On Monday (September 22) morning, The CW invited a handful of reporters to break up the madness of premiere week with a screening of the sixth season premiere of “The Vampire Diaries,” which will air on October 2.
I'm not going to tell you much about the premiere both because it's a [relatively] long way off and because many of the salient plot points are embargoed.
But mostly, I'm not quite ready to give more than a quick gut opinion. I felt like Season 5 was frequently over-extended and repetitive, but the finale also set in motion a number of shifts which, if utilized correctly, could clear a lot of the clutter from Mystic Falls. In turn, the premiere is mostly resetting the pieces. How's Elena handling the events of the finale? Poorly! How's Jeremy handling the events of the finale? Poorly! How're Stefan, Caroline, Matt and The Witch Twins handling the events of the finale? Poorly! And how is Alaric handling being alive again and whatnot? Poorly! That doesn't mean it's a depressing premiere, just that there's a lot of flux and, unlike last year's premiere, nobody is wandering around hubristically talking about how it was the best summer ever.
And what's up with Damon and Bonnie? Come on. You know I can't tell you anything.
But I can offer some hints about the season-to-come, thanks to “Vampire Diaries” showrunner Caroline Dries, who dropped by after the screening to answer some probing queries from the press.
I'm sure there are minor spoilers if you want to go into the new season knowing nothing, but otherwise…
*** No more doppelgängers ever. OK. That's not exactly true, but I asked about the rather muddled web of doppelgängers, which at least theoretically was relieved by last season's climax. For now, Dries was reassuring.
“I just finished Episode 10. We haven't said it once in 10 episodes,” Dries said. “In the writers' room sometimes we'll be like, “Ugh. Maybe this is a doppelgänger thing' and like, 'Nope. Don't say that word. Somebody think of a different idea.' We've been pretty diligent about that. And I'm pretty sure if we say it, it's just to make fun of it. I really am proud of actually the whole doppelgänger thing, but I get it. It's like, 'We did that story, so moving on…'”
*** It's sophomore year in college and that will be semi-relevant. One of the things that always concerned me with the high school years of “Vampire Diaries” was how little time people spent in class, but how high school remained in the background even when none of them had any good reason to still be attending. Yes, I'm concerned by silly things. Well, college was more relevant for the first chunk of last season and then was largely forgotten in the home-stretch. Well, at least in the premiere, Elena has even gone so far as to choose a major and she's attending several classes.
And the Sophomore Year thing will also tie into the overall theme, particularly with Caroline, who is working overtime to reverse the curse/hex on Mystic Falls to allow our supernatural denizens to return home.
“It's important to her, like the town, it's more of a symbolic thing for her and less of a plot-drive, if that makes sense,” Dries explained. “We were like, 'We could make this a storyline where they get a bunch of witches and they try to undo the Traveler Spell,' then we're like 'Then we're having scenes with witches and then we're doing spells and no one cars.' So we were like, 'Let's not make that the main story and let's just make it more of the metaphor for what they can't have, which is the ability to go home and be together and sleep in their own beds and stuff like that.' We've always kinda said it's like the metaphor for when you're in your second year of college and it's like, 'OK. Now I'm in college. My home is now where I go home on Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation.' It stops feeling like home after a little while and like, 'This is my life.'”
*** The college thing also relates to Alaric's return. And he's pretty messed up. Alaric is teaching Occult Studies at Whitmore, which I guess makes as much sense as anything for him to do. He's got new appetites, though.
“He is a vampire hunter who was turned into a vampire, went crazy and then died. So now that he's back, it's like, 'Oh, he's gonna have some emotional baggage,'” Dries noted. “But he's also kinda an adult figure on the show. So as Elena's going through her drama and Jeremy's got his drama, it's like he can't just sit there and mope and cry about his problems, so he internalizes a lot of stuff.”
*** Who can speak a language Matt Donovan can understand? The Maytag Man can. “Eureka” star Colin Ferguson, most recently seen as pitchman for Maytag, appears in the premiere as Tripp, leader of a local watch group that gives Matt something to do with his time, what with the absence of immediate threats on his life.
“He came about because we wanted to show Matt thriving in Mystic Falls without supernaturals,” Dries said of Ferguson's character. “Every episode Matt is having his life in jeopardy or somebody's threatening to kill him or something. So it's like, 'What's Matt's life like when he can just not have to have a death threat every five minutes.' We kinda wanted to give him a father figure-type, coach kinda guy, so that's where Trip came out of. But it's Mystic Falls, 'The Vampire Diaries,' no everyone is who they say they wanna be, but he'll ultimately become kinda an interesting, layered dynamic character that's not necessarily a good guy or a bad guy. He actually represents I think like a normal person if you're not in love with Damon or Stefan, like a normal person's point-of-view on the whole vampire world.”
*** You probably care about the love stories. Don't worry. Things continue. Well, Damon's off in the Wherever He Is. And Stefan's got his own issues. But Dries offered reassurance that “Vampire Diaries” will not be without romance.
“I can tease that we definitely keep the love stories alive,” she said. “We might not play it out in a tradition way, but they will feel very satisfying. You'll have your moments of frustration where the fans hate us and then we'll have moments where they're freaking out and being thankful, so there's kinda like that push-and-pull that we do, but I think it's done in a way that feels fresh for a show that's in Season 6 and has had the same characters and this love triangle for a long time.”
She added, “I don't really call it a triangle, because Stefan has become more of a soul-friend of Elena's and so he's dealing with his own stuff, but those two are still very connected, but it's more 'How do we maintain Elena and Damon's love story while he's not present?' So that was our challenge as writers, but I think we do a cool job of it.”
But what about Stefan and Caroline?
“It's a very slow build for them,” Dries promised.
*** There's a new bad guy coming. Well duh.
“He is just like a crazy person and he's super-fun to write and the actor's name is Chris Wood,” Dries said. “He's very charismatic and charming and psychotic and likable and unlikable in all the right ways, you get to meet him in a few episodes and he's gonna stick around for a while, hopefully.”
*** There are flashbacks coming. Well duh.
“Yeah, there are flashbacks coming up. We will see, I won't tell you the date, but we will see an era we haven't seen before in flashbacks and it will help tie together a bunch of storylines, but it's gonna be Episode 4,” Dries teased.
*** Caroline Dries can't say anything about a “Vampire Diaries”/”Originals” crossover. That's Julie Plec and Michael Narducci's thing. But rest-assured it's happening. Eventually.
“The Vampire Diaries” returns on Thursday, October 2.