Friday, May 17, 2013

Fuck you, The Vampire Diaries

Season 4, Episode 23 - "Graduation"

Ok, so here's why I hated the fourth season finale of The Vampire Diaries, to the extent I'd almost call it a betrayal. I'll order these three reasons from least severe to the possibly unforgivable:

Sucky spoilers for The Vampire Diaries ahead. You know, sucky, like a vampire. Get it?

3.) The blatant ripoff of Angel's third season finale with Stefan at the end.

The very last thing to happen in Angel's third season was our heroic vampire lead Angel getting locked in a coffin by Connor and thrown into the ocean, doomed to possible eternity in a watery grave (though, this being television, we obviously know he's getting out early in season 4).

The very last thing to happen in The Vampire Diaries' fourth season was our heroic vampire co-lead Stefan getting locked in a coffin by Silas and thrown into a lake, doomed to possible eternity in a watery grave (though, this being television, we obviously know he's getting out early in season 5).

I know they say that good artists borrow, great artists steal, but... you can't do that, Vampire Diaries. You can't just say "Hey, you guys liked Angel's third season cliffhanger, right? Well here it is again, exactly! Except somewhat less dramatic because we used a smaller body of water!" All respectable TV vampire fans know their Angel, and The Vampire Diaries, I know Angel, I watched Angel, Angel was a friend of mine. The Vampire Diaries, you're no Angel.

2.) Silas is such a soggy dull lump of a villain.

It was just a few months ago now that I was downright giddy at the possibility of a new villain replacing Klaus when the name "Silas" was first uttered. And can you blame me? In this kind of normally fast-paced show, so reliant on aggressive storytelling, I always invite new villains to the fore, and Klaus in particular had grown immensely stale after two seasons.

But the undead grass is always greener on the other side, and now, with Silas as the alternative, all I want is for Klaus to please come back (while understanding that, with The Originals on the horizon, that's probably never going to happen on any more than an occasional guest spot basis). A shapeshifting villain with no official face played almost exclusively by existing actors on a show is a great idea... for a one-episode "freak of the week" on something like Buffy or Fringe. As the main villain on a show, spanning multiple seasons? Terrible. Without a fucking face, we just can't learn to love to hate this guy or find anything exciting or unique about his presence.

And that's not to mention that even if nothing I said above applied – even if Silas did have a real dedicated actor, even a good one – he still wouldn't have accomplished much of anything interesting this season, and certainly not anything worthy of the many hours of hype and buildup to his appearance. He exists mostly to pop out and go "BOO!", like a fucking infant's game made flesh.

1.) The resurrection of Jeremy is lame, safe, interminably boring storytelling that negates almost all of the season's emotional power.

This is the big one, the one that actually full-on enrages me. A few months back, I, ignoring that little voice in the corner of my mind going "Will I regret this?", put the Vampire Diaries episode "Stand By Me" at #2 on my Best TV Episodes list for February. And at the time it really did feel deserved – as I say on that list, its exploration of Elena's grief and loss in the wake of her brother Jeremy's death almost evoked shades of Buffy's "The Body." It was impressive, emotionally affecting televised storytelling. Storytelling which has retroactively become a hollow exclamation of "PSYCH! Fooled you!" by cowardly showrunners.

I'm not going to go back and alter my February list or anything, because what's a TV blog for if not casting your opinions at specific times in amber, to be observed forevermore? But this does change my opinion moving forward, and with Jeremy's revival, "Stand By Me" falls from an episode that had a very real shot at my top thirty or even twenty TV episodes of 2013 to one I don't particularly care about.

People who know me, or at least know my opinions on pop culture, may know there's no trope I detest more than the revival of a thoroughly and decisively dead character – and seeing as we saw Jeremy's corpse burned, that's about as fucking decisive as it gets. His death served a narrative purpose, was key to Elena's character development, was the one thing that made Silas seem just a smidge threatening, and, frankly, got rid of a character we didn't need anymore. It was absolutely win-win-win-win. And now they undid it, and, just like that, the world of The Vampire Diaries is no longer a world with tension, stakes or consequences.

And that sucks.

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