Bonnie and Damon Prison World Vampire Diaries.

On This Day in ‘Vampire Diaries’ History: One of the Series’ Greatest Twists

Old tongue twister, Eddie turned top 40 ...

Over the course of its 171-episode run on The CW, Julie Plec’s runaway hit teen supernatural drama series The Vampire Diaries played host to some truly hare-brained plot lines. From fairytale-style Sleeping Beauty curses to magical body-swapping pregnancies and generational doppelgängers, TVD’s ridiculous supernatural hijinks perfectly balanced out the addictively soapy melodrama, and though plenty of their swings were misses, the series also cooked up plenty of wild but undeniably successful plot twists.

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From Elena flipping her humanity switch to Alaric becoming an Enchanted Original and the introduction of the Mikaelson family, TVD had plenty of grand-slam storylines, but one season-six arc takes the cake as one of its most creative, well-written twists. Sworn enemies Bonnie (Kat Graham) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) ending up trapped alone together in the Prison World wasn’t just a clever way to shake up the story, but also the birth of a relationship that would go on to define the back half of the series: Bonnie and Damon.

After a bunch of supernatural mumbo-jumbo in the season 5 finale, Bonnie and Damon thought they were going to their deaths, only to wake up together, and alone, in an empty Mystic Falls. Though there was seemingly nobody for miles, a newspaper said it was May 10, 1994—and for the following six months of real-world time (where Elena, Stefan, and Caroline are all searching for a way to bring them home), Bonnie and Damon spent every day reliving May 10, unable to talk to anyone else, with seemingly no way to escape. As far as fantasy conventions go, the Prison World storyline was a sort of a Groundhog Day meets Superman’s Phantom Zone situation—eventually revealed to be a pocket bubble universe being used to contain witch Kai Parker (Chris Wood) after he slaughtered his family.

As far as worst-case scenarios go, this was about as bad as it gets—especially because the two people trapped together were the two mortal enemies of the series: good-hearted witch Bonnie and bad boy rule-breaking vampire Damon. Until that point in the series, Bonnie and Damon’s interactions had been limited to snarking, bickering, and sometimes full-on fighting with each other, meaning the fact that of all people, they were stuck with each other, was like salt in the wound. But, after six months in solitude together, Bonnie and Damon emerged not having torn each other’s throats out, but with an unbreakable bond that would carry through the rest of the series, forever altering the social fabric of the Vampire Diaries world.

Until that point, Bonnie’s storylines had always been either playing second fiddle/sidekick to Elena, or using her magical talents to help the gang out of a jam—both avenues that were cut off when Bonnie was transported to the Prison World. Not only was Elena out of the picture in both her and Damon’s lives, but Bonnie was also cut off from her powers in the Prison World—meaning she couldn’t do the one thing she’d gotten used to doing on the show.

Cutting Bonnie off from her powers was the perfect way to help her grow as a character—to build an identity out of her role as just the “magical helper,” and learn to be a leader and the heroine of her own story. Most significantly, this came in the form of putting her differences aside with Damon and making a deliberate effort to keep his spirits high. It was Bonnie’s encouragement and support that kept Damon from simply giving up all hope of rescue.

For his part, Damon grew in his capacity to care for others that weren’t related by blood or eerie resemblance to his former love—he developed a loyalty, devotion, and love for Bonnie that guides his actions for the rest of the series. Though he’s still reckless when he wants to be, post-Prison World Damon actively cares about what Bonnie thinks of him and often hand-wrings over whether or not to give in to his violent tendencies, knowing Bonnie won’t approve. In stark contrast to the early seasons, where he wrote her off as collateral damage in his quest for Elena, Damon clearly and vocally cares for Bonnie, going out of his way to reassure her in moments of self-doubt.

Slowly but surely, after some bittersweet forced quality time together, Bonnie and Damon came to rely on each other to survive the eerie solitude of the Prison World, going from sworn enemies to something closer than best friends. Though they never quite reached romance like they did in the Vampire Diaries books, the Bonnie/Damon relationship was arguably as significant the series as Damon/Elena, Stefan/Elena, or Stefan/Caroline.

It was an unexpected development, and their relationship certainly wasn’t without its ups and downs once they got out the Prison World. Once Kai tied Bonnie’s life to Elena’s, the Bonnie/Damon relationship was put to the test, but the bonds formed in the Prison World continued to hold strong. It was remarkable just how much the Prison World shifted the dynamics of The Vampire Diaries, serving as a much-overdue way to give Bonnie her flowers while developing relationships for Damon outside of romance and family. Between the mysterious empty town, the time-travel element, and the repeating May 10 mystery, The Vampire Diaries’ Prison World storyline was one of its most ambitious, well-written character arcs.

(featured image: the CW)

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Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates