I'm Watching the Vampire Diaries for the Fourth Time, and Here's What I've Learned

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

 

Before I begin, I would just like to clarify that yes, you did read the title correctly. This is the fourth time I’m watching all eight seasons of CW’s The Vampire Diaries. It is the only show I’ve managed to repeatedly binge in order--even when it comes to The Office, I can’t bring myself to watch every episode. When you watch a show that much, you begin to pick up on new things, and even develop new opinions of the storylines you’ve always loved.

I started watching TVD the summer before my freshman year of high school. My best friend at the time was obsessed with it and had me watch the Pilot with her. I instantly fell in love with it, and continued to watch it on my own. By the time freshman year started, I was all caught up, and would watch the new episodes each Friday during my last period study hall after it had aired the previous evening. I was hooked. The eighth and final season ended during my senior year, but I waited until all of the episodes were on Netflix so I could watch them continuously. I finished the last episode a few nights before my high school graduation, which was emotional to say the least. There I was, concluding the show that defined my teenage years right before officially concluding my childhood. Tears were shed--lots of them. Since then, I’ve found myself always coming back to Mystic Falls and the drama that defines it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had more and more experiences that have changed the way I view life. So when I started re-watching the show for the fourth time about a month and a half ago, I noticed things I hadn’t before--about the plot, the characters, and just the show in general. I see The Vampire Diaries from a completely different perspective now, and I don’t know that I’ll ever see it the way I used to again.

To honor eight seasons of The Vampire Diaries, here are eight things I’ve picked up on:

 

1. The beginning of the show is absolute trash.

 

I can see how I didn’t notice this as a fourteen year old, but the fact that it took me three more tries to understand this is honestly disappointing. The plot is cliché, the acting is subpar (although that most likely had to do with the low-quality material they were given in the beginning--there’s only so much even the most talented of actors can work with), and it’s just downright unrealistic. The melodramatic nature of the characters made me cringe. There’s an obvious effort to distance the series from that of Twilight, but at that point, it was just as silly of a story.

 

Image courtesy of GIFER

 

 

Let’s not forget Stefan joining the football team, or the fact that some aspects of the show simply disappeared and never made an appearance again (remember when Damon could create fog and turn into a crow? Yeah, I forgot too).

So when did The Vampire Diaries start to get good, exactly? Opinions vary, but I think the turning point fell right around the time when Elena discovered that Stefan’s dead ex-girlfriend, Katherine, looked exactly like her. That, is when I believe things started to get exciting.

 

2. TVD has the best soundtrack--ever.

 

I will always always always stand by my opinion that The Vampire Diaries has what is quite possibly the best soundtrack featured in any series I’ve watched. I can’t stress how many songs I’ve taken from the show to use in my own films because I realized the emotional potential they had when put to a visual story. The creators chose songs by artists like The Fray, Ed Sheeran, Ross Copperman, Chord Overstreet, Ron Pope, and so, so many more. One of my most recent favorites is Salvation, by Gabrielle Aplin. Take my advice and google search the show’s soundtrack--you’ll have one heck of a playlist.

 

3. Elena is annoying.

 

I’d heard this opinion many times before, but never truly noticed it myself until now. I’d always thought of Elena as strong and caring. Now don’t get me wrong, she definitely is. She had to endure more pain and loss than any character I’ve seen before. From her adoptive parents’ deaths, to Jenna’s death, to her biological parents’ deaths, to classmates’ deaths, to her brother Jeremy’s (sort of) death, to Bonnie’s (sort of) death, to Alaric’s (sort of) death--you get the point. But she’s also judgmental, and thinks her way is always right...and she broke Stefan’s heart which is not okay (but more on that later).

During the Klaus era, I cannot count how many times Elena tried to hand herself over to be sacrificed for the Sun and the Moon Ritual. Sure, it might have been brave, and she might have been doing it to save her friends in the long run, but it was also incredibly selfish. She had so many people who cared about her that were trying to save her life. Giving in to Klaus would have meant leaving those people; and let’s not forget that Jeremy lost the same people as she did--he didn’t need to lose her too.

Later on, Jeremy dies at the hands of Silas. Although Bonnie eventually brings him back with her “witchy-woo,” as Damon would call it, at the time, he’s dead, and Elena can’t handle that. She flips off her humanity switch so as not to feel the pain, and goes on a killing spree. So when Caroline wants to shut her humanity off after losing her mom, you’d think Elena would at least understand this. But no, she can’t accept losing Caroline’s compassion and tries desperately to get her to flip the switch back. However, Caroline is much more in control as a humanity-less vampire. She can keep herself from killing others, while Elena couldn’t. What Elena should have done, instead of lecturing Caroline, was be a supportive friend in her time of grieving.

One more thing to point out is Elena’s condescending attitude toward Jeremy when he’s failing his classes and ditching school. Did she forget the fact that an absurd amount of people in his life have died including his parents, his girlfriend, and, oh yeah, himself? I’m sure coming back to life and having to go back to school where everyone believes you faked your own death for attention is super easy, right? Her complete lack of awareness when it comes to Jeremy’s feelings is something that’s irked me this fourth time around.

 

4. Stefan and Caroline’s relationship is actually pretty great.

 

When “Steroline” first came into play, I was not happy. I loved Caroline, and I loved Stefan, but I didn’t love them together. I guess part of me was still hung up on Stefan and Elena being together, so seeing him with one of Elena’s best friends didn’t sit right with me. With my recent realizations of Elena’s lapses in judgment, I gained another new realization: Stefan deserves better. Not only did Elena leave him, but she left him for his brother, knowing that was one of his biggest fears throughout their relationship. She wasn’t very inconspicuous about it either. Over time, Caroline and Stefan had gone from strangers, to best friends, to falling in love, and they actually make a really cute couple. They had their bumps and hardships along the way, but their wedding during Season 8 was one of the most genuine, love-filled moments of the show. Looking back at Season 1, I can’t help but smile at the development of their characters and how they eventually found their way to one another.   

Image courtesy of the author

 

 

5. Alaric’s strength is underappreciated.

 

I always took Alaric Saltzman for granted. I saw him as the authority figure for Elena and Jeremy, the adult that was supposed to stay strong, and even the obstacle keeping Stefan and Caroline from being together during Season 7. In reality, however, he was someone who lost his wife, and then lost his girlfriend, and then his wife again, and then when he was finally back to experiencing some normalcy, his fiancé left him. When it came to his relationship with Caroline the first time I watched the show, I was annoyed. I wanted her to be with Stefan by that point, and Alaric was holding on too tight even though he knew she didn’t love him back. Watching it now, I see him as someone who has been hurt, and experienced loss just like the rest of the characters. All he wants is to finally marry the woman he loves, and the (technically surrogate) mother of his children; but Caroline ends up with Stefan. Despite his pain, Alaric has always been there for the people around him, and continued to fight for them to the end. I respect him a lot more now than I ever did before.

 

6. Damon is really, truly a selfish person.

 

No one likes Damon in the first season. He’s simply evil--he tries to kill Stefan, he abuses Caroline, and he seems to bring nothing but trouble to Mystic Falls. Eventually, his bad boys persona begins to grow on you, and as his relationship with Elena develops, you even start rooting for the two of them to be together. By the end of the show, you love Damon and want happiness for him--he’s one of the good guys. At least, that’s how I felt the first time around. Now, I’m beginning to notice a pattern. Every time Damon screws up, he proclaims, “I’m selfish!” He says it so many times, in fact, that you could make a drinking game out of it (and do some serious damage).

