Which is to say, the writers have.
The main problem with writing about the CW show The Vampire Diaries is that it constitutes a public admission that I watch the show. But I might not be watching much longer. It’s amazing that a complex show with so many realistic, well-written characters could allow a single character to drag down not only the enjoyability of the show but also the realistic and sympathetic qualities of most of the other characters, all in a single season. That’s what Klaus did with season 3, he’s why the season 3 finale was about half as good as it could have been, and why I’m unlikely to continue watching very far into season 4, if at all.
I already wrote most of what follows in the comments to the A.V. Club’s article about the season 3 finale last weekend. I created an A.V. Club account specifically to rant about Klaus and my disappointment at the season 3 finale. Here, I have added some things, deleted others, and reworded a lot.
***Major spoilers of The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer follow. If you don’t want to know what happened in The Vampire Diaries season 3 finale, then don’t read on. If you haven’t seen every episode of Supernatural and Buffy yet, then you are deprived and need to go watch them all on Netflix right now. They’re all streaming!***
The point of TVD
To be enjoyable, intriguing, thought-provoking, or enriching to me, a supernatural/horror/fantasy show has to either address universal moral issues or be relatable to me as an average American guy in the 21st century. Shows like Buffy, Angel, and Supernatural do this in one major way: they chronicle the highs and lows of American evil-fighters doing good, killing monsters, and saving people’s lives. They fight for good, which we all want to do and wish our leaders would do in real life. We can relate to them and root for them in their battles. There’s much more to Buffy and Supernatural that we can’t relate to directly, like the isolation and anguish that heroes feel because they can’t have normal lives and because of all the death and misery they witness, but those shows are written in ways that make us not only admire the heroes for their efforts and their victories but also feel bad for all the personal pain and loss that they feel.
In other words, shows like these need to have characters that I either root for or like/relate to/sympathize with. If it has both, that’s a double bonus. It’s true that the writers of TVD make us feel for most of their characters as well, but my sympathy for most of them ran out about five stupid decisions ago.
TVD is supposed to be about normal people making understandable decisions in the face of their very unrealistic, supernatural circumstances. We’re supposed to relate to them on these grounds: what would we do in the same situations? They care for each other and will do anything to save their loved ones, even if this means near-certain death for future victims of certain vampires. I guess the show also strives to make immortal, superpowered vampires sympathetic, emotionally vulnerable, and relatable to us normal humans because of all the experiences and emotions they go through. The purpose of this isn’t to make us ask, “What would I do in that situation if I were a vampire?” or even to make us “root” for the vampires over the mortal humans; rather, I think the main purpose of this character-development aspect of the show is simply to make sure that the characters who are the main focus of most plot lines are interesting characters whom we have some investment in (love, hate, or are at least intrigued by). Many readers and TV viewers are fascinated by vampires; they do afford writers many avenues for plot lines (as well as moral dilemmas) that aren’t available in realistic fiction; so it’s obviously preferable to make the characters around whom the plot revolves interesting and three-dimensional and not just supernatural forces of evil and destruction. So we end up caring about and, yes, even rooting for humans and vampires alike in TVD.
TVD’s first problem: the characters repeatedly make awful, boneheaded decisions
The problem is, most of the humans and at least one of the vampires in TVD make awful decisions, repeatedly, and seem to have learned nothing in three seasons. Matt Donovan is the only human speaking sense to Elena: she needs to get out of town and leave vampires behind forever, for her own good and everyone else’s. (How many people have died or suffered all to save Elena’s life multiple times? Her very association with them is dangerous to many innocents.) Alaric is the only other character to speak any sense about vampires lately. Vampires are an abomination. They are unnatural monsters that disrupt the natural balance of life and death. If TVD is supposed to relate to real-life human viewers, then how can these statements not be true, relevant, and laudable to us? (Given that we’re willing to suspend disbelief about the existence of vampires to begin with…)
Most of the decisions Elena and her enablers have made in the last season-plus of TVD have allowed dangerous, threatening, serial-killing vampires to continue living, continue threatening them, continue killing, and continue making their lives unhappy. Matt and Alaric are right: Vampires are the source of their problems, and making deals with them or finding excuses to allow them to live isn’t going to improve the lives of humans in Mystic Falls, in the long run. Because of their continued bad decisions or inability to actually take a stand (against the Originals) and make a decision, it is increasingly hard to root for any character other than Damon (who was more willing to do what it took to rid themselves of the Originals, from tracking Klaus and Stefan to saving the white oak wood to opposing Elijah’s request to hand over Klaus’s dessicated body), Matt (who kidnapped Elena for her own good, and was right to do so), and Alaric (who is now dead thanks to Bonnie’s stupid decision).
