The Vampire Diaries makes a habit of changing it up every once in a while in a big way, as any decent show should. This extends to the whole gambit – setting, story direction, and character traits. There are very few characters who have maintained a consistent balance over the course of the series, or even make it through a season without going through some sort of major crises that pushes them over the edge (more so in the last few seasons). In “Welcome to Paradise,” two of the main characters exhibit some very uncharacteristic tendencies, and it has some adverse effects on the episode as a whole.
Elena (Nina Dobrev) is stuck in a bliss bubble after having any and all of her fond memories of Damon (Ian Somerhalder) wiped. And it’s kind of obnoxious. For as much as her character has been pegged as the heart of the show, she has went through more than her fair share of transitional periods over the years. It may have been in her best interest to forget her intense romantic connection to Damon, but it was also a very selfish move. It doesn’t take into consideration any of her friends emotions, which actually may be the most un-Elena thing the writers have ever thrown at us.
At the core of The Vampire Diaries‘ story has always been empathetic Elena. Her will power to put her loved ones before her own happiness has always been a character flaw. Not in a bad way. It’s just a detail of the narrative that has remained in tact from one season to another and served a major purpose as the story has developed. She is a vampire because of it. Instead of letting Stefan (Paul Wesley) rescue her when the truck she was in went over a bridge, she insisted that he save Matt (Zach Roerig) first – even when she would have died (having vampire blood in her system at that moment was just a lucky side effect).
When you throw a curve ball out into the story arc like a selfish Elena, it’s throws the narrative slightly off-kilter. All of the other characters are now forced into maintaining the false pretense that Damon was nothing more than “Stefan’s psycho-murdering brother.” It creates a certain amount of tension between the characters that is palpable and will undoubtedly reach a breaking point. For Damon’s sake, I hope that happens before he returns from his stint in 1994, not after. Nothing puts more strain on a relationship than dying, then returning from the dead to be reunited with the love your life who no longer remembers that she ever loved you. Or so I assume.