The Vampire Diaries might just be the oddest, most unexpected Comic-Con star since television networks began storming the halls of San Diego. A teen soap above all else, the series doesn't exactly scream fanboy or horror hound. It's an unmistakably popular guilty pleasure among the young college masses, yes, but that doesn't typically translate into enviable con cred. At best, it's divisive, low-hanging fruit. At worst, it's a stilted knockoff of more familiar series and films. Whether it's a source of irritation and disdain (It cribs from Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris!) or inspires a stirring defense (How!? It's based on a book series published in 1991!), though, it's tough to deny its showrunners have reaped the reward of its Twilight trappings and True Blood aspirations. Still, that doesn't mean it's a great show, or even all that entertaining.
Did The Vamp's third season have a pulse? Absolutely. Weak, but a pulse all the same. But its fourth season? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the show takes a turn for the worse in its fourth stab at supernatural glory and mythos grandeur, with the transformation of Elena to vampire (among other hit or miss developments and twists). The series' respectable three-million-strong fanbase have served dutifully as life support thus far, and there's something to be said for creators Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec's willingness to try to breathe new life into old ideas. However, The Vampire Diaries isn't winning many new fans or converting fence-sitters (this season left me more skeptical than before), and the creative team seems to be spinning in circles, heaping melodrama atop melodrama with alarming despondency. Can the series' upcoming fifth season save it from death? If its most recent 23-episode run, diminishing returns, and still-declining ratings are any indication, the prognosis isn't very good.
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season includes 23 episodes:
Growing Pains: Elena awakens on the morning after the accident to find the thing she dreaded most has come true - she died with vampire blood in her system and now must go through the terrible transition to become a vampire…or face certain death. Stefan promises Elena that he and Bonnie will exhaust every possible way out of the situation, but Damon is furious with his brother for letting Elena die in the first place. Bonnie pays a terrible price for her attempt to change Elena's fate, while Damon takes out his frustration and rage on Matt. In a rare moment of empathy, Rebekah (Claire Holt) is deeply touched by Stefan and Elena's devotion to one another. Finally, Pastor Young (Michael Reilly Burke) and the Town Council members begin rounding up the vampires and their supporters, leading to an unexpected tragedy.
Memorial: Elena tries to cope with the extreme highs and lows that are part of becoming a vampire, and Stefan and Damon almost come to blows while arguing about what is best for her. Damon decides to help Elena in his own way and asks her not to tell Stefan. A stranger, Connor Jordan (Todd Williams), arrives in town and begins questioning Sheriff Forbes and Mayor Lockwood. Connor's actions quickly convince Stefan that they are dealing with a dangerous vampire hunter. Jeremy and Matt are surprised to see a girl they used to know, April, (Grace Phipps), has returned to town and is enrolling at Mystic Falls High. At a town gathering, Elena comes close to losing control until Caroline steps in to help her. Finally, Damon confides his feelings to an unexpected friend.
The Rager: Connor continues his search to uncover the secrets of Mystic Falls and tries to convince Jeremy to work with him. With Dr. Fell's (Torrey DeVitto) help, Damon and Klaus question Connor, but the confrontation takes a lethal turn. Trying to keep her new life as normal as possible, Elena is determined to continue her senior year at Mystic Falls High with support from Matt and Caroline. Rebekah's arrival at school makes it difficult for Elena to control her anger, but she learns that confronting Rebekah can be extremely dangerous. Later, Rebekah realizes how alone she is, and reaches out to April. Stefan takes Elena on a thrilling motorcycle ride in an effort to show her that life can still be fun. Tyler gets a surprise visit from Hayley (guest star Phoebe Tonkin, "The Secret Circle"), a werewolf who helped him through the ordeal of breaking his sire-bond to Klaus. Concerned about Elena, as well as his own emotions, Stefan turns to a sympathetic Caroline for advice.
The Five: Damon goes with Elena and Bonnie to visit Whitmore College, where Professor Shane (David Alpay) is taking over the Occult Studies classes formerly taught by Bonnie's grandmother. At a fraternity costume party, Damon takes advantage of the wild scene to give Elena a lesson in choosing a victim. Rebekah's attempt to buy Matt's forgiveness falls flat, but she is intrigued by unexpected news from Klaus. When Stefan questions Klaus about Connor's motives, Klaus reveals a long-ago encounter with a powerful group of vampire hunters, but it's Rebekah who delivers the information that stuns Stefan.
The Killer: Stefan and Klaus form an uneasy alliance to try and contain the danger that Connor (guest star Todd Williams) has unleashed on the town. When Connor takes Jeremy, Matt and April hostage at the Grill, Stefan and Damon have a serious disagreement about the best course of action, and Elena is again caught between the two brothers. The situation quickly turns violent when Klaus sends one of his hybrids, Dean (Blake Hood) to stand up to Connor. Caroline is surprised to find Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) at the Lockwood mansion. Meanwhile, Professor Shane works with Bonnie to help her get past her fear and guilt.
