This review contains spoilers.
5.14 No Exit
The Vampire Diaries would be a much better show if it started to ignore its main selling point, shunning the endless merry-go-round of Petrova/Salvatore love affairs and actually concentrated on its oft-interesting, thoughtful and unique take on the fantastical. But five years in we should all know that it’s never going to do that and, though we do get a smattering of the latter with story threads like the Augustine vampires etc., it’s like a treasure hunt every week to sift through the love triangles/squares/pentagons before we can actually get anywhere. That makes a formerly fast-paced show feel like a slog to get through, and season five has been the worst by far in this regard.
This week’s return of the show should have rectified this at least briefly, propelling the storyline forward now that Damon has something to do other than pine after Elena, but it actually did the opposite. Remember when we all loved Katherine and wanted her to stay alive for the rest of the show? Well that’s over now. I never thought I’d want Elena back after she was body-hijacked, but right now the two characters are looking equally dreary and predictable, with only the love of a good vampire on their minds and no agency beyond seducing one of them at a time.
This is particularly disappointing because of how interesting every single one of these characters is without their respective love interests. Who are the most compelling (no pun intended) couple to me right now? Stefan and Caroline light up the screen not because they should be an endgame couple to compete with Stelena and Klaroline, but because they have a dynamic that’s not built around guilt, lust and betrayal. It’s a card the show has played too many times, with Katherine even wringing comedy out of the endless “don’t give up on Damon” routine that has been going on since season one but too few knowing jabs at these characters’ penchant for incestuous romantic entanglements.It’s a major problem that has plagued the show for a couple of years, but the Augustine business we’re dealing with now isn’t much better. Despite the pleasingly gruesome incidents of Damon chomping off his victims’ heads now, it all feels a little too much like Spike’s journey on Buffy, just with all of the redemption and softening of his character already over and done with. Do we care if Damon can learn to resist vampire blood? Not really, because with all-but-three of the cast already undead, we know he will. When you’re repeating yourself and the beloved 90s vampire series you’re inspired by, then that’s a huge issue that any viewers up on their vampire television history is going to notice sooner or later.
There are so many things hanging around on the show just begging to be given more prominence – Jeremy as a hunter in training, Katherine’s redemption, Matt’s Xander-esque human heroism and the fact the gang don’t have a witch to help them out of jams anymore are all interesting things that have been accidently achieved by the convoluted storytelling, but left dangling all the same. Even the body swapping drama going on right now could have been milked for so much more, but has instead been used for another go on the Doppelganger curse merry-go-round and then casually discovered through an unhelpful (though Matt was actually awesome this week) “Help. K.” text message and implausible hunch from Damon.
Somewhere along the way, The Vampire Diaries stopped being a fast-paced, well-written vampire show and became a long-running soap that happened to have mythical creatures in it. That’s not what any of us signed up for but, with the Katherine storyline presumably on its way out now that Stefan and Caroline have figured out the deceit and Nadia has a dreaded werewolf bite to contend with, maybe the next half-arsed arc will be better? Let’s hope so because, since we all know how fantastically entertaining this show can be at its best, there is always a glimmer of hope that it can return to form.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, here.
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