Come on, Buffy: Parallel Storylines in ‘The Vampire Diaries’
There isn’t a vampire show/book/story told post-2003 that hasn’t been compared to ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ It’s impossible. Everything that second story is will eventually, at some point, be compared to ‘Buffy.’ I think it’s kind of like a right of passage for these shows and books. Like, you haven’t made it until you’ve been compared to the most famous vampire slayer in all of history.
‘Buffy,’ both as a show and as a character, was iconic and groundbreaking. The show was so well written that it lasted seven years, something unheard of in the late 90s early 00s. The show defined a generation and is a huge part of our popular culture. I only bring this up now because tonight’s episode of ‘The Vampire Diaries’, a show that usually has me on the edge of my seat, felt a bit like the writers cut up old ‘Buffy’ scripts and taped them together to form the one for “Smells like Teen Spirit.” And this makes me both a little sad and a little disappointed.
‘The Vampire Diaries’ has, for the most part, become it’s own show. In the beginning the comparisons came rather freely. Heroine of the show meets an attractive man, falls for him only to find out he’s a vampire. Said vampire has an equally attractive and charming brother who also eventually falls for the heroine. Take into account that Elena is also a supernatural being and the show has a Buffy, an Angel and a Spike. Granted, Elena, Stefan and Damon are their own characters and aren’t usually all that similar to the ‘Buffy’ characters (as long as you ignore Damon’s affection for black leather and Stefan’s penchant for brooding), but the storylines of the show often parallel stories told on ‘Buffy’.
The writing on ‘TVD’ is tight, the characters are well developed, the overarching story is interesting and I usually find no reason to scream, “Buffy did it first,” at my television, even when it’s true, because this show has created such a compelling action/drama that I don’t even notice or care if it’s similar to ‘Buffy’. But not tonight.
I mean, going in the writers had to know the Angelus comparisons were going to be inevitable. You take Stefan, who up until this point was your brooding hero and you make him essentially soulless, make him feel no remorse, no real emotions at all, and you’ve got the exact Angelus storyline from season two of ‘Buffy’. Granted, Angel reverted to Angelus because the gypsy curse that gave him back his soul was finally broken after experiencing a moment of true happiness (aka an orgasm with his soul mate), while Stefan reverted back to his Ripper persona (and don’t even get me started on how much I hate his Ripper nickname since in my mind Ripper will always be Rupert Giles) because he was compelled by Klaus to turn off his emotions. Stefan was forced to, for all intents and purposes, lose his soul, his humanity. I mean, there was no way this storyline wasn’t going to be compared to the Angelus story. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy evil Stefan (because my Twitter will definitely tell you just how much I enjoy seeing that smug smirk on Paul Wesley’s face), but I wish there was a way to tell it without making it seem like a copycat.
The scene where Elena falls off the bleachers and Stefan catches her, you see a glimpse of the real Stefan, the Stefan who loves Elena and who will do anything to protect her. And I wanted to enjoy that moment (note: I’m still a Delena shipper, but I can’t ignore the chemistry of the Stefan/Elena romance, nor can I ignore how sweet and beautiful it is. I mean, I have a vagina, guys.) But I couldn’t enjoy that moment, because just as Elena uttered the words “I knew you’d catch me” and a little bit of the old Stefan came through, Alaric hit him in the back with the vervain darts. I wanted to enjoy this whole sequence, but in my mind the only thing I could think of was the season two finale of ‘Buffy’ when Angelus has opened the portal to hell by awakening Acathla and just as Willow returned Angel’s soul, Buffy was forced to run him through with a sword. I know the two scenes are not the same, not really even remotely the same, but the idea just wouldn’t leave my head.
It also didn’t help matters that in the episode most resembling a ‘Buffy’ script, that the writers made a ‘Buffy’ reference (Damon called Elena Buffy when she was lifting weights, in case you missed it). While I am sure the writers didn’t just do this without thinking (in my own mind I like to think they did this as a nod to the great and powerful mother show), I just wish that it had been done in a different episode, one that didn’t reek of recycled storylines.
The only difference I see between the Stefan storyline and the Angelus storyline is that Angelus couldn’t stalk and torture Buffy by day. Stefan can walk in the sun and is therefore even more of a nuisance to Elena. Also, if Stefan decided to snap Elena’s teacher’s neck, we all know that Alaric wouldn’t die forever thanks to that trusty family heirloom (RIP Jenny Calendar).
I’m hoping the writers have something amazing up their sleeves regarding the Evil Stefan story. I want to believe that it won’t always be a complete rehashing of Angelus. But I swear to God, if Stefan gets his humanity back because Bonnie does some sort of spell that breaks Klaus’ compulsion, I am going to start a very angry letter writing campaign on behalf of Mutant Enemy.
And on a sidenote: the idea that the balance of the world is upset because Bonnie brought Jeremy back from the dead also reminds me a bit of when the Scoobies brought Buffy back to life in season six. We later found out after Spike could hit her that she came back wrong. She’d also brought a hitchhiking demon back with her, too, but that’s another story. I realize that this concept is obviously not the same, Buffy wasn’t seeing ghosts (though she did see The First impersonating several dead people, including herself), but the idea behind this storyline seems to have roots in the Buffster’s story.
Like I said, I usually never find reason to compare ‘The Vampire Diaries’ to ‘Buffy’ outside of the good boy/good girl/bad boy love triangle (something I’ve dubbed the Pacey Witter Theorem); the show is definitely its own show, it stands on (and dropkicks you with) its own two legs. I love the show more than is probably socially acceptable, and for that reason I want to see it break new ground. It’s only season three and look at everything that has happened on this show. I mean, it’s amazing, it keeps you on your toes and I am always shocked by the insane cliffhangers (Hot Uncle Mason returns, WHAT?) I just want more. Is that too much to ask for?
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.