5 Reasons Why Season 6 of The Vampire Diaries Reaches a New High
The last episode of The Vampire Diaries, “Let Her Go,” easily became one of my favorite episodes in the show’s history. We’ll touch upon the episode a bit more in this review, but I mainly want to focus on why this season has continued to impress me. After barely holding on in seasons four and five, I am beyond thrilled that this show has gotten its act together and has recommitted itself to the qualities that we loved so much in season one. It’s like a miracle, or something. Now that TVD is taking a short three-week hiatus, let’s examine the main reasons why this season is really, really working for me.
Brace yourselves, because I have a lot to say.
1. KAI PARKER, EVERYBODY
This one is pretty self-explanatory for anyone tuning in this season. And if you’re not watching, then do it for no other reason but to witness Christopher Wood steal ever seen that he appears in. TVD hasn’t seen a more threatening antagonist since Klaus circa seasons two and three. The writing for this deliciously psychotic villain has been nearly flawless. He’s deranged, driven,and acts without remorse. (Well, there’s the whole Luke’s-Compassionate-Side-Influencing-Kai thing, but I will reserve judgment on that until we see where that’s going exactly). But perhaps his most inviting traits are his biting wit and dry sense of humor. He’s funny, like, in the Season-One-Damon sort of way, but only better. It’s just hard not to love him, even if he is kind of a scary, unpredictable maniac. I also really like the fact that he doesn’t have his own magic, and only absorbs magic from other sources. It gives Kai a good chip on the shoulder without making him sympathetic. Christopher Wood is a phenomenal talent, and his presence has given the show a much needed lift. I’m hoping that he stays, but I’d cool it with giving him feelings of empathy. In a TV universe full of anti-heroes and redeemable villains, sometimes I just want my bad guys to stay bad.
2. Steadfast Storytelling
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the mythology of the show. While I believe TVD has excelled in it’s storytelling in earlier seasons, it all kind of got out-of-whack and confusing in the last two (I still don’t get the entire Travelers business, but whatever). In season six however, the writers have thankfully taken their time to set up the mythology of the Gemini Coven. This was actually pretty cool because it linked various characters – Liz and Luke (the witchy college twins we met last season), Jo (Elena’s mentor and Alaric’s love interest), and Kai (Snarky Supervillain) – as siblings with a painful history in which psycho-brother Kai tried to kill them all. I loved the whole concept revolving around the “merge.” I loved that this coven had such weird and crazy rules regarding twins. I loved that these witches indulge in invisibility at the most opportune moments. The structure of this mythological narrative doesn’t feel overwhelming as other stories have felt in the past. It feels steady, and fresh, and exciting. And the execution of the merge was handled very well, with Luke dying instead of Jo. I’m interested to see where this story goes after the hiatus and how it concludes, but so far it’s been riveting.
3. Bonnie the BAMF
I could probably write a twenty-page essay on Bonnie alone because that’ just how much I have to say about this character. If I’m being real, Bonnie’s characterization has troubled me since season two. She showed an incredible amount of potential in season one, demonstrating inner-strength, vulnerability, and complexity ever since she discovered her magic. However, in the seasons that followed, Bonnie was wrongfully pushed to the background, used more as a plot-device (the go-to witch for Elena and The Salvatores), rather than an actual player on the show. Any attempts to showcase Bonnie’s point-of-view was usually cut short before it was fully realized, like her story with her mom in season three, or dad in season four. Even the Expression story line, initially filled with promise for a darker, sinister Bonnie, ended up disappointing. It wasn’t until season five, when Bonnie returned from the dead as the anchor to the other side that the character finally felt like was coming into her own. She started to feel integral again, not just because her actions pulled the story along, but because she affected every character, altering the fabric of the show. Her sacrifices in the season five finale established her as a woman of empowerment and selflessness. And from there, her most excruciating and astonishing journey began.
Coming back to season six, Bonnie was placed in the most precarious of circumstances, living in a prison-world set in 1994, trying to regain her magic, and coping with the only companion she had left – her former enemy Damon Salvatore. Watching Bonnie and Damon together those first few episodes were better than I could have ever imagined. They complemented each other so well in their bantering, friendship, protection, and love for each other. These early season six scenes are true gems (I’d go further into it, but, then this would be a super long review and I want to avoid that). Despite the awesomeness of Bamon, it wasn’t until when Damon made it back to the real world, leaving Bonnie with Kai, that Bonnie’s true story took shape. We saw Bonnie stand her ground against Kai, patch herself up after he impaled her, and subsist when he escaped the prison, making Bonnie the lone survivor in the alternate universe. Isolated from everyone she has ever loved, Bonnie was forced to come to terms with living in an empty world. As Julie Plec stated on Twitter in defense of her writing choices, Bonnie has THE story this season. The reason, you ask? Because we get moments like Bonnie burning the tree on Christmas, running to meet up with Damon and Elena only to be shattered by finding nobody there, contemplating suicide by tearfully uttering “It’s the loneliness, I can’t take it.” Graham shines, ya’ll. She slays this entire arc in which we see Bonnie hold on to hope, lose hope, only to find it again in the midst of a complete breakdown.
