Last March I asked Is The Vampire Diaries Losing Its Bite? Season 3 of our favorite blood-soaked drama was an erratic road trip of dead end story lines, lacklustre MacGuffins and occasional flashes of brilliance we have come to associate with the Williamson/Plec drama. Season 3 of The Vampire Diaries ended with all relationships in turmoil and Elena beginning her transition to the blood-sucking life. A pretty pickle for the peasants of Mystic Falls to ponder. The prospect of Vampire Elena did not thrill me but I eagerly looked forward to more evil machinations from Klaus. TVD hadn’t lost its ability to leave the audience hungry for more bloodshed and heartache.
TVD is now half-way through Season 4 and if I had to grade the season thus far, I’d give it a B+. Here’s why:
Welcome Back The Old…
Season 4 started off unsteadily with the ever present fixation on all things Elena. Incredibly, Elena is even more annoying as a vampire than she was as a human. I’m weary of the central triangle, people. The writers have been spinning this out for so long now I’m thinking kill Elena already and find some other girl to fight over.
There were some downright cheesy moments (The motorbike scene in The Rager? Oh please) juxtaposed with flashes of Season 1 Damon and his flat-out refusal to join the Chinese Lantern Memorial Ceremony; and poignant reminders of TVD’s best bromance. Come back Alaric, we miss you as much as Damon does.
Rebekah never fails to please. Although daggered and tucked snuggly in a coffin by Episode 404, her brief but compelling interactions with psychotic sibling Klaus served to illustrate yet again just how completely messed up the Mikaelson family is. The Original Siblings are perfect candidates for fang family therapy.
The first few episodes were at first glance meh rather than wow but I underestimated the ability of the TVD writers to cast deceptively random seeds and water them occasionally until they grow into full blown intricate storylines.
The sire twist took me by surprise – not in love with the storyline, but We’ll Always Have Bourbon Street was an opportunity to become reacquainted with the delightful Lexi and be surprised yet again by the sacrifices Damon has made for his brother. However, is it too much to ask for Damon to legit get the girl for once? Two things we can count on in TVD – Damon will be eternally cock-blocked and Caroline will be kidnapped and tortured.
…Bite Into The New
Season 4 heralded the introduction of some interesting new characters – the sexily sinister Professor Shane and the delectable Connor Jordan. (Please bring him back, preferably shirtless.) What does Shane really want? Clearly he is power-hungry, but to what ends? To bewitch Bonnie? Resurrect Silas? Or is his true motive to reconnect with his wife and son? The importance of family and the desperate measures characters will take to preserve their own is a constant theme in TVD. We are also (finally) seeing some real character development for Bonnie and the beginning of a complicated relationship between her and Professor Shane.
Even the hybrids are more interesting this season. They finally did more than move Klaus’s possessions around and provide combat training for the Salvatore brothers. Most of them actually had dialogue!
Hayley is a conundrum. I can’t decide if I like her or not but she certainly adds a devilish dynamic to the already complicated Caroline/Tyler/Klaus relationship while providing an insight to Shane’s character. Is she motivated solely by a desire to be reunited with her birth parents or is she secretly hoping for some hybrid-on-wolf action from Tyler? If the latter is true, it will be interesting to see how Tyler handles her betrayal of the hybrids in upcoming episodes. Tyler’s transition from bully to alpha wolf has been brilliant character development and Michael Trevino should be commended for his excellent portrayal.
Not every new character is promising. I am trying and failing to see the relevance of April Young. What is the point of her character exactly? No offense to Grace Phipps – having met her I can attest to her loveliness – but every scene with her seems contrived and forced. Grace’s inexperience unfortunately does little to make April’s character more believable. April is (was) one of the few remaining clueless humans in Mystic Falls. I’m hoping Rebekah is feeling peckish when she wakes up.
Is That a Stake in Your Pocket or Are You Just Pleased to See Me?
