December 13, 2013

THE SKED Fall Finale Review: “The Vampire Diaries”


It’s been an odd, spotty half-season for THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.  For one thing, it’s been more like two mini-seasons:  the story of all-powerful, unkillable vampire-witch-whatever Silas, which would have been expected to climax in the fall finale, abruptly ended 7 episodes into the season–which was too bad, because with Silas as its Stefanganger (Paul Wesley getting a chance at multiple roles), its new Elenaganger (played as always by the versatile Nina Dobrev) and stabs at Egyptian mythology, it was a lot of fun.  Instead, the show’s center has been taken over by the mad scientist storyline of the Augustines, which is so far heavy on the sadism but very vague on everything else.

The “fall finale,” written by Executive Producer Caroline Dries and directed by Kellie Cyrus, didn’t really feel like it had been written as one (although that was the way it was promoted)–there were no shocking revelations, nothing came to a close, and the cliffhanger ending, in which Katherine collapsed of an apparent heart attack, was none too tense (Diaries would be crazy to lose Katherine), and more or less resolved a few seconds later by the promo for the show’s 100th episode return on January 23.  Instead, viewers were asked to watch a lot of evil Dr. Wes (Rick Cosnett), who seems awfully vapid for his Mengele-like experiments on vampires; it’s not even clear whether his motive is to wipe out the vampire race, cure humans with vampire blood, or somehow do both.  Meanwhile, it was weirdly easy for Damon (Ian Somerhalder) to cure his former cellmate friend, now enemy Enzo (Michael Malarkey) of Dr. Wes’s poison, underscoring that Dr. Wes isn’t much of a big bad.  The supposedly big emotional drive of the episode was Elena’s dealing with the fact that her own father was one of the Augustines, but it all felt less upsetting that it was apparently meant to.  Oh, and Elena and Damon broke up, this time at his behest (he doesn’t want to turn her bad) which, since it’s the dynamic of Diaries that Elena will constantly bounce between Damon and Stefan, just felt like it was time for the pendulum to swing back the other way.

The only part of the episode that really hummed was Katherine’s.  The storyline of her becoming mortal (and incapable of being turned back into a vampire) and aging toward a death that she’d postponed for over 500 years is the best idea Diaries has had all season, and Dobrev has played her growing vulnerability–and her eternal snarkiness, best displayed in this episode when she forced still-human Matt (Zach Roerig) to help her work out–to the hilt.  Presumably her daughter Nadia’s (Olga Fonda) suggestion that she “travel” within another body will provide the solution as to how she’ll stick around, particularly since Elena’s body is already identical to the one she already has.

It’s hard not to associate the current series shakiness with Julie Plec’s need to work on the new The Originals (and, to a lesser extent, The Tomorrow People, where she’s one of the producers) in addition to Diaries this season.  Running one series is difficult enough; balancing multiple shows is a special art.  It may be that Diaries is working its way through a transition phase, and will straighten itself out over the rest of the season.  The bones of the show are still very strong, with Dobrev, Somerhalder and Wesley at the head of a solid supporting cast (the last couple of episodes have suffered from a lack of Candice Accola’s Caroline and Kat Graham’s Bonnie), and a fine feel for the mix between horror, romance and humor.  The ratings are still among CW’s highest, and certainly there’s no reason to worry about the series at this point.  A good run of episodes this winter will restore the glow of immortality to its cheeks soon enough.


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."