And for those of us who clamored for months for the much anticipated Bamon reunion, we were not disappointed. Damon is the first pit stop for Bonnie after she rescues herself, and their joyful embrace was perfection. I’m excited to see how Bonnie is reintegrated into her old life. She has undoubtedly changed from her journey, but I’m most curious to see how she copes with a potential case of PTSD, and who she leans on for support.
This has been a sublime character study. Bonnie emerges triumphantly as one of the best characters on canvas right now.
4. Caroline Takes the Lead
Much like Bonnie, Caroline is another secondary character I’ve been waiting to see thrive in the forefront. I understand that because this show revolves around our core three, the rest are not going to have their stand-alone stories, but I’m glad that season six really took the plunge and gave both Bonnie and Caroline individual arcs that supported their growth as characters.
I was on the fence with the cancer story line. My main concern was that I didn’t want Stefan and Caroline to be drawn together by tragedy like most of these couples are. But, what I found was that Sheriff Forbes’s impending death wasn’t just about Stefan and Caroline falling in love, but also about Caroline as an individual. This story was about Caroline losing her mother, and Caroline dealing with the possibility of unrequited love, and Caroline finding immense comfort in her best friend. This story was told through Caroline’s eyes, with multiple episodes beginning and ending with Caroline. Because everyone knew Liz’s demise was approaching, it already made this particular struggle with mortality different from all the other sudden and immediate deaths the show has seen. With this, we got to see Caroline deal with it over a small period of time. She sat with her grief, her anger, her frustrations, her fears. That’s what makes this story so heartbreaking, real, and human. It also exemplifies another brilliant character study of the season.
The journey of this arc, resulting in the beautifully written episode last week, just proves why this arc will be remembered as one of TVD’s very best. Candice Accola and Marguerite Macintyre are true winners.
Caroline’s emotional voyage will continue to develop after the hiatus since she has turned off her humanity in efforts to numb the pain. I can only hope that her experiences as a vampire gone rogue differ from that of Elena’s.
5. Steroline Delivers the Feels
This one kind of snuck up on me. As a huge fan of Stefan and Caroline since season two, I have always considered their friendship as the sweet spot of the show when everything else was messy and haphazard. But turning this flawlessly platonic bond into something romantic was an idea that left me doubtful. However, much to my surprise, the transition from friends to something more has been so enjoyable to watch. It’s awkward and sweet at the same time. It’s a kind of love that we had not yet seen mature on this show before, which is why this pair is a breath of fresh air. Rooted in a place of friendship, trust, and mutual support, it makes so much sense for these two individuals to be together. One can imagine that this relationship will be healthier than any of the ones we’ve already seen. But, of course, any great love depicted on a show has got to have conflict, angst, and tension. And Steroline has all of these things from Caroline feeling abandoned by Stefan at the beginning of the season, to not being able to define their relationship, to not finding the right timing. Witnessing this relationship blossom before me has me wearing a dumb smile on my face. Steroline’s first kiss was perfection. Stefan’s admission to Damon about his feelings for Caroline was perfection.
But, of course, with Caroline’s new predicament, we are going to see Steroline struggle some more before the relationship finally finds its footing, but I’m all about that, man. I am so here for this.
Other Great Stuff From Season 6:
1. I am so pleasantly pleased that Jo and Alaric are pregnant and engaged to be married. Will this be TVD’s first ever wedding and pregnancy? Guys, I’m psyched. I’ve loved Alaric since forever and I’m happy that he’s found happiness and even happier that he’s found it with Jo. She’s my kinda gal.
2. 1994’s pop-culture, fashion, and music gave us unexpected nostalgia. It was awesome while it lasted.
3. Stefan and Damon finally acting like real brothers, minus the bitterness, animosity, and girl-drama. This feels right. This feels earned.
4. Matt and Tyler as cops? Odd but possibly a good direction for them both. Except, wait, why would Tyler risk killing someone and triggering his werewolf curse?
Overall, the writers of TVD gave us what they promised – more focus on the characters and a turn back to season one. They have exceeded my expectations immensely. I’m really hoping that I don’t jinx it, but for now, I’m a happy viewer.
And that about covers it. Of course, there are some details that I don’t like about this season (and a D-plot that I really don’t like), but I’m on such a TVD high right now, that I’m going to leave this review feeling warm and hopeful for what the rest of the season brings.
Until then, much love.