‘The Vampire Diaries’ Review: The Best and Worst of Season 4
The CW’s hit show started out strong, but faltered mid-season only to pick up again by the season finale. Let’s take a look back at the best and worst moments of season 4.
Let’s be really, really honest. This was not the finest season of The Vampire Diaries. In fact, when compared to past seasons, it’s easily the worst. The writers took a gigantic leap by turning Elena into a vampire and the first part of the season followed her struggle to adapt to life as a bloodsucker. Viewers followed her through heightened emotions, breaking up with Stefan, sleeping with Damon, and the dreadful sire bond, waiting anxiously for her to come out the other side. And when she did, it came at a price: the flipping of her humanity switch. So for the second half of the season, Elena was in full rage mode a la her doppelganger, Katherine, and barreled through her life completely unstoppable. In between Elena’s bouts of drama came the discovery of the cure, the legacy of the vampire hunters, town crisis after town crisis, and many deaths.
The beginning and ending of the season were the most watchable while everything in the middle was a bit of a jumbled mess. The strange thing about Vampire Diaries, for me at least, is that even when it’s not so great, it’s still watchable and enjoyable. I just may occasionally cringe and roll my eyes while trudging through the mess.
Overall, I give the season a B. The season finale was definitely A+ material, but the journey to get there was difficult.
1. Elena coming into her own
Whether you liked or hated Elena’s transition into a vampire, she found a sense of confidence in herself, her decisions, and her life that she didn’t have as a human. Instead of letting Damon and Stefan make decisions for her, she took control (sire bond antics aside obviously). When she flipped her humanity switch, she was able to go on a journey she didn’t even realize she was on. She may have been hiding from the pain life had inflicted on her, but it changed her for the better. She came out the other side a different person. In many ways, I think the Elena who first became a vampire was a girl and the one we saw in the season finale is very much a woman. She made her choice. She made things as right as possible with Stefan. She even took down her doppelganger. Here’s hoping this transition to adulthood continues as she makes her way through college next fall.
2. Jeremy and Bonnie’s Deaths
This will be a controversial choice for some fans, but I always admire that this show isn’t afraid to kill off main characters. Jeremy’s death was difficult, mostly because he remained Elena’s last family member and tie to who she was before becoming a vampire. His death spawned an important journey for Elena… and in the end, he came back for good thanks to Bonnie.
Bonnie’s death is significant because it was an extreme sacrifice for her friends. She went to dark places in her magic that she’d never been to try and save the boy she loves. It’s admirable at best. I’ve never shied away from my dislike of Bonnie. I think she’s a strong, female character, which is important to have on television. I just always dislike how she was so judgmental of her friends. They’re basically going through the same paranormal experiences, trying to survive and making mistakes along the way, mistakes that cost Bonnie the lives of people she loves and her sanity, but (give or take Klaus forcing his hand) Bonnie chose to be a part of it. Just like she chose to go down the rabbit hole with Shane, strengthen her power, and go to the ends of magic in hopes of bringing Jeremy back to life. Bonnie made the ultimate sacrifice this season, trading her life for Jeremy’s because she loves him and because he’s Elena’s brother. Like Elena, she went on an important journey to self-discovery and understanding and that is worthy of notability.
3. Klaus and Caroline
Yes, Klaus is a terrible guy. He murdered Elena’s aunt and Tyler’s mother. He consistently hurts people Caroline loves… yet they still have something. These two just sparkle in a scene. He makes her smile. He gives her pictures of horses. He buys her fancy things. And he’s vowed to be the last and greatest love of her life. Even when Caroline tries to use his love for her in her favor, she ends up backtracking from screwing him over. There’s a unique connection between them that’s just so special to watch.
Case in point:
4. Elena made her choice and set Stefan free
After three seasons of going back and forth between the Salvatore brothers, Elena ultimately chose Damon. Viewers suffered through the sire bond debacle, which had both positives and negatives. Like Elena’s heightened emotions, the sire bond was constantly mentioned and overused to make Elena do Damon’s bidding. However, it also set up Elena’s journey into discovering her true feelings. Doubters as to whether or not Elena actually loved Damon at the beginning of the season were able to follow her journey and actually believe her when she declared her feelings in the season finale. I’ve always straddled the line between being a Delena and Stelena Shipper (such a thing is possible, I swear!) and I wasn’t happy with how they brought Damon and Elena together at the beginning of the season. By the finale, the pairing had won me over… and more importantly it set Stefan free.
