‘The Vampire Diaries’: Has This ‘Ship Sailed?

the-vampire-dairies-season-7

Ah, the “ship.” Short for “relationship”- though one could certainly label it as short for “worship” as well- it’s a slang term that represents the desire of a fan to see two fictional characters together on an show, movie, or from a book. “Shipping” has oft-resulted in some crazy fan-fiction, to say the least. As some might be aware, no less a smash- albeit a dubious one, at best- than “50 Shades of Grey” began its life as “Twilight” fan fiction, of all things, for instance.

Since then, the term has taken on a life of its own, even going so far as to influence creators to change the course of a planned story to suit fan’s desires, in a way not dissimilar from the way some movies have changed their casting because of a certain reaction from the fans.

Indeed, speaking of “50 Shades,” rumor has it that actor Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”), who had originally been cast in the titular role of Christian Grey, dropped out after the outcry of fans that he wasn’t at all “right” for the part. (And that guy they hired was? Debatable- but not to anyone familiar with Hunnam’s work on “SOA.”)

Not that Hollywood necessarily kowtows to fans’ every demand, by any means. For instance, the filmmakers behind the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman and Jared Leto as The Joker didn’t seem to give a whit about the general negative reaction of fans in the grand scheme of things, preferring to let the finished projects speak for themselves. Lest we forget, people once balked at Health Ledger’s casting as The Joker, and look how great that turned out. While the jury’s still out on Affleck and Leto, sometimes it’s better just to go with your gut instinct on these things.

toby-crying

Currently in the midst of a similar cry of foul play are the show-runners behind “Pretty Little Liars,” who (spoiler alert for those not caught up) fearlessly laid waste to every single relationship in progress on the show in skipping ahead five years, then proceeded this week to do the seemingly unthinkable: actually go so far as to flip-flop one of the couples, pairing off main character Spencer (Troian Bellisario) with friend Hanna’s ex, Caleb (Tyler Blackburn), much to the horror of many.

The outcry was swift and severe, with even Spencer’s ex, Toby, chiming in on the reaction via the actor who plays him, Keegan Allen, who playfully posted himself reacting to the event in mock horror. While Allen might be in on the joke, rest assured that some are none too happy about it and have taken to Twitter and other forums to express their extreme displeasure with the unforeseen coupling.

vampire-diaries-season-5-promotional-trio-2

Which brings me to “The Vampire Diaries.” Likewise, the show encountered some fan-bashing of its own when it made the dubious move of pairing off two of its leads with someone else other than who they started out with. Interestingly, at least part of this was dictated by the stars themselves, only to later backfire with the current situation.

Basically, what happened was the character of Elena was paired off early on with the character of Stefan, played by, respectively, Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley. Then, somewhere along the way, Dobrev and co-star Ian Somerhalder became a real-life couple, which helped to influence a good, old-fashioned love triangle on the show, as Elena became enamored with Stefan’s brother Damon, played by, you guessed it, Somerhalder.

All was well at first, though some fans preferred the original coupling. To accommodate them, the door to that was somewhat left open, and eventually most came around by the time it was firmly and definitively shut on the show. Alas, as Hollywood couples are wont to do, Dobrev and Somerhalder went their separate ways sooner than later, ultimately resulting in two people having to work together that had absolutely no desire to do so.

Ultimately, Dobrev went so far as to not renew her contract when it came up and leave the show entirely, which is not a completely unheard move when it comes to Hollywood, but still kind of rare for an actor on a hit show. (See also David Caruso, formerly of “NYPD Blue” fame- who eventually came crawling back to TV via “CSI: Miami” when the big screen failed him, for instance, and more recently, Jessica Lange, of “American Horror Story” fame.)

ian-somerhalder-ian-somerhalder-nikki-reed

Of course, Dobrev had her reasons, and let’s face it, it wasn’t just her wanting to “go Hollywood.” I’m guessing it probably had at least a little- if not a lot- to do with the fact that not only had her once-time paramour moved on with his life, he’d up and gotten married in short order to actress Nikki Reed (of the “Twilight” series fame, somewhat ironically, given the show in question), and there she was, still having to play his lover on a TV show. Can’t imagine that would be fun for anyone in those circumstances, so I can’t say I blame her.

Still, all of this couldn’t help but have an effect on the show, leaving a void that all but had to be filled by pairing off Damon with someone else on the show. Would they go with one of the regulars or take the road less traveled and risk hooking him up with a new character instead?

Oddly, they chose to go with neither one, much to this viewer’s chagrin, opting to leave Damon instead pining for the departed Elena to the point that he’d rather hibernate until her eventual return than get on with his life- kind of wussy move for a vampire, to say the least. Was it possibly a passive-aggressive move on the behalf of the show-runners, as revenge for costing them their leading lady? Perhaps. (Update: As of today, “Damon’s Love Is For Elena” is trending on Twitter, so we’ll see were THAT gets us!)

Except for the fact that the show had very clearly, for those paying attention, laid some serious groundwork for Damon to actually be paired off with cast regular Bonnie, played by Kat Graham, who could have used the more high-profile placement in the hierarchy of the show, after the way her character has been misused over the last few seasons. (At one point they literally stranded her alone in an alternate dimension!)

the-vampire-diaries-season-7-new-villains

Instead, out of nowhere, seemingly at the last minute, they opted to pair off Bonnie with, of all characters, the roguish Lorenzo, aka Enzo (Michael Malarkey). Mind you, this was not something that the show had laid the groundwork for, whatsoever.

Indeed, the show had actually posited them as bona fide enemies, and not in a way that resembled the formerly antagonistic relationship between Bonnie and Damon, who had ample time to not only get over their mutual disdain for one another in the aforementioned alternate dimension, but had actually bonded in a realistic way over an extended period of time. If you’ll pardon the expression: what a bunch of malarkey.

Most fans were actually completely onboard with the whole “Bamon” (short-hand for Bonnie and Damon, a la “Brangelina” for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ) scenario, but a select few were decidedly unhappy about it, whether out of loyalty to the whole “Delena” thing (aka Damon and Elena) or simply because they didn’t like the pairing in the first place.

vampire-diaries-season-7-bamon

So, what did the show do? Despite all of the thought and careful planning that went into bringing Bonnie and Damon together, they jettisoned the whole thing, and taking a page from the “PLL” playbook, did the whole “several years ahead in the future” thing- in this case, three years, to be precise- and instead completely upended everyone in the process.

Indeed, in addition to Bonnie being paired off with Enzo, they also tore apart newbie couple Stefan and Caroline, who had only just gotten together after even more carefully-laid groundwork by the show had finally resulted in “Stefoline.” Granted, this coupling was less loved by fans than the whole potential of “Bamon,” but still, their solution was instead to pair her off with…Alaric? What the what?

Yes, the machinations of the plot made it make a sort of sense- Caroline had involuntarily been implanted with Alaric’s wife Jo’s unborn twins (don’t ask if you don’t know, because, to quote one of the great sages of our time: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”)- but still. It’s as if someone decided to play Mad Libs with the show out of nowhere, just for the hell of it.

Perhaps needless to say, the show is weathering a hit if not directly because of that, then at least in some part because of it. I’m guessing Dobrev’s exit didn’t help, though the general consensus seems to be that the character had run its course, anyway. But has the show as well?

Certainly the impending move to Fridays doesn’t bode well for its fate. Fridays tend to be where most shows go to die these days, as the heady days of TGIF are long since passed. (Remember the old line-up of “Sabrina” and “Boy Meets World,” among others? Now, those were the days!)

the-vampire-diaries-season-7-new-villains

It remains to be seen whether the move will pay off. I can’t imagine the CW would want to let one of their flagship shows go so easily, but if the fans don’t move to Fridays with it, that may be all she wrote for “The Vampire Diaries,” like it or not. But the question remains- did the show let the fans dictate their plotting a little too much- or not enough?

Though it’s hard to quantify how much the whole shake-up of the character couplings had to do with the show’s sinking in the ratings, if the temperature of the message boards for the show are any indication, they aren’t too happy with any of it. (“PLL” might want to brace itself as well, given some of the reactions I’ve read to their own similar moves in that direction. Some fans have even dubbed the Caleb/Spencer coupling “Cancer”- not exactly a vote of confidence!)

So, has this ship sailed? Maybe, maybe not. It’s still not too late to right it, if the show plays its cards right. For instance, “Lost” pulled off a similar shake-up with its own “time-jumping” antics, while ratings remained strong- though that might not be the greatest example, given how upset some were with that show’s finale.

But they would do well to have something really great planned for the back half of the season, otherwise, it’s getting worse before it gets better. And say what you will about letting fans dictate the changes on a show- if there’s no fans, there’s no show anymore, so maybe, just maybe, it’s time they listened.