We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes: Terrifying hallucinations leave Elena shaken and confused, causing her to make a dangerous mistake. After giving Stefan some very disturbing news about Elena, Klaus takes matters into his own hands. Professor Shane reveals a story of ancient witchcraft to Damon and Bonnie. With help from Klaus and Stefan, Jeremy begins a new chapter in his life. Finally, Elena makes a painful personal confession to Stefan, and Matt gives Damon startling new information about Professor Shane.
My Brother's Keeper: Caroline does her best to be there for Stefan and Elena in a tough time. Damon tries to convince Stefan to help him uncover Prof. Shane's motives, but Stefan is intent on carrying out a different plan with Klaus. At the annual Miss Mystic Falls Pageant, Elena and Caroline give April advice on which dress to wear, while Tyler and Hayley work together on a secret project, and Damon confronts Prof. Shane with his suspicions. Alarmed by the vivid nightmares he's having, Jeremy turns to Matt for help, but the situation escalates sooner than anyone expected.
We'll Always Have Bourbon Street: When Stefan confronts Damon with a suspicion about Elena, Damon has no choice but to help Stefan investigate. Searching for answers, Damon and Stefan visit modern day New Orleans to see if they can find anyone who remembers the events of their last visit in 1942, including one of Damon's former flames, Charlotte (Madeline Zima). Elena, Caroline and Bonnie share a girls' night while the Salvatore brothers are out of town, and emotions run high when Elena delivers some shocking news. At Hayley's urging, Tyler confronts one of Klaus' hybrids, Kimberly (Alyssa Diaz), and the situation quickly escalates into violence. Finally, Damon is faced with a heartbreaking decision.
O Come, All Ye Faithful: As a Winter Wonderland-themed party fills the streets of Mystic Falls, Stefan and Caroline find themselves at odds with Tyler over his plans for Klaus and his hybrids. When Caroline proposes a solution to their problem, Hayley finds a dramatic way to make it clear that she is not on board. Later, Klaus makes a discovery that leads to chaos and violence. Meanwhile, Elena and Damon retreat to the Gilbert Lake House to help Jeremy conquer some dangerous inner demons with the help of Bonnie and Professor Shane, who reveals a piece of ancient history that leaves them all speechless.
After School Special: Appearing unexpectedly at Mystic Falls High, Rebekah wastes no time trying to force Stefan, Elena and Caroline to answer her questions about the search for a cure, leading to a bombshell piece of information from Elena. When Bonnie's father, Rudy Owens (Rick Worthy), accepts the role of Interim Mayor, he makes it a priority to protect his daughter, who isn't at all comfortable with the role he suddenly wants to play in her life. Professor Shane continues to encourage Bonnie to believe in her powers, but he soon finds himself in danger when he reveals too much to the wrong person. Later, Caroline does her best to comfort Tyler after a violent confrontation. Meanwhile, at the lake house, Damon and Matt train Jeremy, trying to raise his game as a hunter, but Klaus is impatient with their progress and intervenes to speed up the process.
Catch Me If You Can: Jeremy is furious when Klaus tries to control him by putting Matt's life in danger. Damon coaches Jeremy as he prepares to take on Klaus' new vampires, but they find that Kol (Nathaniel Buzolic) has beaten them to it. Kol makes it clear that he will stop at nothing to convince everyone to give up the search for the cure. Looking for a new ally, Rebekah reminds Stefan that they were once close friends. When Sheriff Forbes and Mayor Hopkins question Shane about his involvement in the Founders' Council deaths, Bonnie steps in with questions of her own, and Shane's responses push Bonnie to the edge of her powers. Elena negotiates with Klaus to keep Jeremy safe, but when danger suddenly appears from a totally unexpected enemy, Elena comes up with her own daring plan for Jeremy.
A View to Kill: When Rebekah turns down Klaus' plea to stop Kol and protect Jeremy, Klaus turns to Stefan for help. After an angry confrontation with her father, Mayor Hopkins, over his unconventional approach to ending the violence in Mystic Falls, Bonnie has a frightening run-in with Kol, followed by an unexpected visitor. Klaus complicates the already tense feelings between Stefan and Damon by revealing a bit of Stefan's personal life, then surprises Damon by asking for personal advice. Elena tells Stefan about her dangerous plan for Jeremy, leaving Stefan in a difficult spot. When the high school's 1980s Decade Dance is cancelled by Mayor Hopkins, Stefan finds a charming way to make it up to a disappointed Rebekah.
