Review: ‘The Vampire Diaries’: Character reflections
After the bombshell that closed out last week’s episode (Elena is sired to Damon), this week’s outing, ‘We’ll Always Have Bourbon Street’, was a more subdued episode. It was quieter, had very little action and focused more on the characters than its signature plot twists. But that doesn’t mean that it was of any lesser quality. In fact, sometimes shows benefit from a slower pace. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ has made a name for itself with its fast-paced plotting and aforementioned ability to keep viewers on their toes, but none of that would matter if viewers didn’t get to know and really start to care about the characters.
And no one would ever accuse the ‘Vampire Diaries’ fanbase of being uninterested in the development of the show’s characters. In fact, I’ve made a chart using very sophisticated methods of information gathering (my own experience with these fandoms on social media sites like Tumblr, Twitter and FanFiction.net) to compare ‘The Vampire Diaries’ fanbase against its peers.
And while outsiders might take one look at this chart and run away in fear while yelling something about being weirdly obsessed with a fictional world and its characters, we know something they don’t. We know that ‘The Vampire Diaries’, even with its corny name and unfortunate timing that coincided with the explosion of the lesser ‘Twilight’, has the ability to be one of the best dramas on TV. Is it on par with ‘Breaking Bad’? Of course not – nothing is. But considering it airs on The CW, which is often looked at as the red-headed step-child of the main networks, the show is a very powerful character and family drama based in the world of the supernatural (if you want to read more about this idea, I’ve written an entire piece analyzing the familial relationships and the allegorical nature of the show – you can find it here).
You know what else we know? We know that its forefather, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, was mocked and looked down upon during its initial run on TV and now it’s widely considered to be one of the most important television programs of all time. If I had a dollar for every person who didn’t watch ‘Buffy’ when it was on, but then found it through some other channel like Netflix and fell in love with it, I could probably afford to pay off my student loan debt in one big chunk.
It’s dramas like ‘The Vampire Diaries’, the dramas that are able to focus as much on the characters as the plot, that make for good TV. And this week, viewers were privy to several great mostly understated character moments.
There was Tyler finally becoming the leader we knew he could be; there was the revelation that Damon wanted to go to war in 1942 to be with Stefan because he needed his little brother after 30 years apart, but didn’t go because Lexi helped him realize that he needed to let Stefan go – that he was only going to make things harder for him if he went; there was Elena once again sacrificing herself for Caroline despite the fact her character has apparently been replaced with a season 1 version of Caroline, i.e. she’s been very judgmental and rude and all around bitchy for several episodes now (yes, I know that she was compelled by Damon and basically raped by him, but she’s been rather cool with him the past two seasons – so yes, I take issue with her intense disapproval of Elena’s feelings for him); and there was that final moment in which Elena assured Damon that her feelings were not born from the sire bond, but were actual feelings of love – something I’m sure his rising insecurities probably needed to desperately hear.
All of those moments, perhaps aside from Tyler’s, which was very much loud and explosive and everything I’d hoped it would be, these moments were simple moments between men and women who love and care about each other to a great extent and who would do anything to spare each other emotional, mental and physical pain. And in Mystic Falls all three of those are very common occurrences.
It’s a testament to the writers and the actors that the relationship between Damon and Stefan can be as smooth as it is when so much has come between them over the past hundred or so years. Women and wars have pushed them apart and kept them on opposite sides for so long, and yet the second Stefan hears someone attack Damon (and it’s almost always this way, because Damon’s always causing some sort of trouble), he rushes to his side to make sure he’s OK. They’re brothers, and even if this fandom cannot see past their respective relationships with Elena and respect and accept them for who they are (reviewers are said to either be too harsh on Damon or too forgiving – there’s no middle ground), they should at least understand why the two of them need each other. And if these two can put aside their differences and accept the changes that have come and will come in their lives, then this fandom should be able to do the same.
As for Elena’s sire bond – yes she wants it broken, but she also doesn’t want to lose Damon – and he’s convinced that no matter the selfish choices he makes in his life, he can’t do wrong by Elena. His internal struggle to do what he views as the right thing – which is break the bond (which would require him telling her to leave and get over him and basically that he doesn’t love her) – and what he wants – to be with Elena who wants to be with him – is easily conveyed by Ian Somerhalder’s expression in that moment. Damon’s often the character on the show who gets the most trash thrown on him, but he’s also the one character who takes that trash and turns it into emotionally affecting material. Their final moment at the end of the episode in which Elena places his hand on her chest and asks, “Does this feel wrong?” is a great example of that.
Like I said, this show is known for its neck-breaking plot twists, but it’s the quieter moments between characters that I think really elevate this show and make it a great show. I think it’s the relationships – and not just the love triangle, but the friendships as well – that make fans so passionate about the show. My only concerns are 1) the rival factions of this show will tear this fandom apart, and 2) since this was a rather quite episode, what the eff is going to happen next week?
Some stray observations:
- Jeremy, Matt and Klaus were all mysteriously absent from tonight’s episode. So I’ve imagined my own character moment between Jeremy and Matt in which Jer tosses beer kegs around the backyard while Matt sips iced tea on the porch and watches. Klaus of course, is busy stalking around the neighborhood looking very peeved that he was not invited to girls night.
- Bonnie is using the magic that Professor Atticus Shane has helped her tap into. Only one problem: that magic leads to black magic.
- The relationship between Hayley and Shane has developed and is finally out in the open. Hayley unsired 12 hybrids for Shane, who, in return, gave her information regarding her birth parents. Who happen to be dead. But apparently that doesn’t mean she can’t talk to them. (He doesn’t know about Jeremy, right?) Side note: The witch in New Orleans told Damon that 12 humans had to be sacrificed in order to break the sire bond – this is not true. Those 12 deaths help open the doorway to dark magic. I’M ON TO YOU SHANE.
So what did you guys think? Were you happy with the way the episode turned out? Did you cheer when Tyler asserted his leadership of the pack? And did did you miss Jeremy’s biceps as much as I did? Because if so, look at this for the next week. It’s the best I could do.