In the interest of brevity and also because I seriously have forgotten about half of the details of the plot lines of TVD, I’ll summarize the collection of bad decisions made by protagonists that were clearly bad at the time they made them, from the last season or so. As far as I see it/remember it, Elena, Stefan, and Bonnie are the main culprits.
First, Stefan agrees to become Klaus’s pet killer in exchange for a vial of Klaus’s magic blood to save Damon from a werewolf bite. Then Stefan saves Klaus’s life when their plot to kill him at that party was unfolding perfectly. His first decision is at least understandable but still heinous and wrong, whereas the second decision is pure stupidity.
Bonnie’s being forced to help Klaus multiple times in his various schemes does make her sympathetic to the viewer as an unwilling or at least grudging participant in non-Klaus-killing activities. These instances of forced assistance are, in fact, what drive her to turn darker and ruthless at the end of the season finale. But Bonnie forfeits all of her “sympathy capital” with her awful decision to transfer Klaus’s essence to Tyler’s body to save her three vampiric loved ones (Caroline, Tyler, and her mom). There are logistical problems to this that reveal how contrived it is and how much the writers dropped the ball on this plot development. Two things are clear about this Bonnie/Klaus plot twist: The writers wanted to keep Klaus around, and they wanted to turn Bonnie into a dark(er), bad-ass witch who’s going to call all of her own shots from now on. By the end of the episode, we as the audience know why Bonnie did that spell (i.e., why it turned out good for some characters), but at the time she did it, it was an awful decision with no good reasoning behind it. She had no idea Evilaric would find Klaus and stake him! She had no idea Evilaric was even on his way there! And even if she knew Evilaric was likely hot on their trail, she should have chosen any number of tactics over giving Klaus new life in a different body. She could have hidden Klaus’s body from Evilaric, worked some magic to incapacitate or stall Evilaric, helped Damon get the body to the ocean, temporarily killed Elena (as she has done to Jeremy) so that Evilaric would die with her, or protected her loved ones from the effects of Klaus’s staking (which would make about as much sense as anything else). These alternatives or almost any other could have induced her to turn dark, jaded, and bad-ass like she did while still writing Klaus out of the show. For instance, a showdown with Evilaric could have forced her to channel darker forces than ever before, would have set her up to be the exact same character in season 4, and would have been a freakin’ sweet battle to end the season. Bonnie had other options, and so did the writers, and any option that keeps Klaus alive was an inferior one.
Elena is obviously the queen of bad decisions and compromises and deal-making and excuse-making, most of which have resulted in her and her loved ones’ lives being perpetually threatened by Originals. I admit that part of the perceived problem with Elena could be the fact that so many courses of action were taken by others to save her, but either way, she seems to be at the center of just about every decision that keeps Klaus alive and compromises with Originals. Compromises to keep humans alive are understandable, but only for a while. At some point, Elena and her enablers have to take a stand against both Klaus and his siblings, and Elena simply refuses to do that. She refuses to fight. She refuses to stand up to them. She thinks she is protecting other people, but she actually prolongs the danger they’re all in by allowing Klaus to continue living. Her latest blunder was agreeing to hand Klaus’s desiccated body over to Elijah, which I assume is the only reason Damon and Bonnie stopped at the storage locker instead of heading east until they hit ocean. A desiccated Klaus is no danger to anyone, but eventually Elijah or one of Klaus’s loyal bloodline would awaken him, allowing him to return to killing and threatening future humans. That possibility should be unacceptable to Elena, as it obviously is to Damon, and everyone who acquiesced is an idiot for doing so. Damon sums up my feelings about Elena perfectly: “You know what else was her call? Everything bad, ever.”
