I love(d) Vampire Diaries. For a while, I was so enraptured with the show that I found myself writing extensively about each episode that aired, because I felt each had a lot to say. Yes Vampire Diaries Season 4 is geared towards teens, and reeks ever so slightly of Twilight, but there was always a lot more going on than met the eye. The mythology was solid, the story followed a coherent path, and aside from a hiccup here and there, it seemed like it was on the track to telling one complete story. And, heck, it even tickled that deep dark place we all want to pretend doesn’t exist, and pumped us full of vapid high school drama.
**Spoiler warning** From here on out I am going to be peppering this recap with details from the season. Do not read if you want to keep it a surprise.
Then something happened at the end of season three that completely changed the dynamic of the show. Elena Gilbert finally became a vampire. It was a big twist, one which successfully kept me hooked the 6 months before season four aired, but unfortunately, I felt it didn’t deliver. While the first few episodes were mainly about her struggle, the rest of the season suddenly became about an ill conceived notion of what emotions are, bitchy one liners, and a lot of irritating acting.
This was particularly surprising, considering I really felt Vampire Diaries Season 4 came packed with the most twists, turns, and emotionally driven plot the show had offered in a while. Take these points for example: Bonnie became overtaken with expression. Elena and Jeremy successfully kill an original. Elena lost her life, and then watches Catherine kill her last family member, Jeremy. The veil between humanity and the other side is dropped, and every killed supernatural being came back to earth. Bonnie sacrifices her own life to bring Jeremy back from the dead. Elena force feeds Catherine the cure, turning her back into a human. And Silas reveals that he is the first doppelganger, whose twin is Stefan.
Wow. Keep in mind, I’m leaving out about 2,000 hours of exposition from the other 25 episodes; the creepy professor, Caroline, Klaus, etc. The show was packed with plot, but as I stated before, too many plot holes and undeveloped segments kept it from fully developing into a truly engaging story. One major example of this was how they treated Elena after she became a vampire.
All the trials and tribulations she faces aside, one of the most glaring issues with season 4 was the “humanity switch” Elena was forced to turn off after her brother Jeremy died. Vampire Diaries has been talking about this switch though each season, however its never fully explored or explained (even when Klaus compels Stefan to forget his humanity, it seemed more believable than when Damon uses his sire bond to make Elena turn of hers). To be more specific, when they say ‘humanity’ in Vampire Diaries, they are really referring to emotions. Which would mean, when one’s humanity switch is turned off, one would essentially become a robot. In fact, there shouldn’t even be a desire for self preservation. Fear, love, hate, all of these feelings come into play and create the cause for actions. Without these, there is literally no motivation. Every logical course would be taken, including the act of suicide if it were logically beneficial for that particular situation.
Yet Vampire Diaries Season 4 seems to define emotion and humanity as empathy exclusively. Spite and vindictiveness are both emotions derivative of hate and jealousy, which should theoretically no longer exist if one’s “emotions” were off. Yet time and time again throughout the season, Elena lashes out at people for no reason. Tossing insults, acting out, and more or less expressing a whole bunch of emotions aside for love and empathy. In reality, if Elena had no emotions, she wouldn’t have cared about anything. She wouldn’t have been looking for the cure, and she probably wouldn’t have even stayed in Mystic Falls. There would be no reason for her to prove a point on anything, she wouldn’t feel any desire to hurt or insult the people close to her, and she probably wouldn’t be doing much of anything. To be honest, I can’t even guess what she would do since, unfortunately, I do have emotions and every course of action I could conceive for her would be derivative of something. Maybe she’d be like a bug, running around aimlessly fulfilling her base needs to feed as opposed to caring about how much of a biz-natch she could be. Buglena Bugbert.
On the same note of underdevelopment, the season never actually climaxed. The final struggle between Bonnie and Silas, the closing of the veil, and even the appearance of Qetsiyah were so underwhelming that I didn’t even care what was happening. Silas, the most powerful being in the world, was turned to stone in 15 seconds (granted he came back after Bonnie died, but that’s another story). Qetsiyah had about 3-5 seconds of airtime before Klaus appeared and decapitated her with a mortarboard, and the dozens of undead hunters who came back to life, threatening to kill all the main characters in the show, vanished before they had much of a chance to do anything. All these things were so built up throughout the season, and then brushed aside in under 5 minutes, that it seemed like there were of no consequence at all. Maybe I’m wrong and I had my expectations too high, (I am chronically disappointed, after all…) however this just seemed… so bland.
Yet not all was bad with the 4th Season of Vampire Diaries. Aside from Elena’s bitching and moaning about her lack feelings, a lot of the characters were actually developed quite nicely. We finally got to see a softer, ‘human’ side of Klaus and, even more surprisingly, Catherine. Rebekah actually turned into an actual interesting, empathetic and loveable character towards the end, and Bonnie finally started asserting her dominance (and then she died, but at least Kat Graham released a couple of singles this year, so good for her). All in all, the season wasn’t a huge let down. I did enjoy watching it, and will almost certainly be tuned in this October when it comes back on the air. All I wish is that for season 5, a little more time is spent on thinking the plot all the way through.