The Vampire Diaries season 7 episode 1 review: Day One Of Twenty-Two Thousand, Give Or Take

Has Nina Dobrev's departure ruined The Vampire Diaries? No, but its lack of focus in the season 7 premiere isn't doing it any favours...

This review contains spoilers.

7.1 Day One Of Twenty-Two Thousand, Give Or Take

What does The Vampire Diaries look like without Elena? That’s been the most pressing question for fans of the show, shippers and even people who’ve long since jumped off the show. She was the heroine, sure, and Nina Dobrev is a wonderful performer, but one could argue that she was no longer as essential as she may have been in the early days, and the ultimate test of that would come in the early days of season seven.

Well, one thing Day One Of Twenty-Two Thousand, Give Or Take did well was showcase how many characters we still have to follow and care about. It’s an ensemble, with people you love and people you hate, and really the constant reminders of Elena’s absence (with actual diaries!) serve just to remind us of how small of an impact her departure has had on the general feel of the series.

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But as a premiere, and one with a lot to prove, the episode could (and should) have been a lot stronger. There’s a sense of rebuilding, but also the attempt to introduce a whole new set of villains and status quo for Mystic Falls. The Vampire Diaries has never been particularly good at its bad guys – it’s only decent one was deemed so good that he got his own spin-off – but the Heretics are particularly bad.

They’ve apparently been chilling out all summer, like caged animals, conveniently waiting for the show to come back on air before they caused any significant mayhem, but by the end of the episode they’ve driven the heroes out of Mystic Falls, causing the post-apocalyptic townscape we glimpsed at the end of the season finale. Not sure an evacuation causes that much damage, but hey.

There’s a glimmer of hope in the effort this episode went to making the Heretics sympathetic, clearly copying the formula for the aforementioned Mikaelsons, and Lily’s still pleasingly unhinged. Then there’s Enzo, urged here to “pick a side already” by Caroline, who has apparently gone full bad guy by joining up with Lily’s gang rather than helping out his dearest frenemies.

There will be those who read his hesitation as lingering affection for Caroline but, as you may know from reading my previous reviews, I’d wager that’s more to do with Damon.

But what of our main cast? Well, Damon and Alaric have been holidaying together in Amsterdam, finding distraction and relief in each other’s unspeakable misery for a limited time. I loved that they took Bonnie with them as chaperone, mainly because the friendship between her and Damon is the show’s most interesting dynamic right now. I could honestly cope with the three of them becoming a beautiful friendship trio for the rest of the season – make it happen, The Vampire Diaries.

Really, the only emotional-driven moment that landed for me here was the one between Damon and Bonnie, and I’m very much looking forward to them rooming together in the Whitmore dorms. I want to hug whoever it was on the writing staff who thought that living arrangement up.

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Of course Damon would be conflicted about Bonnie’s mere existence – if she dies then he can have the love of his life back before the 22,000 days are up – but I love that we’ve re-established what we kind of got to in the finale. He might not have Elena, but that leaves Bonnie as the most important person in his life. It’s so twisted yet so endearing, the tonal sweet spot for this show.

Right now, they represent one side of the moral argument – whether packing up and running away to avoid a war is the best thing in the long run – with Stefan and Caroline on the other. I enjoyed the fact that we don’t have to wait around for the latter to actually get together as a couple, and it could be interesting to see how they influence each other now that nothing’s standing in the way.

Alaric’s not being exactly forthcoming with his intentions, as we discover he’s actually visiting psychics in order to get into contact with Jo. Failing that, he’s hoping to bring her back to life, having kept her body on ice since she was killed months ago.

This is obviously a stupid idea, but it makes a kind of sense for Alaric, who’s pretty much lost everyone he ever cared about. Having your wife, adopted daughter and unborn twins all die on the same day would probably leave the best of us a little unhinged.

Matt’s still one step removed from the rest of the group, blaming his friends and their friends for the disaster his life and his town have become over the years. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I found it a little hilarious that his entire class (and the new Sheriff) were killed not just in the first episode, but during his graduation ceremony. Does this make Matt effectively in charge, now?

In what was an average episode of The Vampire Diaries, the highlight has to have been the three year jump forward, which suggests two enticing things. One – the show might actually run for another three years – and, two – there’s an actual vampire slayer in town. Her appearance at least promises that the Heretics aren’t actually the big bads of the season, and that they may actually be united with Stefan et al with a common enemy.

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But one overbearing feeling I got from this premiere is that they’re just making it up as they go along, which could produce a pleasingly madcap season or a depressingly haphazard one. We’ve had both in the past but, coming after what was probably one of the show’s best run of episodes, it’s slightly disappointing.

Then again, it’s unfair to judge a whole show on a single, post-departure episode, and it’s very possible that we won’t know what the new Elena-less The Vampire Diaries looks like for some time.

Read Caroline’s review of the season six finale, I’m Thinking Of You All The While, here.

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