Why Wasn’t Legacies as Successful as The Vampire Diaries?

With their last renewal cycle, the CW announced that Legacies would come to an end after its fourth season. This not only marks the end of Legacies, however, but The Vampire Diaries Universe as a whole — after 13 years, we’re saying goodbye to the characters and storylines we’ve let into our lives. It’s going to be difficult.

Legacies itself began airing in 2018 and was a spin-off of The Originals, which in turn, was a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries (yeah, I know, confusing). The sole premise of Legacies was that it would focus on Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell) and her status as the world’s first tribrid — that’s a witch, werewolf, and vampire, for those wondering.

Whilst the premise was genuine, the show never really took off or garnered the reception that the CW had hoped. One may argue that the backdrop of COVID-19 and disruptions throughout the television and film industry didn’t help, those weren’t the only problems Legacies had. A culmination of issues and problems with the show and its storyline meant that it never really lived up to the reputations set by parent shows TVD and TO.

Legacies Ignored its Roots in the TVDU

The three shows that make up the TVDU
The three shows that make up the TVDU.

Legacies as a whole tried to be different than its parent shows and for me, this is where it truly went wrong. It’s understandable, the writers wanted to try something new: they wanted to use the lore, characters, and history from the TVDU and create something new with it; honestly, though, this was the shows singular failing point and one of the main reasons for its downfall.

Interestingly, the absence of many of the main characters from the TVDU just didn’t make sense at times. For example, Caroline was mentioned numerous times but didn’t once appear in the earlier seasons. Instead, Lizzie and Josie disappear for episodes at a time to “visit” her, but she’s never actually shown. Caroline later appeared in the finale, which, if honest, was a little too late.

Granted, the writers seemed to have realised eventually that Legacies does exist within the TVDU and season 4 is filled with surprise cameos and references to characters from the two parent shows. It all feels a little forced, though, like a final hurrah in which they want to pile as many characters into the show before the universe ends. It’s all very bizarre.

Furthermore, Legacies seemed to ignore the fundamental laws of magic and lore that The Vampire Diaries and The Originals had spent so years building. This saw numerous storylines and laws on how supernatural creatures worked were retconned or completely ignored at times, which made the show feel a little tacky and harmfully impacted the rest of the universe.

The Characters Lacked Development

Another huge downfall of Legacies was that the characters often lacked development; the writers played it too safe and this often meant that characters were bland in comparison to what had come before. The show focused heavily on the main characters, such as Hope and Landon, with a bit of attention directed at Lizzie and Josie, but these were very bland characters. Landon, for example, had little special about him in the beginning and the entirety of the further seasons revolving around him quickly got annoying — after all, the show was meant to focus on Hope, but seemed to be the Landon-show for the majority of it.

The writers seemed to often ignore the characters that did have potential, for example many of the recurring or guest characters. Jed (Ben Levin), and Wade (Elijah B. Moore), for example, are interesting characters with a lot to explore, but the show seemed to ignore them at the beginning and this is a huge issue, particularly given how important to the plot they have since become. On the other hand, characters that were actually interesting from the beginning, such as Penelope, exited the show way too early and left a big hole in the plot where a lot of character development and exploring could’ve been done.

The focus on Hope and Landon’s relationship was another element that wasn’t properly developed. It felt too forced. For example, the “epic” love story with symbolism (such as the milkshake) seemed to draw a lot of inspiration from Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Elena’s (Nina Dobrev) relationship in The Vampire Diaries, albeit less developed and more forced.

The Monster of the Week

Malivore as a golem (Credit: The Vampire Diaries Wiki)
Malivore as a golem (Credit: The Vampire Diaries Wiki)

Legacies whole premise was based on a different monster each week, with a larger, framed narrative of this huge monster which eventually became known as Malivore. Whilst it was good for the first season, it just became a bit repetitive, and at times, a bit annoying. The writers were introducing new lore and new fairytale characters which just made it feel a little insulting and more imaginary than I expected. Looking back, though, the premise would’ve worked had Legacies been a completely new show that didn’t belong to a wider universe or draw from them. For those coming from either TVD or TO, however, this is a huge insult to be seeing what can only be described as childish monsters appearing on the show.

The writers also never seemed to completely understand their end goal or what they were creating with Malivore, either, and this showed. At first, it was a large black pit, then a golem, then Landon’s father. It seemed far too rushed and like they didn’t figure this out at the beginning — we’re they making it up on the spot? It’s a possibility, and would explain all of the plot holes throughout the entire show.

Despite all of the negativity, Legacies is somewhat of a decent show. It was never, and will never be, a true reflection of what the Vampire Diaries Universe was or what it stood for, but it was fun to watch and kept the universe alive for all of us die-hard fans. With the end of Legacies in sight, this brings 13 years of the Vampire Diaries universe to a close.

Written by Luke Rigby

Luke has been writing television and movie recaps for years. He enjoys writing about CW shows in particular and media released on demand rather than on live TV. He is from the UK, so coverage is iffy.

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