The Vampire Diaries season 6 episode 1 review: I’ll Remember

The Vampire Diaries is back for its sixth season. Caroline catches up with the gang to see what they've been up to since we last saw them

This review contains spoilers.

6.1 I’ll Remember

At the end of last season on Vampire Diaries, the show did the first interesting thing it had done in a while. It got rid of the afterlife. After years of being used as a shortcut to resurrecting written-out characters and thus completely robbing the emotional weight from various deaths, The Other Side was taken out of the equation and many characters with it.

We obviously can’t be sure that this will always be the case – the last scene of the episode obviously indicates that all was not what it seemed last year – but it was still a nifty narrative move that has injected a small amount of peril back into the show. In it’s sixth year, it really needs some stakes.

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Not that Vampire Diaries has ever been particularly interested in peril, and I’ll Remember was pretty standard in terms of action levels and emotional hand-wringing. That’s to say that it had very little of the former and a lot of the latter, focusing on how the gang are coping with the sudden loss of Bonnie and Damon. It doesn’t seem to matter that no one cared about Bonnie when she was alive and most of them hated Damon – they’re a mess.

It’s Elena who tells us this in a voiceover, filling us in on what’s been going on over the summer. In short, Matt and Jeremy are the only ones still allowed in Mystic Falls since vampires were expelled, Caroline is loitering around the border, Stefan has skipped town to become a mechanic, Tyler has enrolled at Whitmore and Alaric is an Occult Studies teacher. The gang are scattered, and no one is coping particularly well.

No one except Matt, who is continuing his tenure as the mature, level-headed one of the group by helping to protect the town and checking in on Jeremy every so often. The fact that Elena and Jeremy aren’t interacting is probably the biggest cause for concern, and the Gilbert’s – despite the constant reminders that they’ve lost more than anyone – are having the most trouble dealing with the events of last season. Not only is Jeremy spending his days playing video games, making out with random girls and drinking beer, but Elena is basically a junkie now.

Her substance of choice is some witchy herbs provided by Luke, which allow her to see and talk to Damon despite him being dead/trapped on The Other Side. Putting aside the fantastical veil, it’s clear that we’re supposed to see our heroine as nothing more than a common addict, finally deciding not to deal with grief the way she has before and just avoiding reality entirely. It’s also heavily suggested that the Damon that she’s seeing isn’t really Damon at all, but just her subconscious telling her what she wants to hear.

It’s sad and all, but exactly what was expected from this episode. Elena has always been the least interesting thing about her own show, and what the writers have decided to do outside of her situation is much more intriguing. Stefan, for example, has finally made good on his promise to get the hell out of Mystic Falls and his life has been much improved by the relocation, casual girlfriend and steady job included. If I didn’t want him on the show so badly, I would hope he stayed as far away as possible.

Caroline has dropped out of college just as Tyler enrolled, and I’m not sure what they’re planning to do with the Mystic Falls/Whitmore divide this year. With Alaric teaching at the college, Elena in pre-med and Luke and Liv also students, I would assume that people will eventually congregate there, but that would leave Matt, Jeremy and our setting for the last five seasons behind. I’m not entirely sure that’s a possibility, though I’d love a full-time move to a new location just to keep things from getting stale.

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But Caroline’s storyline, aside from pining after an absentee Stefan, will likely be working with Alaric to regain access to the town, and when they do I don’t think they’ll get the welcome they’re hoping for. The head of whatever protective organisation Matt has joined seems keen on keeping the order they’ve finally gotten back, and if not for Matt’s dubious decision to clean up after Elena’s blood-binge, I would be wondering whether he could join the anti-vampire opposition. That would be interesting, and finally make use of his character.

Much less appealing is Tyler, who hasn’t done anything remotely compelling (as always, no pun intended) since around the season two mark. Now he’s human, which stinks of the writers wanting him back but having no idea what to do with him, and we’ll just have to wait until he triggers the werewolf curse all over again. We’re back on Tyler watch, just waiting for his misplaced rage to get someone killed. I don’t mind the promise of a Tyler/Liv romance, though.

This wasn’t the most exciting episode of the show, but it was a premiere that set up a lot of things to come. Thankfully the separation of the cast wasn’t resolved in the first hour, either, and we can look forward to seeing them all go even further off the rails in the coming weeks. Good to have you back, Vampire Diaries.

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

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