Thursday, March 16, 2017

Roundtable Discussion: A Farewell to The Vampire Diaries [Contributors: Jen K., Anne, Maddie, Megan]

Television fans had to bid farewell to fan-favorite and long-running hit CW drama, The Vampire Diaries last week. While it aired, the show cultivated a passionate fanbase who loved the drama, romance, and cliffhangers. A few of our writers around here were also passionate about the series and discuss what they loved most about it, who they shipped, and how they felt about the way it ended. So sit back, relax, and take one last trip to Mystic Falls with Jen K., Anne, Maddie, and Megan.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Vampire Diaries (the seasons themselves, as well as the series finale). Read at your own risk!

How long have you been watching The Vampire Diaries?

Jen: I bought the DVDs and binged the first two seasons. Then I was a faithful watcher every week from season three until the end. It was a long road. I’m tired.

Anne: I don’t know on whose suggestion it was, but I started watching on Netflix when the first five seasons were out, and purchased the sixth on iTunes. Need to watch seven and eight still in their full, but hopped in from time to time!

Maddie: For the first three seasons of the series, The Vampire Diaries was my absolute favorite show. Then the seventh episode of season four happened, and just as my Delena shipping dreams were coming true, the sire bond happened. It is taking everything within me to not use profanity when describing this plot point. At this point it became very clear that I saw Elena differently from the writers as they were insinuating there was no way Elena could ever fall for Damon without dubious consent — even though there had been over three seasons of buildup to a relationship between the characters. Thus, instead of dwelling in my rage, I peaced out. I’d binge Klaroline scenes randomly, but I moved on to other shows. I came back for the finale because, for better or worse, this show meant a lot to me. Many tears, expletives, laughs, squeals, and swooning sighs were had because of this show. I had to come back one last time.

Megan: Episode one — premiere date and everything. This was actually one of the few shows that I watched from the very first episode. I mean, a lot of other shows have followed since then. But before this show and maybe Gossip Girl, I hadn’t really watched much TV from beginning to end. I came in during season two of Sex and the City, The O.C., and Nip/Tuck. I was never really into TV (which is absurd coming from me now), but I’ve watched this baby since it premiered.

Did you enjoy the finale? Were you satisfied with how it ended? Why or why not?

Jen: You mean have I stopped sobbing over my poor Stefan’s untimely death? No. I’m gonna need a few more decades to get over this one. As a Stelena shipper, it’s a tough pill to swallow — Stefan dying so Damon can find human happiness with Elena. Salt meet wound.

However, I am good with the finale. The core of Stefan’s character is that he’s a selfless hero; and so, going down in a blaze of glory — saving his brother and the town — is a great way for him to go out. I think Stefan craved redemption even more than love, and he finally got the chance to right some wrongs. And he’s been fighting for Damon’s humanity since the pilot, so I understood his choice, like Caroline did. (Stefan was all about choices!)

I will say that TVD softened the blow and tempered my anger quite a bit by rapidly bringing them all together in heaven. That’s the part I truly loved and spoke to me on a really deep spiritual level. I kept watching all these years just so I would know the characters (particularly Stefan) were okay. And seeing them all find peace together in the afterlife more than accomplished that. Also, “hello brother” was a PERFECT way to end the series. Instead of a lifetime of misery together, Stefan and Damon find a lifetime of peace. I get choked up thinking about it.

Anne: I did enjoy the finale! You know, a lot of people pointed out to me — after the fact — the logical inconsistencies with the finale, but I guess I don’t really care about that. The last twenty minutes were spectacular, kind of in the Six Feet Under vein, and I was surprised by the finality of killing off one (well, technically three) of the main characters by the episode’s end. No character got 100% of what he or she wanted (well, maybe Elena), but I liked how we saw where each character would go next by reintroducing the “Dear Diary” theme. And I thought it was beautiful that the show ended on peace, where death and tragedy are so common. While the beginning of the episode felt like any other Vampire Diaries episode (it’s hard to raise the stakes so late in the game), the end of the episode hit me hard. I’ve been watching old episodes since because I don’t want to let it go!

