Arabian (arabian) wrote,

'The Vampire Diaries' Wrap-up Thoughts... 1/8 -- Major Unresolved Issues

Anyone who reads my Vampire Diaries commentary is well aware of how much I love this show. It is officially my all-time favorite and I was very happy and quite satisfied with the finale. Overall, I think that for a series that ran for eight seasons with 161 episodes, executive producers Julie Plec (who alone helmed the show from day one), Kevin Williamson and Caroline Dries, did a marvelous job in maintaining a steady narrative, remaining true to that narrative, their core characters and the mythology. With that said… in what wound up being the mid-way point of the series—season 04—I decided that when The Vampire Diaries eventually came to an end, I would look back over the whole shebang and do an assessment of any unresolved issues I might have.

This idea was predicated on the premise that I wouldn't be disappointed by the overall outcome when that end arrived, but some things may not quite work for me when all was said and done. As expected, despite The Vampire Diaries living up to its overall awesome, there were indeed some issues left unresolved; I came up with 10 in total. There were five that I considered fairly major that I truly do wish had been resolved, and five minor ones that didn't affect the overall narrative. They matter enough though that they will probably always bother me just enough that I take note whenever I re-watch the series. Now, while thinking this through I realized that some of my issues weren't issues at all, but rather wish fulfillment fantasies that never came true so I decided to create a third category: Missed opportunities. And they really are "missed opportunities" rather than "wishful thinking" or "fantasies" in most cases. These are stories or scenes that I genuinely feel could (and some *should*) have come out of the existing narrative, mythology and/or character arcs. (OK, fine, a few are pure wish fulfillment fantasies. See: Numbers seven and eight.)

Each section is listed in order of the most glaring (either in their egregiousness or yearning) in my opinion as a viewer. And because I am eternally this show's bitch, I also offered up a devil's advocate position on some (most) of these points—if possible (almost always so). Being me, this wound up a lot longer than originally intended so I have separated each section into three parts. My major unresolved issues can be found in this post. (And an aside... once these are done, as promised, I will be working on a few more posts in a Vampire Diaries appreciation bonanza.)

Alrighty then, let's get to it…

YOU'RE UNDEAD TO ME (i.e., Major Unresolved Issues)

Disturbing Behavior

Of everything related to The Vampire Diaries, I think I would honestly bypass all of my other issues and just brush them aside if it meant that the Alaric Saltzman we saw upon his return from the Other Side was the same Alaric Saltzman we knew and loved before his death. The Alaric who was Damon Salvatore's best friend; the Alaric who was a father figure to not only Elena and Jeremy, but Bonnie and Matt as well. The Alaric who was a freaking bad-ass vampire-hunter... who just happened to work with vampires on a regular basis. Instead, the Alaric who returned was some pod-Ric who became fixated on a woman he knew for a brief amount of time to the point of ignoring his friends in need. When Damon came back from the alternate world, Ric no longer treated him like his best friend. He didn't seem to care about Damon's pain regarding Elena's memory loss, nor was he sorry for the situation. But it wasn't just Damon who no longer appeared to matter. Neither did Elena, Jeremy, Bonnie… not a one of them mattered compared to Jo. This lack of caring continued in seasons 07 and 08, more understandably, with his focus almost exclusively on his daughters. However, he made decisions in the name of protecting the twins that came across as unjust… especially to Damon. I'm talking about, of course, when Alaric murdered his best friend despite the fact that he was the one who saved his daughters.

With little hope as the series drew near its conclusion that Alaric would mend things with Damon and apologize for his behavior, I began to wish that he'd never come back from the dead. And that made me sad because I had wanted his return so very much from the moment we lost him. However, the show had done something that I find hard to fathom. They had taken from the character the three main things that made him so fantastic. The fact that he was a teacher by day and a supernatural combatant by night. It was so awesome seeing him interacting with these teenagers in the classroom, drawing that line between how he treated them then as opposed to when they were all embroiled in the chaos together outside of school. He was an Indiana Jones-type without being just a rip-off, charming, sarcastic, smart, curious, open-minded with a big heart. When he came back from the Other Side, sure he was a Professor at the college, but except for a few handful of scenes in the first batch of episodes, we didn't get to see that side of him. Furthermore, because of his relationship with Jo, he decided to forgo the supernatural side work.

Then there was that relationship he had with those teenagers. It wasn't just with Elena and Jeremy to whom Alaric was a father figure. He was also that for Bonnie, and to a lesser degree, Matt. Yet, since he came back, those kids just didn't seem to matter all that much to him anymore. It felt like once he became involved with Jo, Elena, Bonnie and Damon, no longer mattered. Ah, yes, Damon… arguably the thing that fans most loved about Alaric Saltzman was his friendship with Damon Salvatore. From the moment he and Damon re-connected in season 06, Ric was unsympathetic and downright mean, unwilling to see Damon's point of view on anything and unwilling to look for or concede that Damon was not always the bad guy.

Because of the loss of those three key components of his character, I just didn't love the returned-from-the-Other-Side-version of Alaric Saltzman nearly as much as I did the earlier version. (Don't get me wrong, I still love him... just not even nearly as much.)

The Reckoning: I think there are two logistical reasons plus one casting that explain the bulk of what happened with the change in Alaric's character. Alas, I do also think that there was a failure in the writing that could have overcome those reasons. However, seeing this in hindsight is a lot easier than when in the midst of writing a television show with all of its moving parts. Therefore, I am very willing to cut what happened with Alaric a lot more slack than I was before I analyzed this whole situation. To state the obvious, yes, obviously, I could very well be wrong in my presumptions here but it makes sense and now the Alaric characterization works in a way that it hadn't for me before. And that makes me happy as a viewer so I'm going with it.

