When The Vampire Diaries made its debut on The CW back in 2009, it was written off as just another entry in the Twilight-inspired vampire craze. But TVD’s first season surprised many with its whiplash-inducing twists, deep mythology, and—pardon the anachronism—Scandal-like pacing. Over its four seasons, TVD has shown no sign of slowing down and seems intent on keeping its rabid fan base on the edge of its seat.
TVD’s fifth season, which kicks off Thursday night, promises to be a season of change that will test the series’ strength as it embarks on a storyline that has killed many a television series: college. This fall, Elena (Nina Dobrev), Caroline (Candice Accola), and the rest of the crew will be starting their freshman year.
Before the season premiere, get up to speed with some of TVD’s best twists, from Elena’s transformation to the Christmas massacre.
9. Season 3: Evil Alaric
In the back end of the third season, Alaric (Matthew Davis) started suffering from blackouts—during which his vampire-hating subconscious would take over and murder someone on the Town Council. Then Esther (Alice Evans), the mother of the world’s first vampires, called originals, turns our favorite vampire-hunting history teacher into the ultimate-vampire hunting vampire, whose sole purpose is to kill all of Esther’s children and in so doing eradicate vampires for good. In the end, the third season’s big baddie was not Klaus (Joseph Morgan) or his siblings but Alaric.
8. Season 3: An Original Vampire Kills His Entire Bloodline
Our heroes were rather proud of themselves, and rightfully so, after killing Finn (Casper Zafer), an original vampire. Their happiness, however, was rather short-lived when they realized that killing an original vampire meant killing his entire bloodline. This was a clever twist on the part of the writers, giving them a plausible reason to postpone killing off Klaus and the other original vampires.
7. Season 2: The Sun-Moon Curse
The latter half of TVD’s second season was concerned with breaking an ancient Aztec curse that made werewolves servants to the moon and vampires slaves to the sun. There was one problem, however: the Sun-Moon curse was not real. The real curse was the hybrid curse: a curse placed on Klaus, an original vampire, to keep his werewolf side dormant. To break the curse, Klaus needed to sacrifice a werewolf, a vampire, and a doppelgänger, aka Elena. Thanks to some clever plot maneuvering, Elena lived to see another day after the curse was broken. The same could not be said for Elena’s Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning), however.
6. Season 4: Katherine Takes the Vampire Cure
Prior to the fourth season finale, the possibility of a human Katherine (also played by Nina Dobrev) seemed just as unfathomable as the thought of a vampire Elena had been before the end of the third season. Yet that is exactly what happened. To stop Katherine from ripping her heart out, Elena forced the cure for vampirism down Katherine’s throat. The one thing that diminished the impact of this great moment was Elena’s lame one-liner: “Have a nice human life, Katherine.”
5. Season 4: Elena and Damon’s First Time Together
Four seasons of built-up sexual tension led to this intense scene, which was masterfully set to Ed Sheeran’s “Kiss Me.” But the audience started questioning everything when Caroline and Stefan (Paul Wesley) realized that Elena was sired to Damon (Ian Somerhalder), putting her true feelings for him in doubt. While the sire-bond twist initially seemed to come out of nowhere, it all began to make sense as Caroline ran down the list of evidence. Kudos to the writers for finding a way to make the Damon-Elena-Stefan love triangle even more complicated.
4. Season 1: Katherine Returns to Mystic Falls
The Season 1 finale featured the show’s biggest surprise up to that point. Having survived the Town Council’s attempt at killing off all the vampires, Damon paid Elena a visit and the two end up making out on her front porch. But it turned out Damon wasn’t kissing Elena but her doppelgänger and Damon’s ex, Katherine. We didn’t find out it was Katherine until she approached John Gilbert (David Anders) in the kitchen and sliced his fingers off with a kitchen knife.
3. Season 4: The Christmas Massacre
After learning of his hybrids’ plans to stop his heart and entomb him, Klaus massacred all 12 of them with a sword in a sequence set to the Christmas classic “O Holy Night.” When he was unable to find his final hybrid, Tyler (Michael Trevino), he settled for killing Tyler’s mother, Mayor Carol Lockwood (Susan Walters). What made this scene so powerful was it was set to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
2. Season 4: Stefan Is Silas’s Doppelgänger
The Season 4 finale built on TVD’s complex mythology with the introduction of another doppelgänger: Stefan. The heroes of Mystic Falls believed that they had triumphed over the evil first immortal Silas, and Stefan was tasked with disposing of Silas’s fossilized body in the river. To Stefan’s surprise, however, Silas broke free and revealed his true face to Stefan—and Stefan is Silas’s doppelgänger. Silas then locked a befuddled Stefan in the safe meant for himself and dropped it into the river.
1. Season 3: Elena Becomes a Vampire
In what may have been the series’ most surprising revelation to date, TVD’s third season finale saw its human heroine/distressed damsel, Elena Gilbert, die and become a vampire. Those who had read the books may not have been surprised, but the rest of us were quite unprepared for the twist. In true TVD fashion, the development was especially astounding because it was not at all telegraphed by events earlier in the episode.