‘The Vampire Diaries’ Midseason Review: Society of the Doppelgangers

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Season four of The Vampire Diaries was not the best. In fact, it was the worst and didn’t do any of the characters any favors. The show went from OMFG TV to ‘ugh, I have to watch this’ and it was kind of devastating because TVD has been my favorite since somewhere around the third episode of season one. I didn’t have the highest hopes going into season five, especially since there would be an Originals’ shaped hole in the cast and the storylines.

But after a somewhat slow start, the season started to pick up around episode three. While it was still nowhere near perfect, it was entertaining again. New characters like Tessa and Silas came with a heavy side of snark and human Katherine was by far the highlight for me as she whined about her aches and pains and everything else under the sun. The show toggled back and forth between doppelganger drama, travelers, a secret society that knew about vampires and an attempt at normal college life.

Some things worked and others didn’t, but it was still leaps and bounds better than last season and I’m going to count that as a win. Even though it’s not the show that makes me gasp at the end of each episode anymore, it’s still the show that I happily spend my Thursdays anticipating. So let’s get into the best and worst of the first half of season five.

Overall Midseason Grade: B

Best Storyline: The History of the Doppelgangers

This might not be the most popular opinion since I’ve seen more ‘ugh, doppelgangers’ remarks on social media than I care to count, but I loved everything about the doppelganger story from the moment it officially started last season with Silas revealing himself to be Stefan’s shadow self. Next, we learned about Silas and Amara’s love story and how and why Tessa (I’m not even going to pretend I know how to spell her real name) put the curse on Silas and made Amara the anchor to the other side. We learned that the doppelgangers were created to balance out immortality and that they were fated to fall in love with each other throughout time.

I’m always going to applaud anything that puts more Paul Wesley on my screen. Despite being super evil, Silas was hilarious and it was obvious Wesley loved playing him. Tessa was beyond crazy, but she was pretty funny too and watching these two try to outsmart each other after 2,000 years proved to be highly entertaining. Amara gave us a glimpse of what it meant to be part of both worlds and she provided a way for Bonnie to sort of come back to life (is she still considered dead? This remains confusing). But the storyline also put a new spin on the love triangle. The universe wants Stefan and Elena to be together, but does that mean it is has to happen? Or is free will stronger than fate? Either way, it was fun for me to watch this play out and I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of Silas and Tessa.

Worst Storyline: The Augustine Vampire Society

While I loved everything doppelganger related, I hated everything connected to the secret society. This could have been an intriguing story, but right off the bat it lost major points for tying it to a shady college professor. It immediately felt like Professor Shane Part II and since that storyline was beyond terrible last season, I really didn’t want to see a similar one play out. But I could have gotten past that if the rest of the story had been good. Instead, it was a mess and a dull mess at that.

It’s not brand new information that Elena’s parents knew about vampires. They were part of the town council and the founding families and all that cool mythology from the earlier seasons. Telling us now that Grayson Gilbert was actually experimenting on vampires doesn’t really fit with the information we previously had on the character. And seriously, we’re supposed to believe that Damon was experimented on in the 50s and has been killing people connected to it ever since, but he never once suggested that Elena pick a different college or acted strange when he was on campus? It wasn’t until he was actually in the cell that his history suddenly came out. There were way too many continuity failures happening.

Best Episode: “Death and the Maiden”

This was a ‘no contest’ choice for me. I loved everything about this episode from the moment it started with Silas harassing two innocent people on a bus station bench. We got to see Nina Dobrev flawlessly pull off playing three doppelgangers standing beside one another and there was plenty of snark to ease some of the tension while Tessa worked to make Bonnie the anchor before it was too late. Katherine was struggling with her reality while Nadia tried to get close to her mother, Stefan faced his demons by killing Silas and admitted that he’d expected Damon and Elena to find him and everyone got to reunite with Bonnie. The episode was emotional, fun and above all, entertaining.

