October 4, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “The Vampire Diaries”



Walter White, that student of change, would enjoy this fifth season of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.  Behind the camera, showrunner Julie Plec is now splitting her time with the Diaries spin-off The Originals, and is also an Executive Producer of The Tomorrow People; Executive Producer Caroline Dries wrote the Season 5 premiere (directed by Lance Anderson).  Because of The Originals, Diaries will have to do without some of its most prominent supporting characters of the past few seasons, who are now regulars on the new series.  In the story itself, the setting now includes a college conveniently close to Mystic Falls, where undead heroines Elena (Nina Dobrev) and Caroline (Candice Accola) are now freshmen.

Before they could even attend a single class, the “functioning vampire” pair were embroiled in a new mystery:  they were unexpectedly saddled with a third roommate who had verbane in her protein water, but before they could find out what that was about, the girl was brutally killed by an unknown vamp, a murder the school administration is apparently covering up.  Plus it all has something to do with Elena’s father, providing plenty of fodder for this section of the plot.

The main action, however, is still in Mystic Falls, where Paul Wesley gets to do double-duty both as Stefan, currently languishing in a locked safe at the bottom of a lake, with only hallucinations to pass the time (the fact that Elena can see Stefan in her dreams will no doubt fuel speculation that he’s still her soulmate, despite her current torrid romance with his brother), and as super-villain Silas, who now has enough mind control power to compel the entire town.  Unlike the various characters who were possessed by Silas last season, Stefan is actually Silas’s doppelganger, as Silas explains to Damon (Ian Somerhalder), prompting the latter to note that if he has to hear the word doppelganger again, he may have to learn how to spell it.  Silas considers himself not to be a vampire, although he lives on human blood.  Meanwhile, also doing a modified Orphan Black turn is Dobrev, who is again not just Elena but the now-human Katherine, who for some reason is Silas’s target.  On top of all that, ghost Bonnie (Kat Graham) is still around, talking through Elena’s brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) and able to witness Silas murdering her father.  And an Eastern European something-or-other who Matt (Zach Roenig) last saw while having a three-way with Rebekah (Claire Holt, now on The Originals), has shown up to give Matt back his return-from-death ring but then conk him with her buddies into some black-eyeball state of unconsciousness.

Diaries has retained its dense mythology and sardonic edge, although one hopes that some of the new recurring characters will be in a league with the lost Originals.  Dobrev has always thrived on being able to play both Elena and Katherine, and now that the latter is alive and more desperate than ever, she has a new angle to explore.  So far Silas doesn’t seem all that different than Wesley’s Evil Stefan periods, but the season is young.  Dries has been a longtime producer on Diaries, so the show seems to be in good hands while Plec is occupied elsewhere, and although the season will be unusually challenging, it appears to be very much the same show that’s been CW’s biggest hit since it hit the air.

A footnote about tonight’s “special premiere event” of The Originals:  it was an ugly, misshapen hour that tried to re-use as much of the footage from last spring’s back-door pilot as possible, while adding scenes (because of the Diaries sequences that filled out that episode) and changing focus (a bartender character meant as a leading character in May is barely present now).  Poor Daniel Gillies (Elijah) was given several centuries of exposition to deliver, and much of the promising by-play between Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and his New Orleans nemesis was cut down, along with almost all of the humor.  Let’s hope that when the show has its real debut next week, it’ll be back in the form the May version of the pilot promised.



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."