‘The Vampire Diaries’: The Lowdown on the Big Bad

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Coming up with the ultimate super-villain isn’t easy- least of all when your main protagonists don’t exactly have a stellar record as shining examples of being the “good guys” themselves. In the case of the classic series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”- still the benchmark portrayal of conflicted and troubled heroes and anti-heroes coexisting side by side- the show termed the main conflict the main cast were facing as “The Big Bad,” so-called because no sooner than they would take out one enemy than another would pop up in its place, like some horrific game of whack-a-mole. So, anytime one would be vanquished, the question had to be asked, eventually, “What’s the new Big Bad?”

In the case of “The Vampire Diaries,” the new Big Bad in question is the Huntress, aka Rayna Cruz (Leslie-Anne Huff), who herself bears more than a passing resemblance to the Buffy character, at least in terms of the mythos. You know the drill: “In every generation, there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.” Well, substitute “Huntress” for “Slayer” and you’ve essentially got the idea.

In terms of “TVD,” the mythos boils down to this: in the mid-1800’s, Rayna was imbued with the power of the so-called “Brotherhood of the Five,” a group of similarly-minded hunters who apparently decided that it would be better to hedge their bets on one solitary hunter to carry the power of them all, rather than spreading out their power amongst five different people. So, they all killed themselves, hari-kari style, as you do in shows like this, and Rayna became the lone hunter.

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Her mission was a simple one: avenge her people, notably her father, who the previous Big Bad, Julian (Todd Lasance) compelled to kill herself, in order to avoid having the lifelong curse of the Brotherhood on his head. Instead, he simply earned Rayna’s eternal wrath, who, upon becoming the Huntress, was given a sword which contained the so-called “Phoenix Stone,” which had the power to trap whoever she drove it into in a sort of personal Hell from which there was seemingly no escape.

The Huntress finally tracked Julian down in the early 1900’s, and was able to successfully drive said sword into Julian, which was how he came to be trapped in his own personal Hell until present day, more or less, at which point Lily Salvatore (Annie Wersching), with the help of her fellow Heretics- a group of vampire/witch hybrids- were able to finally release him.

Cut to a few months later, and Enzo (Michael Malarkey) was able to fool the Heretics into thinking that the Huntress was after them yet again, by sending them a postcard, letting them know they were marked for death. Only it was actually a ruse to lead them to where the Huntress was, so that Enzo could kidnap Rayna and bring her back to the so-called Armory, for still-unknown reasons, in exchange for information on his long-lost family.

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The gambit worked in the short-term, but then back-fired when Rayna, who was by this time an elderly woman, was brought back to her youth when Enzo, presumably on the orders of the Armory, burned her alive, which somehow revived her youth and made her vital and powerful again, allowing her to break free of Enzo’s grasp and escape, freeing her to once again go after the Heretics.

By this time, Julian had already been taken out of the equation, but that still left Beau (Jaiden Kaine), who she’d cut in the melee while trying to drive the sword into Julian, as well as fellow Heretics Mary (Teressa Liane), Nora (Scarlett Byrne) and Valerie (Elizabeth Blackmore).

It seems that when someone is stabbed or cut with the sword, it marks them in such a way as to serve as a sort of beacon to the Huntress to lead her to them so that she can finish the job. So, that’s exactly what she did, taking out Beau in short order, and then proceeding to go after the others. However, by this time, she’d managed to tick off Damon (Ian Somerhalder) in the process by shooting Bonnie (Kat Graham) with an arrow.

Factor in a general death wish due to the absence of Elena (Nina Dobrev, who left the show at the end of the last season) and it was clear that Damon had no compunction about dying in the process of confronting the Huntress. Chances are, he would have gotten his wish, but as per usual, Stefan (Paul Wesley) intervened in the act of her about to kill Damon and was stabbed with the sword in question, thus marking himself as her next primary target in the process.

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Thanks to this season’s flash-forwards, we already know that he manages to avoid her for the next three years, presumably because of a spell initiated by the witch Freya Mikaelson (Riley Voelkel), who helped Stefan out at the behest of her brother Klaus (Joseph Morgan). This covered up the mark in such a way that Rayna was no longer able to track Stefan, and allowed him to go undercover elsewhere, which also kept his loved ones out of harm’s way.

We also know that Rayna catches up to Caroline (Candice King, formerly Candice Accola pre-marriage), presumably after somehow seeing her doing a newscast as an anchor for local Dallas TV station. Rayna then kidnaps her, compels her to make an on-air announcement telling Stefan to come there or else. Later, we see Matt (Zach Roerig) free Caroline and tell her to get out of town ASAP, and he reveals he’s in cahoots with the Huntress.

Rayna also kidnaps a revived Damon just for good measure, who has apparently purposely confined himself to a coffin to wait out Bonnie’s death, which is what it will take to revive Elena, thanks to a curse by Lily. (This is all kind of pathetic and sad, perhaps needless to say, but we’ll leave that particular bit of business to another column.) However, Stefan revives him and sends him to help out Caroline in his stead, but he only ends up captured himself.

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This does the trick, and when we last see him, Stefan has arrived in Dallas to come to Damon’s aid and ends up being drugged by Matt, who presents him to Rayna, one assumes, shortly thereafter, which is where we leave the show. Although, we do discover that Caroline has gone to New Orleans with the twins to also seek out Klaus’ help, only to be told that he hasn’t been seen in three years, for reasons unknown as of yet.

So, what to make of all this? Obviously, the show-runners put a lot of thought into it, clearly planning a season-long arc leading up to the big reveal of Rayna. But was it worth the wait? So far, it’s kind of hard to say. On the one hand, they want us to believe that the Huntress is some unstoppable bad-ass, and yet, all that’s she really accomplished is having stabbed Julian and side-swiped Beau way back in the early 1900’s, before eventually catching up to Beau again, over a hundred years later to finish the job.

Since then, she’s regularly blown it trying to kill Stefan and apparently hasn’t really gone after anyone else until three years from now, if the flash-forwards are any indication. Granted, there’s still a lot of blanks to be filled in between now and then, so she could still very well kill, say, Mary, Nora or Valerie, but as of yet, her kill rate is pretty minimal.

Oddly, the show had a golden opportunity to rectify that in the most recent episodes, a two-hour crossover event in which Stefan himself went to New Orleans, and thus, onto “The Originals,” and intentionally led the Huntress to the Strix compound- aka the headquarters of a collective of vampires- which would have been a great way to show what a bad-ass she’s supposed to be, in that Stefan led her there intentionally to kill off as many of Klaus’ competition as possible.

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Instead, all we got was the briefest of glimpses of her taking them out, at which point she basically dropped out of the episode altogether! Way to screw that up, show-runners. So, basically, all we’re left with is to just assume she cleaned house, which is hardly the same thing.

Unfortunately, the Big Bad tends to live or die on the level of just how awe-inspiring they are, and on a scale of Kai (who was the worst “TVD” villain ever, IMHO) to The Originals, who were the best, the Huntress at this point ranks only a hair above the dreaded Kai, and then only because she’s less annoying.

I mean, if we’re being honest, Kai did do some pretty messed up stuff while he was the Big Bad, so on those accomplishments alone, he should actually rank higher, but I’m going to give the Huntress the benefit of the doubt, especially since there’s still a fair amount of time to redeem the character.

But, given that the show only has about four episodes left- or at least that’s all that’s listed on imdb.com at this point- they had better step it up, and quick, because it would be a shame if the show ended on a clunker of a Big Bad, especially if this proves to be the show’s last season ever, as many have suggested it might be- or possibly even should be. (To be fair, a typical season is around 22-23 episodes, so there might be a few more than listed.)

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On the plus side, the whole notion of the Armory is an interesting one, even if, like the Huntress, it’s a bit derivative, recalling the “Bunker” on “Supernatural” crossed with something like one of those prisons you see in all the superheroes movies and shows where they keep the super-villains when they’re caught, which has cropped up on the CW’s own “The Flash,” for instance.

Still, it’s clear they’re up to something, and it obviously has something to do with Rayna, or they wouldn’t have sent Enzo after her. My prediction would be that they want to join forces with her to have her go out and capture various creatures of the night (and otherwise, given the whole “Daylight Ring” thing) and bring them back to the Armory, presumably to be studied. Might that be where Klaus ends up, for instance?

The biggest problem with all of this, of course, is that they’ve spent SO much time setting all of this up that they really don’t have a lot of time to address it all without seeming like they’re rushing things a bit. But while I wouldn’t mind the last run of episodes being non-stop action, especially with how poky things have been on “TVD” as of late, my main fear is that they might have bitten off more than they can chew and we’ll end up with an anti-climatic ending.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the show was already picked up for another season, but that is by no means a given, with ratings having already been bad enough to necessitate a move to the dreaded Friday night slot. So, the question becomes, should they rush things to ensure some sort of satisfying ending, so that they don’t leave fans hanging at the end of the season in a cliffhanger with no resolution, or should they just roll the dice and take a chance that it will be back?

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My hope is that the CW will give them at least some semblance of a heads-up as to what to do and they will be able to act accordingly. After all, it’s one of their longest-running shows. I’d think that that fact alone would be enough to warrant it- and what fans are left- some sort of satisfying ending to it all.

At the very least, if it’s too late to change their plans now, maybe the CW will at least allow them to do either a final two-hour movie, a la “CSI”- or maybe even a final half season, if we’re lucky, to wrap up any leftover loose ends. I don’t think that would be too much to ask, do you? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, what do you think of the latest Big Bad? Is she a force to be reckoned with? Or is she weak-sauce with a side order of meh? How about the Armory? Which of the two do you find more interesting? Do you think they can possibly come up with an ending that satisfies hardcore fans in such a short amount of time? Is it possible they have one on deck just in case? What do you think the best case scenario is?

Sound off on this and more down below, and be sure to check out my ongoing columns for both “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals,” which I post sometime after each show airs on late Fridays/early Saturdays!