongest arcs, however silly and sudsy it all became (as these things tend to) by year eight.
In “V-Wars” (all 10 episodes now streaming on Netflix), he’s having a little less fun (intentionally so) as the good Dr. Luther Swann, who finds himself tasked with preventing a vampire pandemic from spreading across the world after one’s released out of ice melting due to climate change. That’s right — it’s FX’s “The Strain,” minus that series’ Guillermo del Toro-assisted visual grotesqueries, swimming just as many soap operatics and with an added sociopolitical edge, if only just.
Somerhalder is also an executive producer, along with creators William Laurin and Glenn Davis, and he tries his hand at directing a few episodes too. You’ve got to admire the commitment to growth, even though the subgenre stays the spooky same.
One welcome twist, given that Netflix didn’t make any episodes available to critics before dropping them all Thursday, is that the series is far from terrible, at least judging by its first installment. Instead, it’s unabashedly silly in setting up its horrifying, credulity-stretching end-of-days conflict — a fun, freaky B-movie stretched out to series’ length. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Somerhalder’s also great in the role, clearly relishing the meta feat of playing the reluctant hero and taking on a gnarlier variation of the same supernatural entity he‘s spent nearly a decade embodying. However long this round of Somerhalder battling bloodsuckers lasts, it’s ghoulish good fun to have him back.