Reviews

‘The Vampire Diaries’ Season 6 Premiere Review: Hitting Reset

Annette Brown/The CW

A vampire attack on a random camping couple, Elena’s in class, Stefan’s alone and brooding, Tyler’s playing football, Jeremy’s addicted to alcohol and Caroline’s trying to fix things…last night’s season six premiere of The Vampire Diaries felt an awful lot like the pilot that first brought these characters into our lives. And that’s a good thing – a very good thing.

The season five finale basically blew up the series as we knew it (any and all magical beings were banned from setting foot in Mystic Falls, Alaric came back from the dead, the Other Side crumbled forever and Bonnie and Damon disappeared into the unknown). “I’ll Remember” picks up four months later and we get to see how our characters are dealing with the aftermath. Despite Elena’s upbeat voice over at the beginning, we learn pretty fast that nearly everyone is falling apart despite the (somewhat) happy faces they’re putting on to go about their days.

Instead of introducing a new big bad and barreling through twists and turns, the premiere was a quiet episode focused strictly on the core characters and their coping mechanisms. None of them were particularly healthy, but some were much worse than others (looking at you, Gilbert family). We got to see high points and low points with some added exposition to fill in some of the blanks. It certainly wasn’t the most exciting season premiere of the show, but that’s okay (Let’s be honest: if we’re still here after the disaster of season four, we’re going to ride or die with the show until the series finale).

Lack of excitement aside, the episode was solid because we do care about these characters after watching their lives for five seasons and it’s hard to see them so broken. And they’re all broken, even Matt. He might think he likes the vampire-free Mystic Falls, and maybe he does, but he obviously still cares about his friends or he wouldn’t be constantly on the phone with them and he certainly wouldn’t have brought the girl Elena attacked to Caroline so she could compel her to forget. That being said, he probably is the well-adjusted one of the group.

Jeremy, on the other hand, has fallen back into his bad habits. He spends his days drinking, playing videogames and hooking up with random girls. There’s nothing Elena or Alaric can do to help him since neither of them can go back into Mystic Falls. I did like Elena threatening to have Sheriff Forbes arrest him and bring him to the town border so she can knock some sense into him. Although Elena’s not really one to talk, but we’ll get to her later.

Since we’re on the subject of the border, let’s talk about Caroline. She’s dropped out of school and devoted her life to hanging out with her mom and searching for spells to undo the mess the Travelers made. It’s really hard to see Caroline like this. On the one hand, it’s very her to want to get her home back and fix everything for her friends, but dropping out of school? Caroline Forbes would never – she’s the queen of multitasking. She’d read spells on her phone while taking notes with her free hand and still get the question right when the professor called on her. I have a feeling Caroline is going to hit rock bottom sooner or later and as much as I love her, that’s a good thing. She needs to realize that sometimes, it’s okay to put herself first and find her own happiness instead of trying to fix everyone else’s.

Meanwhile, Tyler has enrolled in Whitmore and practices with the football team to try and uses that to channel his rage – or he tries. He still gets a little too angry when Alaric accidentally bumps into him at a party and then he full on loses it when he learns that Luke has been supplying Elena with witchy herbs so she can get high and talk to Damon (again, we’ll get to that part). Tyler attacks him, but Ric steps in and reminds Tyler he needs to keep the rage bottled. Later, Liv comes to add her two cents and Tyler admits how much he’s struggling because he used to be so strong and now he’s just a human. Liv isn’t overly impressed, but I am because 1) Tyler is asking for help and that shows how much he’s grown and 2) their chemistry is fantastic and we all know how hate-to-love tropes work and I am 100 percent here for this one.

Alaric is wrestling with his own demons. He’s never really lived as a vampire since he was basically just a tool for Esther the first time and he’s struggling (I loved when he turned to the blackboard and whispered for Elena to stop drinking blood during class). He compelled himself a job, but his flirting game is completely gone and he literally made an excuse to run away from the pretty doctor who wanted to chat. Alaric being alive again is one of the best things to ever happen on this show as far as I’m concerned and I love that he has a teaching job, but I also love that he is in a bad place. Alaric’s always been haunted by his past so it’s an important element to the character. As much as he wants to take care of the kids, he’s got to find his own way too and that’s going to be fun to watch (And obviously he needs Damon back).

Then, there’s Stefan. As far as his friends know, he’s been searching for a way to bring his brother back, but that’s not what happened. Instead, Stefan moved to a new town, got a job as a mechanic and is steadily ignoring Caroline’s phone calls while he hooks up with some girl and let’s his boss treat him like dirt (It physically hurt me when he didn’t hurt that guy or at least compel him or something other than just take the abuse). But like Matt, Stefan’s still keeping a few ties to home. He chatted with Alaric and he did answer Elena’s call and admitted that he’d moved on and encouraged her to do the same. So why’s he ignoring Caroline (other than to make me sad)? Because she knows him better than anyone and she would see right through his coping mechanism and force him out of it and that’s not what he wants right now. He wants to forget and life just doesn’t work that way, which he’s going to have to face sooner or later.

Now let’s talk about Elena. She’s enrolled in medical school, partially so she can steal blood bags, but she’s already excelling at it. This should be a good thing (although remember when she wanted to be a writer? What happened to that? Maybe she realized there’s no money there), but having her life together is just a façade. Elena’s been using Luke’s guilt to get the herbs and then she spends her time chatting with Damon. Of course it’s not really Damon, but she’s okay with that because she can live in her world of denial. Damon eventually starts questioning her and asking why she’s not hallucinating Bonnie too and then Caroline finds out after she discovers Elena’s the vampire that has been feeding on people at the border. Between Caroline and Stefan, Elena realizes that she’s losing it and she needs to say goodbye to Damon, but she can’t.

So Elena being Elena finds a different way to move on – she asks Alaric to compel her to forget about Damon. He didn’t say whether or not he would do it, but he seemed to consider it. Is this any healthier than her drug-induced fantasies? Probably not, but the story possibilities are great. Maybe Alaric will do it and she’ll forget she ever loved Damon – what will happen when he returns (because we all know he will)? Or maybe Alaric will do part of what she asks and take away her pain. But will that be like shutting off her humanity? I hope not because I hated that Elena even more than Vampire!Elena. Or maybe he won’t help her at all because part of growing up is learning to deal with what life throws at us. There are endless possibilities and I’m curious to see which direction the story will go.

Finally, let’s talk about domestic Damon and Bonnie. Aside from the fake version in Elena’s vision, we didn’t get to see the elder Salvatore or Bonnie until the final scene of the episode. The two were preparing to have breakfast – Bonnie had the coffee waiting and Damon gave her a plate of pancakes with a vampire face (it had fangs!). She reminded him that she hated that and he was proud and then they were eating and reading the paper and did I mention Damon was wearing a flannel shirt? I have no idea what’s happening, but I’m already in love with it because you could actually feel how much fun the actors are having with this story radiating through the screen. But seriously, what’s going on? Did they go back into time? Are they alone? Give me more!

Now, let’s talk about the downside of the episode: there are way too many people on this show. There are 10 series regulars (and Enzo sat this one out), three heavily recurring characters (Liz, Liv and Luke) and then they introduced several new characters, whose names I haven’t bothered to learn yet. I am all for the show being character centric instead of plot centric, but they need to put the brakes on the newbies and get our regular cast interacting more. Also, give me more of Damon and Bonnie because I need to know what’s happening in that world (I can’t stress this enough).

And that’s a wrap. Hit the comments and share your thoughts and theories and feelings and all that good stuff with us. What did you think of the season six premiere?

About the author

Mandy Treccia

Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. 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.