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
- Central Character Per Episode (The Vampire Diaries), part 8
SEASON FOUR, Episodes 01-09
4.01 - Growing Pains | Elena Gilbert -- Other than the B-story which revolved around Klaus possessing Tyler and the C-story about the Council -- which dovetailed into Elena's story, everything was very, very much about Elena. She easily had the strongest emotional arc as she came to terms with her vampirism. She drove the most story in that every character (except for the above mentioned arc-characters) was focused on her vampirism and how to deal with it. That tied into the key focus. Every single character except for Tyler at least thought/talked about Elena at some point-- while Damon, Stefan and Matt were solely focused on her. Damon technically interacted with more characters (if you count the two deputies), but of the main players (including Pastor Young in this episode), he and Elena were tied. With Elena handily taking the lead in all other categories, this one is most definitely hers.
4.02 - Memorial | Elena Gilbert -- And, again, this one goes to Elena. Elena's blood issues drove the most story, she was the key focus of most characters at some point and as she continued dealing with the fall-out of her vampirism, she had the emotional arc where she at least found a measure of peace at the end. Once again, she was tied with Damon for interaction with the most characters, but again, with the other categories going to her, she easily takes it.
4.03 - The Rager | Elena Gilbert -- Chalk up another one for Elena. With her vampire state being explored so thoroughly, we're just seeing so much focus on her from most of the characters, and her vampirism and the effect on her is driving so much story. And we saw another emotional arc for her in this one, starting out convinced she was in control before losing it at the end and agreeing to try a different route. Like the first two episodes, she and Damon interacted with the same number of characters, but with the other three again going to Elena, yup... another one.
4.04 - The Five | Elena Gilbert -- Prepared to be amazed... it's Elena again. Right now, there is such a focus on her vampirism that no one else is grabbing the central role. In this episode, she was not only focused on by most characters but there were two separate veins (hehehe) of focus. From Damon and Bonnie's end, her current vampire state, and Stefan, Klaus, and to a lesser degree, Rebekah, were focused on her potential return to the living state. However, for the first time, she didn't drive the most story. That role went to Stefan whose inability to help Elena control her blood-intake helped lead to her day-trip with Damon, and Stefan was the driving force behind what happened in the B-story about the Five (even if it was somewhat passive). He also had the most character interaction, but with Elena -- once again -- snagging the first two categories so decidedly (and coming in second in the drives-story category), she takes another one.
4.05 - The Killer | Stefan Salvatore -- Sorry, Elena, Stefan snags this one. Stefan's devious plans and secrets drove pretty much all that happened in this episode with the exception of Bonnie's barely-there B-story. Stefan was also the focus of the majority of characters at different points, with Damon and Elena focused on him quite a lot (when they weren't focused on each other or Jeremy). Elena had the strongest emotional journey simply because by the end of the episode she had killed someone. However, Stefan had the second strongest arc with his hope burning high at the top before dropping to despair at the end. He also interacted with the majority of characters. So, here ya go, Stefan, first one of the season.
4.06 - We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes | Elena Gilbert -- Despite the fact that every episode since 3.22 -- except for last week's -- has been about Elena, none of the other episodes come close to being as centrally about Elena as this one. Even the B- and C- story (Caroline/Tyler and the hybrids, Shane/Bonnie) tied in heavily to Elena's story. She easily had not only the strongest emotional arc, but also possibly the strongest emotional arc a character ever has had in one episode. She drove the story in that her state is what literally drove the actions of every other character. As well, every single character was focused on her. She did tie with Stefan on most character interactions, but again, everything else is so beyond completely her. So hard.
4.07 - My Brother's Keeper | Damon Salvatore -- This is just about a tie in every way between Damon and Elena actually. I'm choosing to go with Damon because of the emotional arc... even though both came to a new place by the end. However, Elena began the episode having a fair idea that she wanted Damon and in the end she got there. Damon, on the other hand, was unaware of where things stood with Elena and so his emotional arc hit a few more beats. The focus was fairly equal on both characters and while Elena's decision drove a fair bit of story, it was her decision about Damon that was key. Lastly, they both interacted with the same number of characters. So because Damon had a bit more of an emotional arc, this one goes to him. I do find it interesting though that the episode that features their first time having sex is one that features both practically tied for central character. That doesn't happen often.
4.08 - We'll Always Have Bourbon Street | Damon Salvatore -- Whereas it was almost a draw between Damon and Elena in the last episode, with this one, it definitely goes to Damon all the way. Yes, Elena had an emotional arc, but Damon's was more central and focused upon. Him being Elena's sire bond (supposedly) is also what drove the bulk of the story, and actually found purchase in all of the other stories at play. Elena did interact with the most characters, but, as with the other two categories, Damon was also the most focused upon character. Other than the hybrid story, Damon was the focus of all of the other characters at one point or another. So Damon gets his first, full-on central character episode of the season.
4.09 - O Come, All Ye Faithful | Damon Salvatore -- And here's his second. This is actually one of those episodes where of our five leads, the central character isn't so much one, but rather the character who was featured just a little more. The true central character was Tyler, but he's in my supporting cast list, so that leaves us with Damon again. Although where he wound up at the end is where he was headed at the top, he was clearly warring with himself throughout the whole episode. And while everyone else reacted to what was going on (minus Tyler, and also Klaus), Damon drove events by suggesting the solution to the Jeremy conundrum, threatening Shane which brought out new information, lying to Stefan and setting Elena free. Most of the episode's focus was on Elena (and non-lead Klaus), and Caroline (and non-lead Tyler) had the most character interaction, but Damon with the arc and the story drive claims another.
CURRENT TALLY --
Damon - (S1) 6 | (S2) 9 | (S3) 8 | (S4) 2 = 26
Elena - (S1) 7 | (S2) 7 | (S3) 8 | (S4) 5 = 27
Stefan - (S1) 6 | (S2) 1 | (S3) 3 | (S4) 1 = 11
Bonnie - (S1) 1 | (S2) 3 | (S3) 2 | (S4) 0 = 06
Caroline - (S1) 2 | (S2) 2 | (S3) 1 | (S4) 0 = 05
Well, with Elena's turn to the vamp-side, her character took the lead for the first time since "Crying Wolf." The first four episodes were so completely hers that no other character was even a consideration. However, despite that early lead, Damon is now just one episode behind her and with the direction of the story it's anyone's guess who will have that lead by the next batch of these. It also looks like Stefan's story, and possibly Caroline's is beginning to rev up, but, at this point, I honestly can't seen any other character aside from Damon or Elena ever taking the lead again.