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Review: 'The Vampire Diaries' Loses Even More Direction In 'The Devil Inside'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
January 31st, 2014 10:00am EST

The Vampire Diaries

What the hell was that? “The Devil Inside” resets season five for the second time in twelve episodes, resetting for the first time in the season premiere. Katherine is Elena, Damon is Devil Damon again, Tyler’s back adding nothing to the story, the Whitmore plot has been sucked dry, and a directionless season loses more direction it didn’t have to lose. How did that happen? More and more The Vampire Diaries’ fifth season reminds me of Dawson’s Creek’s fifth season: directionless and broken up into three distinct ‘acts.’ Season five of TVD has Damon’s reversion to his season one self; season five of Dawson’s Creek reverted to the initial Dawson/Jen pairing of season one. The college setting seemed to lose the writers’ handle on a story they had little hand on anyway, in Dawson’s Creek, and that same uncertainty surrounds season five of the vampire show. The Vampire Diaries is essentially a cooler, hipper and more fun Dawson’s Creek and has always been thus. I’m convinced season five of Dawson’s Creek was put together during drunken sessions of writing ideas on index cards and pulling those ideas out of a hat each time an actor bitched about something he or she didn’t like. I make that rather ridiculous claim about Dawson’s Creek because of the unsettled creative staff that went on after Kevin Williamson left. I don’t think TVD’s writers shoot paintball guns at a wall to make decisions about characters and story based on frequency of paint color from the guns. I think the writers have tried something different in season five to go along with what’s happening for the characters: change of partners, change of schools, change of lifestyles, etc.

Criticisms about fan service during last week’s 100th episode could be found on the internet. Fan service is sort of an issue during the whole fifth season but it’s also not. Caroline Dries, Julie Plec, and the other TVD writers treat Damon/Elena shippers the same way WWE treats Daniel Bryan fans. Both sets of fans want their favorites to reach the peak of a story. For Damon and Elena fans, the peak is a stable, happy relationship; for Daniel Bryan fans, the peak is a long title run, to be pushed as the top face in the company, to be as beloved by those who book a show as he’s beloved by those who watch every show devotedly. “The Devil Inside” separates Damon from Elena. Of course, Damon’s separated from the idea of Elena. Katherine uses Damon’s worst qualities to break up with him when permanently Elena. The break-up scene concentrates on Damon’s devil inside. Katherine rejects him for what he rejected in himself when he initially ended his relationship with Elena. The sting of hearing Elena’s ‘It’s over” instead of his own causes regression and the murder for which he’ll suffer consequences for once Elena finds her way back.

I assumed the brothers would figure out Katherine’s plan before the first act break, but the longer no one figured it out I knew Katherine would stick around until #515 or #516. TVD season five is broken up into parts, acts, and act two follows Katherine play-acting while she watches everyone fall apart around her. Katherine’s terrific. Nina Dobrev plays more freely as Katherine than as Elena. I assume the end-game is true death for Katherine (true death reminds me too much of True Blood and I cringe to type it). Elena won’t miss much personally, besides Damon time and college classes. I don’t see the purpose of more Katherine except for “it’s fun to have more Katherine.” I don’t disagree. Maybe TVD doesn’t need ‘purpose,’ for each and every decision to matter. Katherine’s presence will matter for the characters: she’s destroyed Damon’s life within 90 seconds of seeing him, she destroyed Tyler’s, made Caroline’s more unpleasant, and plans to ensnare. Perhaps I need to relax and roll with what’s going on. The last two insanely convoluted seasons should remind me to appreciate a more direct and simple approach to the season. The early season Whitmore plot dragged and retconned characters. Shifts in behavior make sense within the context of Katherine’s existing.

Destructive plans for an antagonist usually succeed, actually. Klaus had wonderful results whenever he plotted. Silas and Tessa did what they wanted for a stretch, everyone else be damned. Nadia and Katherine enjoyed similar success. Feelings of surprise owe more to one’s conditioning from years and years of television conventions wherein the heroes stop the villains. The exception to that rule is when it happens midseason, because heroes won’t save the girl or the world then. Katherine play-acted through Matt’s party, compelled Matt to tell her about Elena’s life, drew Tyler’s attention to Caroline’s Klaus confession, and decided to win Stefan’s heart because “he’s the love of [her] life.” Katherine will create a beautiful chaos, beautiful because of Nina Dobrev’s beauty, and chaotic because it’s already chaotic.

Meanwhile, Tyler drinks himself into a miserable stupor following Caroline’s admission of engaging in sexual intercourse with Klaus. I stopped watching The Originals in November, during a particularly dull episode that followed Tyler’s revenge episode. Tyler’s revenge episode was one of the worst revenge episodes I’ve seen. I dislike a lot about The Originals, especially its plodding style and snail-like pacing, and I dislike Tyler quite a bit. Anyway, I missed Klaus crushing Tyler in New Orleans and didn’t connect that Tyler feels more wrecked by Caroline’s choice because of what happened in New Orleans. Klaus’ murder of family members important to people Caroline cares most about matters more than failure in New Orleans; however, Stefan punches Tyler in the face for calling Caroline out. Stefan’s a gentleman and must’ve acted because Tyler behaved ungentlemanly towards Caroline. Tyler’s confession to Matt about what happened in New Orleans gave a new reading to last week’s scene for me—that Klaus acted in spite of Tyler rather than for affection towards Caroline.

“The Devil Inside” resets characters, situations, and stories. Damon murders Aaron because Elena doesn’t want him to, which is still not the worst thing he’s done to her. Enzo’s now a fashionably dressed enabler, forgiving of Damon’s past actions against him as long as Damon joins him in monstrous violence. I’m least interested in that, though the flare in Ian Somerhalder’s eyes suggests he’s into the material. Matt and Tyler may travel the open American road for awhile in lieu of the writers creating any engaging arc for either. Elena’s gone ‘forever’, but really only temporarily. The season’s going nowhere, but there might be bits of fun, or it ends with Stefan meeting the director who fired him in the season premiere. Oh, sorry, wrong show.

Photo Credits: © The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved


Photo Credits: © The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved


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