Everyone’s supreme goal in season 3 should have been to incapacitate Klaus forever, and everything that helped him survive a day longer than he needed to was simply a bad decision. If nearly every character (the only exceptions I can think of are Matt, Evilaric, and Damon at the end) makes decisions that are obviously bad and which I wouldn’t have made, over and over and over again, then I stop being able to relate to them or root for them.
Klaus is the main problem
Even given all their bad decisions, they obviously do make them for (what they consider) good reasons, and no one actually wants Klaus alive and well, so in the end they came up with a great plan to incapacitate Klaus forever while allowing his bloodline to survive: desiccate him with some dark magic and bury him at the bottom of the ocean. Given all of their situations and all of the loved ones who would have died with Klaus, this was a perfectly good, understandable, intriguing, well-plotted way to handle their collective personal dilemma. It was also a good way for the writers to end Klaus’s run as the big bad of TVD and rid ourselves of him forever. He needed to be gotten rid of, and most of the characters had found a perfect way to do so. Therefore, I couldn’t hate them too much at that point. At least they weren’t as annoying as Klaus, who is ultimately my main problem with TVD.
Klaus must be the worst TV villain I’ve ever seen. He has the emotional and psychological depth of a 5-year-old and should have been killed off in the middle of season 3. He is so annoying and empty as a character that he basically ruined season 3, including the finale, for me. I mean, name two ways in which Klaus’s psychological or emotional make-up is different from a whiny, petulant, selfish child’s. He has no morals, no sympathy, no care for anything outside of himself, no love of family, no philosophy, no goals, no purpose, other than to create a breed of hybrids. But why? To what end? He doesn’t want to take over the world like Lex Luthor or Voldemort. He doesn’t seem to want much power over the supernatural world, either. He doesn’t love anyone, including Caroline and Stefan. He just wants to survive and be protected by his hybrid army, for no other reason than just because. Every time he doesn’t get his way, he threatens to throw a fit and kill everyone. He doesn’t understand or accept that people’s desires, situations, and lives might be at odds with his own. He hates his parents, not for making him into a monster but for trying to right the wrong they created. He doesn’t serve as any kind of useful analogy or lens through which the viewer looks at humanity, like our dark side or anything like that. He has no shades of gray or sympathetic qualities or any other redeeming qualities that would make us appreciate his perspective, his desires, or his choices. He is a caricature of a child with superpowers, which is excruciatingly boring.
Contrast Klaus to Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones. (No spoilers, I promise.) I’ve never read any of the books, but I’m up to date with the TV show. Joffrey is a petulant, twisted, evil, evil, evil MFer who needs to die more than a thousand Originals. He, like Klaus, acts like an evil, powerful child. But unlike Klaus, he is a useful character as social commentary. From my perspective, Joffrey is the epitome of the evil that will gain power in a world where might is valued over reason, power and privilege are inherited and not earned, and males are considered naturally superior to females in every way. He could never gain or retain any power or influence if those three conditions were not met in Westeros. Klaus doesn’t say anything about our society or its ills except what would happen if a 5-year-old became invincible. I see Klaus as no different from Bart Simpson with omnipotent powers in “Treehouse of Horror II”. He is a boring, useless caricature.
