The fan favorite THE VAMPIRE DIARIES looks and sounds better than we’d expect, but that’s about it.
For those of you who follow CW’s THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, you’ll be happy to learn that your favorite Mystic Falls residents are back with more Delena drama, doppelgängers galore, and more Supernaturals than ever before. For those of us who couldn’t care less, the arrival onto home video could be little more than a minor inconvenience. However, both sides of the spectrum could make far worse decisions with their dollars, as Season 5 is filled with wild twists, some jaw-dropping transformations and a new supernatural race with a diabolical agenda, there’s plenty of reasons that the body count is rising once more. I’m not saying it’s a keeper, but at least the quality of the home release is worth noting.
Elena (Dobrev) spent the summer getting sweaty with Damon (Somerhalder) while Stephen (Wesley) spent time drowning in an underwater safe, and no one even noticed him missing with his shadow self Silas (also Wesley) running about. With summer over and college starting, Elena moves into her dorm with her roomie Caroline (Accola). Bonnie (Graham) is still MIA because she’s well dead and only Elena’s younger brother and Bonnie’s love interest Jeremy (McQueen) knows, and the girls find themselves with a surprise in the form of a new roommate. Before the beer bongs can be properly broken in tragedy strikes and draws the girls into a far reaching mad scientist mess that has ties to Damon and eventually the newest edition to the supernatural roster in the form of the Travelers. The Travelers are body-jumping neanderthal witches who just so happen to want doppelgänger blood and to destroy the supernatural ever-after.
Meanwhile, after receiving the much sought-after vampire cure, Katherine is human once more. But the blessing, Katherine finds, is more of a curse as she’s plagued with aging at a rapid rate, while being hunted once again. As Katherine, Nina Dobrev delivers some of her best material. Many props need to be give to both Paul Wesley and Nina Dobrev for pulling double and sometimes more duty. The nuances between the different characters are amazing. Not just subtle things like posture, or more noticeable ones like speech patterns, but even their voices are slightly different. The descend to death of Katherine Pierce is one of the highlights of the season because of both great writing as well as great acting. Katherine may be the thorn in everyone’s side, but she helped shape them all, pushing them to be the complex characters they are and Dobrev really shines.
The writing for the season is really all over the place. When its good, its very good; its touching, its poignant, its shocking. What’s not shocking at this point is the deaths that aren’t deaths because everyone comes back or the whole we-can’t-be-together-because-we’re-bad-for-each-other, but “I’m better with you” storyline. Luckily, for the most part, these moments are fleeting, drowned out in the impending other world destruction, and big bad rising storyline. There is a lot of soul searching this season, and further exploration of the characteristics that have come to define each of the individuals. Whether its Elena’s kindness, Stefan’s balance and compassion, Damon’s selfishness and selflessness or Caroline’s journey from bubblehead to caring individual, its these aspects that are so beautifully done that keeps fans begging for more.
Note that I use the word ‘fans’ here. For everyone else, the story of teens sucking blood and looking sexy doing it will see formulaic and even a waste of time as the season is bloated out to a full broadcast run. This series could be more effective on a 12-episode run, but there’s not much of a chance we’ll see it. Frankly, it makes CW too much money at this point. You could do a lot worse, but you could do much, much better.
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: The Complete Fifth Season arrives on home video in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded image by WB. Both the intense dark visuals and bright colorful daylight ones look clean in high definition. But as with other seasons, crush seems to be a problem, with blacks and shadows easily getting lost in the show’s darker vision. However, everything else looks to be improved – detail on clothing and sets is better, skintones and details like hair and (of course) blood look more realistic. The other issue I’ve always had with the series – from the television production side – are the cheap special effects, which look particularly bad here. The show is certainly well produced, and the flashback scenes with their heavily detailed sets look especially impressive. So, there’s enough of the good to balance out the bad, so fans should be very happy.
The audio for Season 5 of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is presented in a good 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation, a fact that most studios seems to be improving with each release. Dialogue is centered in the middle channel, boosting it so well that one doesn’t need to crank up your tuner to compensate. LFE output and surrounds also do a good job in their own rights, whether it’s during action scenes or in small scenes in which a little background noise is needed. For a little show like THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, it’s great to see CW/WB putting out a good product like this. It demonstrates just how serious broadcast television has become in bringing film-quality transfers to the small screen.
There aren’t a ton of extras, so the ones included on both the DVD and Blu-ray make this a must-own for fans only. At least the Blu-ray features are all presented in HD:
- 2013 Comic Con Panel (30:36): Easily a highlight of the set, Creator/showrunner Julie Plec, staff writer Caroline Dries, and the cast members Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Candice Accola, and Kat Graham share in some Comic-Con fun with the audience and answer questions prior to the premiere of Season 5. There are no big reveals, but the playfulness between castmates makes it a fun watch.
- Deleted Scenes: Although WB has included all of the markers for the deleted scenes for all discs, you can’t access them unless you have the right disc in the machine. However, once you select one of those and insert the new disc, you go right to scene without having to see the WB logo. (Disc 1 (7:43) contains two – Monster’s Ball and True Lies – while Disc 2 contains 3 – Dead Man on Campus (2:13), 500 Years of Solitude (0:47), and The Devil Inside (0:22). Disc 3 contains 2 – No Exit (2:26) and Resident Evil (0:55).
- I Know What You Did… in the Last 100 Episode (10:15) is a Disc 4 featurette celebration with the cast and crew overselling the huge milestone achieved of reaching the 100th episode.
- To The Other Side and Back (10:35) is a Disc 4 featurette delves into the mythology of the Veil, that other place where most of the characters depart to.
- A Day in the Afterlife with Kat Graham (10:35) is a Disc 4 behind-the-scenes rundown of filming with the actress taking viewers on a filming tour.
- Second Bite: Gag Reel (5:03) is your standard goofed-up forgotten lines clip-show on Disc 4.
The hardened cardboard box which contains the Blu-ray and DVD case is sturdy and well-constructed, while the Amaray case itself holds all the discs quite well. There’s no interior artwork, but I do prefer the Amaray to a Digibook, which could eventually scratch the discs. At the time of this posting, we were not aware of any special editions.
Although in its fifth season, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES shows no signs of slowing, and remains one of the most popular shows on the CW. Fans will love the stunning costumes, compelling writing and exceptional performances, while others will rant about its soap opera styling. Luckily, the transfers look and sound good, but the Supplements contian no audio commentary. Your decision to pursue this set will probably be determined by how much you love the series. If the idea of actors in tight jeans and pleather pants appeals to you, then consider picking this one up. But it will eventually find its way onto Netflix – as the rest of the series has done – a fact that could save you some money if you’re willing to wait.