Katherine Is The Best: A Thesis
Vampire Diaries Season 4 Catchup Eps 9-13
Like all theses, we need to set out up front certain rules that prove the proof – certain things we have to accept are true. So. If a show in Season 5 is both a little tired and also a little bit free to do whatever it needs to do to shake things up. And. If actors in Season 5 know their characters so well that they can start playing with expectations while not losing themselves in the play. And. If your show’s mythology is ever changing and evolving and your audiences have accepted that…
Then you may come to a place where your antagonist character actually becomes the hero of your show.
Katherine is the best. Every time they swear and promise that she’s dead and gone, she’s not gone. She’s back. Because they can’t do without her. It’s been much documented that it’s rough on production and on Nina Dobrev to do both roles (and frequently a third, like, damn) but Katherine keeps coming back because she imbues the show with such energy and fun and excitement.
She’s the fun mom
Katherine with Nadia as the dutiful slash long-suffering daughter is some of the greatest fun we’re getting to have. Katherine is amazing, but she’s maybe-not-so-much with the foresight, which is how she gets caught half the time. Maybe the gag will grow old, but for now, I can’t think of anything more fun than watching as Katherine is raised by her long-suffering daughter who knows better than to let her mother have any length of rope whatsoever.
Katherine’s reflecting on her life in episode 100 and letting Nadia go and the fact that she’s capable of actual feeling but fights against it with every breath is amusing and Mean Girls and Teen Mom all wrapped up in a very bloody package. You can tell it, too, because neither Matt nor Tyler is able to conjure any actual distress at spending so much time with Nadia, spawn of Katherine. Yes, yes, Matt’s compelled, Tyler’s killed. I’ve still seen much higher levels of distaste for much lesser characters. You know I’m right.
She gets to say what we’re thinking
Why in the hell does Elena have that red streak in her hair, especially halfway through her freshman year (which, by the way, I have to assume she is making straight As in, because television)? Why is Caroline so Teflon to anyone who tries to dislike her? It’s actually impossible and when Katherine-in-Elena sighs “oh Caroline, how well you know me”, you know she’s not just having fun with the viewer but kind of resigned to the reality of it being a little bit true. For that matter, why are we required to remember anything about Bonnie, including such banalities as her middle name?
Look, I think it would be stifling to write a character whose overwhelming quality is that she’s good – especially for five years and once everyone else has become firmly bathed in shades of grey. Katherine is not only a welcome respite from all of this, she gets to put voice to all the things the writers didn’t know they felt or weren’t allowed to express. Elena is kind of a drag. Caroline is the magic fix for everything. Goddamnit, Katherine is young and beautiful and everyone loves her, even if they don’t want to.
She gives us new eyes
Of all the things I never thought I’d see, Stefan as a viable romantic option wasn’t one of them. But it’s been a long, long time since he was precious about Elena’s preciousness, and a long time since he was allowed to behave like an adult man who wasn’t worried about saving either Elena or Damon or both. (I don’t have to be worried about Damon yet, do I? No, right? We’ve seen much, much worse than Enzo).
But through Katherine’s eyes, I can (grudgingly) see why Stefan might be something attractive. And even though I think Caroline has her hands more than full, metaphorically, it was her look of jealousy when she saw Katherine-In-Elena embracing Stefan that made her actually care about him again, right? It’s amazing how interested you can be when someone else has the things you didn’t even realize you wanted.
She makes us weigh our decisions
How hard were you laughing when Nadia screeched at Katherine to go and save Jeremy because it’s exactly what Elena would do? Katherine dragged her feet as poutily as if she’d been told to clean her room. But it made me think about whether or not I wanted Jeremy saved, and I (like Katherine, one guesses) did, grudgingly. For now. Still, I liked watching her make the decision. I consider Bonnie very lucky that it was not her that Katherine had the option to save, because…no.
I also am not dying to see Elena saved. Like at all. I put exactly zero stock in the idea that the extra body is gone (yes, the one alive is still technically Elena’s) because the show makes a liar of me every time I do. Also, it’s frankly a neat party trick to watch Katherine and Elena duel for supremacy in the BODY OF THE SAME ACTRESS.
Sorry, I’ve beat this horse before but it’s not like Dobrev is ever going to be lauded for her acting anywhere “official”, not least because she makes it look easy. So as far as I’m concerned, more Katherine, more compelling. The show is maybe running out of tricks (who else can they possibly kill and bring back to life?) and I am otherwise done with doppelgangers, but she makes me breathe some fresh air into those dark mansion walls.
Now, as for the university and the Dr. Maxfields and the experiments? Don’t go Buffy season 4 on me, show. Don’t make me care about operations and movements and secrecy underneath lecture halls. Just keep Katherine ruthless, Nadia calculating but somehow indulgent of Matt, and try to keep Tyler on the right side of “righteous asshole”. You’re on a roll, and Bonnie’s irrelevance has been less notable of late. So let’s ride this out to the season finale.