Also contrast Klaus to Angelus from season 2 of Buffy. True, Angelus didn’t have much rhyme or reason to his mayhem and murder except for being a soulless demon who hated humans and liked inflicting pain on them. He was a hedonistic destroyer of human lives and happiness, just like Klaus, except everyone on Buffy was actually trying to kill him. Even Spike hated him and worked against him. And you know what? Even though Willow succeeded in re-souling him, Buffy killed him anyway because it was necessary to stop the hell-portal from opening. Both the viewers and the writers got something great in two different ways: The villain we were all rooting against was defeated, so we were happy about that and presumably so were the writers; but due to unfortunate timing, this meant the viewers, and Buffy, were subjected to a painful, heart-rending death that we did want but simultaneously didn’t want, that was needed but was simultaneously unjust. That is great TV, pure and simple. The writers gave the viewers what we were waiting for for half the season, but it still made us sad and torn at the same time.
The writers of TVD have given us nothing to cheer about, no reward, no catharsis, no triumph in over a season. If we aren’t ever given what we’re rooting for, then at least make us relate to the decisions and failures that led here. I don’t understand Elena’s decision to ignore Damon and give Klaus to Elijah. I don’t understand Bonnie’s decision to keep Klaus alive when at least five courses of action were better suited to keeping her vampire friends safe. I don’t understand their endless compromises to protect already dead people by helping the very monsters that killed them.
Compromise with evil will only lead to more evil, and I cannot continuously root for characters who compromise with evil and do nothing worth rooting for. Nor can I relate to such wishy-washy, incompetent weaklings. If TVD is supposed to provide us with good moral dilemmas that are analogous to real life, then it should create bad guys with realistic shades of gray and with understandable perspectives, goals, and methods. Klaus is useless for that purpose, so his only potential for usefulness is as a villain to root against and a provider of interesting plot lines in which the protagonists lose some but triumph in the end. But the writers refuse to give us that triumph. His place on TVD ran its course, if not by mid-season then at least by the end of the season, and yet the writers refused to write him out of the show. It’s a huge mistake that made the finale less enjoyable and made the whole mess that was season 3 pointless because it had no payoff. There was no reward for suffering through an entire season of monstrous childishness. If the writers won’t (a) give us what we want or (b) provide some good reason for the characters’ failure to give us what we want, then the writers obviously don’t want us anymore.
Maybe they have deluded themselves that Klaus is a good character? Maybe they think a majority of viewers do want him around and so are catering to them? I can’t relate to anyone who thinks Klaus is a well-written or interesting villain, because apparently those people are unfamiliar with good fiction, and I can’t watch a show that caters to such awful tastes. By keeping Klaus around long after he wore out his welcome, TVD has become tiring and frustrating. I’m just so tired of Klaus and the show, and the characters who allow him to stick around.
Really, I feel like most of the characters got the Klaus plot line right. They had an excellent plan, well conceived and well executed. It was the writers who screwed it up.
The moral bankruptcy of TVD
My third problem with TVD is the failure of the characters to address any universal moral principles or the morality of their choices. As a corollary to its being about normal characters who are forced to make supposedly reasonable, understandable decisions in the face of supernatural challenges, this show is about doing everything to protect your loved ones, being there for each other, giving people (twenty-)second and third chances, and love being more important than anything.
In other words, all of the characters do the things they do not because they are right or wrong but to protect their loved ones, disregarding any repercussions outside of Mystic Falls and any universal moral principles. I don’t know if this implies a message that love can/should/will conquer all or that doing everything you can for loved ones is the only principle that matters, but obviously acting only in the interest of love and friendship has produced catastrophic results for nearly everyone. If this show were supposed to be about how stupid/bad people’s stupid/bad choices harm innocent people, then it would be doing a great job. TVD wants to be about characters who will do everything to protect their loved ones, but in fact they almost invariably make choices that hurt (or at least threaten) themselves and others and result in very little justice being served.
The injustices of this show rarely seem to be depicted as such. There is very little right or wrong, just or unjust in TVD; there are only means to ends, and almost all of the characters—human, vampire, or witch—have used every means available to accomplish their ends of keeping characters alive and serving their own selfish love. Their only concern is keeping people alive in Mystic Falls, and if that means letting serial-killing abominations roam free, then so be it. It’s not that they are depicted as dismissive of those future victims. It’s not that they acknowledge others will die but still choose their loved ones over innocent victims because that’s what most people would choose. It’s that the ethical question of saving a dead person’s life in exchange for anonymous future humans is never even addressed.
