We've praised The Vampire Diaries as one of the most engagingly written, character-focused shows on television. Which meant, in turn, that we were going to wind up holding it to a slightly higher standard than just "guilty pleasure about naked hotties and crazy shit going down." So it's perhaps not surprising that we've been just a smidge disappointed with the show of late.
Here are all the things we'd like to see The Vampire Diaries put a stake in, permanently. Spoilers ahead...
Stefan wants to kill Klaus. Okay. Seriously. Stefan's motivations for wanting revenge on Klaus were a bit hazy in the first place, but by now this storyline has gone on endlessly. Klaus saved Damon's life, and in return Stefan agreed to be Klaus' sidekick for a while — and this led to Stefan becoming Rupert Giles. Oh wait, I mean it led to Stefan becoming the Ripper, who is not Rupert Giles' ruthless alter-ego. Stefan screwed up Damon's plan to kill Klaus, and earned his freedom — and then he immediately stole the coffins containing Klaus' family, which led to a battle of wit between Stefan and Klaus. I won't say a battle of wits, because we're talking about Stefan here. The wit was entirely one-sided.
Anyway, since that coffin-hostage situation ended, Stefan (and Damon) have been trying to kill Klaus for 100 years. And by now, it's turned into a bit of a farce. Klaus knows they want to kill him, but he won't kill Stefan because he still hopes Stefan will be his bestie again. This storyline has been putting the "stale" in "stalemate." It's time to move on.
Alaric is a secret serial killer. Unlike the Klaus-Stefan storyline, this one has never even had any potential. Seriously. I like the idea of exploring Alaric's dark side. I like the notion that Alaric, who keeps referring to himself as a retired vampire hunter, feels bad about the fact that he's basically Damon's bitch now.
But there are two problems with the "serial killer" storyline:
1) Alaric didn't get to decide to start taking matters into his own hands, which would have been an interesting character arc. Instead, he just got controlled/possessed by a magic ring that already turned Elena's ancestor into a serial killer. Seeing Alaric actually make a choice would have been way more interesting.
2) He's not killing vampires. He feels bad about quitting as a vampire hunter? Great. Have him devise sneaky and devious ways to ambush and kill a few vampires. Apart from anything else, the vampire/human ratio among the show's cast is getting way too vampire-heavy lately. And a lot of the vampires have murdered humans quite recently, and do in fact deserve to die.
Mostly, though, serial killer Alaric has been boring in a way that I never thought a storyline involving Alaric could be. Last night's episode, in which he begs Stefan to try and kill him, was just... I'm actually lost for words. Alaric decides his dark side won't manifest unless he's in danger of being killed by Stefan — but Alaric knows Stefan probably won't go through with it, so his dark side does too.
Elena forgetting that Damon tried to kill her brother.
Damon didn't know that Jeremy was wearing his magic ring when he broke Jeremy's neck last year. He's admitted as much. He intended to kill Jeremy, and if Damon had had his way, Jeremy would be dead. (You'd think Jeremy would bring that up, when they go to Denver to get Jeremy and then start making out in front of him.) Where I come from, killing someone's beloved brother sort of takes you off the table as a love interest, and yet Elena has apparently decided to sweep this under the carpet. Instead, Elena talks in a mealy-mouthed way about how Damon always has to wreck everything, and Damon says he can't be a good guy because then people will expect too much from him. The dude is a serial killer who killed your brother.
The lack of a real villain
I know that soap operas don't need villains, as long as there's lots of churning storylines about who's into whom — and I really love the impending Tyler/Klaus/Caroline triangle. But when you think about this most recent half-season of TVD compared with where we were in previous years, something becomes kind of obvious. There's no real villain driving the storyline — nobody who wants to do something that our heroes are determined to prevent. There's no Klaus trying to do his crazy hybrid ritual, or Katherine trying to open the tomb or whatever. (Or whatever Damon was trying to do in season one, it's a long time ago.)
TVD has a long and proud tradition of turning its villains into sympathetic characters — Damon was the villain in season one, then Katherine, then Klaus. None of those three is really a "villain" in any meaningful sense now.
So the show needs a strong antagonist, especially if there's any hope of the season ending with a bang. And last night's episode left me with a dreadful, sinking feeling that it's... Mama Original. Sigh.