Stefan is a vampire who loves hard, with every fiber of his being, and I’ve always admired his passion for Elena. He wanted to save her and give her everything she ever wanted. She was his epic love as we heard proclaimed time and time again. Over time, their epic love ran its course and the sire bond gave Stefan hope, but by the finale he realized that Elena truly loves his brother. He was heartbroken, but instead of being bitter he chose to let Elena go, the most admirable of choices when it comes to love, freeing him up for future romantic entanglements. (Like Caroline. Because the anvils were so heavy throughout the end of the season.)
5. The season finale
I’ve already covered why the finale was so spectacular, so I’ll hit the high points really quickly. Katherine was given the cure. Elena chose Damon. Silas locked Stefan up and sent him away. Klaus allowed Tyler to return and vowed to be the last love of Caroline’s life. Bonnie died. Jeremy returned. All those lovely dead characters came back one more time. And in a single hour of TV, the show reset itself for next season, making us wish October was tomorrow instead of months away.
1. Elena’s heightened emotions
As a newborn vampire, Elena rode waves of emotions, laughing until she cried and crying until she laughed. It became frustrating to see week after week. I, for one, was quite relieved when she flipped her switch and became the angry badass, even if it was only temporary. The struggle was realistic, especially when she killed her first human, but it was exhausting. There’s only so much vampire angst I can handle.
2. Unnecessary and annoying characters
April Young’s purpose seemed to be the moral compass, the Mary Sue, little miss perfect caught in a really bad town. She was aghast to learn of vampires, ran to the police with confessions, and was always getting in trouble. Raise your hand if you spent the entire season waiting on her to die? Anyone? While I understand the ties to Mystic Falls because of her father and his death, she was just an unnecessary plot point. At least Rebekah got a friend out of the deal.
Hayley, the badass (yes, I just rolled my eyes) werewolf, who came to town as part of the bigger story arcs. Unfortunately, her place was never really known and her annoyances dragged on as she screwed over characters because she wanted to find her family (I’m sorry, am I supposed to give a damn about her family and her pain?!). Characters and relationships need drama, but she felt so forced upon the characters and storylines. It was like she was trying to push her way into stories and cause problems, which doesn’t make for natural drama, just the annoying kind.
Thankfully Mystic Falls will be Hayley free next season. If only I could say as much for The Originals.
3. Always torturing the ‘good’ guy
We get it, Matt Donovan is the quintessential, ideal Mystic Falls dude. Trust me. I support this. I love Matt. I love that he’s the only normal one of the bunch. However, must we torture him every damn chance possible. Damon nearly kills him. Vampires hunt him to kill him, vampire hunters put him on a bomb, etc. and each time he lives Matt delivers his impassioned I am so over all this damn paranormal bullshit, I just want to be a normal dude, and I just want to get out of Mystic Falls speech. Let’s stop with that, okay? Here’s hoping that a summer with Rebekah gives him a thicker skin, makes him capable of fighting, and less of a target next season.
Also worth mentioning: let’s stop torturing, Caroline, too. Just saying.
4. Disjointed plot points with little or no indication that they were actually linked together
This is my biggest issue with season four and why it fell short compared to past seasons. There were multiple plots going on (Shane, the 12 sacrifices, the hunters, the cure, Elena’s despair, the sire bond, Katherine popping in and out, and Silas) that didn’t actually come together until the last couple of episodes of the season. Everyone was so involved in each of these, creating confusion driven chaos. Storylines felt dragged out and beaten to death and others forgotten about until they reemerged randomly throughout the season. The threads weren’t as tightly woven as they were in past seasons yet the writer’s still managed to bring everything together by the end. Major props to the writers for accomplishing that much.
Leave your favorite and least favorite parts of season four in the comments below. I’ll see you back here for The Vampire Diaries season 5 when the show returns to The CW this October.