No one even indicates any awareness of any repercussions outside of their inner circle of friends and family. No one even broaches the topic of what a family of free Originals scattered across the Earth would mean (death for thousands if not millions of innocents over the centuries). They want to get rid of Klaus not because he is an evil murderer but simply to protect themselves; the thousands he would certainly kill for blood, fun, and sport throughout the centuries do not even come up. But then they want to keep Klaus alive, again only to protect themselves. No one even addresses whether Stefan should suffer a punishment for his most recent Ripper spree. No one brings up the ethics of Stefan’s choice to exchange dozens of innocents for his brother’s life; they all presumably understand the decision and would have made the same choice in the same circumstances. No one even fathoms that vampires should be held accountable for all the lives they’ve taken before the current clique of Mystic Falls high-schoolers were born. No one even notices the emptiness of Elijah’s promise to keep Klaus desiccated at least until Elena’s great-grandchildren are dead (what then? centuries of hedonistic murder and rape?). In their selfish, self-absorbed efforts to protect their loved ones in Mystic Falls, the wider repercussions and the more basic issues of right and wrong are never even addressed.
Until Esther and her dark-magic creation Evilaric come along. They have a view of nature that is balanced and fair: nothing can be immortal, everything must die, and human lives are superior to supernatural abominations. Why did it seem so jarring that Evilaric was so absolute and unrelenting in his short-lived crusade? Because hardly anyone ever brought up right and wrong before! His black-and-white view of nature doesn’t have to be accepted by all of the characters, depicted as admirable by the writers, or even received favorably by the viewers; but a show like this needs to have more than one character struggle with the right and wrong of their decisions and the innocent lives they’ve cost. There isn’t even much of a struggle.
If people make choices that turn out bad, that’s OK in a TV show. If people do things they knew beforehand were wrong but they do them anyway, justifying them with self-preservation or love or simple selfishness, then that’s also OK in a TV show, but they need to actually address that. They need to actually have conversations, dilemmas, and arguments about right and wrong outside of their little clique, not just arguments about what’s best for the few humans and vampires they know and love. If the writers don’t want to commit to principles of right and wrong, they at least need to have their characters address those principles. They don’t. It’s all about what will save Elena and/or the people she cares about, with occasional concern for Bonnie’s loved ones, as in the season 3 finale. I appreciate the emotional struggles with befriending vampires, helping vampires, even loving vampires—but characters who don’t even show any awareness of the harm their decisions could cause to the entire world are too selfish and self-centered for my tastes.
Maybe the TVD writers need to take some lessons from Joss Whedon and Ronald D. Moore: Yes, there is good and evil, even if there are shades of gray, and yes, characters can die.
For these reasons, Evilaric was probably my favorite character in this show within the last year because he was about the only one who could actually make a tough choice, stand up for something, get anything done, and see evil for what it really is. Klaus needed to die (DESERVED to die), and so did many others, and he was going to do everything he could to dish out justice to them. I am incapable of seeing anything bad in that. I guess I’m just the type of person who sides with Buffy and Giles and Angel and the Winchester brothers, and not with that twit Elena and all of her ignorant enablers who don’t see that the vampires (especially the Originals!) are the source of their problems and need to be gotten rid of for their own safety and happiness. Yeah, some of their loved ones would die with the originals, but first of all, at least three of those loved ones are only vampires (Caroline, Tyler, and Bonnie’s mom) because these wishy-washy excuse-makers couldn’t get rid of vampires to begin with. But second, what kind of show bases itself entirely around characters who make endless deals and excuses to keep serial killers alive, and tries to dress this up as loving or caring or family-centric or all about love conquering all?
