As a fan of The Vampire Diaries since the very first episode, this season five premiere left me rather disconcerted. “I Know What You Did Last Summer” seemed…so last summer. Most of what happened felt random, lacking emotional storytelling (except for two characters who I’ll cover later), and often just didn’t make sense.
Last season wasn’t my favorite by a long shot, but it still had it’s moments, especially emotionally. The plotting was often disorganized and uneven though. This premiere was a continuation of that, but worse. I’ve used this term before in some of my Supernatural pieces, but it seems so perfect here. The Vampire Diaries has turned into a short attention span theater.
The purpose of a season opener is to address the dangling threads from last season while kicking off in some form what’s to come from the next. No doubt there were many dangling threads from last season that would have been better served if they spent more time on the emotional fallout rather than throwing us into new plots like an elaborate dorm room mystery that we really care nothing about. Did the appearance of the vervain water toting mystery roommate and her bloody death all have to happen in the season opener? Shouldn’t they have gone into that gradually, or given Elena and Caroline some time to unpack?
Speaking of dorm room, that was a really large and nice upper floor one, don’t you think? That’s not something that freshmen usually end up with. They are usually half that size and don’t come with a private bathroom. Large, airy windows, well that’s a bit of a luxury too. But that’s nitpicking, and there were plenty more head-scratchers.
Let’s start with Bonnie. It’s almost like the writers wrote themselves into a corner with her “surprise” death and haven’t figured their way out of it yet. She’s been dead three months and no one has noticed her absence? Or at least felt it? They bought the European vacation story without any suspicion otherwise? Sure Jeremy knows since she told him and he still has his sixth sense, but something just seemed so off between those two. That could be intentional since death of one of the pair does put a damper on a relationship, but what’s Jeremy’s benefit here to telling no one about Bonnie? Because the dead chick objects? Bonnie’s character went from this powerful being that could take on original vampires and all sorts of scary shit to a dead person who’s presence hasn’t been sorely missed. That’s pretty sad given her sacrifice.
Then there’s Bonnie’s dad, her so called overprotective guardian, who didn’t even verify the whole European travels story with his ex-wife? No calls, no nothing? He was just offended? Speaking of her dad, I was rather sad to see Rick Worthy lose another role due to the need for another random character killing. I’m hoping he ends up finding Bonnie in the great beyond and they have some adventures together. Grams can join in too for fun.
Speaking of Bonnie’s Dad, how many mayors get killed in this flipping town? How about residents in general? Don’t you think by now there would be a mass exodus because of all the crazy public murders? Or it at least trigger and FBI sanctioned investigation? Yeah, it’s not something you really think about in season one, but in season five, it gets kind of noticeable.
But even the newer plots, like Rebekah and Matt and their whirlwind travels to Europe seemed haphazard and thrown together with no real purpose other than they knew they had to address it or audiences might get mad. Matt is so grown up now that a three way with two chicks making out seems like fun? That’s all we see until he shows up back at work kissing Rebekah? Then it was all capped off in random fashion with Matt getting his ring back, getting ambushed by some dude from behind and his eyes going black, a la Supernatural. Huh? Is he a demon now? Don’t we at least get a clue why that was coming?
You won’t get a greater WTF? from me though than the so called teary moment, when Tyler told Caroline over the phone he was staying in the woods with the wolves. There might have been a lot more emotional impact if Tyler had come back and we could see some sort of struggle with that decision or found out why he needed to be with the wolves. It again felt like the writers still haven’t figured out what to do with his character and that was a nice easy way out until they need him. Which they’ve been historically doing with Tyler for seasons, so exactly how is this time any different? It really ended up being valuable time wasted.
Even Elena’s bad feeling seemed out of place, since that really should have been there three months ago. After all, not only has Bonnie been dead, but Stefan has been suffering horribly. She couldn’t sense that? I think that summer of sex with Damon ruined her intuition. Oh wait, that’s actually a good excuse in my book. Fine, she gets a pass.
Silas as Stefan gets no such pass though. This is where the gaping hole left by Klaus leaving town takes hold. I’m not going to totally put blame on Paul Wesley, but the way Silas has been written isn’t very impressive. He doesn’t scare me. He annoys me. He seems like a dude having a bad temper tantrum and oh boy, the innocents of Mystic Falls are going to pay! Doesn’t that sound like the motivation of every villain since season one? Does he have a diabolical plan other than he’s pissed off? I do appreciate that all he had to do was touch Jeremy and the cat was out of the bag that he wasn’t Stefan. At least they didn’t drag that out. However, why would Silas come after Katherine now? Any reason why he waited three months? His trick on the town and killing the mayor just seemed tiresome. Isn’t that exactly what Klaus did? Although why did it seem more fun when Klaus was having these evil fits?
Oh, and come on, enough with hurting Jeremy already! The dude just came back from the dead! You can’t top that. I’m trying to figure out why he would even go back to school with his awful story of faking his own death by burning his house down. He didn’t think people would object to that? I’d been talking about home schooling at that point. Was it all a setup so he could kick some ass in the hallway? Sure the dudes had it coming, but why was that necessary? There’s so much potential with the aftermath of coming back from the dead and it just hasn’t been capitalized.
With all that said, probably in as random a fashion as the episode itself, how about I get to what worked? Damon and Stefan, that’s what. If the plot slowed down for anything, it was Stefan’s internal struggle as he kept drowning at the bottom of the lake over and over again. That part was shocking, tragic, and beautifully played. His imagined scenes over him and Damon discussing whether Stefan should turn off his humanity while going through this horror was actually far better than any of the real stuff going on. The chemistry between these actors has always been the series strength. If they had kept that tone and pacing with everyone’s stories the whole hour, that would have been some entertaining, albeit melodramatic television.
Also, who else is digging Damon as the new guardian for Jeremy? While Jeremy’s dire injury in the car crash was unnecessary, there was a least some payoff from Damon’s very concerned reaction over the fallen Gilbert. Damon seemed to handle an emotional Katherine too, who was a big whiner, but I guess how else do you write a spoiled 500 year old vampire that’s suddenly human?
All in all, I don’t know what the big hurry was to dive into new stories and plots so quickly without giving satisfying closure to the events prior and taking time to properly show the impact those events. If this show is going to have to carry on with the gaping hole left by the departure of the original vampires, then the writers are going to have to go back to basics and deliver the believable emotional beats along with the new twists. That’s what has given this show it’s unique imprint for so long and it would be a shame to see all that stop now. There’s plenty of show left to go.
My grade for “I Know What You Did Last Summer” – a C-.