 

Image courtesy of the author

 

 

I used to excuse this side of him, because the creators try to romanticize the dark and dangerous sides of him. It’s taken me four viewings to see that his nature isn’t always alluring. From making constant advances toward Elena while she was with Stefan, to desecating in a coffin without saying goodbye instead of owning up to his mistakes, to getting Stefan killed when on the run from the Huntress, to the countless of lives he took while under the Siren’s influence (including Tyler Lockwood, RIP), I don’t swoon over Damon the way the producers want me to. This all sounds harsh, I know. Trust me, I still think Damon’s hilarious and a great character. However, I also think Kai Parker is hilarious and a great character...and he’s a sociopath…So, don’t get me wrong, Damon has his moments. Elena made him a better person, and getting to see his sweet and caring side was heartwarming--as was his friendship with Bonnie. I mean, tears were definitely shed when he recites from memory the letter he left for her that she refused to read. In fact, I think the letter does a great job of capturing his inner struggle:

“Dear Bonnie, I’m a coward. I should be saying this to your face, not writing this letter, but…I know if I do, you’ll talk me out of running away from all my problems. You’re gonna make me face the future without Elena. And you’re gonna help make me the best man I could possibly be. The same way she did. And I’m absolutely terrified of failing you both. So I’m leaving, because I’d rather let you down once than let you down for the rest of your life. And I hope it’s the happiest life. Because you, Bonnie Bennett, are an amazing woman, a mediocre crossword player, and my best friend. With love and respect, Damon.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I don’t hate Damon. I still think he’s complex--he masquerades his compassionate side with an evil one because of all of the torment he’s experienced, and mistakes he’s made. The way my perception of him has changed is that I no longer excuse the harmful qualities he’s displayed. Just because he’s hurt people before and doesn’t want to try to live up to anyone’s expectations only to disappoint them doesn’t erase the immoral decisions he’s made. So, rather than overlooking one side of him and solely focusing on the good parts, I take into account Damon as a whole person--his selfishness included.

 

7. Death is a very scary, and very real.

 

I managed to watch the show the first three times without really taking into account the reality of death and loss. Sure, I cried a few times, but that was more because of the emotions portrayed by the characters combined with the previously-mentioned brilliant soundtrack. I never actually considered how events like this would translate into real life. In the six years since I first watched the Pilot episode, I actually started to experience loss. Whether it was a friend’s parent or a grandparent, I started to experience the pain associated with death. The fears associated with health and death have become significant struggles for me over this past year, so watching this show now became increasingly difficult. The part that hit me the hardest was the death of Caroline’s mom. She wasn’t killed by a vampire, or during her work as a Sheriff; instead, she died of cancer, a very real, very human disease. This wasn’t a death you could just brush off because you believe the supernatural doesn’t exist, this was real, and it scared me a lot. The fears and anxieties I struggle with on a daily basis were being thrown in my face in the realist way possible. Each time a character died, I felt a more genuine pain than any of the other three times I’ve watched the show, and that made me sympathize with the other characters a lot more than I ever had before.

 

8. Stefan will always be the better Salvatore brother.

 

This point might fit better after number six, but I didn’t want to end on such a dark note. I didn’t appreciate Stefan as much whenever I’d watched the show before. I honestly kind of saw him as soft for always doing the right thing--but that was before I discovered the illusion of Damon’s dark appeal. Now, I see Stefan as someone who spent years trying to make up for his wrongdoings--someone who is actually stronger in his morality. Plus, he’s still badass when he needs to be, so he’s kind of like Damon without the insecurity, impulsivity, instability, and essentially every other character flaw he possesses. Point is, Stefan deserves much more than what he got. He deserves the girl he loves, and the human life he finally got. He sacrificed both, however, to save the day (as always). As I near the end of the show for the fourth time, I cannot wait for him to find peace and to be reunited with his best friend, Lexi. Peace, after all, seems like the only thing left in the show that is worthy of him (besides Caroline). While Damon would often give in to his dark temptations, Stefan always fought his hardest to stay away from his “ripper” side to keep everyone around him safe. Therefore, Stefan is in no way the “perfect” person, but he fought to keep people safe--he fought to be the best version of himself.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Giphy

 

 

In conclusion, something as simple as growing up has shaped the way I look at the world, and at life. I grew up watching The Vampire Diaries and I find it so incredibly interesting to examine how my experiences have changed my interpretation of the story and the characters. I’ll always love the show--my harsh critiques of some of its features shouldn’t be mistaken for distaste. I simply see things in a new light, and that doesn’t have to mean I’m not entertained by the show. Let’s be honest, after four rounds of eight seasons, I think I still have some room in my life left for The Vampire Diaries.