Contrast TVD with Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In my original comments to the A.V. Club article, I said that Elena, Stefan, et al. rarely made tough choices and instead avoided making choices. I can see how this could be inaccurate, and I don’t want to get into a semantic discussion of what constitutes making a choice vs. avoiding making a choice and what makes one tough or difficult. So instead I’ll compare the types of choices TVD characters make with the characters on Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
After I contrasted Elena et al. to Sam and Dean Winchester, a commenter there mentioned Sam and Dean’s strategy of refusing to fight the angels’ fight at the end of season 5 of Supernatural. Dean refused to allow the archangel Michael to possess him, which would be required for the angels’ Armageddon. For a long time before Sam accepted Lucifer, Sam and Dean’s basic strategy was refusing to play the angels’ game (namely Zachariah’s). Dean continued resisting after that. Doesn’t this constitute as much of a non-choice as Elena et al.’s refusal to fight and kill Klaus?
Well, not really, but even if it did, there are many aspects of Sam and Dean’s (non-)choices that make them far better, more admirable, and less frustrating than the protagonists of TVD. First and foremost, Dean’s “non-choice” constituted a refusal to play the angels’ game and a refusal to make deals with them! Sam and Dean stood their ground, stood up to nearly invincible beings, and did everything they could, against all personal self-interest and all odds, to save the human race from being wiped out by angel Armageddon. This choice, this strategy, this position, was based on the Winchesters’ firm, unwavering conviction that killing humans is wrong and it’s their job to protect them from supernatural threats.
Second, their “non-choice” to participate in the angel Armageddon was not done out of selfishness or compromise or a myopic protection of only themselves or their loved ones or their town. They refused to play because that’s what was right according to their moral code, which is by all objective and subjective measures far superior to any morals that have been broached on TVD.
Third, Sam and Dean’s approach to the angels, demons, and Armageddon led to the resolution of plot lines, the eventual elimination of enemies, a few heroes to root for and villains to root against, and triumphs that made us happy, actually giving us what we were rooting for some of the time.
These are all the polar opposite of TVD characters’ endless compromises and deals and excuses made for and with Klaus and his siblings. Yes, they are evil, and yes, they need to die. Every deal or compromise they make with them should be a ploy or a trick to stab them in the back (heart) later. A villain’s time on a TV series has a natural duration, an expiration date, a fed-up time after which the villain’s continued existence becomes bad writing, lazy thinking, and insulting to the audience. Good fiction, especially supernatural/horror fiction, has a protagonist(s) to root for and antagonist(s) to root against, and one or the other has to win or lose before too long, not drag out their mutual co-existence by never doing anything to rid themselves of the other.
A final point about Supernatural. In a recent episode this season, Dean mentions that a ghost hanging around the human realm isn’t right. It isn’t natural. It disturbs the natural order of life and death. So much of what they hunt does. Even admitting that no, there are no supernatural things in real life, and no, by definition nothing in the real world can disrupt the natural order, Dean’s point is relatable. It makes sense to us and we sympathize precisely because we live in the real world, in which unnatural abominations would warrant destruction and extinction. This point is, or should be, relevant to TVD and Mystic Falls, but the only people who have brought this up are Esther and Alaric. I loved Alaric when he first appeared in season 1 because he reminded me so much of the vampire-hunting principal in season 7 of Buffy. And I loved Evilaric just as much because he was finally going to open a can of whoop-ass on the Originals. Dean, Esther, and Alaric are right: Vampires are unnatural abominations, even in a show where many of them are protagonists and love interests, and the show needs to at least acknowledge that. The characters need to admit it even while they love and protect (some of) them.
