May 12, 2012



 THE VAMPIRE DIARIES brought its A-game to its 3rd season finale, wrapping up (or at least advancing) some storylines while providing massive fodder for Season 4.  It should be noted that Diaries thrives on plot twists and surprises, so SPOILERS WILL ABOUND after the page break.

The giant headline of the finale, of course, which was written by showrunner Julie Plec (from a story by Brett Matthews and Elisabeth R. Finch) and directed by John Behring, was that the show finally pulled the trigger on the plot development that eventually had to happen (and had already been postponed from the source material):  in the closing instants of the episode, Elena (Nina Dobrev) became a vampire.  This will without doubt be a game-changer for the series in the latter part of its run, and gives rise to any number of potential new storylines, but what was most impressive here was how fiendishly cleverly it had been worked out.

The previous episode had ended with Elena passed out in her house with blood coming from her nose as a sign of internal bleeding, clearly because her injury from an earlier blow to the head was more serious than it first appeared.  But this being television, it was easy to accept that by the time the next episode rolled around, she was feeling just fine, even though only a few hours had passed in the show’s universe.  In fact, as we found out much later, she had taken a dose of vampire blood from helpful doc Meredith (Torrey DeVitto) in order to heal, not expecting, of course, that she’d die soon after, when it was still in her system, and that it would turn her.  The twist also explained why she was so insistent while underwater that Stefan (Paul Wesley) rescue the only true human left on the show, Matt (Zach Roerig), from drowning, instead of her.  Everything that happened wasn’t just surprising for the sake of inducing gasps–it made sense narratively and for the character, the sign of a show that really knows what it’s doing.

Diaries also found a way to keep the Klaus storyline going, by having him body-transfer instead of die–again, this had happened on the show before, so it didn’t feel like a cheat.  (It also keeps Joseph Morgan on the show as uber-vampire Klaus, a good thing).  And it wrapped up the Alaric storyline in a satisfying way–no weeping necessary for Matt Davis, who played Alaric, as he’s making an immediate leap into a starring role in CW’s new Cult.

Vampire Diaries, of course, is as much a romance as a thriller, and here too there were developments in Elena’s unending dilemna of choosing between Stefan and Damon (Ian Somerhalder).  Damon, as usual, got all the best lines (told that it had to be up to Elena whether to make a deal with Klaus’ untrustworthy brother Elijah:  “You know what else was Elena’s decision?  Everything bad that’s ever happened!”), but when push came to shove, it was dependable Stefan that she chose… although the door was kept wide open for change when it turned out that she’d met, and had sparks, with Damon before Stefan rescued her, but that Damon had wiped her memory.

Vampire Diaries is pulp, but it’s the most pleasurable of guilty pleasures, miles ahead of the Twilight movies, and better plotted than True Blood, with reversals and double/triple-crosses that manage to be clear and mostly logical.  Dobrev, Wesley and Somerhalder make a dynamic triangle, and the show has a knack for superb villains, who include Rebekah (Claire Holt), along with Klaus, Elijah and Evil Alaric.  While certainly not in a class with Buffy in terms of high school horror–Diaries has never been much for metaphor or allegory, and high school barely even figures into the show anymore, except when the storylines need a big dance for everyone to attend–the series knows what kinds of stories it’s trying to tell, and does it well.  Diaries is already the biggest (OK, only) hit on CW, and with the kick of the new Elena 2.0, there’s no reason it shouldn’t thrive for seasons to come.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."