The Vampire Diaries, Season 6, Episode 3, “Welcome to Paradise”
October 16, 2014, 8 p.m. (EST), The CW
Over the more than five years that The Vampire Diaries has been on the air, a consistent focus has been on the love triangle between Stefan, Elena and Damon. It started out with Stefan and Elena as the perfect couple, quickly falling deeply in love while Damon pined from the outside. Eventually, it shifted to Elena growing feelings for Damon which turned into a love affair, while her relationship with Stefan became more platonic. After Elena had Damon wiped from her memory in last week’s episode, we seemingly had a respite from Elena’s Salvatore-related drama, especially since the flashbacks last episode suggested that her feelings for Damon grew while she was still with Stefan. But it appears in “Welcome to Paradise” that any break may be brief, as sparks seemed to rekindle between Elena and Stefan now that Damon is out of the picture, with a number of reminders about their time as a couple. And, on top of that, there could be a love triangle with Caroline now, as Elena pushed Caroline to admit that she has feelings for Stefan after overhearing Caroline give an emotional plea asking him to stay in town.
However, this episode proved that a move away from Elena’s romantic relationships with the Salvatores is one of the best things for this show and its characters. Bonnie and Damon’s interactions – sniping at each other one minute and then banding together to beat the bad guy – has brought out the fun side of each character. Caroline finally revealing her feelings for Stefan was also an exciting development, as the show has generally avoided pairing either of the Salvatores with any main characters who aren’t Elena (or her doppelgangers). But the chemistry between the two over the past couple of seasons has been undeniable, so it was gratifying to hear Caroline finally come clean to Elena. Unfortunately, her timing wasn’t optimal, and Stefan stalked off somewhat carelessly after she asked him to stay in town, distracted by his vendetta against Enzo.
The most refreshing change, though, is in Elena herself. It is great to see a happy, carefree version of Elena, which has been often missing in recent years as she has instead struggled mostly with relationship woes and various bad guys wanting to kill her. The heart-to-heart with Stefan early in the episode, about their past relationship and what they want out of the future, had echoes of the more light-hearted dynamic from early seasons, which was a welcome sight. It would be nice to see these two become legitimate friends without the shadow of Damon looming over them. The prospect of Elena dating a non-Salvatore, in newly-introduced Liam, was also a welcome development – and practically unprecedented for this show.
Elena wasn’t the only one who was different in this episode though. Stefan finally let out his anger– both to his boss and to Enzo, eventually getting his revenge on the latter by handing him over to vampire hunter Tripp. Stefan is no longer the calm, reliable presence he once was, as Caroline points out repeatedly. While this may make him less likeable in the short-term, it also makes him less bland overall. Meanwhile, Enzo’s playful yet homicidal tendencies – casually killing diner staff with a joke – may not bode well for him staying around Mystic Falls long-term, but the new energy he provides compared to the generally well-meaning rest of the group is a fun contrast. Caroline playfully bossing Enzo around as they feel out a potential friendship also echoed Bonnie and Damon’s recent interactions.
But not all of the new pairings have been as successful, with Tyler/Liv and Jeremy /”dog-bite girl” being largely forgettable. The latter in particular seems in service of a future plot, with the new girl’s mysterious parentage and, now, the fact that she can remember Elena attacking her despite being compelled by Caroline to forget.
Elena says mid-way through “Welcome to Paradise” that she wants to pretend that she and her friends aren’t all drifting apart. But seeing Elena interact with Stefan in a new way or reacting to a crush from college peer Liam has actually been quite refreshing, particularly compared to the first two episodes of the season that she spent mourning and obsessing over Damon. And while Bonnie and Damon are desperate to leave the day they keep repeating in 1994, bickering about pork rinds while trying on blue sunglasses in the supermarket is more enjoyable than returning to high drama in Mystic Falls and beginning the well-trod love triangle cycle all over again. Instead, let’s stay with these new dynamics for at least a little while longer.
- “It’s important that we let Elena live her new, happy, problem-ignoring life the way she wants!” says Caroline, while being equal parts supportive and judgmental, as Enzo points out.
- New, mysterious character Kai reveals he is also trapped in the same place as Bonnie and Damon, and then instantly tries to kill Damon. I like him already.
- “You always fight dirty, Damon. That time you and Bonnie played Monopoly and you stole from the bank. Not cool!” says Kai, while trying to kill Damon.
- The show is killing it with the ’90s music choices in the Bonnie and Damon scenes. “I Swear” is still stuck in my head.
Switching up long-standing character dynamics has been a refreshing change for the show so far this season.