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All About The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries | TV Style Guide

Yup, that’s it, that’s the post today. And I will be absolutely waxing poetic about my love for this show and rambling on and including ALLLLLLL the spoilers; so if you aren’t prepared for any of that, I give you permission to spend the next half hour emptying your dishwasher or petting the cat or defeating that latest boss in Genshin Impact. But otherwise, get a cup of tea, a comfy cushion, and settle in for my unabashed gushing on this series that has literally changed my entertainment life.

So, I never saw this show when it was originally aired on live TV. I did come across the occasional, brief ad for The Vampire Diaries, circa 2010-2015, but that was only because it was on the same channel as Supernatural, which was my obsession then. So I knew TVD existed, but that was it. I knew nothing about the premise, the characters, any of the plot.

Then this fall, I was completely bored with my usual choices on Netflix, and I’d noticed The Vampire Diaries come up in a couple of searches, so I decided, why not? How little did I guess the impact this impulsive click of the remote would have on my storyteller’s soul.

This program is, in a word, amazing. Not a hundred percent of the time; it’s not immune to some bad writing or a lapse in continuity; there are a handful of episodes that I’m not excited about re-watching. BUT, on the whole: YES, AMAZING.

The Vampire Diaries was made in an era when TV dramas were all about atmosphere — and everything, from the writing and directing, to the cut scenes, the soundtrack, the photography and set pieces, contributes directly to the atmosphere of the overall story. There are so many gorgeous little touches throughout the filming of almost every episode in the first, second, and third seasons that establish character connections and hint at the unveiling plotline as we travel through each arc. The showrunners had foreshadowing down to an art. And even then, even when there were twists I guessed, there were still plenty of other moments that had me literally gasp aloud or laugh unexpectedly or get very teared up the first time I watched.

I do feel it’s fair to say this is a show that came about as the purely magical result of an excellent cast and crew that simply clicked so brilliantly and created something nearly genius at just the right moment. While I’m certainly not a 17-year-old fangirl (ahem, sorry; we all were once), I am completely not exaggerating when I say this show has profoundly touched my heart, and will stay with me for quite a while.

Tour Mystic Falls in Covington, Georgia - The Vampire Diaries

So what makes TVD more than just another weekly drama about vampires and werewolves? Well, lots. We start with a sleepy town, Mystic Falls, and an ordinary girl, Elena Gilbert, who’s recently lost her parents in a car accident, and is intrigued by the handsome, kind, mysterious new guy at school, Stefan Salvatore. If you’re getting Twilight vibes from that synopsis, don’t worry, the similarities end there. Yes, Stefan is a vampire, and, yes, he’s trying to be a “good” vampire (feeding only on animals), but he absolutely harbors deep, dark secrets, and is full of surprises — some of which actually make Elena not want to be with him, rather than drawing her to him like a dysfunctional magnet (a.k.a. unlike Bella and Edward).

Enter the bigger twist to this tale: Stefan has a brother, Damon, who’s also a vampire, as they were turned by the same person, a woman named Katherine, during the Civil War. So there’s a different sort of love triangle established — and the mystery deepens even further, because Elena looks exactly like Katherine.

As we proceed through season 1, we get to know more about Elena’s best friend, Bonnie, who discovers she’s a witch; just how much history Stefan and Damon have in Mystic Falls; and what Elena and Katherine’s stunningly accurate physical resemblance has to do with it all.

The Vampire Diaries” Pilot Recap: How On Earth Did This Show Ever Get Good?  | Overanalyze That

This is the first program I’ve seen where the topic of dopplegangers was treated not as the comic relief, and portrayed brilliantly. Too often when you have one actor playing twin roles, it goes badly. But the actress who singlehandedly slayed simultaneously being sweet, kind, innocent Elena and duplicitious, murderous Katherine did an incredible job. She utterly sold both characters, so that everybody loved Elena and hated Katherine. AND I have to say, it really shows the strength of the entire cast from this early on, that by early into season 2, all the actors showed awesome, solid connections to Elena, as well as an intense dislike or fear of Katherine — sometimes in the very same scene.

So, with the explanation of dopplegangers, and a nice bit of history repeating — since Stefan and Damon were both in love with Katherine, and now they’re both falling for Elena — we also get the introduction of one of the most interesting and best-played-out plots in the show — the Originals. This is because Klaus, the ringleader of the Originals, is on the hunt for dopplegangers.

I LOVE THE ORIGINALS. Not the spinoff series (that’s a disappointment for another discussion). The Original Family is SUCH a great idea for a vampire origin tale. And the main siblings — Klaus, Rebecca, and Elijah — are excellent characters, not black-and-white evil, not even definitively morally gray in the case of Klaus and Rebecca. These antagonists-turned-frenemies-turned-maybe-allies are so well-written in their own right, but they also taught our main leads SO much about themselves and their relationships. Seasons 2 and 3 are the biggest focus on the Originals (before they got their own show), and it makes for nail-biting, spine-tingling, tear-jerking, even laugh-out-loud storylines that still make me cry and smile and reminisce fondly.

How THE ORIGINALS' Mikaelson Family Upholds White Supremacy - Nerdist

One of the major things with the Originals is the importance of family, and when an entire family becomes vampires, how many terrible deeds are siblings willing to overlook or forgive as the centuries march on? There’s also a very powerful theme of being asked to give up too much of one’s own dreams or aspirations in order to serve an ideal or a group of people that you may no longer feel loyalty or obligation towards. Not only did these actors and writers create a total slam dunk on the characters and the topic, but introducing the Originals expanded the worldbuilding exponentially and meant there were multiple ways in which future plotlines could go.

I must take a moment to gush unchecked about ELIJAH MIKAELSON. He is absolutely my favorite Original, without a doubt the paragon of nobility and conflicted virtue, and I desperately adored every minute he was on screen in The Vampire Diaries. He totally did not deserve the hate he got from the Salvatore brothers, seeing as he saved not only Elena’s life but all their lives more than once, and inadverently helped protect their sireline (before anyone even knew that killing an Original would mean destroying all the vampires they’d ever sired), by maintaining his undying hope that Klaus was worth redeeming. This is the stuff of great writing, folks.

The Vampire Diaries - Stop killing Elijah! - YouTube

Now, for the part about the Originals’ plot in TVD that I didn’t like: the twist with Esther just made me mad. Finn was simply a scenery-chewer whose only purpose was to present the fact about accidentally killing a sireline. Kol was a one-dimensional villain (again, great acting, but otherwise no point as a character). And Esther ruining everything for Alaric was just mean.

Yes, let’s go off on my Alaric rant. Guess it’s as good a time as any? Alaric Saltzman went from being one of my favorite characters to the lowest of the low, and this is something I do not take kindly to. He started as a self-made, not-so-good vampire hunter, spurned by a truly narcissistic ex-wife; to being used as a vessel for Klaus against his will (excellently played by the actor), to settling in as Elena and Jeremy’s guardian and Damon’s best friend and a decent vampire hunter. Then bloody Esther messed with him, and made him into a cold-blooded killer who targeted vampires — including people he cared about. Then he died for real, in the midst of so much drama for our main characters, and honestly, that still hurts. Alaric deserved better.

Um, actually…he did deserve better — until season 6.

Hmm, okay, putting the rest of this rant on pause. I do need to go back to my chronological breakdown.

Matthew Davis The Vampire Diaries Alaric Saltzman Jacket - New American  Jackets

Okay, so now we’re getting into the things I don’t like about TVD. In my opinion (which is all that matters on this blog), seasons 1 through 4 were (with a couple of exceptions) truly magical, even the bad parts, and I AM HERE for all of it. Besides the awesome Originals, there were some great subplots, from the whole doppleganger reveal; to Jeremy and Anna (I ship!); Bonnie growing as a witch; Caroline is fantastic as a vampire; Tyler becoming a werewolf was not cliche and had a poignant portrayal. The scenes where Caroline helped Tyler through his first full moon transformation were EPIC. The sidebars of Damon and Liz Forbes’ friendship, how Tyler’s mom reacted to finding out he was a werewolf, and the drama with the Founders’ Council all blended in well.

Except. And these are big excepts for me. Yes, it really does tie in to my Alaric rant, and my overall “this is what I didn’t like,” I promise. The first except is: Dr. Meredith Fell. Dr. Fell is a terrible girlfriend for Alaric. Also, the intensely unethical ramifications of her using vampire blood on patients without their consent needed to be explored further. After all, Dr. Fell’s illicit practice is the reason Elena becomes a vampire following her accidental drowning at the end of season 3. This has NEVER sat well with me, because everybody knew that, eventually, Elena would most likely turn — either she’d decide to, or a Salvatore or Caroline would turn her to save her life from one of the many perils she faces through the early seasons. BUT having Elena’s turn be the result of the fact Dr. Fell slipped her some of Damon’s blood after an accident, without Elena’s — or Damon’s — knowledge really sticks in my craw.

So, I never liked Dr. Fell, and I stand by it. Next: The introduction in season 4 of Silas as the first immortal being creates a massive conflict with the origin story of the Originals. Basically Silas invalidates everything that was established in season 2 and 3 as to where vampires first came from. So to say this is a problem is a major understatement. It means that the storyline of Silas needs to exist in kind of a worldbuilding vacuum, away from TVD canon, or we all need to mentally re-write what Silas actually was — more like a would-be self-appointed god or devil — and certainly not Stefan’s doppleganger.

OH. MY. GOD. Taking the concept of dopplegangers TOOOOOOO far in season 5 just about did me in. Finally killing Katherine off was great; we did not need more dopplegangers, of any gender or persona. And again, making Silas and Amara the initial shadow shelves COMPLETELY INVALIDATES WHAT KLAUS AND ELIJAH SAID ABOUT THE ORIGINAL DOPPLEGANGER. Ahem. Okay, I’ll stop yelling now, but this is why — and with good reason — for me the show begins going downhill in season 5.

Between that and the Travelers (stuuupid antagonists), Liv and Luke (hate liberally applied to these twins), and — deep breath — the RIDICULOUS “Augustine Society” part (GAAAHHHH), I almost didn’t survive my re-watch of season 5.

Unfortunately, season 6 is only marginally better. Here, in a nutshell, is why: Pardon my language, but who decided to make Alaric such a dick? Agreeing to compel away Elena’s love for Damon — his best friend! — is a properly asshat move. I could see agreeing to compel away the pain of thinking Damon was lost forever, but being complicit in erasing the love that made his best friend a better person?!?! Plus, Alaric was practically a father figure to Elena, so what kind of parental advice is that?!?! Elena’s love for Damon also made HER stronger and deeper, so, seriously, who DOES that to their nearly-adopted daughter?!?!

And now we get to the final domino in Alaric Saltzman’s descent into dickishness: The fact he was paired with Jo Laughlin. Jo Laughlin is my LEAST favorite character (even over Dr. Fell and Esther Mikaelson). Between her brash uncaring about keeping Elena and company safe from her absolutely crazy family, and being a manipulative, control freak, narcissist girlfriend to Alaric, Jo is indirectly responsible for ALLL the CRAP that unfolds by the season 6 finale. Yes, I said it, and stand by it!

bonnie-damon-vampire-diaries-news.jpg

Now, before I complete the rant portion of this post, I have to highlight the biggest perk of season 6: Damon and Bonnie being trapped together in the Prison World was terrific. The bond they developed and nurtured was fabulous. It, rightly so, lasts until the series finale, and is hands down my favorite enemies-to-friends arc in this program.

And, prior to diving into the trainwreck that was season 7 and 8 (yup, standing…), I have to state: I applaud the show for letting two major leads — Elena and Jeremy — leave, but keep it open for them to come back, and maintain that part of the story accordingly. Poor Jeremy had just the worst luck — all his love interests died, he died (like, 4 times), his sister almost died like a million times; so if the character and the actor were ready for greener pastures, go with God, my child. And Elena must have been exhausted after playing dual roles for several seasons — in some episodes, in the same scenes! So she deserved a break before coming back for the series finale.

And now: DRUMROLL: Here I will identify the moment The Vampire Diaries jumped the shark — it was the Heretics. From the premiere of season 7, we see that the writers should’ve abandoned the notion of the Heretics. Not only does the idea of witches-who-are-also-vampires go right against canon lore, those characters were one-dimensional, unengaging flops, simply yawn-worthy, and shoehorned in to canon events just to try to make them fit into a world that was already established. Nope, it didn’t work. The whole concept of bringing back Stefan and Damon’s mother just to have her repeatedly abandon her own children was, frankly, disturbing.

Then the whole Rayna Cruz, Vampire Hunter plot was LAAAAME. With the only exception of them running to Klaus (!!!) for help (hands up, who else shipped the HELL out of Caroline and Klaus?!?!); and that one super-great Damon-Bonnie-Stefan-Enzo evil-vampire-hunting scene. Otherwise, I also didn’t like the Armory (nooooot well thought out at all, writers), the time jumps were confusing, and who thought the whole Caroline and Alaric thing was okay?! And, sorry not sorry, Jo’s twins would not have survived in Caroline’s body, because they were syphons and would have killed Caroline on day one.

OKAY, here we go, grand finale for the rant (I promise!): In season 8, Cade and the sirens were POINTLESS. The brilliant Alison Scagilotti was wasted in her bit part. Alaric becomes an even bigger jerk. Tyler’s death was unnecessary. The idea of a vampire’s compulsion failing if they’re cured and become human again was extremely problematic. Stefan and Caroline: Too little, too late, writers, it doesn’t work now. And what should’ve been an epic final battle in the last episode was lackluster at best.

​Paul Wesley and Nina Dobrev, The Vampire Diaries

THERE! Complaining done, I swear!

If you’ve made it this far in the post, CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU for sticking with me! I saved the best for last!

It’s time to talk about Elena and the Salvatore brothers.

Elena is, as previously mentioned, not at all like Bella Swan of Twilight. Yes, Elena is a very ordinary teenage girl, a bit too trusting and a little naive; but she’s no damsel in distress. She tries to stop her attraction to Stefan, tries to keep her friends out of danger, and the real reason she ends up in constant peril is because she’s a doppleganger — a fact out of her control and not something she caused.

In the early episodes, Elena writes frequently in her diary (hence the title), a tool she’s using to try to deal with the survivor’s guilt she feels after making it out of the car crash that took her parents’ lives. This is natural, relatable, and makes the audience immediately connect to her desire for something normal and pleasant — like a sweet love affair with Stefan.

Elena and Stefan do work well together, and they are plausible as a couple. The caring is genuine; the bond they develop feels authentic. Yes, Stefan is determined to be the sacrificial lamb if it comes down to his life or Elena’s, and that is a bit predictable. But when Stefan’s dark past comes to light, the entire thing gets turned on its head.

I liked that, after season 1’s insistence that Damon was the more dangerous brother, it turned out Stefan was in fact the Salvatore most likely to go on a murderous rampage. The irony was well-delivered, too, with the flashbacks proving Stefan always had a harder time controlling his bloodlust — and even establishing that it was in fact Stefan who pushed Damon to complete the transition to vampirism after Katherine had fed on both brothers.

This is also where the writing begins to make it clear there are hidden depths to Damon as well, and very subtly, Elena starts to realize them — though not consciously.

It isn’t a typical love triangle. The brothers have plenty of other, non-Elena problems between them. Elena has her own demons to face — finding out she’s adopted, a doppleganger, and that Klaus wants to kill her, for example — so she has to learn to be strong whether she’s with Stefan or not. (Again, the opposite of Twilight.)

Elena and Stefan’s relationship also runs a natural course; Damon is a factor, but not the only reason Elena’s feelings shift. When Stefan goes on a killing spree with Klaus, Elena maintains complete confidence that Stefan can be redeemed, brought back to his broody, caring, squirrel-munching softer self. And her belief is not unfounded, since Stefan had gone through a similar “recovery” before.

In the end, what sounds the death knell for Elena and Stefan as a couple is Stefan’s overthinking, overreacting, and overly neurotic approach; when Elena turns, Stefan doesn’t teach her how to embrace her new self (interestingly, the opposite to how he acted when Caroline turned). Stefan is so focused on not losing the Elena he knows that he overdoes urging her to live only on animal blood and just accept this is her life now. Damon gives Elena the free rein to grow as a vampire, discover what about herself still rings true and what needs some adjustment, at her own pace.

In season 4, there’s an episode where Elena tells Rebecca that Stefan has started treating her like “a project,” whereas Damon makes her feel like she can do anything. That really says it all.

The Vampire Diaries'" Ian Somerhalder Says Damon Will Always Have Elena in  His Heart

Despite the fact I did like Elena and Stefan together, for me there was never any question that it was Team Damon all the way. The chemistry of these two was off the charts, and even Caroline and Matt (decidedly Team Stefan) could see it. Even Klaus and Rebecca saw it. Jeremy knew it, Bonnie knew it, even Enzo (one of the most ambivalent characters) could tell Damon-and-Elena was true love. Towards the end of season 6, Elena says to Damon, “I always find my way back to you,” and this indeed is the case.

The writers were (mostly) excellent about Elena and Damon’s relationship evolving naturally, (generally) not pushing them apart too much, nor dragging out the “which brother” drama too long. Yes, there were a couple things I wished hadn’t become canon (Alaric’s memory wipe, grrrr), but on the whole, Elena Gilbert and Damon Salvatore is a fictional love story for the ages.

In season 3, when Damon and Elena go to Denver to pick up Jeremy and ask him (back when he could talk to ghosts) to speak to the dead-vampire Rose, Rose tells Jeremy that she’s hoping Elena will choose Damon, not just because Elena makes Damon a better person, but because Damon brings Elena out of her shell, challenges her. It isn’t just the strongest indication yet that the writers were already making up their minds on the love triangle outcome; it perfectly encompasses why this is the couple for the win.

Sure enough, after less than a year with Damon, Elena was bolder, more confident, proud of what she had survived — and knew Damon expected nothing more of her than what was already inside her, waiting to be nurtured. And Elena’s faith in the kinder, gentler side of Damon had boosted his self-esteem and bolstered his ability to make deeper friendships with people that he struggled with before (like Bonnie). Whereas Katherine always made Damon feel inferior, Elena always pushed Damon to expect more from himself — and there were frequent hints that Damon wasn’t “just evil,” anyway. Elena’s insistence on finding the better positively affected all her friends; even the Originals were impressed by her eternal quest to highlight the good in situations or people. When she saw it in Damon, he started seeing it in him, too, and that made witnessing this blossoming romance magical.

Okay, I did it! Post done! Now you can go back to your chores or Christmas decorating or rearranging your bookshelves! A-men!

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