Maddie: I was very satisfied with how everything was tied up with a bow. The fact that Caroline was sidelined in the final battle once again makes me roll my eyes at the decision to bring kids into the show. But that and Matt’s greasy sheriff hair were my only complaints. The finale brought resolution to each of the main character’s series long arcs, and it made me feel a billion emotions in forty minutes — just like every great TVD episode should.

The Vampire Diaries is a show about family, friendship and, above all love, so let’s put our cards on the table now: where do your shipping allegiances lie?

Jen: Stelena, Bamon, and Klaroline are my top three. My track record isn’t great on TVD. I also enjoy Steroline and Forwood. Basically I ship everything with Candice King because she has chemistry with trees.

Anne: A very fun question! It’s strange for me that with this show, I never really detested or went nuts for any couple. My favorite couples were always, always the weird ones that I thought had no chance/should, logically, have no chance: Stefan/Katherine, Caroline/Klaus (you did mention trees, Jen), Damon/Bonnie, and Matt/Rebekah were my favorites. Don’t know where that leaves Elena...

Maddie: Delena was the first television ship that brought me into online fandom. I was sixteen years old when this show aired, and I immediately was enraptured by these two. By episode eleven, “Bloodlines,” I was hooked. Their chemistry was insane, and it very much shaped my shipping proclivities in the future. Jen and I have argued the triangle debate endlessly, but each of us remains steadfast in our beliefs.There is just something about sarcastic banter, a guy trying to be better, and a girl embracing the full vibrant and passionate side of herself instead of what is safe. My second pick for Elena was Elijah — they had a really interesting dynamic in season two. Outside of the love triangle, I adore Klaroline. To this day, I still read Klaroline fanfiction. They will never die, the writers literally gave the fans hope until the end of time.

Megan: Mine was ALWAYS Caroline and Klaus. I for whatever reason just absolutely loved the push and pull and how the opposite-ness just WORKED for them. I thought it was just so fun to watch that whole thing play out, and I was sad when it ended.

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Who is your favorite character?

Jen: Stefan, but Caroline is a close second.

Anne: Katherine. But Kai, Klaus, and Lexie were all fun to watch. And anyone without humanity.

Maddie: Damon, but with Caroline close behind. I would like to note I see the humor in the contrast between Jen and I’s responses.

Megan: Caroline has always been my favorite because I relate to her the most. I’m kind of bossy, I don’t like people telling me what to do, I want everything done exactly as I planned it. She annoyed the heck out of me in the books, but I absolutely adored her in the show. (Yes, I read the books.)

Which character do you dislike?

Jen: There is no love lost between Damon and me. Although, he made some strides this season, so instead of intensely detesting him now I just find him wildly problematic.

Anne: I never cared for Enzo; maybe I need to watch the final two seasons to get on the Bonnie/Enzo train, but otherwise he was a very dull character who was never as close to Damon as we were led to believe.

Maddie: Jeremy and Tyler always irritated me every moment they were on screen. They always just kind of seemed in the way.

Megan: GOD, I’ve ALWAYS disliked Tyler. He’s absolutely annoying and I can’t even put into words how annoyed I was whenever he would show back up. I would rage text my friends like, “I THOUGHT HE WAS GONE. GO AWAY.” And I really didn’t like their mother. Her blindness to what was always going on and her unwillingness to see that Julian was a bad egg was so irritating.

The final season was about redemption and achieving peace — is this something you feel the characters truly deserved?

Jen: I hope so because it’s what I hope for myself. It’s difficult to have morality arguments about any of the characters on TVD because they have all done horrible things. They are all murderers (except Bonnie because she’s fabulous). So, for me, it boils down to the characters wanting and fighting for their redemption. I think TVD did a wonderful job examining that with Stefan and Damon’s battle with the devil. Even Damon finally wanted to be a good man, not for Elena, but for himself. He just wanted to be better because it was the right thing to do.

I love a line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Giles says, “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.” So what each character deserves may be up for debate, but they all need forgiveness. So, I was happy the writers showed love and compassion in the end at let them all achieve that in some way.