A valuable comparison between TVD and Buffy can also be made. In season 3 of TVD, Stefan goes on a Ripper spree with Klaus for an ostensibly good reason: to save his brother. Klaus gives him an opportunity too good to pass up, but in exchange, he makes Stefan drink bags of human blood to re-awaken his thirst for it. Stefan gives in to temptation and becomes Ripper Stefan again. In season 6 of Buffy, Willow becomes so addicted to magic that it consumes her and nearly cripples her normal human functioning. She’s a pretty bad person and a truly awful friend for the first two-thirds of season 6. During her recovery and her return to normalcy, her beloved Tara is murdered, and this awakens a wrath and a vengeance like the show had never seen. She tracks down Warren, tortures him, and flays him alive. Despite the fact that he obviously deserved to be brought to justice, everyone tells Willow she is wrong. Using magic and other supernatural means to kill humans is against their moral code, and the old Willow knew that. They try to stop her, not just get their beloved Willow back. Buffy tells Willow it’s wrong to target humans with supernatural methods, that it isn’t what they do and isn’t part of their evil-fighting job.
I think Warren is the only person Willow actually kills, although she sure threatens a hell of a lot more (all of them). But there are clear parallels between Willow and Stefan. They both have a dangerous addiction (magic or blood). They both choose to better themselves and overcome their addiction (Willow in season 6, Stefan before we meet him). They both went dark/crazy in response to a death or imminent death of a loved one. They both did things we know are wrong and (presumably) their friends know are wrong. Willow actually threatened to destroy the whole world, not just kill a few hundred people! So why do I feel bad for Willow and root for her to return to her normal Scooby-gang ways, and continue to like her as a character? Well, because she’s actually helped fight evil and do things worth rooting for, mainly. Stefan is certainly a sympathetic character in a tortured/remorseful/brooding way (in the first two seasons, admit it: he’s basically a combination of Angel and Edward). But he made a calculated decision to put Damon over others (humans), join forces with an obviously evil monster, and kill innocents in acts that were completely unrelated to saving anyone or doing anything else good. Dark Willow was a visceral, enraged reflex to Tara’s murder. She was wrong, but she probably could help herself even less than Stefan could, she at least started out targeting Tara’s murderer, she didn’t actually kill any innocents, and I just like her a lot more. She’s much more likable than Stefan. That’s as good a reason as any to forgive Willow, although her record as an evil-fighter doesn’t hurt.
The TVD writers could take a lesson from this: If you want us to forgive characters and continue rooting for them, (1) make them as likable as possible, and (2) don’t have them kill too many innocents. The differences between Dark Willow and Ripper Stefan are small and few, but some of them are important enough, and I simply like her character a lot more than the wishy-washy, incompetent, non-committal, formerly serial-killing Stefan.
I will reiterate that I think the twist about Klaus’s entire line being dependent on his survival was a good plot and character-development element that the writers added to this season. (It also jibes with most classic vampire mythology: kill the leader and the rest die or stop being vampires.) The characters were faced with a tough personal dilemma and handled it rightly: incapacitate him forever instead of killing him, so that the “good” vampires of Mystic Falls will survive. I only have two problems with that plot line: first, that it didn’t end that way, because of stupid Bonnie who could have prevented Klaus’s death in some other way; and second, not a single character brings up all the innocent lives that will be taken by Klaus’s myriad offspring across the globe.
In the TVD characters, I think I’ve reached a point where I can forgive either amorality or incompetence, but not both. If they have no concern for universal moral principles, then they’d at least better get the job done. If they can’t kill a villain who obviously needs to die, then they’d at least better fail for good, principled reasons, not weakness, deal-making, and other crappy excuses.
Killing off Mikael and allowing Klaus to survive for the rest of the season was an awful decision on the writers’ part. Allowing him to survive past season 3 was simply incomprehensible. The big bad of season 3 needed to be Mikael, and Klaus needed to die at that party, not be saved by Stefan and turn right around and kill the villain who had the potential to be the most interesting one in the show’s history. Or Mikael could also have turned into a protagonist of sorts. Think of how many interesting directions in which the show could have gone with Mikael swooping in and trying to clean up the town! Think of Mikael vs. his children and/or his wife, Esther! What a great season-ending showdown Mikael and Esther could have had! Or Mikael and Bonnie! Elena could easily have been turned into a vampire, Bonnie could easily have been forced/driven to turn dark, and Klaus would have died in the middle of season 3, as he needed to.