Top critical review
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a bad season for my favorite show
on May 16, 2013
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS (but hopefully not too many major ones).
DISCLAIMER: I do actually like this show and plan on sticking with it, because I'm OCD and must see things through to the end. That being said, every show has a bad season - Buffy had the snooze-fest of season four, Angel had the truly terrible baby plot line in season three, Smallville had a dull-as-dishwater-Zod in season nine, and ... well, this is TVD's bad season. (I hope, because it's a mess and I'd hate to sit through another one.) The thing is, when the show is good, it's really good, and when it's bad, it's incredibly bad.
Watching this season reminded me of reading "Breaking Dawn." It started out promising then turned into total crap, but I kept reading hoping for the EPIC RESOLUTION that would make up for 500 pages of self-defeating, totally illogical bull that preceded it. Lo and behold, instead of an epic resolution, I got 40 pages of pontificating and vampires standing around glaring at each other, before everyone went home; a big buildup, the promise of epic violence, and ... no payoff.
In a nutshell, this is how season four of "The Vampire Diaries" plays out: a promising start, an epic build-up, some decent character moments, the threat of deathly peril and then... total crap. Not only is the pacing way off (long gone are the days of the series actually being creepy, and having episodic cliffhangers), it breaks all its formerly-established "vampire rules," spends way too much time on unimportant things and not enough on its villain, introduces pointless characters for one or two episodes rather than using and developing existing ones, and the finale, while "good," is so rushed, I felt most of it SHOULD have been a three or four episode arc at the end of the season.
The wasted opportunities this season are endless, particularly the finale: the writers bring back a bunch of vengeful hybrids, werewolves, vampires, and dead witches, and you don't really see them DO ANYTHING BAD in town! Where's the hell-raising Kol promised us? Where's him capturing Elena and torturing her for days? Where's Klaus having to face down his twelve angry, undead, can't-be-killed hybrids? It's a MAJOR LET DOWN, and worse, a missed opportunity. Sadly, it didn't shock me because the entire season is like that.
Breaking established "rules of the universe" in a series (or book, for that matter) is lazy, sloppy, and convenient, the epitome of bad writing. Here, they do it multiple times - baby vampires get the upper hand on much older ones (including an Original), a hybrid-werewolf baby is conceived, the sire bond isn't as rare as they said, and for that matter, neither are doppelgangers. Relationships are convenient rather than developed; characters are underused; consistently, the writers promise us something great and fail to deliver. Kol promises us hell on earth if Silas is freed - it never arrives; Klaus promises vengeance for Kol - it doesn't happen; Klaus swears vengeance on Tyler - and does nothing.
None of the originals care when one of them is killed - and Elijah even goes so far as to comfort his brother's murderer, with nary a mention of his senseless death (and no, the show's justification is invalid, since there's a witch in Mystic Falls capable of stopping Kol). The writers then have him turn around a few episodes later and spend half of an episode trying to convince Klaus how important it is to preserve family. (WUT?)
Granted, it all doesn't suck, and the first half of the season is even good. There's a few standout episodes, such as the aftermath of the Jeremy plot twist. Klaus' presence in the Christmas episode is unforgettable. Elijah continues to be fabulous, particularly when turning up in New Orleans. Damon and Elena have a nice moment together in the finale. Plus, it included the pilot episode for "The Originals," which between Elijah (who, me, biased? Never!) and Marcel (who out-awesome-s Klaus by ten million miles) may be a lot of fun next fall.
Will I be watching it next season? Yes. I didn't give up on Buffy, Angel, or Smallville after their crappy seasons. Hopefully, this is just a stumble and not an indication of the future of the series, because in spite of its faults, I do like "The Vampire Diaries"... and I want to see it get back on form.
Or at least have some sort of a PLAN next season.