The Vampire Diaries season 5 episode 21 review: Promised Land

The Vampire Diaries gets everyone's attention with a character death this week, but who stays dead in this show?

This review contains spoilers.

5.21 Promised Land

The last few minutes of this week’s The Vampire Diaries should have been monumental. Though admittedly effective – with Caroline’s heartrending reaction and the randomness of it all – the moment immediately loses its effect when, as with any shocking death on a show without ordinary rules of life and the afterlife, the audience starts figuratively bargaining with the writers to see whether it’ll stick or not. Some deaths, despite the incessent (not always unwelcome) guest appearances, have been permanent, but others such as Jeremy or Bonnie’s, really weren’t.

It’s become that Alaric and Vicki are the exceptions, and we all know that Stefan’s demise doesn’t actually mean Paul Wesley is leaving the show. Because if The Vampire Diaries has been consistant in anything, it’s the importance of a heroic final moment for its main characters. They dropped the ball on Alaric back in season three, but there’s no universe in which I believe Stefan would die in such a sudden and anti-climactic way – at the hands of a traveller-possessed Tyler no less – in the penultimate episode of the season just when he was getting involved in a brand new, and already popular, love triangle.

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Having said all that, it was still a great moment, and one that has done the impossible by actually getting the internet to notice The Vampire Diaries is still on the air. It fell out of the cultural conversation years ago, but killing off your main character is something that generally gets a show noticed. It’s too bad that the rest of the episode focused on yet another boring villain with another boring agenda, and that this boring storyline has led to things genuinely just repeating themselves. Take poor Tyler (I never thought I’d say that) for example, who has spent about as much of his time on the show possessed by some evil creature as he has as himself.

Enzo and the twins are the only thing that feels fresh and new on the show right now but, until the season finale figures out a way to bring Enzo back and make use of Liv and Luke, they’re relegated to the background. It’s been a long time since I’ve cared when Elena is in danger/kidnapped/tortured and, if the episode had simply followed Enzo as he haunted the Salvatore mansion, I think that might have somehow been more compelling. That’s the predicament we’re in right now, when the regular characters just aren’t very interesting anymore, and I think that integrating these new guest stars into the main cast is the only way forward.

Which brings us back to The Other Side – Enzo’s continued ghostly presence forecasts that Bonnie will eventually be successful in fixing the world’s problems (it’s the season finale next week, after all), bringing back a multitude of characters including, but not limited to, Stefan Salvatore. The episode’s final twist served to stop everyone else from dying, and actually marks the first surprising thing this show has done since ‘killing’ Jeremy and burning down the Gilbert house, and maybe that’s enough. Maybe, on a show that has toyed with it’s audience’s emotions far too many times, all we can hope for is convenient, logical plot developments.

I might sound down on the show right now, but that’s more to do with the season as a whole than the episode. A series like The Vampire Diaries relies on a credible threat just as much as it does epic romance and one-liners, and that’s something that’s been missing from the show for a while. The originals’ exit has left a huge gaping hole that hasn’t yet been filled but, with the hope that next week’s finale will kill off some dead weight characters, bring back some much-loved former Mystic Falls residents, and do away with the travellers for season six, I haven’t given up just yet. See you next week for Damon’s brilliantly named ‘project boom’.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, What Lies Beneath, here.

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