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Why the Vampire Diaries Love Triangle Works

By on April 10, 2012
THE VAMIPIRE DIARIES. Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2012 The CW Network.

THE VAMIPIRE DIARIES. Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2012 The CW Network.

Maintaining a satisfying love triangle for three seasons is not an easy task. It is a hard feat to accomplish even in a 90-minute film, so The Vampire Diaries’ writers have had their work cut out for them in this series. The idea of a tortured romance has proven to be very appealing to audiences. This attraction can be found in classics like Shakespeare’s Othello or modern blockbusters such as The Twilight Saga – not that we are comparing the two.

Too often a promising triangle ends up being a disappointment. The concept is a fragile one and that balance can be upset quite easily. Let’s look at how The Vampire Diaries has managed to maintain one so successfully.

Elena has a real relationship with both Salvatore brothers.

When Damon first strutted into Mystic Falls, he was portrayed as an unfeeling antagonist. Elena was building a foundation with Stefan and they appeared pretty unbreakable. It didn’t take too long for Damon’s humanity to show and for Elena to develop feelings for him. Elena’s interest in both brothers is based on an honest appreciation of who they are as individuals. It is not based on shallow attraction or a fun flirtation – she cares deeply for both of them. In the beginning, it seemed likely that Elena would always consider Damon to be a tempting, but ultimately undesirable choice.  While it was amusing to watch Damon annoy Elena with his frequent flirtations, the story is so much stronger with Damon as a believable love interest. No matter how alluring the suitor, if no one buys that potential for romance, that plotline dies.

There is no obvious choice.

Maybe in the beginning, when it seemed Stefan was near sainthood and Damon a psychotic killer, there was a clear choice to be made. However, the plot has consistently revealed new information about the male leads. Both of them have blood on their hands – literally. Each brother has made saving Elena’s life, which is something required rather frequently, a priority. We have seen them battle their vampire nature as well as succumb to it. If the criteria for a good boyfriend is innocence, neither of the Salvatore brothers look very appealing. In fact, if that were the case, Elena would be better off returning to high-school sweetheart Matt Donovan. Since both brothers are – depending on your interests – appealing choices, the viewers can honestly sympathize with Elena’s struggle. Well, we can sympathize to a certain extent – being torn between the smirking, provocative Damon and the ever charming Stefan isn’t the worst situation to be in.

"The New Deal"--LtoR: Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert and Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore on THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on The CW. Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2011 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.

It’s not the only part of the story.

An audience can only take so many longing looks and lingering touches before it becomes too frustrating to watch. Moments of tension and drama are essential to a tortured romance, but they can’t be in every scene of every episode. The Vampire Diaries has a large cast of strong characters and complex plotlines to follow. Thanks to the variety of areas to focus on, the show can prolong the inevitable ending of the triangle. The decision can be postponed without dragging on to an irritating degree. Whether it is typical teenage angst or battling a terrifying hybrid, there is always something else to focus on in this show.

There is no easy solution.

There are so many reasons why it is nearly impossible to happily end a triangle like this. If one of the brothers was keeping a terrible secret or died shockingly in an accident, it would be too easy. Throughout the seasons, both brothers have needed each other for various reasons. Despite loving the same girl, Damon and Stefan always manage to find a way around their jealousy and generally support each other. That brotherly bond makes a happy ending even more difficult to create. This tragedy makes the triangle stronger, because there is no good, quick fix. With fans watching the romance slowly unfold from the beginning, it would be cheap writing to end it in that way.

So, while one brother began the show as the hero and the other as the villain, The Vampire Diaries is no longer anywhere near that simple. Interestingly enough, many fans find that every time Elena leans in one direction, they lean in the other. The grass is always greener?