The Vampire Diaries – Season 5 Mid-season Review

While I haven’t been reviewing The Vampire Diaries this season – due to a really hectic and time consuming new position at work – I have been watching the show each and every week. And, overall, it’s been an interesting, yet somewhat difficult to read, season. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed each episode and I’m genuinely intrigued by where everything is going, but there’s something that seems, I don’t know, perhaps unfocused. In many ways, The Vampire Diaries is smarter than a lot of other shows because they don’t drag out certain storylines. Yet at the same time, it seems like we’ve gone through two seasons worth of stories within the first half of this season. Stefan went from being trapped in an underwater safe, to escaping, to being held captive, to escaping, to losing his memory, to getting it restored, to murdering Silas, to having panic attacks, to overcoming his anxieties, all in ten episodes.

The season is also walking into that issue that they have in the past, which is the question of what the end game is. The show is often compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which, for the most part, introduced the big bad in the first couple of episodes, and that threat remained for the entire twenty plus episode season before being vanquished. The Vampire Diaries is a much different show in that regard – they tend to go through numerous threats, to the point where the ACTUAL villain may not emerge until the final string of episodes. This isn’t a criticism, per se, but it does make it difficult to get invested in certain characters and motivations. For example, last season Katherine emerged after being gone for a season or two, killed Jeremy, and suddenly had a climactic battle with Elena. It’s tough to feel invested in that confrontation when it didn’t become THE issue until a few episodes earlier. And I feel like we’re in a similar situation right now. It seemed Silas as Stefan might be the villain, but he was killed off. Then it seemed like it might be Qetsiyah, but then she was killed as well. I guess the easy guess would be Dr. Maxfield and the rest of that underground Whitmore crew. Which is a fun enough storyline, I just hope that the show focuses on them as the primary villain.

Now, I don’t want the above comments (which HAVE seemed like criticisms, despite my insistence that they’re not) to give you the wrong impression of the season, because I really have enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. I found the doppelganger twist – where we found out that Amara is another doppelganger of Elena – quite clever and entertaining. I liked the way it fed into Damon’s insecurities that Stefan truly is Elena’s true love (and that Katherine preferred Stefan over him). And hell, it gave us THREE Nina Dobrevs in ONE scene! How could you NOT love that?

I’m also enjoying the way that the various relationships on the show are developing. While Elena and Damon are together, there does seem to be an emotional distance between them. Damon has done some very bad things – and is CURRENTLY doing some very bad things – and Elena is attempting to reconcile that. She recognizes the fact that doing bad things does not necessarily make you a bad person. After all, look at what she’s done since becoming a vampire. Yet Damon seems so remorseless about the bad things he’s done. And while it hasn’t been said, I am sure she’s questioning whether her heightened emotions or even her questionable sire bond is allowing herself to forgive him.

And while I obviously do want her to end up with Stefan, I do find myself enjoying the slow build to normalcy between her, Damon, and Stefan. While there are obviously some significantly hurt feelings and some noticeable tension, you can tell that each person in that triangle cares deeply for one another. We’ve seen Elena and Stefan working together. We’ve seen Stefan and Damon working together. And we’ve seen Elena and Damon working together to save Stefan. And they’ve done it in a fashion that seems sensible and unforced. Plus, I like the little remarks they make towards each other that shows that everything isn’t QUITE as happy and functional as it seems.

Perhaps the highlight of the season, however, has surprisingly been Katherine! They’ve humanized her nicely, but they haven’t gone over the top with her redemption. She’s done some legitimately kind and selfless things for Stefan, but she’s still been a bit of a bitch to her own daughter. She helped establish Elena as a human at Whitmore – which she didn’t have to do – but then just as quickly spilled the beans on her true identity when it became apparent that Dr. Maxfield might be able to help her. Honestly, I’ve found her developing relationship with Stefan kinda sweet. To the point that I was kinda sad when it became apparent that she might die. I mean, she’s developed into a strong enough character that they can center their 100th episode on her. That says something.

Now, onto some legitimate criticisms….

While I do like Jeremy and I do like Bonnnie – and I hate seeing Elena get beat up – I think it’s a tad lame that they’ve killed off both characters and had each of them magically (literally!) come back to life – within a few episodes of each other. If you’re not willing to kill off a main character, just don’t do it. The show has no shortage of emotional moments, there’s no need to manufacture one with a (or TWO!) fake death. It only risks diluting the emotional impact when they legitimately kill off a beloved character, like Jenna or Alaric.

The only thing I’m not sure I like is the revelation that Elena’s father conducted torturous experiments on vampires. The whole “my parents aren’t as great as I remembered” thing is a little too close to what just happened with Sookie on True Blood. Why does everybody’s image have to be tarnished? I mean, really, hasn’t Elena lost enough? Can’t she at least have a fond memory of her departed parents?

Oh, and I’m still not really sold on this whole Elena/Damon thing. Get back with Stefan, already.

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