Down the Rabbit Hole: On the island, Damon has an ugly run-in with a Hunter named Vaughn, and realizes he is one of The Five. Stefan confesses his true feelings about the possibility of becoming human again to Elena. When a stunning new piece of information about the cure is suddenly revealed, it changes the stakes for everyone. Jeremy helps Bonnie recognize what is real and what is an illusion, and Shane is comforted by a woman from his past, Caitlin (Camille Guaty). Back in Mystic Falls, Caroline and Tyler find that their attempt to translate the code on the Hunter's Sword is futile without help from Klaus, who has his own reasons for solving the puzzle.
Stand By Me: When Stefan arrives back in Mystic Falls with Elena and Jeremy, Caroline is immediately worried about Elena's state of mind. Stefan reaches out to Dr. Fell and Matt for help. Still on the island, Damon relays somber news to Rebekah, and is surprised at her reaction. Together, Damon and Rebekah learn an unexpected bit of recent history from Vaughn. Everyone is horrified when Bonnie reveals the rest of Shane's plan. Finally, after Damon does his best to help her, Elena comes up with a plan of her own.
Bring It On: Elena's new outlook has everyone concerned, leading Stefan and Damon to agree that going back to the normal routine of high school would be the best thing for her. Caroline is pleasantly surprised when Elena decides to rejoin the cheerleading squad, but her pleasure turns to shock when Elena's behavior proves dangerous. Not giving up on their search for the cure, Damon and Rebekah work together until his unwanted advice catches her off-guard. Klaus tries to use Hayley to get the information he's after and makes an intriguing discovery in the process. Meanwhile, a bored Elena throws a wild party and gets into an ugly fight.
Because the Night: Realizing that Elena needs some time away from Mystic Falls, Damon takes her to New York City, where he lived and partied hard in the 1970s. When Rebekah also shows up in New York, she's impressed with Elena's secret agenda. Flashbacks reveal Damon's hedonistic life in the underground club scene and a complicated encounter with Lexi (Arielle Kebbel). Meanwhile, Caroline and Stefan try to convince Klaus that it would be in his own best interest to help them track Silas down, and Bonnie struggles to keep her grasp on reality and do the right thing.
American Gothic: Elena and Rebekah take off in search of Katherine and find themselves in a small town in Pennsylvania, where Elena has a surprising encounter with another old acquaintance: Elijah (Daniel Gillies). Stefan and Damon are both concerned about Elena's state of mind and are determined to do what's best for her, but she makes it clear that helping her will be difficult. Damon is not sure how to react when Stefan reveals his unexpected plan for the future. Meanwhile, in Mystic Falls, Klaus receives Caroline's reluctant help and comes to a new understanding of Silas' powers.
Pictures of You: After making a decision that infuriates Klaus, Elijah proposes a life-changing challenge for Rebekah. Caroline finds that her carefully laid plans for the perfect Senior Prom night are disrupted by Elena, so she turns to an amused Klaus for a solution. Determined to get through to Elena, Damon and Stefan both attend the prom, but the evening begins to spiral out of control despite their efforts. When Elena suddenly lashes out in a way no one could have predicted, Matt turns to Rebekah for help. Finally, Bonnie makes a terrifying discovery, and Klaus receives a message that could change everything.
The Originals: Acting on a mysterious tip that a plot is brewing against him in New Orleans, Klaus makes a trip to the town he and his family helped build. Klaus' questions lead him to a reunion with his former protégé, Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), a charismatic vampire who has total control over the human and supernatural inhabitants of New Orleans. Determined to help his brother find redemption, Elijah follows Klaus and soon learns that Hayley has also come to the French Quarter searching for clues to her family history, and has fallen into the hands of a powerful witch named Sophie (Daniella Pineda). Meanwhile, in Mystic Falls, Damon and Stefan continue with their plan for Elena, while Katherine reveals a surprising vulnerability to Rebekah and asks her to deliver a message.
She's Come Undone: Damon and Stefan try a brutal new approach to provoke Elena into turning her humanity back on, and Caroline is frustrated when her attempt to intervene backfires. When Elena figures out a way to call the Salvatore brothers' bluff, they call for backup from a surprising source. Matt gives Rebekah some unsolicited advice on her life choices, and she tries to help him in return. Caroline has a confusing and dangerous encounter with Klaus, and Katherine is suspicious when Bonnie makes her an offer that she promises will benefit them both.
The Walking Dead: As Graduation Day approaches, Caroline tries to distract Elena by focusing on simple tasks like sending out announcements, but Elena won't be swayed from her new obsession. Sheriff Forbes calls Damon and Stefan to the hospital, where someone has been attacking patients. Still trying to force Katherine to help her, Bonnie refuses to give up on her plan to defeat Silas. As a violent wind storm causes a power outage in Mystic Falls, ghosts suddenly appear – some with good intentions and some bent on revenge.