Starting with season 06, I had come up with the theory that the change in Alaric's behavior—mostly in how he treated Damon and was distancing himself from those who were vampire-sympathizers once he was human—was tied to his time on the Other Side and his conversion by Esther. This was reinforced by the fact that Damon openly had an issue with him and flat-out asked him:
Damon: Can I ask why we continuously compromise logic for some girl you just met?
It was such a bold statement that laid out that something—definitely, absolutely *something*—was afoot. Damon, after all, was the show's truth-teller. Furthermore, I had literally compiled a list of questionable Ric behaviors because there was so much hinky going on with him. I speculated that Esther's anti-vampire agenda was triggered once he became human again. I even tied this with his compulsion of Elena. I thought that perhaps he had to die again (with vampire blood in his system) and this time choose to become a vampire to break free of Esther's control. Of course, when he died... the compulsion would end as well.

As the season carried on and nothing pointed to this happening, I lost faith that Esther's influence had any role in Ric's behavior. I wonder now if Steven R. McQueen's unexpected departure from the series is why that aspect of the storyline changed. When the season was broken down, Jeremy was not supposed to leave at the midway point; McQueen asked to be let out of his contract and Julie Plec and co. obliged him. But in doing so, they had to scramble and rewrite whatever his story was supposed to have been. Being a Hunter—which would have been very much tied to the Esther agenda—may have very well been a part of the planned Alaric storyline. A lot of season 06 was a re-do of stories in season 03 with different outcomes. One of the season 03 stories was Alaric being controlled by Esther and that included him leaving a letter for Jeremy in which he instructed him to hunt and kill vampires.

Tying Alaric following Esther's directive—even subconsciously at this point—with Jeremy's role as a Hunter would have been an awesome way of re-telling that season 03 tale. Plus, it would have given Jeremy a great story. However, when McQueen left, that arc had to be re-thought and without a Hunter around at all, they likely figured it was better to just drop it. That explains the out-of-character actions of Alaric sending Jeremy off to hunt vampires behind Elena's back. If that were part of a bigger story, it would make sense. I always thought it felt unfinished, lacking any kind of closure. Keeping that scene as it was, I understand why, though. So much of the story must have been mapped out and written already when McQueen made his request and the show had to pick and choose what to keep and scrap with what limited time they had to work with. The decision was likely made that Alaric looking out for Jeremy's desires would have to suffice in explanation for his actions.

Then the show had to figure out how to move forward with a story for Alaric Saltzman. It wasn't until the following season was nearly at its conclusion before I believe I figured out their plan B was one that played out in season 06 with Jo and had a follow-through arc in season 07 with Caroline. The reason it took so long for me to figure it out is because of two things. The first was the casting of Jo Laughlin. I just feel that Jodi Lyn O'Keefe's Jo lacked a warmth and connection with not only Matt Davis' Alaric, but other cast members as well that made it difficult for the character to work with the Scooby Gang. Secondly, there was the confusion over just who Jo was—she was either a tough-as-nails hard-ass or a weepie damsel-in-distress, it went back and forth with little rhyme or reason. Then there was her lack of integration with the rest of the cast; frankly it was pathetic. (Yes, more on that character is coming up in part 2 of this series.) I think the show wanted this beautifully tragic love story for Ric, one in which he tried to live a normal life. Unfortunately, this didn't work for me (and I think the same was the case for more viewers than not) because I don't think that Davis and O'Keefe had much chemistry. And again, and more importantly, I don't think that Jo worked as well as she should have as a character.

Their love story was beautifully written, but without the chemistry and without the character of Jo working, the overall story didn't work. However, if that hadn't been the case—the latter way more than the former—this arc for Alaric would have been a wonderful one for the character, actor and the viewers. We would have indeed had this beautifully tragic love story with Alaric Saltzman as a 'Regular Ric' in season 06, followed by season 07 giving us his attempt to recapture that guy with Caroline before the real "Indiana Alaric" came busting through. Alas, Jo and Alaric did not work for me, and Jo Laughlin did not work me. But we did see Ric finding that adventurous spirit in season 08 once more with his take-over of the Armory. We also did see his concern for the others in his life again. There were scenes prior to the murder of Damon that showed that. He spent time with Stefan discussing the situation with Damon. He was at the funeral with the others for Tyler. He felt for Matt, was with the group for Tyler's carnival post-funeral gathering. He was pro-Caroline and Stefan, and on Stefan's side. He was a good friend to Bonnie. He did put his girls' first, but they are his young children… that is completely understandable. Due to my frustration over how he treated Damon after the kidnapping and what he believed was Damon's part, I conveniently ignored all of that.

Looking back and taking into account many little scenes and bits of dialogue, I now think there is a logistical reason behind the overt lack of resolution with Alaric and Damon—thus hanging over Alaric's character period. The Vampire Diaries' renewal was announced in mid-March 2016. The episode count of 16 was announced at Comic Con in early July 2016. We know from past seasons and interviews that Julie Plec and the writing staff begin breaking down the season, plotting their arcs, storylines, etc. in May. So Plec and co. would have already had the season planned out... a 22-episode season per usual. But then... oops! Nope, take six episodes off that and suddenly there needs to be some storyline crunching. Methinks that Alaric and Damon's bromance trials and tribulations—alas, as well as part of Damon's forgiveness trek—was one of those lost in trimming. Think of it, *such* a huge deal was made from Damon about Alaric murdering him. He kept using that word about the action. In addition, Sybil flat-out told Caroline that she and *Damon* made the deal to save the twins. So, the information was out there. It also explains why we had seemingly pointless details about Sybil's mind control prowess and how Enzo was able to withstand her. She spoke of it, and Enzo and Bonnie had a conversation about his ability that just regurgitated information we already knew—and was a discussion the two should have had some time in the three years they fell in love. (See below.)

If we'd had a regular 22-episode season, Enzo's time as an Augustine vampire and what was done to him and how he was able to resist Sybil versus Damon would have come up. That would have helped soften the others as to why Damon was unable to break free. Alas, we lost six episodes and so that was likely dropped but why Enzo managed to overcome the Siren stayed. As for Alaric and Damon, as we hit what would have been the mid-season of a regular 22-episode one, Alaric began to soften to Damon—in episode 8.12 ("What Are You?"). I mean, look at his inability to resist Damon's flirting.


Given 10 more episodes to go there would have been no problem resolving their issues. I think that is why there was such an emphasis on Damon's anger with the fact that Alaric murdered him. That is why Caroline (but no one else at that point) knew that Damon was co-sponsor of the deal. And that is why Ric wasn't in Damon's big forgiveness episode whereas we saw him make amends with everyone else. This was done because there was likely an intention to devote some good, meaty screen time to resolving their issues. After all, the damage to Damon and Alaric's friendship was more severe than his to Bonnie's and Matt's, and he and Caroline had a different type of relationship. Plus, the badass!bromance has been in full swing the entire length of the show, even in the two seasons where Ric wasn't around, his BFF status with Damon wasn't forgotten. So, a more in-depth exploration of their friendship woes made sense… and was likely planned for that 22-episode length season.

Instead, right on top of Alaric seeming to give in to Damon's charms, Kai showed up, the boys dealt with Cade, Enzo was murdered, Stefan became human, Kai revealed the truth about Katherine. Stefan and Caroline's wedding took place. There was Kelly and Vicki and the Hellfire and the town evacuation, etc. It all hit boom! Boom! Boom! There was no time for soft, mushy feelings of exploration between Damon and Alaric because things had to be wrapped up in four more episodes rather than ten. So, yeah, perhaps when the writing came down to it, there was just too much plot and major story loose ends that needed to be tied up so the Ric/Damon resolution was dropped. I'm wondering if the thought was that Ric's big speech about friendship and family that began with that reference to Damon, and the comment to Caroline that he did care about both him and Elena in the finale would have to be enough. Just looking back at that speech of his in the penultimate episode…
Alaric: Did I ever tell you why I came to Mystic Falls? I was hunting Damon. He had killed my first wife. Then I found out he had turned her, and that was what she wanted. Eventually, I got past that.
Dorian: How?
Alaric: I guess I didn't have the energy to hate somebody forever. We've all made terrible mistakes in our lives. Done things that no apology can heal. But you just have to keep going. Try to find some new happiness. No matter how much you've lost. The strange thing is losing those people is what brought us together. It's how we found each other. It's what made us a family.
Look at the bolded lines. The speech begins about Damon. The focus is on Damon, his best friend. And the second batch of bold doesn't especially seem to apply to Alaric himself despite that he includes himself by saying "we" *unless* you realize that he is thinking of Damon and what he did to him. He murdered his best friend who was not only under the control of the Devil's minion when he had committed his misdeed, but it had been a mistake since Damon was the one who saved his daughters' souls. And that is something that no apology should be able to heal… but just like he forgave Damon for things he had done, Damon would do the same for him because they are family. Taking in those words with the sense that Damon and Alaric had reconciled, the speech makes so much more sense and has so much more resonance.

Now, having a line or two of dialogue dealing with this misunderstanding (see section 2) and different casting or, more importantly, better characterization of Jo could have helped considerably overall with my Alaric issues…. However, I am hoping that when I do my re-watch, bearing all of the above in mind, those issues will be mostly alleviated.

I Alone

I'm still not sure what the heck anyone in the writer's room was thinking when they concocted the whole conclusion to the Bonnie and Enzo love story (more on those two below). That (a) Bonnie would casually decide on her own to just take the cure from Elena's body without discussing it with anyone; and (b) that Caroline wouldn't be furious with Bonnie for doing so. Both were wholly out of character. Aside from being out of character, the idea and the action she took itself was just, plainly put, wrong. It was nothing less than a violation of Elena's person. In fact, the very reason they had Bonnie put the spell over Elena's coffin was to keep anyone getting to her and taking the cure from her in such a vulnerable state. Taking Elena's blood for the cure from her 'Sleeping Beauty' cursed body without her knowledge, without her permission, and against her already expressed wishes was a violation. Period. Not to mention the fact that it was a betrayal of the wishes of two of her three best friends (Elena and Damon).

Sure, had Bonnie held onto the cure when she got it back in 1994, it would have been her right to decide what to do with it. However, she made the decision to give it to Damon *for Elena.* Once she handed that over, Bonnie no longer had say in who reaped its benefits. It then became Elena's decision… and she already made it. To give Damon the cure. That actually tied into Caroline telling Damon that the cure was not his to lose because "it is in Elena's blood." Right… in Elena's blood. Therefore, Bonnie had no right to it. Only Elena did, except Elena already made a decision as to whom that cure in her blood went to: Damon. So, Caroline, was wrong. It *was* his to lose… and most certainly *not* Bonnie's to steal.

Now, obviously, I agree that in the Cade situation, yes, Elena would agree that it was necessary to save them all (and all the countless people who would die thanks to Cade's deal). Superseding Elena's already-expressed wish for the cure to go to Damon would make sense then. That would not be so much a violation because every single person who knows her knows that she would agree. So, uhm, why didn't the writers go with that discussion instead? That would have made so much more sense and accomplished the same endgame goal which clearly was to set up the ooh!shocker of Stefan getting the cure. I do not get it.

Oh, and putting aside the moral implications, it was also damn foolhardy. Enzo taking Elena's cured blood with the idea that Damon could just then take his blood 60, 70 years down the road, no big, was just ludicrous in its naïveté. There was a whole slew of possibilities that could lead to Damon losing his future with Elena. Hmm, maybe that's why Bonnie didn't discuss it with Damon and Caroline because otherwise how would they (OK, Damon) not point out all of the possible issues with the plan? Oh, right, there's no way that they (OK, Damon) would not have. Such issues like, oh, say if Elena woke up well before Bonnie died thus necessitating Enzo having to give Damon the cure so he could have his human happy-ever-after with Elena. Or what if the cure could only be transferred once? Or if Enzo died before Damon could get his blood? There were so many issues with the plan. And Damon—who is not a moron—would have picked up on quite a few of them and thus nipped that little plan in the bud. So, it wasn't discussed because generally the show tries to be logical (even when dealing with supernatural stuffs). Instead, they just went with going completely out of character storytelling to set-up this plot point. *Ugh*

The Reckoning: I mentioned above that certain story arcs likely had to be dropped due to the episode order dipping from 22 to 16. I wonder if a Bonnie-character-arc was one that fell through the cracks. I made much mention throughout the season of my lack of appreciation for the writing of the Bonnie and Enzo love story. I felt that there was so much of their romance that was told and not shown and that was so very much unlike The Vampire Diaries. Even couples that I'm not terribly fond of—Stefan and Elena, Matt and Caroline, Caroline and Tyler, Jo and Alaric—I could appreciate the writing of their romance, even if they were doomed ones. I could see the whys and wherefores of their love. I got it. The beats were there. This was just not the case with Bonnie and Enzo.

Because of this I began to speculate that their romance wasn't about the two of them at all, but rather about the character of Bonnie herself. This theory began to form after episode 10—which would have left us with 12 more to go were it a regular-sized season. I wanted to believe that we were getting an exceptional story for Bonnie to close the series out, and while reviewing earlier episode write-ups of the season I found something that pointed to that very possibility. In episode 02, I wrote this about her scenes with Enzo:
That has really been one of the hallmarks of this show. Well-written love stories, the only flaws have been intended as in couples not meant to be, lack of chemistry between actors (beyond the fault of writers), and changes behind the scene… (sigh, my beloved Matt and Rebekah). I bring this up because of not only how well the Stefan/Caroline romance has been written (not to mention Damon and Elena… sigh), but also the Bonnie and Enzo scenes in this episode.

Yes, yes, I've made it clear I'm not exactly a big fan, but I've also made it clear I put that down to chemistry. I just don't personally think that Kat Graham and Michael Malarkey have sparkling chemistry to write home about. I wish they did; I really do because I loved, *loved* their scenes in this episode. And, as I mentioned in the write-up for the last episode, I enjoyed how Enzo was leaving clues for Bonnie and I did like their episode last season where they fell in love. (Although, I still think 'falling in love' in that kind of atmosphere can be questionable… but it can work.)

My point is that writing-wise, I've been more than willing to be swept away by Bonnie and Enzo's story because firstly I want Bonnie to be happy. I LOVE Bonnie. She has been one of my favorite characters from the very beginning. And if the writers have decided that Enzo is *it* for her, then OK, Enzo is it for her. And I like Enzo; I think he deserves some happiness too. Plus, I do think that the characters mesh well together. Secondly, overall, I do like the writing of their love story. It does have a poetic beauty to it.
Those feelings in addition to my thought process on their scenes in episode 05 is why my theory began to percolate:
With the exception of the uber-cheese of the fiery kiss, I thought that the Bonnie and Enzo scenes were also really, really well-done. Especially how she succeeded. While I am not a big Bonnie/Enzo fan—gee, really?—I did find Bonnie flipping Enzo's switch (where Stefan had failed to turn Damon's) good stuff. Bonnie figuring out that the way to get Enzo back was to prove that unlike everyone else she would never leave him was really good. It touched not only upon Enzo's issues, but how Bonnie can so completely understand that because people leave her all the time too. Having Bonnie show such complete and utter devotion by literally risking death to bring Enzo back was powerful. And so in character for Bonnie. I ♥ her so. (I just wish that I ♥ ed her and Enzo. Fifteen episodes, show! You had fifteen episodes before the three-year time jump to develop the pair. *sigh*)
In the three episodes between those two, my issues with the couple were clearly growing, but I still liked their scenes… a great deal even. However, I was surprised to go back and read how much I had liked them despite the fact that I was so over the couple already. So, I started to analyze away and it became obvious why I did. What worked so much for me was all about Bonnie, Bonnie's pain, Bonnie being left behind again, Bonnie refusing to be the one who leaves someone behind, etc. All. About. Bonnie. And thus my theory was born. I believed—or rather hoped—that the final season would bring us a wonderful story arc for the character that would explore that aspect of Bonnie where she was always giving, giving, giving and losing, losing, losing and what effect that had on her. And now her Enzo-shaped tunnel-vision had become a symbol of her fighting for what was hers at last.

Bonnie had spent most of the season—really until his death—not thinking about anything or anyone but Enzo beyond a moment in the here and now. And that wasn't only proven to us time and again throughout the season, but we actually got a line of dialogue that referenced that very thing in episode 10. After peeking into Bonnie's mind, Sybil told Caroline this little truth:
Caroline: I have 100% confidence in Bonnie.
Sybil: I'm not sure the feeling is mutual. I shouldn't be telling you this 'cause I snatched it out of her head, but who am I kidding? It'll wound you deeply, so it'll be fun. If Bonnie was really your bestie, don't you think she would have told you that she's planning to give Enzo the cure?
Caroline: She wants to give the cure to Enzo? {Fakes an unconcerned laugh} She asked for my advice. We just got a little distracted.
Sybil: Always the case when it comes to the things she wants, isn't it?
This led me to check past episode write-ups and I found mention in three separate ones about Bonnie's desire for all things Enzo St. John to the exclusion of all else—hmm, like Alaric with Jo, almost as if the writers wanted a chance to redo that story, but do it right! At that point, I thought either I was going overboard with my analysis or this was something that had been deliberately building throughout the season and it would be culminating in Bonnie's "cure for Enzo" plan coming into the light.

Alas, that did not happen. Rather, Bonnie's plan played out exactly as she intended with Caroline on-board without complaint, Damon offering up just a bit of resistance before Cade and Stefan done messed it all up with their evil ways. No one called her out on her tunnel-vision about Enzo. No one discussed with her the fact that just maybe she was being a wee bit selfish in this scenario here. The whole 'Bonnie's all wrapped up in Enzo to the exclusion of just about everything else' focus just fell away. However, do you know what did remain? This speech from Bonnie to Damon when he did talk to her about giving the cure to Cade.
Bonnie: I finally have Enzo, minus all the insanity. We're gonna start a life together. We need the cure to do that, and we know it'll work on him exactly as intended, no question marks. Besides, what if you're wrong?
Damon: Then I lose everything, too. But there's more at stake here than just you or me or Enzo.
Bonnie: You understand what you're asking me to do? Well, at least I'm asking.
Damon: You were just gonna give Enzo the cure without telling me.
Bonnie: Sorry, I just wanted to put myself first, for once. I just wanted to be happy.
Damon: You know what I want us to both be? Alive. But we're all out of options.
Bonnie: There has to be a loophole.
Damon: This is the loophole. I hate it, too, Bonnie. I hate that this is all my fault, but I got us into this mess, and I'm gonna get us out. You still with me, Bon?
Bonnie: Yeah.
Damon: Is that a 'Yes, I'm with you. We'll take down Cade together?'
Bonnie: I said yes, okay? We'll do it. We'll rescue everyone but ourselves, again!
It had a different take than was probably originally imagined—what with Damon being more conciliatory and being about giving the cure to Cade—but it was still a follow-through to a degree on the aspect of Bonnie wanting to do for her. Like with the Alaric speech in the penultimate episode, I imagine this may have been an effort to put a gloss of closure on a story arc that wasn't able to fully breathe and climax due to the shortened season.

In addition, with the series finishing wrapping in mid-February as opposed to mid-April, plans to include Nina Dobrev as Elena (and Katherine) in more episodes may have also effected the cure storyline conclusion. Dobrev was available in April, but in February she had to squeeze in filming around her promotional duties for XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. It's possible. Regardless, as much as I adore this show and as much leeway as I give it and its very talented showrunners and creative team, the story they came up with did a disservice to the character of my beloved Bonnie Bennett (violating her best friend's very person!). There simply is no justification. Ah well.

True Lies

Like with quite a few of the issues on this list (and the ones in part 2—minor unresolved issues), I believe what happened here was because of behind-the-scenes upheaval. Namely, the greenlight of the spin-off of The Originals thus precipitating the departure of Joseph Morgan's Klaus from The Vampire Diaries. I actually didn't have a problem with the concept of the sire bond between Damon and Elena at all. In fact, I thought it was awesomely brilliant. Whether real or not, I loved it. It was clear to me—if real—that Elena's feelings for Damon were real as she was acting like herself, and her feelings for Damon weren't that much different than they'd been before she turned. Not to mention that Tyler—the only other sire bonded individual we knew—flat-out said that the sire bond doesn't change how you feel.

And if not real, it was just as brilliant because it then just allowed some delicious angst keeping Damon and Elena apart while letting the others in their group get used to the idea that Damon and Elena were in love, or rather that Elena was in love with Damon. It was a thing, this was an idea they were going to have to get used to. Including Stefan. So, when it was revealed to not be real, well, Stefan (and co.) had spent most of the season already dealing with so many feelings of ‘ohnoes! Damon and Elena doing the nasty! Ohnoes! Elena caught teh feelings for the big bad Damon!' and were mostly in the acceptance phase. See, brilliant!

My issue was not with the sire bond at all in any way. No, see my issue was with the execution of the sire bond and how it did not make one teeny, tiny bit of sense. The logistics of how it worked kept changing from episode to episode. The sire bond controlled Elena's actions or didn't. It was exactly what Damon said, as in the exact, technical meaning, but, wait, no, it wasn't that… it was what Damon implied when he said something to Elena. Erm, no, not that either. Really, it was what Damon wanted. No, nope, no. What it really, *really* was… was what Damon said that he wanted even though it really wasn't what he wanted. Or, I don't know… something, something—writer X wrote this Y episode and writer Y wrote episode X, maybe? I guess. I'm still not sure because there was absolutely zero sense in how the sire bond was employed.

There was so much that Elena did, wanted to do, etc. of her own agency that had nothing to with Damon literally telling her what to do. For example, Damon told her to compel the student at Whitmore. Did she do so? Nope, she went about her own way and set her free. Did he tell her to kill Connor? Yes. On the other hand, did she want to go after Connor first and save Jeremy using her own strength well before Damon said anything? Absolutely. Did he tell her to turn off her humanity switch? Yes. Was that maybe something she would have done to stop the ginormous amount of pain she was feeling just because he suggested it, period? You know, maybe.

The bottom-line is that it just couldn't possibly have been real when there were so many inconsistencies galore. It made no sense. Which leads us to…

The Reckoning: I think it was the sun-and-moon curse all over again. So many things about that curse didn't track for a reason. They didn't make sense and instead of questioning why it didn't make sense, viewers either hand-waved it away and loved it, or nit-picked at those inconsistencies and called the writers stupid and hated it. The sire bond was the exact same thing, in my opinion. I looked at all the inconsistencies, saw what made sense, what worked, and the only thing that made sense and worked was that, like the sun-and-moon curse, it wasn't real.

Hmm, and what did the sun-and-moon curse and the sire bond have in common at their inception? Ooh, I know! Klaus Mikaelson. Yes, indeed. And he was so very gleeful when hinting at the sire bond to Caroline, wasn't he? And really, he just pulled that whole sire bond theory all at the ready out of nowhere, didn't he? He really didn't have a reason to suspect it, but he was so sure. Why? Oh, maybe because he set it up. Just like he and Elijah had set up the sun-and-moon curse all those centuries ago. It worked once, why not do it again? Of course, he didn't have Elijah as his helper this time, so he used Professor Atticus Shane. Yes, that's right… good ole' Shane. Remember him? Let's do a recap of the timeline of events and tell me that this theory doesn't hold water.

01.) Klaus wanted Elena to be a human so he could continue to build his hybrid army.
02.) Damon didn't care if Elena was human or not. Of course, Klaus knew that.
03.) Stefan did care if Elena was human or not and wanted her to get back there. Of course, Klaus knew that too.
04.) Klaus introduced the idea of the sire bond to Caroline.
05.) Klaus knew that Stefan—on the outs with Damon and Elena—would only have Caroline to turn to and thus would get that tidbit from her because he knew…
06.) … that Caroline was Team!Stefan when it came to who was better for Elena: Stefan or Damon.
07.) Klaus knew that if Stefan thought Elena was not willingly with Damon, and restoring her humanity was the only way to break that bond, he'd work even harder to do so.
08.) Caroline and Stefan didn't want her with Damon and accepted the theory as fact with little push.
09.) Stefan presented this "fact" to Damon.
10.) Normally, Damon would be quick to see through any logical inconsistencies, but when his emotions are heavily clouded, his quick reasoning skills go the way side. Especially when it involves his low self-esteem and his belief that no one would ever, could ever choose him willingly. So, he believed it, and used Stefan's test (and only that one) to prove or disprove it.
11.) Caroline spilled to Elena, presenting it as "fact."
12.) Again, because of the emotions involved, both Elena and Damon took it as fact instead of using logic to reason through things.
13.) Klaus told Stefan that he "intuited" the sire bond between Damon and Elena. Note the use of that word.
14.) Hayley was working with Shane, and had an unheard tête-à-tête with Klaus thus connecting Shane with Klaus. Stefan saw the two talking, but Klaus adroitly deflected any possible interest in why he was speaking with her by bringing up Stefan's inner demons.
15.) Klaus slaughtered the hybrids just like Shane wanted. Ergo, Klaus and Shane were working together.
16.) Shane was at the Lake House with Damon and Elena; while there he pointed out to Elena that Damon was very "intuitive" (much like Klaus "intuited" the sire bond—same word choice).
17.) Shane also made a point to let Elena (and the audience) know that he was aware that she and Damon had a sire bond. *
18.) Damon made it a point to reference Shane's hypnotism more than a few times, thus reminding viewers of that skill set of his.
19.) Damon wanted to kill Shane, threatened to do it more than once (which we were also reminded of). Elena had the biggest sway over Damon. If someone wanted to stop Damon from threatening to kill him like lots, their best bet would be to get Elena on their side.
20.) There were chunks of time not seen at the Lake House where Shane and Elena could have had plenty of conversations where Shane hypnotized her to trust him (which she told Damon that she did), and also to input some suggestion wherein she would obey Damon's direct commands to her. **

* This explained why Bonnie would tell Shane that Damon and Elena have a sire bond, and why Shane would randomly bring this up to Elena.

** Such as... That *one* time that Elena did listen to Damon supposedly due to the sire bond. It was after she'd spent some alone time with Professor Atticus 'hypnotism-is-my-thang' Shane. This is exactly what Damon says to her: "You're gonna go home. I'm gonna stay here with Jeremy, I'm gonna help him complete the mark, I'll teach him how to hunt, I'll protect him, and we'll kill vampires without you. I'm setting you free Elena. This is what I want. This is what will make me happy." Other than saying he and Jeremy will "kill vampires without you," the only direct command to her was "You're gonna go home." Everything else was "I." It's about what he was going to do, how he was going to react, not a direct command to her.

All of the above explains the basics of the Klaus/Shane team-up. If Klaus and Shane were working together, then obviously there was a bigger picture at play they were trying to hide. Keeping a good number of the key players focused on the sire bond issue (as Klaus knew it would do so for Damon, Stefan and Elena, and because of Elena, likely Caroline and Bonnie as well), would have kept them (especially Damon, the smarts of the group) occupied and not looking at that bigger picture. And in order to put all of that into play, it only took Klaus assuming things about the group and that's easy enough since he always watched and observed what was going on. And the things he would have needed to know (Damon would accept Elena no matter what, Stefan wanted a human!Elena, Stefan and Caroline were close) were not that difficult to figure out at all.

Shane's reason did have to do with Silas (but probably more than just his wife), and Klaus because he wanted Elena to get the cure so he could have his hybrid-making blood bag back. However, when The Originals was green-lit that plan was dropped, thus the Klaus/Shane creation of the sire bond ala the sun-and-moon curse angle was scrapped as well. Which left the show with a sire bond that now had to be "real" even though it didn't make a lick of sense. For me? Because it didn't make sense, I just went with my original theory. Klaus did make it up, but when New Orleans beckoned, that was more important to him and he just left those silly Virginians to stew in their misery. Besides, Meredith never said that she gave Elena Damon's vampire blood and we know that she had another vampire's blood besides his. I just always figured that she simply added Damon's to her already existing stockpile and Elena was saved by some random vampire's blood. :shrug:

One Way Or Another

I love Stefan Salvatore. Lots. Like plenty, plenty lots. I do not love Alexia Branson. Like at all. Even a little bit. With that said, I have the very same issue regarding both. Stefan and Lexi's treatment of someone they purport to love is just not cool. And it will likely always bother me that neither were never called on it. Let's start with my boo, Stefan. (And, no, I'm not talking about his conduct with his brother—those two both did terrible, no-good things to one another often enough that I'm not going to ding one over the other. Not playing favorites. Psst, but Damon is my favorite!)

After Elena realized that Stefan was a vampire, he told her that he would "explain everything." He did not. He failed to mention that his ex of 145-some years ago looked just like Elena and that he still kept her picture lying around to pull out and gaze at every now and then. He also didn't tell her that he'd saved her life at her dying father's behest a few months earlier in that nasty car accident that had upended her world. Oh, and speaking of her dying father… about that. Stefan likewise failed to let his sweet, sweet girlfriend in on the fact that daddy dearest wasn't actually her dad, but rather that she'd been adopted. Well, I mean, he did tell her… but only when he was forced to do so. But see, that was just how Stefan Salvatore rolled when it came to Elena. He only told her stuff—and then only what he *absolutely* had to—when he was backed into a corner and had to spill.