Worst Episode: “Monster’s Ball”

In typical Mystic Falls’ fashion, we went from everyone grieving over Bonnie in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” to a costume ball in this episode. Caroline and Tyler were miscommunicating and ultimately broke up because he chose revenge over her (not that we blame him. Caroline had some pretty unrealistic expectations when it came to their relationship in general and this season has not been her finest. She seems to have reverted back to her season one persona with a whole lot of judge-y face thrown in for good measure. Let’s correct this please, show). Meanwhile, Dr. Wes gave Elena a warning and we were introduced to Aaron, who I had high hopes for as a character, but he just turned out to be the male Elena. Damon spent the episode breaking Stefan’s neck and nothing good came from any of it. Parties never end well on this show, but they’re usually a lot more memorable than this one.

Best Character: Katherine Pierce

After Elena shoved the cure down Katherine’s throat in the season four finale, I was a little hesitant at the idea of how a human Katherine was going to fit into the series. But it turns out that she’s the greatest ever. The writers easily could have taken Katherine apart and changed everything about her, but instead, she was the same Katherine she’s always been with only a hint of vulnerability. Katherine still has no problems being a bitch or choosing to put herself first or gloating or reminding everyone that she’s ‘the cute one.’

But this Katherine does have a weakness. Once Silas drank the cure, she began to age and for the first time in a long time, Katherine did think of others. She tried to make things easier on her daughter by pushing her away and she helped Stefan sort out some of his issues. The two reconnected in a hot way that never seemed possible before she became human again and being with Stefan has given Katherine the extra push she needed to keep fighting. Let’s hope it’s not too late (please don’t kill her, writers).

Worst Character: Elena Gilbert

Seeing Elena smile again and have fun when she first got to college was great. This girl has been through the ringer and then some so she deserved a little happiness. But what happened to her compassion? When Elena was human, everyone talked about how compassionate she was and that was what guided her decisions and made her a character worth fighting for. So shouldn’t that have been heightened when she became a vampire?

This season, Elena only seems to care about herself. When Stefan returned, traumatized from spending the summer drowning, Elena wanted his forgiveness so she could feel better. When Damon told her about the hell Augustine put him through, she wanted to talk about how her dad did a good thing. Nothing was worse than when Damon fed Katherine to Silas and Elena just stood there and then had the nerve to be annoyed when she didn’t die. Really, Elena? Katherine has wronged her in the past – there’s no question of that, but at this point, she was human and vulnerable and Elena didn’t even flinch when she was in danger. I barely recognize this version of the character and I’m not a fan.

Best Couple: Bonnie and Jeremy

By default…there are no other options. But I will say that I enjoyed their scenes in “Death and the Maiden” when Jeremy had three things to tell her and Bonnie convinced him to tell her the last one (I love you) before she thought she’d be gone forever and then they were able to reunite thanks to Tessa’s spell.

Most Tortured Couple: Damon and Elena

I am always going to be Team Stefan. But I understand the show is based on a love triangle and it’s time to build the other side. When Elena picked Damon at the end of last season, I truly believed that she loved him. And the season premiere showed how much fun they’d had over the summer and things were solid between them. She was heading to college and he was going to stay back and take care of her brother. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.

First there was the matter of finding Stefan and the doppelganger drama (still entertaining at this point), but then Damon was more or less on call to do Elena’s bidding. Then everything happened with Augustine and now they broke up (which I don’t think will last). I’m not even a fan and I think it’s unfair how little happiness they’ve been allowed to have. Life was never a picnic for Stefan and Elena in the early seasons, but they at least got more than a handful of couple-y moments. It’s time for Damon and Elena to catch a break for a few episodes.

Looking Ahead to 2014

The next episode is the series 100th and I can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for us. We know from the video promo that it doesn’t look like Katherine is going to last much longer after her heart attack (please save her) and the gang has gathered at the Salvatore mansion to reminisce about all the ways she made them miserable.

In addition to saving Katherine, I’d like to see Elena find her compassion again. She might be the main character, but she doesn’t need to be so self-involved. Let’s wrap about the Augustine storyline and find another reason for Stefan and Damon to have a lot of brotherly moments because there have been too few in the first half of the season.

Now it’s your turn. We want to know which stories and characters you loved and hated and which episodes got high marks in your book. What grade would you give the first 10 episodes? What would you like to see happen in the next 12? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with us!

The Vampire Diaries returns Thursday, Jan. 23 at 8/7c on The CW.

About The Author

Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Editorial Director since 2012. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceMandy.