Arabian (arabian) wrote,

'The Vampire Diaries' Wrap-up Thoughts... 2/8 -- Minor Unresolved Issues

Continuing along with my Final Vampire Diaries series. Here are my five minor unresolved issues. They didn't affect the overall narrative, but matter enough though that they will probably always bother me just enough that I take note whenever I re-watch the series. 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).

Here we go…

UNPLEASANTVILLE (i.e., Minor Unresolved Issues)

Know They Enemy

Yes, we're starting with Alaric Saltzman again. *sigh* What can I say? Upon his return from the dead, the show done did him dirty. *double sigh* This is a specific thing here, though, and thus why I'm including it in the minor issues section. Basically, my frustration lies with the fact that Alaric never found out that it was Damon who made the deal to save the twins rather than Stefan. While he said that it was "For Tyler” before he staked Damon, we all know that he did so because he believed that Damon was a part of the kidnapping of his daughters. And that is why it's so frustrating. Because it was never cleared up. Damon was blamed for something that he categorically did *not* do. Even worse, this was something that he actually stopped from happening. Damon didn't kidnap Lizzie and Josie. He just happened to be with Sybil when she met up with Seline who was the one who was responsible for the kidnapping and deal set-up with Cade. Neither Damon (nor Sybil for that matter) had anything to do with the deal.

His mind was still under some form of control by Sybil and therefore could not just walk away. Despite that when he found out about the kidnapping of the twins, he spent their time together trying to convince Seline why it was a bad idea to sell their souls to the Devil. Secondly (and, yo, this is key!), the plan to save the twins was… ding, ding, ding... Damon's! He came up with the idea to offer up his and Stefan's souls to Cade in place of the twins. Yes, this would keep Damon (and Stefan) out of Hell, but—and this is a pretty damn big 'but'—he got the twins out of Cade's sight line. Their souls were no longer being sold to the very Devil himself for all of eternity.

And what did he get in return for that? Alaric murdered him with Matt silently watching the murder take place. Originally, I was OK with that because I figured that Ric didn't know the circumstances since Stefan—per usual and absolutely in character—had kept quiet about the specifics because he was mourning his happy with Caroline. Alas, there was no follow-through by season's end that Ric was in the wrong. In fact, Damon received no apology or gratitude from anyone (not even Caroline) for saving the twins and getting them out of that situation. I do believe that the intention was to explore this storyline through a reparation of Damon and Alaric's friendship but due to the shortened season that didn't happen.

The Reckoning: In part I of this series, I went into detail about the whys behind I think that Ric and Damon never got to where they needed to in order to deal with this properly so I won't rehash it here. Simply put, the season was likely expected to be the regularly 22 when it was planned out; it was cut to 16 and some storylines had to be dropped. A deep exploration of the trials and tribulations of the Saltzman/Salvatore friendship clearly fell on the chopping block if planned, alas. (I really think that it was planned.) OK, I take that back, I will a bit… Something I didn't touch upon in the Alaric "Disturbing Behavior" section was why I am so sure that there was a plan originally in place dealing with Damon and his part in the twins' save. It tied into how Enzo was able to fight Sybil, but Damon wasn't. There were so many little connections when added up, well, would have added up to a reckoning that would have made it all make sense for the Scooby gang.
    01.) Bonnie made a comment to Stefan (after they had captured Sybil and freed Enzo) that Damon had just given up clearly indicating that she (and the rest of them) didn't know any better at that point.
    02.) Tyler knew what Sybil was and that Damon was under her control, thus, he knew about the powers of the Sirens. That information was most likely contained in the box he left for Matt along with the Seline stuff.
    03.) We were reminded more than a few times about the fact that Enzo had 70+ years of building up to a tolerance of torture and whenever Sybil did her mind-control whammo on Enzo, it was because of his aptitude for resisting torture that he was able to build up his resistance to her even more.
    04.) Damon—the show's truth-teller—made sure to point that very fact out to the audience.
    05.) Sybil made it clear how much power she had with mind control. She even listed her stats as "50,000:0, give or take a few Peloponnesians." This was a very clear signal that just about anyone else would be doing about as well as Damon. Meaning… unable to resist her.
    06.) On top of that, Sybil succeeded in taking away his two biggest beacons of light (well, that didn't have any negative baggage for him, i.e., his brother), Elena and Bonnie.
    07.) Damon was acting completely UN-Damon like, even humanity-flipped (especially humanity-flipped) Damon. He was all but begging the others to hate him at Tyler's funeral.
    08.) There was conversation when Stefan was trying to get him to tell him what was going on and Damon literally—as in the actual definition of the word—could not tell him but instead spoke gibberish. "Apple sauce. Penguin."
    09.) Going back to Enzo's time as an Augustine vampire, I was frustrated by the scene between Bonnie and Enzo where they talked about his ability to resist Sybil because it felt so pointless. Viewers already knew that his decades of torture was what allowed him to fight her; we were told that in an earlier episode. No, we hadn't seen Bonnie specifically get that information before, but why would we? That was something that could have happened off-camera. So, if they weren't going to figure why Damon wasn't able to resist but Enzo was, why that repetitive conversation? Unless… the point was to remind viewers about that very fact.
See? All of these connections. They were there, but the 22-episode count was not and so while in the midst of making what to cut and what not to, while trying to put together a final season of a series that spanned eight seasons there were a lot of decisions to make. In that way, I can understand how little things, lines, scenes of dialogue that were connective tissues could be missed.

Still with that said, this one issue could have been so easily resolved. SO. VERY. EASILY. After Damon and Elena kissed—ahem, excuse me a moment, obligatory gifs…


OK, where were we? Oh yes… after my bbs were reunited, and the lovely song still played plaintively in the background, we could have just cut to another long shot with Alaric and Matt arriving, have Alaric embrace Elena while Matt, Bonnie and Caroline watched fondly and then as Matt stepped forward to hug her, Ric joins Damon. All four friends—Matt, Elena, Caroline and Bonnie—move into a group hug while the "adults" watched. Then we could have moved into another cut right before we saw Elena talk to Caroline (with Bonnie) and have a moment with Ric and Damon. Then their conversation could begin with a mention of how Matt was visiting Penny's grave (bringing in a nice mention of her), the two of them looking at Caroline and Elena, and discussing the twins. Hey, here's some dialogue that would work perfectly, I think:
Damon: Where's Matt?
Alaric: He's visiting Penny's grave. {A blank look crosses Damon's face.} His fiancée. She died.
Damon: Of course she did.
{They're silent for a moment, looking towards toward Elena, Caroline and Bonnie sitting on the bench.}
Alaric: I can't wait until Elena meets the girls.
Damon: {Looks at Ric with a wry smile.} You know, I saved them. {Ric looks at him, confused.} I made that deal with the Devil. Saved 'em. {He does the eye thing.] I wasn't going to let you lose your girls, Ric.
Alaric: Damon, I didn't— I didn't know. I'm sor—
Damon: Forget it, I killed you a couple of times. {Grips Ric's shoulder affectionately.} Payback.
Alaric: {Nods with a soft smile.} Thank you. Damon, thank you. {Turns and pulls Damon into a hug.}
Damon: {He pulls back and looks at Ric.} That's what friends are for.
That line would segue beautifully to Elena telling Caroline what Stefan told her and then to the funeral scene. Boom! Including that would have been about a minute and, oh, say taking out that pointless (if amusing) scene between Katherine and Damon in the woods or trimming five to ten seconds off of a couple of other scenes here and there would have given us this. That would have helped *considerably* in resolving not only this specific issue—Damon made the deal to save the twins!—but also helped a lot with resolving Damon and Ric's relationship overall, thank you very much. I'm just saying.

The Five

The Vampire Diaries, for the most part, did a stellar job in casting. The series regulars, the recurring players, the one-off guest stars were all uniformly excellent to great. The ones who didn't fit in that category were generally at least good or fit their roles well enough. And then there were the following. Yeah. These five actors (and another five not-so-honorable mentions) just didn't quite hit that target. Not all of them are bad actors. In fact, of the lot, only a few I would actually call such—and did quite frequently throughout their runs—however, their lack of either oomph or their acting style just didn't work for the role. And their lack affected what could and should have been outstanding arcs. Instead, because of the poor casting choice, those storylines will forever be less than because of the actor chosen for a particular role in that story. Thus, their place among the five. They are:
  • Lauren Cohan – Rose, Season 02
  • Phoebe Tonkin – Hayley Marshall, Season 04
  • Olga Fonda – Nadia Petrova, Season 05
  • Annie Wershing – Lily Salvatore, Season 06
  • Demetrius Bridges – Dorian Williams, Season 08
Of the five actors, I have seen all of them in other projects with the exception of one and, frankly, based on her work on The Vampire Diaries, I have no desire to see her in anything ever again. In fact, I will go out of my way to avoid her in anything… ever. We'll just save her for last. To begin, let's start with the best of the lot.

Lauren Cohan is a good actress. I've watched Cohan in a few other things, most notably The Walking Dead for six of seven seasons now, and she is quite, quite good. She just did not work for this character. We needed to feel an immediate, absolute connection to Rose. We also needed to believe that Damon felt an immediate, absolute connection to Rose. Neither happened, and thus a powerfully scripted character arc for Damon Salvatore lost some of its power. That is not to say that the conclusion of her story wasn't effective. It was; it was beautiful and many a viewer did shed a tear. It just wasn't as moving, as beautiful as it could and should have been because Rose just didn't matter as much to enough viewers. And that I do lay at the feet of Cohan's portrayal. It wasn't the right fit. Her portrayal was too bland, for lack of a better word. Her Rose was such a wimp and Cohan just didn't make her root-worthy. Instead of feeling sorry for her due to the situation, I just rolled my eyes every time she ran… again. She was simply not right for the role. A good actress, but a bad fit.

Demetrius Bridges is another one who is a good actor. I recently watched Julie Plec's Containment and Bridges had a significant role in it. I found myself feeling similarly about him in that series. He was good, but he didn't do anything for me. I just couldn't connect to him. As an actor, I can find not one fault in his performance on either show. On The Vampire Diaries there wasn't one false note overall and I applauded his big scenes opposite Paul Wesley in "The Lies Are Going To Catch Up With You." However, I wasn't emotionally moved by them, at least not as nearly as much as I should have been. And I should have been truly, madly, deeply moved because not only were those scenes beautifully, powerfully written, delivering an emotional punch that reached deep into the show's history, but also this was episode 13 of the season by that point, and Dorian had been featured in seven of them. In other words, we had plenty of time to know and care about Dorian Williams. The writers had done good by him. Dorian was a three-dimensional character. He was introduced in the premiere as an enthusiastic and clever student. We learned that he was trustworthy since Alaric shared with him the truth of the supernatural crazy. He had interactions with Ric, Matt, Caroline, as well as Damon and Stefan, giving him nice integration with the cast.

We saw also him as a friend with Georgie, and afterwards, mourning and fighting to avenge her death. There was his interest and levelheadedness in dealing with the supernatural chaos. His personal history was then fleshed out with a tragic back-story that was later tinged with optimism because he learned that he wasn't crazy for thinking there was something more out there. Finally, we were teased (as was he) with the possibility of becoming a vampire. At first, Dorian was interested, and then put in a situation where he was able to definitively make the decision not to go there.

So, seeing how big his role became, with great casting, the payoff that came with the reveal of his history with Stefan would have had fabulous resonance. Alas… that didn't quite happen. I really do think it was because of the casting of the role because by the time that reveal—13 episodes in—I didn't love Dorian so I didn't care as much as I should have. Because I should have loved Dorian by then. I mean, I loved Grams, Harper, Lucy, Slater, Elijah, Rebekah, Tessa and Oscar all after one episode. Dorian, on the other hand, had six episodes in which he was featured before this one with which to win my love, but it hadn't happened. *sigh* It is a shame because if I did love him, the conclusion of his story would have been amazing and heartbreaking, and given viewers a beautiful (if devastating) arc. As it was, while still offering up great stuff, that greatness was one I thought, rather than felt. It was rational, more than emotional.

On the flip side, my negative feelings about Annie Wersching as Lily Salvatore were all emotional. I had previously seen her on the Kiefer Sutherland television thriller, 24. I really, truly did not like her on that show. I never denied her talent. She's a very good actress; she just has an acting style that doesn't work for me. Widened, weepy eyes, going heavy on the distressed anxiousness, with literal wringing of hands and I just do not care for it. With a blinding passion. However, I've been waiting for Mama Salvatore to show up on on the show forever and I absolutely adored the story they came up with for her return. It just breaks my heart to bits that for a story I've been waiting on since the first season they had to go and cast one of the few actresses that I would really have preferred they not. As it was we were stuck with a fantabulous story and character that was once again less than what it could have been because the casting was just not quite as stellar as it could have been.

And that's all she wrote for the good actors. Yeah.

Enter Phoebe Tonkin. First, some background. Shortly after the second season of The Vampire Diaries ended, Kevin Williamson stepped back from his executive producing and writing duties to concentrate on a new show for the CW. It was about teenage witches based off another YA series called The Secret Circle. Needless to say, it was not the hit that The Vampire Diaries was. In fact, it was rather lame and all the characters were boring with boring, melodramatic dialogue… except for Faye. Faye was basically the Damon Salvatore of The Secret Circle. She had the best lines; she was the most fun stuff to watch, and she was played by Phoebe Tonkin who was pretty, had big eyes and could deliver a line with sass. Because the rest of the characters and the dialogue was so flat, everyone and their dog gave praise to Tonkin for the entertainment factor of Faye. I didn't quite agree. I saw a potentially great character with great lines who was denied depth and layers from the actress playing her. Instead, she just delivered her one-liners with a sneer and a flash of those big eyes, playing only the surface emotion in every scene. There was no depth or subtlety or vulnerability to her performance.

When she was cast on The Vampire Diaries, I wondered if she would surprise me and be as good as everyone else thought she was or not as I thought when paired with the crackling dialogue of this show and surrounded by such a talented cast. Throughout her run during season 04, she proved me right. Phoebe Tonkin just wasn't a strong actress. She played Hayley as a bratty teen; like in The Secret Circle, there were no layers and she stood out like a sore thumb among the awesome of our regular cast. The only reason she didn't do so horrendously in a blinding neon fashion is because most of her early scenes were with Michael Trevino (Tyler)—the weakest of the series regulars—but she also shared screen time with Candice King (Caroline), Joseph Morgan (Klaus) and David Alpay (Professor Shane), all of whom are brilliant actors. So, yeah, she did stand out. And not in a good way.

Fortunately for viewers who chose to follow the Mikaelsons and Hayley Marshall to The Originals, Tonkin is actually much better on that show. The character's pregnancy, delivery and motherhood brought a maturity that is much more suited to the actress's talent (such as it were) rather than the teenage snark we saw on The Vampire Diaries. Also, fortunate, while Tonkin—unlike Cohan, Bridges and Wersching who are good actors—was quite subpar on my beloved show, at least her performance didn't have any major impact on any particular story that would lessen it in any way. Thank goodness.

The same can't be said for our last entry: Olga Fonda as Nadia Petrova. *sigh* It still hurts to type her name followed by as "… Petrova." It's just so wrong. *double sigh* Olga Fonda was not a good actress. At all. Olga Fonda was horribly miscast as a member of the Petrova bloodline. As if. Olga Fonda was not a good actress. Oh, did I mention that already? She really could not act. She was terrible. I am sorry, but the woman got paid to act—on my beloved show, mind you—and she did it badly. Very badly. And she was a very significant player in a very significant storyline that just happened to be the last big storyline for Katherine Pierce a.k.a. Katerina Petrova. Olga Fonda was actually cast to play Katherine Freaking Pierce's daughter. As. FREAKING. If. The character that was played by Olga Fonda was not even a tenth of a tenth of a percent awesome enough to be the child of the awesome that was Katherine Pierce. No, just not possible. I have decided that the only thing that makes sense is that the child was obviously switched in the Bulgarian orphanage in the 1500's. It's not like the paperwork would have been very good. Clearly, there was a mistake because *that* was not Katherine Pierce's daughter.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Not-so-honorable mentions: Now these five aren't as bad. (Well, OK, one of them is, but he's just such a trifle of a character—which is part of the issue, he shouldn't; he should be an amazing character, but the actor is just… such a wisp. Go on, guess who I'm talking about.) They are all just… there. But there should have been more, you know, there. These five are:
  • Chris William Martin – Zach Salvatore, Season 01
  • Bryton James – Luka Martin, Season 02
  • Nathaniel Buzolic – Kol Mikaelson, Season 03
  • Todd Williams – Connor Jordan, Season 04
  • Ana Nogueira – Penny Ares, Season 07
Other than one of these (again, guess which one!), they are all good actors, they were just missing that special something, that oomph! In Martin's case, he didn't connect with either Wesley or Somerhalder. James was just an icy bowl of anti-charisma (whereas the actor playing his father, Jonas, Randy J. Goodwin, was just well, steaming with charisma). With Buzolic, every line was delivered like 'I am saying a line of dialogue from a script.' Williams was a good actor, but the character of Connor needed to deliver power and menace in spades and Williams didn't do that. Good actor, wrong character. Finally, Nogueira just didn't have a lick of chemistry with Zach Roerig and that was pretty much her only purpose on the show. Without the chemistry between the two, her story didn't work.

The Reckoning: Obviously, there really is not fix for any of this, but I will offer up a few alterative casting suggestions. The main one for me would have been a different actress cast as Lily Salvatore, and what makes it so frustrating is the fact that Julie Plec—who is fiercely loyal to her actors—has one among her group who would have been perfect. I am thinking of the amazing, wonderful, fabulous, insanely talented Claudia Black. She has been cast twice now by Plec. Now, I tend to think that Annie Wersching was cast in the role of Mama Salvatore because she has big blue eyes that are similar to the lovely Mr. Ian Somerhalder. Ah, but the blue eyes are the only thing that Wersching has in common with Somerhalder, and she really didn't have anything facially similar to Paul Wesley, the actor playing the other Salvatore boy. Well, Claudia Black, oh my, she looked totally like she could have been the mother of both. Seriously! She has light blue eyes and dark hair like Somerhalder and the long face, jaw line and cheekbones of Wesley. See?

     Somerhalder, Black & Wesley

Alas, why did this not happen? Well, one of the two shows that Plec had cast Black in was The Originals. Yeah, the spin-off of The Vampire Diaries and that show shared characters and timelines and such so it's not like she could use the same actress in a completely different role. *sigh* Ah well. It just breaks my heart because she would have been so unbelievably perfect. Physically, and acting-wise… such bliss. What will never be.

I don't know how she would have done opposite Nina Dobrev, but we did see that Leslie-Anne Huff—Rayna, the vampire hunter from season 07—was capable of playing a softer side in her flashback episode. We also obviously know that she could kick ass with the best of them. She could play a hard-ass bitch, had a sense of humor. She worked well with Ian Somerhalder and Zach Roerig. Plus, she looked a helluva lot more like Nina Dobrev than did Olga Fonda. At least, I certainly think so. See below. Of course, I loved Rayna, so I wouldn't have liked to have missed out on that character, but if choosing behind getting Huff as Nadia over Fonda and someone else as Rayna… it's Huff in a heartbeat.

     Fonda, Dobrev & Huff

Another casting re-do? Personally, I feel that Cassidy Freeman—who was cast in season 03 as Sage—could have possibly done the role of Rose justice. We know that there was a fire and fierce loyal side to Rose, along with the vulnerable and loving side, as well as a playful, sexuality. We saw all of that on display to a more natural, easygoing display with Freeman. Plus, she had better chemistry with Somerhalder, and they had a great connection onscreen. There was also a vibrancy and presence to her that would have made the Rose arc have the full power that I believe was intended.

Finally, Sterling Sulieman, who played Harper (in season 01—the first vampire who came out of the opened tomb and apologized before feeding on the hiker), I think would have possibly made a better Dorian. In just a handful of episodes, Sulieman made Harper real, likable and when he was killed, I was definitely sad about it. (Grr, stupid Uncle Daddy John!)

Under Control

I think that Julie Plec is very talented. I am extremely grateful that she stuck with The Vampire Diaries when Kevin Williamson bailed for the most part after season 03 and Caroline Dries did so after season 07. She was the guiding force behind a series that I intensely adore. With that said, the seasons where Plec was sole showrunner, and those would be seasons 03, 04 and 08, all suffered from her one major flaw: inconsistency. We already saw mention of that in part I's "You're Undead To Me" (with "True Lies" a.k.a. the sire bond). Yes, I believe there was an intention to pull the sun-and-moon curse twist again, but heck, I could be completely wrong. You see, Plec had shown some pretty glaring inconsistencies in a major storyline before. (See "What Are You?" below from season 03.) In this season, also a solo Plec-run, there was one arc that just left me (and others) scratching our heads because, frankly, it made no damn sense.

I'm not talking about the whole confusion regarding how, when, how much and what the hell was going on with the use of the cure. That was inconsistent with what we knew as well, but it was just a minor irritation, not big enough to make my list. No, I am talking about what Sybil did or did not do with Damon's memories. At first, it appeared as if she replaced Elena with herself by stepping in Elena's place when they first met. And, oh, that was devastating, but so powerful. A beautiful, pretty hurt that would surely be rectified with a passionate breakthrough when Damon got his real memories back. But wait, not really, because she only played with that first memory. After that, Sybil just made Elena go bye-bye; it was as if she had just died in the first Wickery Bridge car crash. So that was awesome too, though, right? Because it was a reverse of what happened to Elena in season 06. Instead of her forgetting everything about Damon, this time Damon forgot all about Elena. So we *would* get that passionate breakthrough when Damon got his real memories back. Yay!

But, but, but… a few episodes later, Sybil casually brought Elena up to Damon as if it would hurt him if she saw him in a bad light. You know, as if Damon would know who Elena was and that she mattered to him. And that made no sense because Damon was supposed to have no memory of Elena Gilbert any more thanks to, you know, Sybil. Unless…

The Reckoning Oh, I don't know, this was another dropped storyline when Plec and co. lost six episodes and likely, more importantly, more of Nina Dobrev's presence. I mentioned this in part I's "I Alone," a.k.a. Bonnie's decision to violate Elena to steal the cure for her happy-ever-after even at the risk of Elena and Damon's even though Damon was putting his on hold for half a century for Bonnie:
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.
Think of it. Had Dobrev been available to film additional episodes, having Damon getting his memory back would have been a wonderful parallel—and there were *so* many parallels in the final season—to when Elena lost and then regained her memories of him and their love. Just think how much awesome and beautiful Damon and Elena that we would probably have had—and, yes, damnit, I'm in misery thinking of the potential Damon and Elena pure love and beauty on display that we may have lost due to the episode cuts. {{SOBS INCOHERENTLY}}


Ahem. So, like with the sire bond, this may have been a case of logistics making a planned storyline fall a bit to the wayside thus causing some inconsistencies in the story telling along the way. Hmm, this isn't something that I had thought of until I sat down to write this, but like the Alaric situation, the sire bond theory and so many of my other issues, it does make sense that logistics, behind-the-scenes shenanigans and actor's schedules got in the way of what was meant to be. Alas.

*sigh* We maybe could have had more Damon and Elena. Wah!

She's Come Undone

This is a tricky one. For quite some time, I scapegoated the actress, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, for my issue with the character of Jo Laughlin. And truth be told, I do think that a different actress might have made the inconsistencies in the writing and issues with the Ric arc of season 06 smoother, but the fact of the matter is that the key issues of Jo were not O'Keefe's fault. That was all on Julie Plec, Caroline Dries and the individual script writers who didn't seem to have a handle on the character—and that goes back to Plec and Dries.

To be fair, the reason I laid blame at O'Keefe initially is because I've never been particularly fond of the actress and I've been aware of her work for near twenty years (she began in soap operas). She's always been just a bit too hard, a bit too cold for my personal taste. However, when thinking it through that was only partially the issue. There were scenes where O'Keefe genuinely came through and that was because the chemistry between the actors and the writing of the character worked. This first really came to light in the scene between Jo and Liv at Thanksgiving. The connection between those two when their familial relationship was revealed was very touching and both Penelope Mitchell (Liv) and O'Keefe did a beautiful job. And finding out that link helped to bring a softness and humanity that the character had lacked up to that point. However, those two characteristics were lacking much more often than not and so when they did pop up after that moment they felt incongruent. They just didn't fit what we knew of her.

And that brings us to the first of the two central issues with the character of Dr. Josette Laughlin. We didn't know who she was because there was so little consistency in her attitude. Either she was a condescending, hard-assed bitch… or she was an emotional, helpless basket case because those were the two extremes in how she was presented. O'Keefe could play both, but which one was Jo? Not that it would help much, because, honestly, both were annoying. And because of that, it didn't make much sense why Alaric Saltzman was so enamored of her.

Which brings us to issue number two. Alaric Saltzman was a father figure to Elena and Jeremy Gilbert and, to a lesser degree, Bonnie Bennett, and an even lesser degree, but still, Matt Donovan and Tyler Lockwood. (But, thankfully, God, no, not Caroline Forbes.) He was best friends with Damon Salvatore. He was friends (of a sort) with Stefan Salvatore. However, other than spending a few hospital conversations that held very little depth with Elena, and taking some potshots at Damon's utter devastation over the love of his life no longer remembering that she loved him, Jo didn't spend time with any of them. Oh, wait, that's right, until she had this weird, awkward "bridal shower" that consisted of her, Elena and Bonnie at a deserted diner. It was just… not good. And it really, really could have been.

Jo's story was about rediscovering her witchcraft. Bonnie returned from an alternate universe having rediscovered her witchcraft. Wouldn't it have made sense, oh, I don't know, to have the two bond over maybe, you know, rediscovering witchcraft? And she was dating Ric, wouldn't it have made sense to be nice to the guy who was his best friend instead of digging the knife deeper into his pain? Especially since this is a guy you just met and you were, in fact, aware that the girl he was desperately in love with was desperately in love with him back. Nope, none of those things happened. We didn't see her bonding, spending time with Bonnie. We didn't see her trying to get to know Damon, or even trying to repair the friendship between Ric and Damon or anything like that. We didn't see her become a part of the group at all and Jo should have become a part of the group. She literally was planning on marrying into it. Instead, all we saw was her with Ric or involved with the Gemini coven, interesting, yes, but it was all about her and her family.

The Reckoning: Could a better-cast actress have made the character work? Possibly. Maybe. I didn't particularly think Meredith was the best-written character and she wasn't worked that well into the canvas, but I really liked Torrey Devitto. In fact, there was dialogue as delivered by O'Keefe that I particularly didn't like that I imagined Devitto saying that would have worked for me. So, I'm leaning towards the idea that casting could have helped this issue for me at least. Probably, yeah.

*sigh* I don't know, this is another one that I'm hoping a re-watch of the series will help because I'm feeling more generous towards the idea of Ric and his overall story upon his return from the dead which Jo was a big part of. I also was surprised by how much I liked Ric and "Florence" when she came back via the Phoenix stone in season 07, and the moment when Jo was watching Ric and the twins in the finale was the first that brought tears to my eyes when I watched it live. So, I'm hopeful that my rewatch will yield a more positive reaction overall. We will see.

What Are You?

I wrote above about Julie Plec and her inconsistency. Well, here is the first example of that inconsistency at play. For the sun-and-moon cure, it was all about the fact that Klaus and Elijah made it up. With the sire bond, I believe the same thing was intended and in season 08, I think that the cut from the regular 22 episodes to 16 effected the course of certain arcs. With Stefan's humanity switch storyline, I am playing with an explanation, and as always I could be wrong, but it's working for me.

What happened in season 03 is that we began with Stefan choosing to blood-hop and Ripper away with Klaus, but he kept his switch on. And then in "The Reckoning," Klaus compelled him to flip his humanity off. OK, done deal. We then enjoyed four (or was it five, six, seven?) episodes of humanity-free Stefan. I'm not sure. I know that he was still not in possession of his humanity episodes six through nine. Then in that episode, Klaus gave him the freedom to flip or not, and he chose not to flip. Right? But then he was no longer acting like Ripper!Stefan… at least with Damon, erm, mostly. But he was still kind of a jerk with Elena. Except when he wasn't. But then he was.

Until "Dangerous Liaisons" when his switch was definitely flipping on because he was all into Elena again, pulling the "your choice" meme and emo'd up on her porch… except for when he was still rather a dick to Damon. Or maybe that was just Stefan being mean to Damon? I don't know. I have no clue. I am clueless. And that's the problem. The nature of Stefan's humanity switch made no sense. Was it on or off or on or off or on or… well, yeah. And then there was how that switch affected his actions or didn't or did or didn't or… well, yeah. It was all very confusing. I didn't know if Stefan Salvatore was coming or going… on the humanity train.

Furthermore, Stefan, in his humanity-off-phase was not like others we'd seen. Damon had his switch off and didn't forget loving Katherine. Also, Stefan had his on in the 1920's and had loved Rebekah and Nick(laus). Isobel had hers off, but clearly she still cared for Ric and Elena. Katherine clearly never even had a humanity switch, and she still loved Stefan (and Damon to a degree) as much as she was capable.

It just didn't make any freaking sense.

The Reckoning: OK, all I can think of is that maybe it had something to do with the fact that Klaus had compelled Stefan to turn the switch off and that is why it was different. However, when they decided to not kill off Klaus, it changed the course of the storyline for Stefan breaking free, and even his future humanity-flipped actions and attitude. So that's why even when Stefan turned off his humanity in season 08, he seemed not to love Caroline—which directly contradicted how past Ripper!Stefan loved Rebekah—because they were going with what had been established in season 03 to not contradict his current Ripper!self.