Anne: Probably logically not. A part of me would have loved a finale where Matt let Vicki burn Mystic Falls to the ground and he and Bonnie hung out for the rest of their lives, just because, as Jen points out, every character is a mass murderer, a careless murderer (hey remember Tyler?), and kind of a selfish and/or Elena-centric person. There really is no difference to me between Caroline or Klaus or Elena or Damon, and in the moral code I believe in, they should all chill in hell. But that would be a huge bummer of an ending!

Maddie: I’m with Anne on this one. TVD was all about the moral grey area. There was a great moment several seasons back when Caroline was complaining about Klaus and Stefan mentioned that pretty much everyone they knew and loved had done terrible things at some point. So the redemption may not be completely deserved, but that would’ve been too much of a bummer for a series finale.

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Which character gave the best speech?

Jen: Gotta go with my boy Stefan on this one. He gave some epic speeches with a bunch of characters: Caroline, Damon, and Elena. After all, he told Lexi, “I was feeling epic,” which is a great callback to Lexi saying that line to Stefan way back in season one. I loved the speech he gave Damon while they were arguing about who was going to stay, but that final one with Elena was really the clincher. When he talked about seeing Damon as the older brother he looked up to, I lost it. I was a mess. It always came down to Damon for Stefan. That’s the person he loved most in the world.

Anne: I liked Elena’s speech at the end. I thought it was beautiful.

Maddie: The best speech was Stefan’s argument with Damon. I like that he brought up that it wasn’t something he wanted to do. He wanted to return back to Caroline, but he had to do this. It was genuine and heartfelt. I started crying and through my tears yelled at my television, “Yes, Stefan! This is why Jen likes you so much.”

Who had the best line in the finale?

Jen: Damon. Which is fitting, because Damon always had the best lines. “I am the big brother. I’m sorry I wasn’t better at it until now.” Also, he had the great last line, “Hello brother.”

Anne: Ooh, my favorite was when Katherine told Damon that Elena would choose Stefan. And Vicki when she told Matt she didn’t have time for an emotional reunion! The most memorable is certainly the final line, which was a great way to end the show. So beautiful.

Maddie: The utter confidence in which Bonnie told Caroline, “I’m going to save the world” was epic. Bonnie had come so far, and I am glad that she recognizes her power now and has truly come into her own. I also adored Katherine’s callback to season one Damon: “That’s for me to know and for you to — dot dot dot.”

Was there a moment in the finale where you cried? What were those moments?

Jen: I was good until Damon and Stefan’s argument. Then I couldn’t stop. Bonnie, Grams and the Bennett witches. Caroline’s last phone call to Stefan. Elena and Stefan’s goodbye. All the characters reuniting in heaven. I think I just sobbed my way through the last twenty minutes.

Anne: I didn’t cry, but would have been closest when Elena reunited with her family. Aunt Jenna was always a favorite that I never really recovered from losing, so it was amazing to see her again!

Maddie: I cried through most of the back half of the episode, but all of the Steroline moments were when I openly wept. Their goodbye in the hallway was a stab in the gut and then they twisted the knife with that phone call. Candice has a special way to make you as an audience feel all the feelings.

Was there anything you wished the writers had done differently in the finale episode?

Jen: I wish Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec had the chance to do what they wanted to do, which was get Nina Dobrev back for the final season and reunite Stefan and Elena. (Yes, I read all the interviews.) I would just exchange Stefan for Damon. Damon dies, tells Elena that Stefan is the better man, and Elena and Stefan live out their happy lives together. Then, Stefan is reunited with Damon in heaven. BOOM. PERFECTION. I’m singing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” right now. “We could have had it alllll!”

Anne: Yeah, there’s some logical nonsense in the finale. I didn’t understand why you could stab Katherine a bunch of times but not Cade. I didn’t get why they didn’t tie Vicki up. I am confused how Bonnie broke the spell. And did Stefan know she was gonna break the spell when he gave Damon the cure? Because otherwise, doesn’t he lose out with Elena?

Also, for the most part, Katherine felt less daunting than she normally does, and I wish they had brought Nina Dobrev back for at least one episode more so she didn’t feel like an exposition-dump as Katherine all the time. (Also, maybe, like, any words exchanged between Damon and Elena? We’ve been talking about her for years!)

