TV Report Card | 'The Vampire Diaries' Season 5 Review

Overview: Elena and the gang had to fight off doppelgangers, a scorned witch, travelers, an evil secret society and the persistent Katherine for their lives. The usual romantic interludes in which, Elena was torn over her brotherly brood of suitors continued to dominate the central storylines. Meanwhile, Bonnie sacrificed every chance at personal happiness so her thankless friends could live and Caroline whined about everything.

Storyline Direction Pros: Of the highlights (there were few), there was the previously mentioned Tessa storyline, a wasted short-term arc that actually warranted further exploration. The Katherine storyline was intriguing. The body swap, while predictable, proved to have more entertainment value than any other storyline possessed. Katherine bonding with her daughter, Nadia, was also an emotionally rewarding arc.

Storyline Direction Cons: There were so many, it was hard to keep track. The reign of Silas, the fated doppelganger love story and the experimenting secret society were all dreadful. Last year’s season finale left things in such a wonderful place that it seemed season 5, would be the best of all. It was certainly set-up to be. The central love triangle creaked at every turn. The “Stefan and Elena are kismet” storyline felt incredibly forced. Damon and Elena’s relationship rapidly fell apart at the beginning of the season and quite frankly, they have yet to be an actual couple on the show. This wasn’t a Team Delena season or a Team Stelena season; it was Team Stagnant.

Damon was practically intolerable this season. Every episode was the same thing. He’d brood, feel misunderstood and pout by killing people, feel bad about that and go about snarking. His “we’re bad for each other” speeches to Elena seemed an endless procession of self-pity. If anything, season 5 was the season that “The Vampire Diaries” created irreversible damage to one of its most interesting characters.

The constant threat of character deaths rang immensely hollow. No major character ever stays dead on this show and at this point it has gotten ridiculous. If they never plan on actually losing the character, then don’t kill them. The trust that viewers feel when they think an actual twist has occurred has been betrayed countless times. The last cheap stunt of the season, Stefan’s “death” was one of the most flagrant demonstrations of this. There is a reason people are captivated by the shocking deaths on “Game of Thrones”; because they actually mean something. 

Production Caliber: The college campus and dorm rooms blended in with motif of the series. The special effect of the tornado of death got old quick.

Performance Quality: Nina Dobrev has grown so much as an actress and this season she got a chance to show off how much. Between Katherine, Elena and the dazed soul-mate of Silas, she turned in an array of brilliant performances. She accomplished a career-best during the series’ 100th episode “500 Years of Solitude”, as Katherine her performance was an emotional collective of soft vulnerability and an indefatigable determination to survive.

Kat Graham turned in quite a few memorable moments this season as the heroic Bonnie. Graham especially shined during the finale, a mix of courageous resignation and anxious turmoil.

Short-lived guests Janina Gavankar and Olga Fonda proved to be illuminating breaths of fresh air, Gavankar with her saucy turn as Tessa, the vengeful siren from Silas’ past and Fonda as Nadia, the expressively fragile but resolute daughter of Katherine. It’s a shame neither actress was allowed to stick around. Despite the series numerous fake out deaths, these were unfortunately two of the few that lasted.

Musical Score: Birdy’s soaring ballad “Wings” closed out the season and the remarkable tempo, accented the swirling events.

Overall Grade: D-, nearly an “F” there was little to enjoy this season. Perhaps it was the high expectations for this season that made it fall even shorter, than it might have otherwise. It was simply disappointing. Given how terrible the finale was maybe next season will surprise by being incredible. Hopefully, the key is having an awful finale so you can have a better season long-term. It’s worth hoping for, at least.