May 16, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “The Vampire Diaries”


The fifth season of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES was great fun as usual, although also a bit sloppier than the norm.  That could well be the result of series mastermind Julie Plec having to spread her time between Diaries, the new Originals, and whatever her duties were on The Tomorrow People, of which she was also a co-creator.  (Executive Producer Caroline Dries took over day-to-day showrunning chores on Diaries.)  The show also had to take the blow of losing several of its best recurring characters to The Originals, and made the decision to once and for all kill doppelganger Katherine, which made for a powerful set of midseason episodes, but marked the end of one of the show’s very best antagonists.  In any case, the early Silas part of the season ended with odd abruptness, the college sequences never fit in with the rest of the show (something that often afflicts high school series in any genre that need to send its characters to college), the episodes spent with mad scientists who were doing experiments on vampires felt hackneyed in a way that Diaries rarely is, and even the eternal Elena/Stefan/Damon merry-go-round felt like it had turned a time or two too many.

But the series certainly pulled out all the stops for its season finale.

Describing the hour, written by Dries and Supervising Producer Brian Young, and directed by Chris Grismer, invokes a slightly differently-spelled Stefon, who when he was breathlessly describing a club on Weekend Update would start with “This place has everything!”  And so this finale did, from surprise appearances by old friends Lexi (Arielle Kebbel), Grams Bennett (Jasmine Guy) and Alaric (Matthew Davis)–not to mention Silas–to a giant explosion at the Mystic Grill that will certainly require a generous donation by the Salvatore family to fix, to a super-complicated plot needed to reverse the Followers’ anti-magic curse that was going to kill practically the entire cast, to death–a lot of death.  Some of that death was reversed by the end of the hour, with Stefan (Paul Wesley), Elena (Nina Dobrev), and Tyler (Michael Trevino) returning to life, but the other thing the finale had was cliffhangers, including a giant one:  just how Damon (Ian Somerhalder) was going to make his way back to the show from what appeared to be a final, permanent death and the implosion of the way-station afterlife.  (This also applied to Kat Graham’s Bonnie, but her return would seem like less of a certainty.)

The episode played its hand perfectly, with a farewell scene for Elena and Damon that had him saying all the things a character would say if he was really never going to be seen again.  (It also featured some remarkably emotionally intense acting, especially from Dobrev.)  It’s awfully hard to believe that Damon won’t be back–especially with the announcement that the newly returned-from-the-dead Alaric, Damon’s BFF, will once again be a regular next season–but it’s a tribute to Diaries that at the moment, it’s hard to see how the show will pull that off.  (Despite the recent trend for instant post-finale interviews with TV showrunners, Plec and Dries are keeping silent tonight.)

The last leg of Season 5 made up for a lot of the unevenness that preceded it, and one way or another, it’s planted the seeds for a Season 6 that will get off to a big start, what with the Damon mystery, the return of Alaric, the possibility that at least some of the characters who returned from the dead (Tyler, at least) are no longer supernatural, and the show’s clear intention to go all-in on a romance between Stefan and fan-favorite Caroline (Candice Accola), with even dead Lexi telling Stefan the equivalent of “You should definitely hit that.”  Considering how often Diaries kills characters and then wants them back again, there’s also the larger question of how the series will deal with the fact that at the moment, people who die are apparently gone forever.

All of this, of course, is exactly what a series moving into its 6th season needs, and although Diaries suffered some audience erosion this spring (so did most other veteran shows), it’s still one of CW’s biggest hits, and will in all likelihood be more stable behind the scenes now that the Originals is itself firmly in gear.  The goal of any season finale is to make fans anxious for the series to return 4 months later, and The Vampire Diaries accomplished that with ease.


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."