1) Which character had the strongest emotional arc?
2) Which character drove the most story?
3) Which character had the most key focus in their scenes (and in scenes not involving them)?
4) Which character interacted with the most characters?
First of all, these are the characters that I consider lead: Elena, Damon, Stefan, and the secondary leads are Caroline and Bonnie -- they've driven multiple episodes, and have been the lead B-story in more than a few episodes). They are all regular cast members and main characters (ie, even though Katherine is played by lead actress Nina Dobrev, I don't consider Katherine one of the main characters). Alaric, Jeremy, Vicki, Jenna, Tyler, Klaus and Matt fall under the supporting roles for me. While we've seen them lead some stories, it's generally the B-story, and more often than not, they are supporting.
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 1
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 2
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 3
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 4
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 5
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 6
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 7
SEASON THREE, Episodes 16-22
3.16 - 1912 | Damon Salvatore -- This one goes to Damon, barely. So barely that if someone wants to sway me to handing it to Stefan, I'm liable to do so if convinced. Stefan is the one who has the emotional arc, and a fairly huge one, from episode's beginning to end. However, Damon drives a lot of the story, namely all of the stuff with Stefan, as well it is his actions that lead to the Elena/Matt conversation about the boys. He also interacts with the most characters, and is the focus of the most characters, and more of a focus. In other words, while Rebekah and Elena focus on Stefan, both are more focused on Damon. So, this one goes to Damon ... again, barely.
3.17 - Break On Through | Damon Salvatore -- Here goes another one to Damon. While the emotional arc definitely belongs to Bonnie (of the leads, as Alaric is supporting), Damon scores in the other three categories. And even though Bonnie had that first one, we didn't even see the full fall-out (ala her finding out that that Abby abandoned her again). Damon drives the entire white oak arc, has a hand (if only in the start and close) of the ring saga, and as the one who turned Abby, technically, he set *that* arc in motion. As well, Damon is the focus of and has the interaction with the most characters. So, yeah, Damon again.
3.18 - The Murder of One | Stefan Salvatore -- Other than Damon being the focus of more characters, Stefan definitely is the central character here. He drove the most story in that once Damon was kidnapped, he made the decision for the plan of attack in taking out the Originals, and then when that fell through, took on the task of rescuing Damon himself. Stefan also interacted with the most characters, and he had the biggest (and actually only) emotional arc, beginning the episode still driven to a large degree by his anger towards Klaus before letting it go by the end. So Stefan scores another.
3.19 - Heart of Darkness | Elena Gilbert -- Other than Stefan driving the most story (his push to get Evilalaric to come out and play, and sending Damon with Elena to get Jeremy), Elena definitely had the biggest emotional arc, convinced at the beginning that she really didn't feel *that* much for Damon, and a bundle of confusion brought on by a reminder of his softer side, passion and some hard truths at the end. She also interacted with the most characters, and was the focus more than Damon, Alaric or Stefan in scenes.
3.20 - Do Not Go Gentle | Elena Gilbert -- Like with a few episodes in the past, none of our leads were actually the central character. In this case, it was a supporting character, Alaric, who really was the lead. However, going just by our leads, it handily falls to Elena. She began the episode smiling and attempting a nice, normal day. By the end, she had lost someone else close to her and had broken down in tears. She didn't drive much story, but, of the leads, Elena was the key focus of others, and she tied with Damon for the most character interaction. So, by a technicality, Elena nabs another episode.
3.21 - Before Sunrise | Elena Gilbert -- Like the last episode, Elena is the central character, but unlike "Do Not Go Gentle," this one is absolutely her. She drives the most story by virtue of the fact that everything everyone does (except for Rebekah and Caroline) is tied to her, because of her. Also, every character, even Caroline and Rebekah to a degree, is focused on her, and except for Bonnie and Rebekah, Elena interacts with every character. She doesn't experience much of an emotional arc, but really, no other character does either. Everything else is definitely Elena.
3.22 - The Departed | Elena Gilbert -- For the first time, the finale's central character was *not* one Damon Salvatore. Elena nabbed this one handily. By far, her character had the strongest emotional arc as she struggled to figure out which brother she was going to be with for now. Her decision to bring Klaus back, is what led to the storage facility shenanigans, and Matt and Jeremy's plan to take her out of town, which led to the events on the bridge. She was the key focus of every character (except for Tyler, Caroline and Bonnie), and she interacted with the most characters (including flashbacks). So the season ended with Elena as focal point.
CURRENT TALLY --
Damon - (S1) 6 | (S2) 9 | (S3) 8 = 23
Elena - (S1) 7 | (S2) 7 | (S3) 8 = 22
Stefan - (S1) 6 | (S2) 1 | (S3) 3 = 10
Bonnie - (S1) 1 | (S2) 3 | (S3) 2 = 06
Caroline - (S1) 2 | (S2) 2 | (S3) 1 = 05
At the half-way point, I wrote that "even though Damon is featured as the central character the most in this first batch, he doesn't feel like an overall central character. That feeling is more there for Stefan or Elena. At this point, I'm leaning towards the season going to Elena." Then, Elena was only three episodes in the count behind Damon, and while she didn't take the lead, she did tie things up with him for this season, and is only one episode behind him in the overall count now. This season was definitely about Elena's journey, but it was the just first part of her journey, her growth, and I think it's very possible that next season will fall to her as well. But, really, one can never tell. After all, the season 02 finale certainly pointed to a Stefan-heavy season, and, well, look at his count. However it was intended, this show has definitely come to focus most heavily on two players, and not three.