May 14, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Vampire Diaries”


Although it regrouped somewhat in its last few episodes, Season 7 of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES was mostly an awkward and ungainly one.  Some readjustment was foreseeable after leading lady Nina Dobrev decided not to return, but by the end of Season 6, series co-creator Julie Plec and showrunner Caroline Dries seemed to have a plan in place, with Candice King’s Caroline moving closer to the center of things.  For whatever reasons, that didn’t happen in Season 7, and Caroline was off-screen or marginalized much of the time, as was witch Bonnie (Kat Graham), leaving a romantic void in a show that had always been as much soap as horror thriller.

Viewers ended up spending a lot of time with the Heretics, the witch/vampire hybrids who had been introduced as super-villains in Season 6, but who became downright cuddly this season.  This isn’t an unusual arc for Vampire Diaries:  Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) and Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan, now anchoring The Originals) are among those who’ve made the leap from antihero.  But the Heretics were never particularly interesting, not even Valerie (Elizabeth Blackmore), who because a quasi-love interest for Stefan (Paul Wesley) for a while.  There was also Rayna (Leslie-Anne Huff), a super-duper vampire hunter who seemed to have been cast because Huff looked like Dobrev, although the show never did much with that.  And then there was the Armory, an organization of pseudo-vampire scientists who ultimately seemed to serve little purpose besides being determined to do the classic idiot horror movie thing and open… the… door… that… must… never… be… opened, which happened to be of a vault in their basement.  On top of all that, Plec and Dries decided to introduce a tricky time jump element that was teased in obscure fragments throughout the early episodes of the season, more annoying than intriguing.  When the show finally reached “3 Years Later,” it had to rush important elements, like the sudden romance between Bonnie and vampire Enzo (Michael Malarkey), and whatever the relationship between Caroline and occasional vampire/vampire-hunter Alaric (Matt Davis) was supposed to be, as she raised his witchy twin daughters and was his fiancee but slept in a separate bedroom.  Some good notions–like the Phoenix Stone that imprisoned vampires into eternal personal hells–aside, the season’s plotting was scattershot.

Toward the end of the season, Diaries refocused on its core characters, and started to feel like itself again, as Bonnie was almost killed by evil Armory pills (long story), then became possessed by Rayna’s unstoppable need to murder vampires, and the other leads went on the road to find some way to cure her.  Graham was particularly strong in expressing Bonnie’s wildly mixed emotions as she continued to care about her friends while lusting to slaughter them.  Tonight’s finale, written by Co-Executive Producer Brian Young and directed by Michael A. Allowitz, resolved all that in a way that also set up Season 8, as the only way to cure Bonnie was to open that damn Armory vault, letting out whatever really, really bad evil was inside.  It promptly possessed Damon and Enzo, who were last seen as what appeared to be demonic serial killers (although that wasn’t necessarily much worse than their behavior in previous seasons).  Stefan and Caroline are a couple again, and the circle continues to turn.

Season 7’s lesson seemed to be that Vampire Diaries gets in trouble when it strays too far from its comfort zone.  The show has more or less abandoned the original setting of Mystic Falls, and with Dobrev gone, the show feels somewhat unmoored.  It needs to introduce new elements, but so far hasn’t done a great job with them.  There had been a suggestion that Season 8 would be the finale, but unless CW plans an announcement at next week’s Upfronts, that doesn’t seem to be the case, although it may lose a cast member or two along the way.  The ratings are down steeply from their peak, especially after this season’s move to Fridays, but for a Friday CW show, they’re still not bad, so it seems like the creative team will have some time to work things out.  Vampire Diaries doesn’t quite have to be brought back from the dead, as many of its characters have, but it needs to find a tasty way of introducing new blood.

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."