I am becoming more and more convinced that the main strength of The Vampire Diaries is knowing how to take an old thing and make it new again. It is a problem the show has faced and overcome with panache ever since its premiere, when Twilight fans saw it as a rip-off, Buffy fans saw it as a sad indictment of the decline of girl power in tv, and everyone else saw it as oh no, not another damn vampire show. But anyone who stuck with it through its shaky first few episodes, even if they were a member of one of those sceptical camps to begin with, know that it has surpassed those assumptions – and that it has done it by embracing them. Stefan and Elena are every bit as True Love and teenage escapism as Bella and Edward*, but they come with less perfection and more infectious youth and enthusiasm. Elena will never be Buffy, but Alaric does just fine as a badass human Slayer and Elena’s self-determination and willingness to fight back in tight corners carry on the spirit of an empowered teenage girl in a supernatural world without the actual superpowers to help her. And the age-old vampire myths are there in recognisable form, but twisted just enough to give rise to new situations we haven’t seen done a million times before.
*disclaimer: no, I have not read/watched/otherwise engaged with Twilight, nor do I plan to. So please correct me if I’m wrong here but from what I understand of the storyline – and Twilight fans I know online who still love the extra energy and kickassness of TVD in comparison – I don’t think I’m too far off.
This ethos also seems to extend to its plot points, and is perhaps a partial explanation for how the plot on the show continues to move crazily fast without ever apparently running out of steam. In theory, many plots have already been re-used even within the one and a half seasons to date, but in actuality it doesn’t feel like that because the show keeps moving forward such that when we see an old plot point it feels new again, because the context has changed. There are multiple examples of this, but the obvious one coming to mind right now is Vicki vs. Caroline – technically the exact same plot, so much so that they had to have Damon point it out within the show, but boy oh boy did it feel different due to their different characters and the different slant within the show by this point on the different ways to be a vampire. And so old is made new again, and several episodes of heart-wrenching pain and joy are wrung out of a storyline that we thought we already knew.
Rather than adopt my usual approach of looking at each main character and seeing how their actions fit into the theme of the episode generally, then, I’m going to look at each of the main plot developments instead this week (so brace yourself, this could be a long discussion) and see whether they fit this mould of having your cake and eating it too.