Still, looking back at the whole shebang, I can see where the storyline change most definitely could have come from with the death to Klaus angle dropped. This makes even more sense when one takes into account a conversation between Damon and Alaric at the midway point of the season ("Our Town").
Alaric: I thought Stefan saved your life.
Damon: He did.
Alaric: And now he is willing to risk it just to see how far he can push Klaus?
Damon: It seems so.
Alaric: So is his humanity on or off?
Damon: I think there is another option at play, a dimmer switch, which is a huge problem.
Alaric: Why?
Damon: Because I can't predict how far he is willing to go until someone gets killed.

-- "Our Town" - Season 03, Episode 11
Looking at what Damon told Ric, it does seem more like Damon was making a supposition as to why Stefan was acting the way he was. Notice how he said: "I think there is another option at play." Now this could have easily led up to the revelation about Klaus' having forced Stefan to turn his humanity off being why this "dimmer" switch was at play because his own desires were fighting against a compulsion. Damon coming up with this option, which essentially was just a theory would have been the lead-in to this arc. But… some could say, we heard the humanity "dimmer" referred to again much later in the series. Why, yes, indeed we did.
Damon: I don't feel anything anymore.
Sybil: Wrong. It is written all over your face. Your humanity is riding that dimmer switch, and right now it is pushing itself up. And it feels terrible, does it?
Damon: Shut up!
Sybil: Dimmer goes up, and you'll get your feelings back. Maybe your brother will love you again. But, boy, will it feel awful! And Elena's reaction to everything you've done, let's not even think about that!
Damon: Stop talking.
Sybil: Dimmer that switch back down, and all these bad feelings and all this confusion, it'll all disappear. Me? I prefer Option B. The dimmer down. Total abandonment.
Damon: I said shut up. Shut up! What do you want from me?
Sybil: I want you, Damon. All of you. I can re-write your subconscious, but that will only get me so far. I'm not gonna have you the way that I want you, while you still have these emotional ties to your past. Go see your brother, let him guide that dimmer switch up until you feel everything. If that's how you want to live your life, go ahead… live it! Maybe you'll find some small pockets of happiness, before death delivers you to Cade.

-- "Coming Home Was A Mistake - Season 08, Episode 05
Well, where did it come from but Sybil. Hmm, and who would she have gotten that very information from where? Oh, yes, DAMON's mind. Damon who had originally come up with the dimmer "option." That's right. And let's not forget that Damon *himself* was essentially being compelled more or less by Sybil (much as Stefan was by Klaus) to flip his own humanity switch—and was acting unlike Damon-fipped than we had seen him in the past. Uh huh. So this tells me that the "dimmer" most likely was all about when a vampire is forced to turn it off. If it's not of their own volition… which, by the way, also makes it clear that Elena made that choice herself (not because she was sire bonded to Damon), they are constantly fighting it. Remember what Katherine said in "Homecoming" …
Katherine: Humanity is a vampire's greatest weakness. No matter how easy it is to turn it off, it just keeps trying to fight it's way back in. Sometimes I let it.
That's not a "dimmer" switch. That's humanity fighting it's way back in. But Katherine said that to Stefan… not Damon, so Damon was flying blind trying to explain his brother's actions.

There was an explanation, though. The humanity fighting through—which Damon didn't know about—but it was fighting through in an off-way most likely *because* Stefan hadn't made the conscious choice to turn it off but rather had been forced to do so. However, that storyline was dropped when Plec and co. decided not to kill off Klaus, I think. I do wish we had seen the effect of that because an offshoot of Klaus' compulsion having some kind of lingering effect on Stefan and his humanity would have been awesome. But if that plan had to be dropped due to Klaus living to charm and terrorize another day, well, I can see why there were inconsistencies in that middle batch of episodes when the live long and throw tantrums discussion would have begun. It makes sense. And, actually, as I'm writing this out and thinking it through, this is feeling more likely and less like grasping at straws and more like I'm on to a potential something here. I mentioned in number three, "Under Control," that Julie Plec's biggest flaw was inconsistency, I'm thinking now that such isn't the case, but it's rather cleaning up loose ends when logistics tear apart a story line. However, considering how well the overall series was, I think she did pretty damn good. I bow down, Julie Plec, I bow down.


- Major Unresolved Issues
Tags: alaric saltzman, bonnie bennett, damon salvatore, damon/alaric, damon/elena, elena gilbert, stefan salvatore, sybil, the vampire diaries, tv

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