Midseason Report Card: Did ‘The Vampire Diaries’ season 7 survive without Nina Dobrev?

Going into season 7 of “The Vampire Diaries,” there were many questions, especially when it comes to how the cast was going to assemble and move forward. Nina Dobrev was gone from the show. Steven R. McQueen took off before her. Michael Trevino currently has a small role on the series. This is a lot of change to happen over the course of a couple of seasons, but at least Julie Plec, Caroline Dries, and the rest of the writers had some time to regroup.

In the end, what we’d say we had in season 7 was for the most part a challenge that was accepted by the writers to tell a coherent, surprising, and emotional story without Elena around that somehow kept her memory alive. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it may be the best start to a season of the show since season 3.

What worked – There is something great about keeping things simple from time to time, and having clear lines in the sand between Stefan, Damon, and the Heretics provided that. Sure, there were differing feelings here and there about Julian, but their stance on Lily was the perfect framework for the entire season. One of them in Stefan eventually came to try to see things with her in a different light, but Damon’s words to her as she was dying proved that she never did. It is rare that you get many opportunities to see these characters as human beings more so than supernatural entities, but the story of their mother past and present allowed for that.

Also, the flash-forwards brought a different feel to the show, and also offered up a pretty wide array of mystery to go along to it. We still don’t know how Damon and Stefan will be isolated, and why Caroline is no longer on speaking terms with a man she loved. Instead, the pregnancy story is going to carry into something more with Alaric. (By the way, the pregnancy story was ridiculous, but we at the same time thought it was rather entertaining.

What didn’t – We didn’t get much of the story with Bonnie this time around, mostly because we wanted there to be something more consistent. The same goes for Matt. Most of the Heretics (at least Valerie, Nora, and Mary Louise) were entertaining, but some of the other new characters didn’t bring a whole lot to the table. That was, in the end, a slight letdown.

Overall – As we said, we were very entertained by the majority of this season. While the episodes were a tad inconsistent, we were much more engrossed in the show than in the past few years. It’s almost like the cast change-up has led to more stakes for the writers, and a chance to prove themselves. Grade: B+.

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