Graduation: On Graduation Day, Mystic Falls is overrun with ghosts intent on settling old scores and fulfilling their supernatural destinies. Damon's life is in danger after a ghostly encounter, while Matt and Rebekah join forces to battle a ghost determined to find the cure. As everyone gathers for the graduation ceremony and the ghosts converge, help comes from an unlikely hero. Caroline receives a touching and unexpected graduation present, and Bonnie's plan leads to the closing of the veil. Elena makes a decision about the Salvatore brothers and faces an epic confrontation with Katherine. Finally, Stefan discovers a horrifying clue to the mystery surrounding Silas.
Like previous seasons, The Complete Fourth Season features a solid 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, and, like previous seasons, the presentation's nagging issues -- uneven noise, at-times severe crush, and somewhat inconsistent clarity -- all appear to be inherent to the series' source and photography. However, the latest 23 episodes are much darker by design and lighting than past seasons, which tends to exacerbate the aforementioned issues. The result is an image with more distractions and eyesores per episode, but not necessarily more problems, meaning diehard fans will be pleased while most everyone else will be slightly underwhelmed. Even so, there's quite a bit to praise here. Saturation is on target (despite the fact that skintones favor milky, sun-starved hues rather than warm, healthy colors), primaries fare well, black levels are satisfying, and contrast is comparable to that of past Vampire Diaries presentations (in other words, overbearing one minute, a touch dim the next). Detail is also crisp and well-resolved on the whole, with clean edge definition, refined textures and striking closeups. And, as far as the encode is concerned, things seem to be in order. I suspect crush severity could be lessened (perhaps dramatically) with a move from four BD-50s to five, or even six. But four discs is the go-to count for Warner, and there isn't anything troubling enough about the crush to justify too loud a complaint. Fortunately, banding, macroblocking and other anomalies are kept to a bare minimum, and The Complete Fourth Season looks pretty good overall.
What The Vampire Diaries lacks in visual punch it offers in sonic power. Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is an exercise in extremes, with hushed conversations and atmospheric suspense suddenly devolving into supernatural action, witchy spells, lunging vamps or good ol' chaos. LFE output is fierce and feral, making its presence known whenever called upon. Dynamics are excellent, particularly for a modestly budgeted CW series. Rear speaker activity is assertive and convincing, with effective directional effects, eerie pans and an involving soundfield. And dialogue never disappoints, with clear, intelligible voices and precise prioritization. The series' music does tend to come on a little strong in the mix, but it hardly matters. The highlight of The Complete Fourth Season remains its lossless audio track.
Production Featurettes (HD, 31 minutes): Five featurettes are available: "Inking the Brotherhood: The Hunter's Mask," a look at the mystery behind the Brotherhood and their supernatural tattoos; "Creating Silas's Island," in which a location shoot has interesting ramifications;
"Blood, Boys and Bad Behavior: Becoming a Vampire," a bit of fun with the cast and crew; "The Evolution of Elena Gilbert," the creators and actors' favorite moments involving Elena's transformation; and "The Ultimate Prop Master," a visit with prop master and stake-maker Joe Connolly.
Deleted Scenes (HD): All four discs include numerous deleted scenes for the following episodes: "Memorial," "The Five," "We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes," "My Brother's Keeper," "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "After School Special," "Into the Wild," "Down the Rabbit Hole," "Pictures of You," "The Originals," "She's Come Undone," "The Walking Dead" and "Graduation."
Second Bite (HD, 3 minutes): A standard fare gag reel.
The Impact of a Single Show (HD, 3 minutes): A short fan video.
Fan Gallery (HD, 1 minute): A selection of art pieces.
Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Combo Pack Contents (Subject to Change): The initial combo pack release of The Complete Fourth Season features a slipcover (with the original pressing), four BD-50 discs, five standard DVD discs, and an UltraViolet digital copy of the season (Flixster download via redemption code, expires 9/3/2015). Please note: The Complete Fourth Season UltraViolet digital copy is not iTunes compatible.
The Vampire Diaries is in something of a tailspin, unsure of how to pull out of its descent. The series still has its fans -- very vocal fans, I might add, who'd go to the grave (and beyond) defending the show on its dark-comicbook-meets-teen-soap-opera merits -- but once most people are hooked on a show, they'll put up with just about anything, wondering the whole time why their beloved series is drawing so much criticism. But if you love it, go on loving it and ignore the detractors. If, however, you've already been slipping away from the fold, if you've never been one of the converted, or if this is the last chance you're willing to take on Williamson and company, be warned: Season Four isn't better than any season that's come before. It might be best to wait for the debut of The Originals spin-off and give up on poor, newly fanged Elena. As far as Blu-ray releases go, though, The Complete Fourth Season is an easy one to recommend to fans, thanks to solid video, terrific lossless audio and a decent (but limited) selection of extras.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has officially revealed the Blu-ray release of The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season, which stars Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Steven R. McQueen, Kat Graham, Zach Roerig, Candice Accola and Michael Trevino. ...
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Forum Discussions