The bottom-line is that Stefan was just pretty dang selfish overall when it came to her. Going all the way back to the very beginning of their relationship. It's because of Stefan that a fresh batch of nasty stuffs came into her life (and Mystic Falls, if truth be told). If he truly cared, if he truly was the good guy that he appeared to be, wouldn't he have walked away? Especially once she found out that he and Damon were vampires? But nope. Because "selfish" was the key word when it came to Stefan and his love for Elena. But, I guess we couldn't blame him, right? He just had "to know her" after all, right? Knowing about Katherine and his caginess, that first bit of dialogue from him had more than a touch of creepiness and selfishness to it in retrospect. Let's take a closer look at the introduction to Stefan Salvatore:
Stefan: I shouldn't have come home. I know the risk. But I had no choice. I have to know her.
And now with commentary. "I shouldn't have come home." Duh! "I know the risk." Again, duh! And yet he still did it. He knows that he shouldn't have come back, but he still did it. "But I had no choice." See, that's it. Yes, he did. He had a choice to not come home, to not involve that innocent girl and her innocent friends in this supernatural deadly crazy. But he made the very specific choice to come home and involve her and them and this town in all of it. "I have to know her." No. No, you don't Stefan. Again, that was him making a choice to do so. Selfish, selfish, selfish. Now let's look at his words and actions once she found out he was a vampire. In addition to claiming he would explain everything (which he so did not do), he also said that he wouldn't scare her, and that he would let her choose. All of those things, Stefan said… as he invaded her room after she ran from him, after he vampire-zoomed up in her face, after he kept important information from her that would have a significant impact on her. He played the hero and said all the right things, but his actions didn't match up to his words.

Oh, and then came the pièce de résistance: After the car accident, Stefan spent the next few months literally stalking Elena. Stefan Salvatore was a stalker. He spent much of his relationship with Elena telling her half-truths, keeping things from her, being all cagey and prior to that, he literally stalked her for months. And he was never, ever called on the carpet for it. Not once. Not ever. Never, ever, ever. He was a TERRIBLE boyfriend to Elena. Oh, and did I mention that he was a stalker?! A stalker. He stalked her. why? All so that he could make sure that she was good enough for him. You know, he was making sure she was the "good parts" version of Katherine. And there was never, ever any acknowledgement from anyone ever that what he did was bad, wrong, not good. *sigh* Now, don't get me wrong, I completely understand why Elena didn't see it. Stefan brought her out of the metaphorical darkness. She would always see him through rose-colored glasses, but that other than a snipe or two from Matt, no one else called him out on that shit was just not cool. So not cool.

Just like I find his best friend's treatment of her best friend so not cool. We'll take the lesser of Lexi's two evils first. It was not Katherine Pierce that kept Stefan and Damon from finding their way back to each other for nearly a century and a half. Nope, the guilty party would be Lexi. She was the one who sent Damon on his merry way shortly after meeting the recently turned vampires and decided that of the two only Stefan deserved to be saved. She then took every opportunity to sow discord between the two and make Stefan think the worst of his brother (see: "We'll Always Have Bourbon Street"). If you think I'm crazy, well, note how Lexi was taken out of the picture while Katherine was still around and yet… well, whaddya know, the brothers were finally able to find their way back to one another.

Yup, even though both had teh feelings for Elena, they were still functioning better than they had in decades. What was new to the equation? Yuppers, Lexi was gone. She was the one who had been fueling Stefan's issues with Damon*and* the one who had kept him from actually dealing with his blood issues, thus creating the Ripper that became Stefan. Oh, yes, this would be the bigger of her two evils. Lexi's method of "fixing" Stefan involved her literally torturing him to make him stop ripping. She forced him to be a good boy. He never learned moderation; he never did it on his own. His best friend simply tortured him into it so it was never a choice that he made himself. Of course, he kept falling off the wagon! *ugh*

And like with my frustration over the fact that Stefan was never called out on what a bad, bad boyfriend he was to Elena, Lexi's torture-method of "fixing" Stefan and how she kept the brothers' separated was never pointed out. Grrr.

The Reckoning: While there really is no justification for Lexi never being called out by anyone ever for her torture method of "fixing" Stefan or dismissal of Damon and how she kept the brothers separated, I must confess that if one looks hard enough, Stefan did get called out (to a degree of sorts) at least once. From Elena, no less. Which actually makes sense. Because when you think about it, it could only be *from* Elena since no one else had any idea just how lousy a boyfriend Stefan was to Elena. The others didn't know about his stalking, his half-truths, his projected awesomeness that was less than who he actually was, or even the things he did when he was (or wasn't) humanity-switch flipped. As far as the audience knows, Elena never told anyone any of those things. Other than him choosing to save Matt over Elena in the car crash—which was her choice and one she defended—there wasn't a negative of Stefan's that the others actually knew about.

As for the one time that a reference was made to his less-than-stellar qualities, well, that would have been in the very episode where Elena broke up with him. It was only one line, but that line meant a lot to me. I had actually spent the summer hiatus after season 03 trying to figure out what the show could do in the upcoming season that would deal with my biggest issue. That issue being Elena continually letting all that Stefan had done and continued to do just slide. How could I possibly justify that and not question the show itself? After coming to the conclusion that most of my problem was wrapped up in my own disappointed expectation–an expectation that was a creation of my own making and not the show's fault–I realized that there was one thing that could resolve things for me. If it was in some way referenced, addressed, even just one line pointed to why I thought Elena let it slide, I would be happy.

So what did I think? I could justify Elena letting Stefan get away with all he did because in her mind, there was also an expiration date on their relationship. So she let his misdeeds, lies, etc. go because she did love him and because he was her anchor; he brought her back to life after her parents' died. But… and this was key, she always knew it wasn't forever despite her "always Stefan." She believed that they had two, three years tops–as Stefan himself made very clear back in "History Repeating"–so she just wanted to appreciate the good they had had and not dwell on the bad. That worked for me, but I needed something from the writers that indicated that maybe, just maybe they got that too. In "We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes," it appeared that they did after Stefan tried to force Elena to listen to him, to turn to him for help.
Stefan: Elena. Hey. Listen, I know you're still upset about yesterday and I get it, believe me, but just let me help you.
Elena: I don't want your help right now, Stefan.
Stefan: But you'll accept Damon's?
Elena: Don't make this about Damon. You've been working with Klaus doing God knows what, and don't insult me by trying to deny it.
Stefan: Listen, it's not what you think, okay?
Elena: I don't know what to think, but I do know that I don't want to talk to you and I don't really wanna be around you right now. {Stefan grabs her arm.}
Stefan: Please just...
Elena: {She rips her arm out of his grasp.} No! {She holds up her hands.} This is my brother's blood on my hands, Stefan. I stabbed him in the neck last night. So forgive me if I'm not in the mood to listen to you try to talk your way out of this.
No, she didn't call him out on all that he'd done in the past–but I honestly never expected that we would–but how she said that to him, and more importantly, how she worded that phrase, it definitely rang as if she was calling him out on how he had always talked his way out of things in the past.