Not that he was lukewarm before but little bro Jeremy broke the hawtness scale this season. Those biceps… Follow the @TheGilbertArms on Twitter? Done. Jeremy Gilbert has transformed from the love sick stoner kid stalking Vicki Donovan to a fully-fledged ass-kicking stake-toting vampire hunter capable of going toe to toe with any blood sucker. Can we please have more scenes of Jer in a wife-beater chopping wood? Jeremy’s interactions with everyone in his inner circle are set to become super-tense as he fights his increasing urge to kill those he has until now tried to protect.
Matt Donovan will turn up for his shift one day and find he is the only person at the Mystic Grill because all remaining humans in the town are dead. Until then our Matty is doing a mighty fine job holding down Team Human (membership =one). Matt has truly proved his value this season being a pillar of support – and occasional blood bag – for Elena, Jeremy, April, Caroline; in fact for just about anybody who needed him, including Damon. We’ll mourn the loss of Carol Lockwood (I’ll personally miss her fitted dresses and court shoes), but please don’t ever kill Matty.
Fifty Shades of Morality
Over the past three seasons TVD has explored the multi-faceted nature of its main characters. No one is ever truly evil or saint-like. This season is no different as we watch the citizens of Mystic Falls struggle with complex moral dilemmas and bend the rules of ethical behavior; sometimes for the sake of expediency, sometimes for the greater good, and often for entirely selfish reasons.
The fragility of the moral compass is not lost on Stefan. He and Caroline have a grudging sympathy for Klaus. As Stefan pointed out – they’ve all done bad things. What separates them from Klaus are the (mainly) honorable reasons behind their less-than-savoury actions and how they handle the inevitable fall-out that ensues.
Stefan has committed some truly questionable deeds this season – from turning a self-confessed murderer into a vampire to facilitate a grisly blood sacrifice; to orchestrating Jeremy’s murder of a hybrid – all in the name of Finding The Cure. This is a side of Stefan previously only hinted at – that of the desperate, selfish, and dare I say jealous, boyfriend. Stefan’s motives for wanting Elena to be human are blurry. Is it because he truly wants Elena to live a normal human life or is it because he craves Elena of old; the one with the “factory Team Stefan setting”? I suspect both, and more of the latter than Stefan is willing to admit. Kudos to Damon for calling out his younger brother on this.
Caroline has stepped out of her now customary Awesome Vampire and Event Planner Extraordinaire role to resume the Catty Caroline persona we met in Season 1. Fuelled by her intense dislike of Damon (and seriously – can you blame her?), Caroline rapidly became Stefan’s closest ally. He needs her. Without Caroline’s support Stefan could easily slip into his old ripper ways. But in becoming Stefan’s sober companion, Caroline is being less than fair to Elena and is actively provoking Stefan’s jealous rages.
It’s Raining Blood – Hallelujah!
I gleefully welcomed Klaus’s return to Psycho Killer in Oh Come, All Ye Faithful. As much as I am enjoying his charming attempts to ignite Caroline’s underwear, Klaus is fundamentally an effed up homicidal maniac. We need to be constantly reminded of this otherwise he becomes a toothless cartoon villain who presents no real threat to our Scooby Gang. Case in point – we were just getting used to Bad Ass Connor when poof! a neck-snap later and he was gone. Having said that, I secretly wish Caroline and Klaus could have lots of blond werepire babies hell bent on world domination.
As we go deeper into the Hunter’s Mark plotline I suspect familial bonds will be tested to the limit. Given the underlying theme of family always and forever, these dreadfully unlucky townsfolk will inevitably become increasingly desperate to protect whatever anchors to a normal life they have left.
How will the relationships of Jeremy and Elena, Damon and Stefan, and Klaus and his siblings be tested? What can we expect from the likes of Tyler, Matt and April who have no more family to lose? And how the hell is Liz Forbes still Sheriff? In the real world she’d be under FBI investigation by now and Mystic Falls High would be closed down.
However the plot unfurls, I’m confident TVD will end the season with at least an A-.
Sound off in the comments below – grade the season to date and tell me your predictions for the rest of Season 4.