The Vampire Diaries season 5 episode 16 review: While You Were Sleeping

The introduction of two new character this week gives The Vampire Diaries fans something to get excited about...

This review contains spoilers.

5.16 While You Were Sleeping

For the time being at least, Katherine has left the building. After a few episodes off from The Vampire Diaries’ increasingly non-essential heroine, Elena is back in control of her body and ready for the uncomfortable scoop on what she’s been unknowingly doing for the last few weeks. And then there’s the matter of the deadly vampire serum making her paranoid and desperate – with increasingly graphic hallucinations to boot – making for a better than your average (for season five) episode.

The loss of Katherine is massive for this show, with pretty much the only thing preventing this season from becoming a train wreck now no longer part of the ongoing narrative. I worry what the series is going to do without her after the equally huge loss of Klaus and Rebekah at the beginning of the year but, lucky for us, mad and terrorised Elena is the second best thing Nina Dobrev can do. It might sound strange, but the only time I really like Elena is when she’s at the end of her tether and, with the realisation that her life has been shredded by her extended holiday, While You Were Sleeping gave us just that.

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The best thing about this episode, though, was that the love triangle wasn’t the main focus. It might have been a part of it, with a couple of fabricated hallucinations and the halting of some potentially interesting Damon/Elena developments, but it wasn’t the driving force of the episode. One thing season five has gotten right aside from pushing Katherine to main character status is Stefan’s increasing disinterest in his ex-girlfriend. He might have been tempted back there in the motel room, but he ultimately seems to want no part in it. This leaves the door open for new possibilities, and gives Paul Wesley new things to play with.

One of those things is another doppelganger, identified and found through some mystical brain searching done by the travellers in exchange for the ripper serum antidotes. We still don’t know what’s going on with the travellers, despite Nadia being dead and sixteen hours having passed since they were introduced, but if their master plan is to rid the world of doppelgangers, then that’s probably good news for the show. With Katherine gone and Stefan’s paramedic lookalike next on the list, we might be able to focus on our established players without any more of the doppelganger nonsense.

I’d like to hold on to the hope that the show is still playing the long game with Stefan and Caroline, but her little field trip to Atlanta with Enzo suggests that the new third corner to her triangle is going to be him. Since my preference for Caroline always lay with Stefan or Klaus, this feels like one suitor too many but, so long as it prevents her from rekindling things with Tyler (missing this week, but did we miss him?!), then I’m happy. Enzo is a character I haven’t really decided on, if I’m honest, so a road trip with everyone’s favourite judgmental blonde would be an economical way to fix that.

This biggest news of the week, however, was the introduction of The Vampire Diaries’ first ever openly gay character – Luke. We didn’t see much of him, and a character announced to that much fanfare before he even appeared was always going to come off a little awkward, but, along with sister Liv, he feels like a much-needed breath of fresh air. Here are two characters apparently not related to or descended from anyone else – they’re completely new – and, gay or not gay, their introduction feels important somehow. Not just important plot-wise, but important in the grand scheme of the show. God knows, we need something to get excited about.

The episode leaves us in a promising place, then, and I’m excited to see where it’s going for the first time in a long time. Crucially, though, that has nothing to do with the main trio, and everything to do with the new additions. Enzo, Liv and Luke – welcome to the family.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Gone Girl, here.

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