This review contains spoilers.
7.9 Cold As Ice
Going into this season of The Vampire Diaries, we all knew it would be a transitional year for the show. It’s rare for a series to lose its main character before it’s done, and even rarer for it to survive after their departure. But it felt like The Vampire Diaries would be the one to break the rule, not just because of a creative upswing it was on relative to the quality dip that had seemingly lasted for several seasons beforehand, but also become it felt like the show had outgrown Elena long before she went to sleep.
But it’s been shaky at best, boring at worst. The Vampire Diaries is a show that’s arguably at its peak when it’s mad and haphazard and making loads of mistakes it’s then mending before you even realise what’s happened. That’s what made it addictive, thrilling viewing back when it started, and that’s what it lost somewhere along the way.
This season, then, has leant on some of its worst tendencies, introducing crazy plot twists and turns without having a plan for how they’ll affect the characters in the long-term and bombarding the audience with far too many villains that we know by now will just become anti-heroes within 10 episodes. The moonstone, until the winter finale, was just a way to further torture Alaric with Jo’s non-return, and Caroline’s pregnancy is a clumsy answer to an obvious, real-world problem for the writers.
But this is still The Vampire Diaries, and that means there are always good reasons to keep coming back. The flash-forwards might be chief among them, even if my wish of skipping ahead by the mid-season point has not been granted. The big, glaring problem with that part of the show is the non-organic relationship building. The reason both Elena/Damon and Stefan/Caroline have been so popular and have worked so well is that they were allowed to grow over several seasons. Neither Stefan/Valerie or Bonnie/Enzo has that going for it.
But it’s still incredibly exciting to think what might change for the show should it end up at the point it’s showing us in the ‘Three Years from Today” sequences. There’s a vampire slayer, for one, but also a momentum and a madness that’s just not present in the current storylines. It could even be a parallel world for all we know, it’s that upside down and nonsensical. Maybe everyone’s soul is in the moonstone?
An issue with the present-day fare that’s slowly being rectified is the Heretics. For the most part they’re uninteresting, but all that’s needed there is a few key episodes developing them as people beyond their tedious relationships with each other. Killing Lily in the previous episode feels like a positive step forward just because it gives them and the Salvatores a mutual thing to care/fight about beyond who gets to live in the mansion, and we got to know Nora a little more this week.
We have to remember that we didn’t care about the Mikaelsons straight away, though it felt less of a struggle, and thinning the herd will likely help a lot. Heck, Nora was more likeable and endearing in this episode than Damon was, so that’s progress. And we all loved Enzo when he was introduced, and now look at us.
They’re at least getting some comedy value out of Caroline and Alaric’s situation, allowing the world in which they live to acknowledge the fact he’s her teacher and she’s at most 21-years-old and in college. I could do without the ‘pregnant women be crazy’ undertones amped up by the fact that she’s likely the first vampire in history to be carrying children, but Caroline and Alaric co-parenting has every chance of being an absolute joy to watch.
So it isn’t perfect, but it also had a tremendously difficult job to do. It doesn’t lack ambition, which should be applauded, and the pieces are in place for the second half of season seven to be miles better than the first.
And our Christmas cliffhanger for this year is the knowledge that both Stefan and Damon are rotting in a hell-world (Civil War re-enactment?) with no possible chance of escape. It’s now Klaus drowning Tyler’s mother in a fountain, but it’ll do. See you in January!
Read Caroline’s review of Mommie Dearest, here.