I'm partway through the second season. I'm not watching it all at once. I watch an episode here, and an episode there, sparsed amongst my re-watching of other shows. I do the same with Black Mirror, never watching more than one episode in a row. With Black Mirror, it's because the stories upset me, and I've decided I can't take too much at one time. With The Vampire Diaries, it's because when I watch several episodes in a row I end up wanting to bang my head repeatedly against the wall in frustration.
I enjoy The Vampire Diaries. Clearly I do, or I wouldn't watch it. I find many of the characters likeable. I think the speed of the plots is part of what keeps the show from having real depth, but I also find it entertaining to watch. Never a dull a moment.
But the show has some serious, extremely frustrating writing flaws. And if I had to name one reason why I decided I can't watch more than an episode at a time and still enjoy the show, it would be Damon.
Don't get me wrong: I like Damon! I like his eyes and his snark and his complications. He's my third or fourth favorite character*. My problems with the writing around Damon are not due to a lack of affection for him.
My problems with the writing around Damon are due to the fact that the show warps itself out of shape to keep him alive and protect him from the consequences of his actions. And by "actions" I mean "murder" and "rape".
Take, for example, Bonnie's choice to help Stefan save Damon in Founder's Day. I can buy Stefan prioritizing his brother over the well-being of the people his brother would murder. I could even buy Elena prioritizing Damon. But Bonnie? Believe that Bonnie would demonstrate her love for Elena by saving not Elena, and not Elena's vampire boyfriend, but Elena's vampire boyfriend's murderous brother who only recently stopped slaughtering people willy-nilly? And even then stopped only for purely practical reasons (I'm pretty sure that Damon hadn't expressed any remorse yet at this point)? The vampire whose actions led to the death of Bonnie's grandmother?
And note that Bonnie makes no attempt to assist any of the other vampires trapped in the burning building. Damon's special. Which, again, is a feeling I can buy Stefan and Elena having. But Bonnie? Seriously?
I can handle fictional characters being obscenely selfish. But I have a hard time handling fictional characters acting against their own interests to preserve to protagonist privilege of murderers.
Another example is Damon's attempted murder of Jeremy in season two. When he finally admits to Elena that he didn't know Jeremy would survive, Elena responds as if he had cheated on her best friend, or some similar minor betrayal. Her attitude is simply that the two can no longer be friends. Damon murdered her beloved brother of whom she is deeply overprotective in front of her because she spurned his romantic advances, and she thanks him for being honest and tells him that they won't be friends again. No concerns about her safety and Jeremy's safety? No anger at Damon aside from a high school-esque withdrawal of friendship? No expression of pain or trauma that someone she cared about murdered someone she loved in front of her?
Even worse, Damon responds by criticizing Elena for manipulating him - manipulating him to get information that she might need for the physical safety of herself and her loved ones. He speaks as if this were somehow comparable to his violence and that of Katherine. Also note that while she was supposedly "manipulating" him, he was lying to her and claiming that he hadn't tried to kill her brother when, in fact, he had. He may have regretted it afterward, but in the moment he absolutely meant to kill Jeremy, and he lied to her about this. But she's like Katherine because she's ~manipulating him.
So, yeah. I have issues with The Vampire Diaries.
*If you were wondering, my first favorite is Anna, my second is Jeremy, and my third is either Damon or Caroline.