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Friday, 23 of April of 2021

The Vampire Diaries — “My Brother’s Keeper”

Dang, and I was so excited about this image–now undermined entirely.

I used to write weekly reviews of The Vampire Diaries. Somewhere along the way, I got busy and found it harder to find the time. But now I think that’s not so much true. I think the show stopped inspiring me to write.

I remember during season 2, running out of my TV room to tell my partner about something awesome just happened on a show that seemed completely unafraid. It took chances. It sped through plots such that you almost cried out, “slow down, let me pause and relish.” The characters were curious but bold, anxious but determined, sexy but real.

Now the show feels like one big cheat. Over and over and over again.

Some have identified the death of Aunt Jenna as the last time the show took a chance. I have been prone to identify the start of the end with the arrival of Klaus, a character who has been empowered to such a degree that everyone around him just waits to see if Klaus will let them do…well, anything. He has no weaknesses (and Caroline does not count as a weakness). He has no code. He has no qualities that would make anyone admire him but for the actor himself (some would say he has charisma, even if the character is terrible). But now I think Klaus is just one of many symptoms.

The problem with The Vampire Diaries is the writers and producers (Plec is too easy to blame just cause she’s the face of the show).  This is a group of people who all seem to have lost their way. Where did they lose their courage? Why are so they so unwilling to make choices and take the heat? Audiences (most of us) will yield to an author who has a vision, but there’s no more vision here. There’s a bunch of cars driving in an endless circle.

The Stelena and Delena shippers tear at each other’s favorite characters—debating Damon’s past as a rapist, challenging Stefan’s seeming passivity. But I think an opportunity has arisen with this episode—one that promised to give Delena fans what they wanted but instead exposed all the complaints of the Stelena fans as legitimate. The writers give with one hand and take with the other, but they don’t do so because the story dictates. Instead, they seem to embrace a permanent stasis—a carefully balanced refusal to advance any characters in a meaningful way because actual change would require sacrifice.

I think the shipping wars may need to come to a temporary truce as we fight for new writers.  Entirely.  A brand new writing team.  Who is allowed to watch only the first two seasons. Just start over.  Even if that means I have to give Elijah, I am willing to sacrifice (take note, writers).

Tonight’s episode is indicative of the show’s worst tendencies–what I call the Solomon effect.  It sounds all wise, to be like Solomon, but the point of that story is that NOBODY WANTS TO CUT THE BABY IN HALF. But that’s what we get.  Elena breaks up with Stefan, finding herself pulled towards Damon after becoming a vampire. She seals the deal with Damon—but wait! Intercut with their coitus is another character finding the “explanation” for Elena’s actions. Don’t worry Stelena fans—the answer is the sire bond! But hey, Delana fans, here’s some sex, so you can be happy, too. Instead, we are all unhappy.

Feminists are furious that Elena has lost her decision-making abilities, such that she no longer can make choices about what she does with her own body. That puts anti-choice in a terrifying new light. Damon shippers are struggling to defend him by saying he must not know about his sire power—basically removing from Damon his own agency, as well. Stefan has long been neutered by his love for Elena (and Damon). He’s been Klaus’ bitch for so long, I barely remember when he had desires rooted in his own needs. Remember that whole, “I had to know her” bit from the old introduction to the show? That was awesome. A guy compelled by his own desire—knowing his actions would likely lead to trouble but unable to sway from the path. That’s drama.

That could have been the storyline here with Elena and Damon. As a vampire, she has found herself transformed, and her desires have shifted with her death (as one would expect). Having her be honestly torn between the life she envisioned as a human (with Stefan, college, and a future) versus the life she is now living as a vampire (driven by new desires she cannot control but also relishes) would have given the show a pretty human storyline, ironically. A teen woman, growing up, unsure what sort of life she wants, and what sort of person she wants to be. I could get behind that.

Having Elena struggle with being a vampire also would have satisfied my long-pestering anxiety that the program had a fatal flaw from the get-go: namely, there is nothing bad about being a vampire. You are young forever. You are strong, fast, and powerful. You have incredibly passionate sex because all your human emotions are heightened. You can live without killing anyone. And you can keep your human personality with just a bit of training. Why wouldn’t everyone on the planet say, “sign me up!”

Instead, the show’s boldest move in years—making Elena a vampire—has resulted in the immediate effort (twice) to return her back to human form (stasis) and in her complete subservience (again) to a man (remember, human Elena was subservient to Klaus because he protected her to make her his blood bank).  Let me be very clear–it is not a “twist” to undermine your characters and your mythology.  Sorry, #TVD, you aren’t the twistiest.  Now, you’re just a disappointing mess.

Maybe I was wrong. Being a vampire does indeed suck. But only for the audience at home, wishing this show would return to form and piss me off with boldness rather than with cowardice.

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