After season 6’s bloody finale of The Vampire Diaries, during which doppelganger turned vampire turned human Elena Gilbert was literally laid to rest, due to star Nina Dobrev’s exit from the series. Fans were left wondering how the series, and Elena’s true love, Damon Salvatore, would move forward in her absence. There’s no doubt that Dobrev’s character will be missed, but her departure wasn’t necessarily unwelcome. Along with Elena, there was a mass exodus of characters (Liv, Tyler, Jo, Kai), enabling The Vampire Diaries writers to give the series a creative face lift, some supernatural Botox, if you will.

There was a familiarity about the season 7 premiere of The Vampire Diaries that illustrates the show’s creators are going back to some basic storytelling elements that have worked so well for the series in the past.

The Vampire Diaries Season 7 Premiere Recap: Who Are the Heretics?>>>

Dear Diary

Remember how integral Elena’s journal was in the first season of the series? Her musings served as the central narrative. Well, I’m here to say that diaries are back, for now, anyway. Bonnie and Caroline are honoring Elena’s request that they write down everything that happens while she lies in her Sleeping Beauty-like coma, each definitively taking their fair share of the leading lady torch and running with it.

Bonnie and Damon are BFFs

Elena may be gone, but she is by no means forgotten. Damon is still dealing with the aftermath of choosing to keep Bonnie alive in exchange for giving up all that hot vamp sex with the love of his life. On his European pub crawl with Ric and Bonnie, Damon behaved like a frat boy with the emotional equivalent of a bad hangover after a wicked rager. Damon threw a few jabs Bonnie’s way about her meeting an untimely fate, and even flirted with the idea of letting an oncoming car take the witch out, if only for a few seconds, before saving her life.

Bonnie has made it clear: she’s not going anywhere, at least not voluntarily, and she’s over Damon making her feel any crappier about being present and accounted for, while her bestie is holed up in a crypt. Damon may continue to pine incessantly throughout the season, but by the end of the premiere, he announced to Bonnie, in no uncertain terms, that he’d made peace with his decision to not murder his gal pal in order to save his girlfriend. Damon is fully committed to keeping the unsinkable Bennett witch alive without constantly reminding her of his epic sacrifice.

Delena fans know there’s no mystical resolution to Damon’s heartbreak, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still bummed, so romance should remain on the back burner for TV’s sexiest vamp. Anyone hoping for a friends with benefits type situation to form between Damon and Bonnie, best not hold their breaths-this fact is reinforced by the three-year time jump that showed Damon desiccating in a coffin, the vampire equivalent of a Do Not Disturb sign. The platonic affection between Bonnie and Damon, when at its zenith, is fun to watch, and with Elena gone, Damon needs a woman with a conscience to keep him on the straight and narrow or be his partner in crime, take your pick.

New Baddies in Town

While Damon will undoubtedly continue to nurse his broken heart in his downtime, the rest of the Mystic Falls gang haven’t had the luxury to languish in misery over the loss of their friend. Ric is dabbling in necromancy and hopes to resurrect Jo, and the Heretics have come out swinging. With their British accents and super-sized powers, the new villains in town are reminiscent of another dysfunctional family, the Mikaelsons. The Heretics haven’t proven to be as witty as the Mikaelson siblings, although Nora taking a selfie after killing a local was amusing, but they are as vicious as Rebekah, Klaus and Kol were when they first came to Mystic Falls.

TVD’s New Power Couple

The Damon-Elena-Stefan love triangle came to an end in season 4, but as is the case with any long-running show, having too many exes hanging around begins to feel like a key party. With Elena tucked away for at least six or seven decades, the central relationship that drove The Vampire Diaries for years, Stelena, stands no chance of creating a fissure between the newly cemented Steroline. Still, you don’t have to dig too deep to see some of the parallels between Stefan’s two great love affairs.

Caroline is now an orphan but has Stefan and his hero hair are going to continue to help her navigate the rocky waters of her grief, just as he did for Elena in season one.

Stefan and Elena had an unwillingly single Damon on their hands to contend with, as do Stefan and Caroline. True, Damon is a kindlier, gentler version of himself these days, all anti-hero and no villain-tastes great, less filling. But Damon said himself that he has has yet to hit rock bottom, and reminders from his brother and Bonnie about What Would Elena Do (WWED) haven’t helped his attitude. Fans are no stranger to a heartbroken Damon’s antics.

Caroline and Stefan will mix business with pleasure as they continue to battle Lily and her adopted family, and just because Caroline is a vampire, doesn’t mean she can’t be a believable damsel in distress, stepping into a role Elena consistently filled. Already, Stefan finds himself having to rescue his new girlfriend from some nasty immortals.

Unlike Elena, Caroline is Type A all the way, and when not mourning her dead mom, pretty perky. Elena was far more brooding, so it will be nice if Caroline and Stefan can carve out a more lighthearted  vibe, but beware, romances are ill-fated on TVD. This season, I’m counting on more steamy hook ups. Nothing can compare to the epic love quadrangle of Katherine-Damon-Stefan-Elena, so why try?

To Be Continued…

Lumped in among Damon’s whining, the beginnings of more convoluted mythology and recycled storylines, there were some promising moments in the premiere. Even though not all the Heretics have the charisma of a Klaus or Kai, Nora and Mary Louise are fairly enigmatic, and their love affair is sure to get a lot of attention, since most of the Mystic Falls crew are romantically challenged. The family feud brewing between Lily’s adopted family and her biological sons has gotten off to a bloody start, and it looks as if Matt could be the new sheriff in town. Most importantly, who is the mystery woman who has the Salvatore brothers running scared three years into the future?

More gore, less lore.

The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8pm on the CW.

(Image courtesy of CW) 

Jennifer Lind-Westbrook

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Jennifer has worked as a freelance writer in the entertainment field since 2012. In addition to currently writing feature articles for Screen Rant, Jennifer has contributed content ranging from recaps to listicles to reviews for BuddyTV, PopMatters, TVRage, TVOvermind, and Tell-Tale TV. Links to some of Jennifer’s reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes.