Book 2 Screen: Will Fans Embrace ‘The Vampire Diaries’ Without Elena?

The CW hit The Vampire Diaries is finally back with new episodes this fall, and back for the first time without its main character Elena and star Nina Dobrev. Nina Dobrev’s departure at the end of its 6th season came as the quite blow to fans of the show. Like, it literally sucked.

In this new era of TVD post-Elena, how will the show handle her absence creatively and still move characters and stories forward in a way that is interesting and engaging for long-time fans? YE looked to the show’s source material for possible hints as to where the plot and tone might go from here.

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The four-book series from the 1990’s by L.J. Smith also saw Elena’s demise while all her friends mourned her passing, but the varying circumstances differed from the direction the series has taken in the past few seasons. In the book series, Elena actually dies, as opposed to being sent off to her own self-appointed altruistic coma like in the TV series. Given that, in the books, after Elena dies, her friends, Bonnie in particular, are hell bent on finding magical means with which to bring Elena back to them. During this time in the books, everyone, especially Stefan is bit sad and mopey and perhaps even a bit melodramatically so, but exciting stuff that moves the plot forward still nonetheless occurs, culminating in (spoiler alert) Elena’s mystical resurrection as an angel-like sprite-fairy type thing.

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While this is obviously not the direction the show will go in given that the circumstances surrounding Elena’s departure are so different–it’s necessary for her to “die” in the show so that her friend Bonnie can continue living–the basic mood of melancholy and mopeyness from the books seems to carry over to television as well.

But nobody wants to see a mopey Damon or a guilt-ridden Bonnie. Or an aimless Stefan or Caroline. Fans are already down in the dumps about the exit as it is, so a mopey season won’t really give viewers something to get excited for. But since Elena’s vampire coma was voluntary and necessary, the new narrative of the show can’t mirror the narrative of the final book which was “Let’s unite to bring Elena back to us,” a common purpose that gave the post-Elena story structure and life and made it engaging for readers.

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But the good news is that it is for the very fact that the show veers so far off course from the books that the show could definitely still have a future both on the CW and in the hearts of fans. The books never stray too far from Elena’s point of view, her dramas, and her struggle to choose between the brothers Salvatore. But throughout the course of 6 season on television, a narrative much more lengthy and intricate than the 4 original books, other characters besides Elena have seen their time in the limelight. Peripheral and supporting characters have been fleshed out and given pivotal arcs of their own over the years, something the story structure of a book didn’t allow for. And in that time, we’ve even seen these now familiar characters change and progress such that Elena is not the only Mystic Falls citizen to root for. In the television universe, there are other vamps and mortals alike that fans are dying to sink their teeth into. And that’s a good thing, for the longevity of the show at any rate. In fact, if you take the pulse of the Vampire Diaries community, you might find that Elena’s popularity as fan favorite has waned in recent years as the more nuanced character development of someone like Caroline for instance makes for a more interesting arc to root for. The same could be said for Damon vs. Stefan.

Either way, with such a remarkable supporting cast and ever-evolving character development, as long as TVD writers stick with doing what they’ve been doing and not allowing these layered characters to wallow in mopey-town for too long in Elena’s absence, there’s no reason that the CW and fans alike shouldn’t keep the blood pumping into The Vampire Diaries.

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