As I opened Buzzfeed this morning and was wondering why they featured a listicle with Nina Dobrev, I was met with shock. And then relief. Losing the lead on any show means the end, for sure. Except, The Vampire Diaries is already renewed for season seven. So we’re about to witness a show losing its central character in Elena Gilbert and a fantastic actrice in Nina Dobrev, whether we like it or not. But let me tell you why the show will live on.
Mind you: Dobrev leaving is a blow. First and foremost because she is one of the most talented actresses out there and the show struck gold by casting her. Then again, the real challenge ended for Dobrev with Katherine, so never mind that she should have already cleaned up at the Emmys, career wise she is right to ditch Elena. Dobrev will go on to do great, great things and I’m looking forward to weeping like a proud grandpa – “I saw her way back when!” – during her Oscar speech. Without Dobrev, every twist with Katherine wouldn’t have worked, every emotional character death would’ve hurt less and Elena would’ve been unbearable. So the exit of this insanely talented woman can only make a lesser show. Secondly because a considerable portion of the fans solely watch for Elena’s love life and therefor, strictly business speaking, it will be a tough nut to crack. Which brings me to the very sober reality: The Vampire Diaries is renewed for season seven and so the wonderful team led by Julie Plec, Caroline Dries, Brian Young and Rebecca Sonnenshine have already cracked said nut. The show will just continu without Dobrev.
Dobrev seems like a nice girl and she *probably* has been open about her departure towards her creative team. In retrospect, we should’ve seen it coming had it not been so unthinkable. First Katherine was dealt with. Then any link concerning her family or doppelgangers. And even Elena’s little brother moved on. Jeremy’s exit was rushed and out of nowhere for sure, but he was never a crucial character. Far more clever is the pairing of Damon and Bonnie. By creating a friendship that is endearing and compelling because of their diverse characters, the show has secured Bonnie’s place in this universe outside of being Elena’s best friend. She’s Damon’s now. And we all saw how flaky Elena’s friendship with Bonnie was anyway since she Elena only took issue in losing Damon; she was fine burying Bonnie. More to the writers’ credit: by working hard on the gift that keeps on giving called Steroline, there’s an unprecedented destruction of OTP Stelena that not only worked to the point that other teen shows are jealous of it, it is welcomed by the fans. So the only real hurdle is Delena. And let’s be fake-real: Damon did just fine without Elena for over a hundred years. He’ll do fine for the rest of his life.
Elena might not even retire (case in point: Rebekah Mikealson) but she probably will. And that’s the best news ever. Elena was the worst you guys. The weak link. The dumb one. The unpredictable one. The selfish one. No brilliant writer (and the show has many) can save the functional role Elena had to play for the story: the audience surrogate. Aside from that Elena has been terrible and I just can’t believe anyone who claims otherwise. Damon is the bad boy. Stefan is the complex good guy. Caroline has the heart. Bonnie has sky-rocketed with her strength. Matt has the humanity covered. And if Michael Trevino stays, Tyler has his werewolf curse. Now is the time to accept that Elena, though an excellent storytelling device, was never anyone’s favourite.
The Vampire Diaries isn’t about Elena. Julie Plec has said that it’s about two brothers a gazillion times and it was apparent once more in this beautiful moment. It wasn’t Elena, to whom Damon returned, it was his brother Stefan. Stefan, might I add, also has a titular diary in case anyone wants to bring up that argument. Plecs recent remarks make sense now: “For me, as we shed characters over the next couple of years, there’s a challenge of keeping the storytelling fresh and exciting”, Plec told Variety. And season six has been astounding. The whole Gemini story was great. Liv is a fun character. So is Jo. I definitely could’ve done with more Kai as well, but oh well. If season six is anything it is the argument that the show is still as “fresh and exciting” as it has always been. The TVD crew knows how to create new and compelling characters. It’s what the show has been built on and it’s what The Originals is built on. In six seasons of the show there have been hundreds of wonderful memorable characters, from Rose to Lexie, from Anna to even Not Now Dana, who I would promote to regular before Elena.
All in all there is a significant loss when Dobrev departures. But that’s because the madly talented Dobrev won’t be on TV every week, not because of Elena. However it may happen, there will be a fandom severely displeased. But more importantly, there will be a show that has ditched what has been its most functional and empty character from its conception. The Vampire Diaries has been my favourite network show for the better part of its six seasons, boasting a cast of characters I care about and intriguing stories with unmatched structure and pace. It has also planned ahead in ways that could rival George R. R. Martin. So The Vampire Diaries is very much alive without Elena. I can’t wait to see what happens next.