Meaning that, yes, she had been well aware of what he had done and she had let it slide in the past, but not this time. Of course, I would have liked a bit more. I would have liked more of a condemnation for what he’s done, but coming from Elena–who was rarely harsh with anyone–that was telling. Still, we should have gotten more. An Elena with her humanity switch flipped could definitely have spilled some of those harsh truths at Saint Stefan's feet and it would have fit perfectly in the narrative of laying the groundwork for the complete and utter dissolution of Stefan and Elena, the couple.

So, yes, we got a little something, but there could and *should* have been more.

A Bird in a Gilded Cage

Bonnie Bennett was in an alternate universe for nine months and during that time she shared it with only two other people at different points. One of them, Damon Salvatore, left after four months, leaving her with a psychotic serial killer for the next two months. After that, she was completely alone on an entire planet for three months. She was so driven to despair that she came this close to taking her own life. Less than a year later, she was once again thrown into a situation of near-complete isolation… this time it was for three years. During those three years she saw exactly one person: Enzo St. John, a vampire with whom she eventually fell in love.

This despite the fact that Enzo was someone who tried to kill some of her friends, threatened her life, and was someone that she had known as capable of murder, blackmail and arson. However, he saved her and was keeping her in hiding from those who genuinely wished her some kind of harm. Still, he held all the power in that situation as her protector and savior. He was also the only person she felt she had on her side. Caroline was in Dallas, living her new life with Alaric and the twins. Elena was off in a coffin playing Sleeping Beauty. Matt hated all things supernatural. Bonnie and Stefan were never particularly close and had been drifting further apart since Elena left and Bonnie became team!Damon.

All of that above right there is a big reason why I never bought Bonnie and Enzo as this grand romance. That was how their relationship began. For three years, Enzo was literally the only person Bonnie saw. Think about that. Bonnie was someone who not that long ago was in a situation where she was literally the only person on the planet. Then she was put in a similar position where she was all alone *again* for nearly three years with only one person to talk to, to spend time with, to share space in the universe with. And that was Enzo. How was I not to question the psychological issue there in the formation of this love?

And it didn't get much better once Bonnie was out in the great, wide open with the masses. After separation by mental institutions and Sirens, the two were finally able to be together, but compared to Damon and Elena, Stefan and Caroline (and, even, yes, Bonnie and Jeremy), it was hard to believe that they had what it took for the long haul. Especially since they appeared incapable of meaningful conversations—and clearly had barely had any during that three-year captivity. For instance, they discussed Enzo's time as an Augustine vampire after he'd broken free from Sybil. You'd think this would have come up sometime during those three years. Oh, and the whole ludicrous bit about Bonnie becoming a vampire and the casual talk about that. Really?! How had this conversation never, ever come up before? For a couple who are so in love, and so sure they're going to spend forever together, why was that clearly being spoken of for the first time? :rolls eyes:

Plus, excuse me, but, Bonnie Bennett was a witch. Witches are literally, instinctively against vampires. Bonnie wasn't because she had to learn to not feel that way, but to become a vampire? No. That her second reaction (after literally one or two seconds of thinking about it) wouldn't be: 'No, I can't do that,' was so out of character, I just can't even— It was completely and utterly against EVERYTHING that Bonnie Bennett was as a character. *sigh* Yet, she didn't appear to have any hesitation in not becoming a vampire because of her witchiness. That should have come up canonically. That it did not was out of character for Bonnie and, frankly, for the show. And that, for me, just comes back to the issue with Bonnie and Enzo. We never saw an actual love story with any type of discussion of any kind that dealt with what should have been their very real issues (such as a witch and vampire falling in love) play out. The show had 15 episodes before the three-year time jump in episode 16 (of season 07) to build up their relationship. Stefan and Elena had 10 before they had sex. Damon and Elena had people shipping them like whoah! before episode 15 of season 01. There was time to do this with Bonnie and Enzo and the show chose not to.

It didn't have to be that way. We could have seen their love story developing and not had it relegated to one episode. There were 15 episodes in which to create a beautiful love story between them. Kat Graham and Michael Malarkey are both beautiful, charismatic, talented actors who do have enough chemistry that they could have sold a well-done love story. And The Vampire Diaries knows how to do damn good love story! They could have written the push-pull, the angst, the longing, the ups and downs, the discussions over Enzo's not-so good past actions (the afore-mentioned murder, bribery, betrayal, etc.) before getting into the flash-forward that would show where their relationship was. But prior to that three-year jump, we could have had the near kisses, real conversations, the first kiss, a dance, moments, near-sex, etc. Instead, we got a shocking kiss from the future that came out of nowhere very early on, a few flirting scenes that didn't make sense from Bonnie's end, and, worst of all, Enzo spending most of the first half of the season in love with another woman.

It's a shame because Bonnie (and Kat Graham) deserved better. A grand, main romance and a better final story, and one that could have easily been the central romance of the last two seasons.

The Reckoning: I'm going back to the idea above (see #2) that we were not supposed to get this grand romance for Bonnie now, but rather a phenomenal character arc for Bonnie (and Kat Graham to act the hell out of—which she would have). Alas, with the cut from 22 episodes to 16 that character arc was likely transformed into a doomed romance. In retrospect, the over-the-top 'twu wuv' aspect of Bonnie and Enzo in the honeymoon phase of their love ending in tragedy works. It's just more heavy-handed than this show generally is. There is a lightness, a nuance and beauty to the writing of The Vampire Diaries and their love stories that was missing with Bonnie and Enzo and I still don't exactly know why. All I can imagine is that it was a case of having to switch from the character arc to a doomed love and fit it along with all the other stories planned in six less episodes.
Tags: #2, alaric saltzman, bonnie bennett, bonnie/caroline, caroline forbes, damon salvatore, damon/alaric, damon/bonnie, damon/elena, elena gilbert, elena/bonnie, stefan salvatore, the vampire diaries

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