Funny thing about recaps . . . they pass their “Sell By” date pretty quickly. If you’re a day or two late . . . no problem.
But by about the fourth day after the episode aired, your detailed play-by-play is starting to smell a bit like sour milk.
This is particularly true during May Sweeps, when every night heralds a new season finale to discuss and dissect over the proverbial water cooler.
For this reason, I’ve decided that, instead of offering up your garden variety recap, this blog series is going to be more of a TVD Season 4 Retrospective, with a few Season 5 predictions / wishes thrown in for good measure.
Don’t get me wrong, I still ABSOLUTELY plan on talking about all the CRAZY that went down during “Graduation,” (How could I not? I’m a Delena fan, after all.) I’m just going to do organize things a bit differently . . .
What follows is a brief look at each Scooby Gang character’s arc this season. We’ll talk about the Good . . . the Bad . . . and, of course, THE SILAS of each . . .
This first installment will feature everybody’s favorite Brunette Baby Vamp . . .
Season 4 of TVD was definitely the Season of Elena . . .
Yes, yes, I know. Every season of TVD is technically the Season of Elena. She’s the Special Snowflake, after all . . . the character everyone loves . . .
. . . wants to befriend . . .
. . . hates . . .
. . . wishes to enslave . . .
. . . wants to kill.
But this season, for the first time, plotlines had less to do with how other characters interacted with Elena, and more to do with how she reacted to them. Perhaps, even more than that, Season 5 was about how Elena reacted to herself, and the Changes she was undergoing.
Turning Elena into a vampire was arguably one of the show’s most polarizing decisions. On one hand, from a feminist perspective, it was nice to see an empowered, dangerous, Elena, as opposed to her damsel in distress incarnation from previous seasons.
On the other hand, on a show where so many of the main characters were vampires, it was difficult for fans to extensively sympathize with Elena’s struggles with transformation. Yes, anger issues, blood lust, hunger, fangs popping out at inopportune times . . . these are all frustrating.
But the writers struggled to convince viewers that they were somehow MORE frustrating and painful for Elena, than they were for Stefan, Damon, Caroline, or any of the other vamps in Mystic Falls.
So, in order to make Elena’s transformation story uniquely compelling, the writers had to raise the stakes. They made her incapable of drinking blood from anywhere other than the vein . . .
They made her first impulse kill a vampire hunter, and saddled her with a crazy-making Hunter’s Curse . . .
They gave her . . . the dreaded SIRE BOND . . .
Talk about polarizing!
I suspect if you ask TVD writers, many were surprised by how violently fans responded to this particular plotline. After all, from a purely mythological standpoint, the strong bond of loyalty and obedience between Maker and Made is nothing new. We’ve seen it on other vampire series, like True Blood and Twilight.
TVD itself even explored such a relationship previously between Klaus and Tyler.
The difference here was that, in this case, the Sire Bond wasn’t used as a plot device to bring characters together. It was meant to break them apart. Delena fans were frustrated by the implication that Elena’s being turned by Damon’s blood somehow cheapened the romantic relationship the pair had been gradually building with one another over the course of three seasons.
Furthermore, they were infuriated by the fact that the first time Damon and Elena FINALLY got to do the deed, it was interrupted by scary music, and an ANNOYING conversation, during which Caroline and Stefan explained the nature of the sire bond.
Damon fans were frustrated by the writers seeming refusal to let the Elder Salvatore Brother ever “get the girl,” under genuine circumstances.
They felt that the sire bond cast a dark pall over Damon’s actions toward Elena. His rescue of her from the hunters curse, his solution to her “blood problem,” his acceptance of her new vampire form, when all her friends seemed to shun her, these should have been seen as gallant and romantic. But, under the shadow of the sire bond, they seemed somehow manipulative and controlling.
Stelena fans, devastated by the couple’s break up, early on in Elena’s vampire transformation process, latched on to the sire bond as evidence that the Damon and Elena relationship wasn’t “real.” But that didn’t make the coupling any easier for them to watch.
Vampire mythology gurus complained that the show’s explanation for the sire bond was inconsistent and nonsensical, not only in comparison to other series’ sire bond explanations, but to the rules the show previously created for itself. They wondered, for example, how, if the sire bond was so rare, how Damon managed to have two women develop this bond to him, while all the other non-hybrid vampires of the world had none.
They asserted that if the sire bond developed as a result of preexisting feelings of love between Maker and Made than why did neither Stefan nor Damon develop such a bond with Katherine Pierce.
And finally they complained about how Elena, who seemed perfectly capable of disobeying Damon during the first week’s of her vampirism, suddenly seemed completely incapable of ignoring his plans, the moment the bond was revealed.
Come to think of it, perhaps, the Sire Bond wasn’t all that polarizing. Pretty much, everyone hated it . . .
Fortunately for fans, the sire bond plotline only lasted a few weeks. After that, Elena had another Unique Vampire Problem, with which to cope . . . her newfound lack of Humanity.
Humanity Free Elena stemmed from what was, in my opinion, one of the most powerful, and well executed plot twists of the season . . . Jeremy Gilbert’s death. “Stand By Me” was a heartbreakingly beautiful and powerful TVD episode, during which Elena literally lost everything she cared about . . . her brother . . . her home . . . her will to live . . . and finally, her ability to love.
Given the careful and clever way in which Humanity Free Elena was introduced, I think many fans, initially, were on board with this new version of an old character. They wondered how she would distinguish herself from Katherine . . . the other “Bad” version of a character played by Nina Dobrev.
They gleefully, if a bit concernedly, contemplated how Elena’s newfound evilness would impact her usually all-consuming love life. They tried to guess what type of “villain” Evilena would be . . .
The fans response to Humanity Free Elena was a bit of a mixed bag. Some fans enjoyed just how different she was than regular Elena. To the writer’s credit, unlike with their development of Ripper Stefan, back in early Season 3, the TVD crew pulled no punches here. As far as “moral compass” characters go, Humanity Free Elena was pretty terrible. She insulted EVERYONE . . .
She tried to eat most of her friends . . .
She broke the neck of random waitress . . .
She stole clothing and cars . . .
She dyed her hair pink . . .
And yet, as a villain, Elena wasn’t quite as much fun as others of her ilk. She wasn’t a master of wry one liners like Damon . . .
. . . or a sex kitten like Katherine . . .
She lacked the dignity of Elijah . . .
. . . and the unexpected charm of Klaus.
Even Ripper Stefan, at his worst, had a sort of so- frightening-you-can’t-look-away ravenous menace to his character that Evilena lacked . . .
As for the show’s EPIC love triangle, Elena’s lack of Humanity, for all intents and purposes, placed it entirely on hold, frustrating fans on both sites of the Stefan versus Damon debate . . .
But, eventually, like her Inability to consume blood bags, her Hunters Curse, and her Sire Bond, Elena’s lack of humanity came to an end. The plotline concluded with a touching reaction on Elena’s part to the almost-death of her first boyfriend Matt.
At this point, the storyline shifted away from Elena, and on to Silas, his Apocalypse, and of course the Cure . . .
Having made quite a few missteps with Elena’s characterization this season, I think the writers ultimately got it right at the end. Giving the cure to Elena’s nemesis Katherine was an inspired move, for a few reasons (most of which, I plan to discuss in the Katherine section of this series).
For one, it showed that the cast and crew were committed to Elena’s continued vampirism. They didn’t take the easy way out, by “undoing” it at the last moment.
Another thing the writers did right was having a humanity full, vampiric, non-sire bonded or hunters cursed Elena choose Damon during the season 4 finale, just as she chose Stefan at the end of Season 3. For starters, this choice will enable the writers to truly explore the Delena relationship under genuine circumstances, something they never got a chance to do in Season 4.
Now, I may be in the minority here, but I adored Elena’s declaration of love to Damon in “Graduation.” Her insult-laced monologue was more romantic to me than any goopy poem about roses and hearts ever could be. For me, it perfectly summarized what captivated me about this relationship, when it was first introduced, back in the middle of Season 1.
That Damon loved Elena when she was a human was a foregone conclusion. After all, Human Elena was easy to love . . . kind, generous, sweet, and damn near perfect.
But the true test of Damon’s love for Elena came when she became a vampire . . . Flawed, and, at times, savage.
Vampire Elena was not quite as easy to love, as her human counterpart. This is evidenced by the way other members of her Scooby Crew, began to treat Elena, shortly after her transformation.
And yet, when everyone turned against Vampire Elena, Damon stuck by her. He told her that he loved her unconditionally, for exactly who she was . . . human or vampire . . . wild and impulsive or restrained . . . tough or vulnerable. Those were just the details. None of them mattered to Damon. She was still the girl of his dreams.
Up until this point, Damon’s insecurity regarding his relationship with Elena had to do with the fact that he was never sure that she felt the same way about him, as he did about her. Back in the earlier seasons, Damon always felt like Elena was trying to turn him into Stefan. She seemed to be constantly judging his actions, urging him to DO better, and BE better. Then, the Sire Bond came around. And even though, during that time, Elena seemed altogether accepting of Damon, he could never be sure whether her acceptance was real.
However, in the finale, Elena stands before him and confirms, vehemently, that yes, Damon can be impulsive, aggressive, short-sighted and foolhardy. She knows this all too well about him. Yet, Elena loves Damon, not just in spite of his worst attributes, but because of them. And isn’t that really what all of us want in a true love? Someone who can not only appreciate and embrace our beauty, but our ugliness as well?
Presumably, next season will feature a brighter, shinier Elena than this Season incarnation. Her brother is alive again. Her humanity is on. She’s got a new hot boyfriend to whom she isn’t sire bonded. All is right in the world . . . at least until about five minutes into the Season 6 premiere . . .
And there you have it … Season 4 Elena in a nutshell. Next up, the eternal stud of the Salvatore Household . . . Damon!