Maddie: I would’ve like some words to be exchanged between Damon and Elena. They’ve been building up to this for years, and everything was swept into the montage. I didn’t need a full scene like Stefan and Elena got, just one line each exchanged between the two.

Image result for the vampire diaries season 4

Did The Vampire Diaries ever jump the shark? If so when? 

Jen: Yes. Season four. They changed their minds and instead of curing Damon — which fit the narrative the writers built over the last four years — they cured Katherine. I don’t think they ever really recovered from that moment, because TVD became too invested in shock value. Also, I never understood how Elena could choose Damon after he forced her to turn off her humanity. Elena’s character suffered quite a bit to make Delena happen and I think the show suffered as a result, but I’m heavily biased.

Anne: Jen, I loved that they cured Katherine because “Gone Girl” is one of my favorite episodes of the show! I think they didn’t “jump the shark,” but I think they ran out of ideas. The most irritating one to me was Caroline carrying Alaric’s children. I hate children on television shows because, no offense, they are narrative tethers. And Caroline is too cool of a character to not be in that final battle and be in a van instead.

Maddie: I agree with the core of what Jen said, but I’d actually attribute the sire bond as the moment that plot shock value took priority over story and characters.

Megan: I agree with Anne. They definitely ran out of ideas around the middle. I felt like there were moments where I found myself saying, “Remember simpler times? Remember Uncle Mason and the moonstone? Remember when things didn’t get totally out of hand and make it seem like they were going for something and it just didn’t pay off?” I felt that they were going for shock value at a certain point, I agree with you on that, Maddie. Sometimes I wouldn’t want to watch it because I was so blah about it.

Did the show end at the right time? Should it have ended sooner or gone on longer?

Jen: Hmmm, no. I enjoyed seasons seven and eight more than I enjoyed seasons five and six, but I think the show should have ended in season six. Honestly, it was on a downward slope for me starting in season four.

Anne: Nope, it could not have gone on longer — especially without Nina Dobrev. I think once they lost her, the show’s focus got a lot fuzzier. (I tried watching the seventh season but it was so boring without Elena!) Am happy where it ended and happy I have two more seasons’ worth to watch!

Maddie: The moment it was announced that Nina was leaving, they should have followed Gossip Girl’s example and just have a mini-season of six episode to tie things up after season six.

Megan: I agree with Maddie and Anne. It was sad to hear that Nina was leaving and when she did, I assumed the next season would be the last. She was the main focus of the show and for her to go... it just caused the show to lose a bit of momentum and some of what made it great. She was the string that tied it all together and once you took her out of the equation, I felt that it just spiraled out a little bit.

What was your favorite storyline?

Jen: Season two, with Klaus and the curse, was so wonderfully executed. It was so layered and complicated, but in the end it all connected. I was on the edge of my seat. I also really enjoyed Ripper Stefan in Season 3. I gave me quality Stelena angst and I’m a big angst fan (I was raised on Joss Whedon and he makes you crave angst.)

Anne: Season two had the best storyline without question. I was very surprised. Not to mention season two included Katherine turning Caroline!

Maddie: The overall arc of season two was incredible. Katherine wreaking havoc, but then that turns out to be a teaser to the larger menace at play — Klaus and the Originals. From start to finish, season two is perfection.

Megan: Definitely bringing in the Originals. I thought it gave the show such an interesting twist, that they weren’t just dealing with hundred year old vampires, but a thousand years. These vampires were what started everything. Klaus has always been my absolute favorite character in this world (excluded him from earlier as he has his own show) and I thought he and his family brought so much to the table when they were introduced.

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What was your least favorite storyline?

Jen: The Travelers were a real low point. Super boring. Also Alaric/Caroline because “ew.” Lily and her band of vampire/witch children weren’t all that interesting. However, I have to say, my least favorite storyline was Stefan drowning in a safe all summer while Damon and Elena had sex. That made me throw things at my television.

Anne: I agree with Jen, except for the Stefan-drowning-in-a-safe (kind of funny to me, IMO).

Maddie: Have I mentioned how much I loathed the sire bond?

Megan: I agree, Jen. I hated the Travelers. I hated when they ran everyone out of Mystic Falls and Matt (a.k.a., Only Human Left) got all crazy. OH GOD, and I totally agree, Jen. That whole storyline about Stefan in the safe was just atrocious. Also when Elena was the only way to make more hybrids and then it all fizzled out. I was like “... well, that didn’t pan out and now I’m mad.”

After eight seasons, what did you enjoy most about this show and what did you enjoy the least? 

Jen: We’ll start with the negative, so I can end on a positive note. I think TVD became too invested in shock value. Honestly, it was the simple moments I loved more than the big shockers. They had wonderfully complex storylines in seasons one through three that all tied together. But then in later seasons, they made the stories overly complex. The show sort of just lost its way. I think the writers and producers also became too invested in fan reaction — concern over fan reaction stopped them from taking the stories in certain directions that they should have gone, and needed to go, which is a shame.

Now, the positive! I loved the way TVD examined humanity. At its core, it was asking some really big questions for what people categorized as a “teen show.” What makes us feel alive? What makes us human? The emotion TVD mined from asking and answering those questions was amazing. They created rich and complex characters from that as well. Essentially, the show is built around a love triangle, but it’s why these two vampires loved this girl that I find most endearing — she represented the best of humanity to them and reminded them of their own.

Anne: I’ll also start with the negative! I didn’t like how convoluted the mythology became, because I really respected what the show had built in its first two seasons. I loved Mystic Falls the way people love Stars Hollow. I loved the tradition and Founder’s Festivals, and I even loved Whitmore. I loved how this world was built. But after a point, with Armory’s and Heretics and Phoenix Stones, the deaths became less meaningful because anyone could come back depending on how the writers felt, which made the show less meaningful. Honestly, a lot of the show is “of-the-week” fights, so when you eliminate the stakes (no pun intended, hahaha) you lose what made the show great...

... Which was, to me, that it was fun, and anyone’s head could be on the chopping block. TVD was sweet and romantic and mysterious and action-filled. My favorite episode is “500 Years of Solitude” because it has all the things I loved about TVD in it: relationships, flashbacks, twists, death, drama, drinking, mythology, “The Fray” — what more could you want out of a CW show?

Maddie: The defining good trait of TVD led to some of the worst parts of this show. It was fearless. TVD was never afraid to go there. Coach Tanner and Vicki’s deaths early on proved to the audience that you’ll never know what will happen next. However, as each “OMG” moment came to pass, the show tried to outdo itself — which led to nonsensical plotlines that detracted from the core of what was truly great about the show: its characters and the relationships between them.

TVD creating interesting dynamic characters that brought real emotional stakes to this banana-pants crazy world they lived in. The bonds of epic passionate love, family, and friendships that become the family we chose is what made this show more than plot twists and hot vampires doing it.

Megan: I really did love this show. I read the books. I loved how they would always find the perfect song to set any emotional scene; that was truly incredible. I loved that it kept me hooked from start to finish. Sure, I may have said, “Whoa, let’s pump the breaks here” from time to time, but I was always invested in the people of Mystic Falls. I wanted to know how they would tackle whatever insane thing was thrown at them next. I thought that for the most part, the storylines were great and enthralling. I thought that the idea of love and connection and knowing that not everything is always black and white was always apparent throughout the series. Maybe that’s what I loved: that they never shied away from where they started, not really. It was always about love in some way or another: familial love, romantic love, friend love. It was always there. It was always reminding us that we aren’t good and we aren’t bad; we’re somewhere in between. (Unless you’re Kai and you’re horrible.)

I guess what I didn’t like was consistency. They would have these really great storylines and then they would get a little muddy and wouldn’t be as great anymore. I would lose interest here and there, but I always hoped it would get better. And it did. I wish they would have made a stronger season after Elena’s cure then slumber, but I still watched. I still wanted to know what was going to happen next. Some storylines seemed a little reaching, but that’s okay. Not all shows have winning episodes every episode (seriously, the entire last season of Nip/Tuck was pure garbage), so I can overlook it. But that’s my biggest problem. Sometimes Damon’s attitude or Stefan’s would just get grating and I wouldn’t like Elena’s choices, but that’s just part of enjoying the show, you know?

What will you miss most about The Vampire Diaries? Sound off in the comments below!


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