The fourth season of The Vampire Diaries featured a bunch of big conflicts including Elena coping with her newfound vampirism, Jeremy’s death, and Bonnie’s tailspin into dark magic. And then, there was the constant, dull talking about Elena’s and the Salvatores’ feelings. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the past season, shall we?
Mishandling of April’s Character
April Young is introduced at the grieving daughter of Reverend Young, someone with whom Elena and Jeremy share childhood memories. It seemed as if the writers weren’t willing to commit to April as a full-fledged secondary character or dismiss her as a dispensable extra; rather she would be brought out for a monthly trauma and would fade into the background as needed. She is quickly dragged into the supernatural hoopla surrounding Mystic Falls—occurrences include but are not limited to bleeding out at her father’s funeral, being held hostage by a vampire hunter, and seeing Caroline come back from the seemingly dead—but is never given the full on screen induction into the weirdness. Instead Rebekah drops some knowledge, both on and off screen. One of the best things about The Vampire Diaries was its willingness to kill off beloved characters. However, the cast is a lot slimmer than it once was due to death and the impending spinoff. Replenishing the cast by truly introducing April would have been wise.
Stefan and Caroline’s Friendship
Whaaaaaaat? Every other season this would have been categorized as a “BEST” aspect! What happened? Well, Stefan and my girl Caro spent a whole lot of time bitchily complaining about Elena and Damon. I fully support Caroline’s dislike of Damon—the whole mental/physical rape thing Damon pulled in the first season is inexcusable—but the way the two of them sat around whining about Elena drove me crazy.
I have no love for Phoebe Tonkin’s character on this show. Hayley the werewolf is brought in as Tyler’s newest sidekick dedicated to helping the hybrids break loose of Klaus’s control. In actuality, she was working with Shane to get some sort of information about her parents that I didn’t really care about because she didn’t have a personality. She even had sex with Klaus and ended up pregnant with a half-vampire half werewolf baby! STILL YAWN. I hope that her character becomes more compelling on The Originals, since she’s one of the people spinning off.
Many moments when I was bored with everyone discussing Elena’s feelings and how Jeremy needed to fulfill his hunter’s mark, I wished Katherine was there to show the Gilberts what’s what and tell everyone to pipe down. Instead, Katherine came back and killed Jeremy in a lame way. The action didn’t feel genuinely Katherine-esque to me.
So Many Feelings, Everyone Please Shut Up
When I started watching this show, Elena was my homegirl. She was strong as a human, calling people out on their shit and standing up to supernatural elements while being completely human and, in some cases, pretty defenseless. All of the sudden, Elena’s a vampire and now what made her strong as a human makes her delicate? And rather than show emotional impact, we have to have the characters just talk about their emotions ad nauseam? Lame. The brothers Salvatore fall over themselves trying to make sure that Elena doesn’t bump her head and everyone spends forever talking about how they feel. This was at its most annoying when they were on the island where Bonnie and Jeremy disappear, but they’re too busy talking about the cure and who feels what that they don’t really do too much about it.
To make matters worse, after Jeremy dies, Stefan and Damon decide to compel Elena to turn her emotions off. I found this ENRAGING. Not only did they take away her choice with compulsion (ick), they removed her emotions when she was feeling something that was entirely legitimate. Sack up, boys. Deal with the crying girl devastated over the loss of her only brother and last remaining family member instead of using your creepy vamp magic for a quick fix. Ugh, I’m angry all over again.
Elena’s and Matt’s Friendship
Being as Elena was sporting a new set of fangs this season as a direct result of saving Matt’s life, it’s no surprise that their friendship was given attention. Their relationship is both simple and complex in its nature. Its complexity derives from guilt—Matt’s guilt drives him to become a human feeder for Elena, which in turn causes guilt for her. However, the more simplistic aspect of their friendship made for more of an impact. Matt is the strongest link to Elena’s humanity, and his staged death slams Elena’s emotions back into her after the brothers Salvatore compelled them off. I fully appreciate that the writers chose Matt to bring back a bit of Elena’s humanity rather than Stefan or Damon.
I would argue that Rebekah is the most interesting member of the Originals—when you boil it down, Kol was a sociopath, Klaus throws (incredibly violent) tantrums when people don’t want to be his friend, Elijah is pure class, and Finn was duller than dirt. As a lonely teenage girl who had her life ripped away from her too soon, she’s frankly emotional, vengeful, and trusting to a fault sometimes. Any “evil” actions on her part are based in emotion, vengeance, or a desire to protect her family—as she points out, the protagonists of the show cry evil on the Originals all the time, but everyone is pulling the same stunts in an effort to protect the people they love. Rebekah may have been the reason for Elena’s death, but she also helped save her vampire life at the start of the season.
Rebekah also showed more character growth this season than pretty much anyone (the Salvatores moved backwards in their emotional development). Thanks to friendships with both April and Matt, Rebekah becomes a little more independent from her family and compassionate towards others. I’m sad to see her moving on to The Originals when she finally had a foothold in the gang. Also, I would watch a show devoted entirely to Rebekah and Matt’s adventures across the United States. I’m just sayin’.
The Aftermath of Jeremy’s Death
As annoyed as I was about the manner in which Jeremy died (read: devastated), Elena’s ensuing reaction was flawless and I give props to Nina Dobrev for her acting. Elena’s deep denial, Matt’s devastation as he tries to deal simultaneously with Jeremy’s corpse and Elena’s babbling, and Elena’s deadpan acceptance when April calls to ask for her brother were the perfect set up to the ensuing breakdown. And then she torched the place! The only drawback to this episode was just about everything Stefan and Damon did, see above.
Bonnie Drops the Veil and Brings Jeremy Back to Life
Bonnie and I have had our ups and downs, but this season I was on Team Bennett. She drops the mystical veil separating the living and the dead, giving us Kol, Grams, Alaric, Lexi, and Jeremy back and redeeming what I would argue is a mediocre season. Not only do we get to see Stefan and Lexi rocking some Bon Jovi, we are given some Gilbert family time when Elena is reunited with both Alaric and Jeremy.
Most importantly, Bonnie brings Jeremy back to life in these last two episodes, sacrificing herself in the process. And this isn’t just because Jeremy is my favorite, mmmkay? I love me some good, devastating TV, and these two crazy kids just can’t seem to be on the same plane of existence at once anymore. Bonnie seems to be doing it equally out of love and penance for her actions this season. Not sad enough? Bonnie asks Jeremy to lie to Elena and Caroline about her whereabouts so he has to deal with her death alone and the impending fall out from that lie. It just hurts so good, y’all. I can’t wait to see how this one unravels.
Katherine Gets Cured
The moment Elena shoved the cure in Katherine’s mouth and slammed into her chin to break the glass was so, so sweet. Elena is once more the badass, clever girl we know and love while finally besting Katherine, the person who has manipulated and played her for several seasons. I applaud the writers’ decision to give Katherine the cure. It was unexpected and well played.
With The Originals spin off happening, there’s bound to be some big shake ups on The Vampire Diaries, plot and character-wise. Here’s to hoping it’s in a good way, or that they simply make the entire show about Jeremy, Matt, and Caroline living together Three’s Company-style. I’d take that too!
The Vampire Diaries premieres tonight on The CW at 8 p.m. EST.