CW’s Legacies may be the latest spin-off from both The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, but three seasons into its run, it is clear the series doesn’t share the widespread appeal of its two predecessors—so why haven’t audiences warmed to the show in the same way? Beginning in 2018, teen supernatural soap Legacies is a spin-off of The Originals, a series which was itself a spin-off from The Vampire Diaries, with each show’s characters connecting and interacting as part of the same overlapping fictional universe.
However, despite Legacies’ canon connections to both earlier shows, Legacies had thus far proven unable to recapture either the smash-hit crossover success of The Vampire Diaries or the more modest impact of The Originals. Both earlier shows boasted better ratings and reviews than Legacies, leading many viewers and reviewers to wonder what went wrong with The Originals‘ spinoff. There are a number of reasons as to why Legacies isn’t performing nearly as well as The Vampire Diaries or The Originals, which had problems of its own. Considering the success of The Vampire Diaries universe it’s hard to understand why Legacies, which has been set up for success, can’t achieve the same popularity.
Legacies season 4 may be the end of the supernatural series; the spinoff has not yet been embraced by audiences the way The Vampire Diaries and even its less-popular spin-off The Originals was. The first two seasons of Legacies earned lower ratings than every season of The Vampire Diaries and only two of The Originals’ impressive five seasons. The question of why Legacies has failed to make the same impact as its predecessors could easily be attributed to audience exhaustion, as the spin-off of the spin-off will always struggle to feel as fresh or innovative as the original. However, a lighter tone, new format, and an excessive focus on the central pairing of two characters are the specific elements of Legacies and its relationships that have doomed the series to mixed reviews, rather than a broader distaste for spin-off series at large.
Legacies Is The Worst Vampire Diaries Spin-off
Based on Legacies‘ reviews and viewership, it’s clear that Legacies is the worst The Vampire Diaries spinoff. Legacies season 2 and season 3 drifted the show further and further away from The Vampire Diaries with its Twilight-like focus on the relationships of the students of the Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted (particularly Hope and Landon). While The Vampire Diaries and The Originals featured a number of different types of powerful magical factions, such as witches, Tribrids, and Werewolves, Legacies addition of the Salvatore School has only oversaturated the TVD universe. This causes the audience to feel less and less connected with Legacies’ main players.
As well, The Vampire Diaries and its less-popular spinoff The Originals at least boasted plots with depth and lore that could be added to the universe. While the plot of Legacies is overarching and spans seasons-wide, many of the Legacies’ plotlines feel borrowed from The Vampire Diaries’ less-important subplots. To put it simply: Legacies lacks the stakes that The Vampire Diaries and The Originals had. There haven’t really been any major plot twists up until Legacies season 4 and fan-favorite characters aren’t getting killed off because the stakes are so low. Legacies season 4 started to show promise when Hope became the Tribrid and brutally beat Alaric Saltzman. The act at least connected Legacies to The Vampire Diaries and The Originals through this dark tonal shift; however, no one truly wants to watch a show that doesn’t get good until four seasons in.
Legacies’ Lighter Tone
Since the series began, Legacies has felt more lighthearted than both of its predecessors, a problem owing in part to the series being set in the Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted. Granted, the characters of The Vampire Diaries were also high-school-age (or ageless, in the case of TVD‘s vampires) when the series began, but The Vampire Diaries made it clear that the cast was often in mortal peril and as a series, The Vampire Diaries was famously unafraid of tragic endings to story arcs. Indeed at some points, it seemed to fans that The Vampire Diaries was almost afraid of non-tragic endings. In contrast, the fact that the primary characters in Legacies are so young (particularly Josie and Lizzie, both of whom are fifteen when Legacies begins) means Legacies is not quick to endanger their lives. Moreover, when Legacies seems to threaten its main cast (such as during Josie’s season 1 burial), viewers are rarely worried that they will really be killed off. This lack of consequences naturally makes Legacies feel shallow, which becomes an issue due to Legacies’ divergence from the format established by The Originals and The Vampire Diaries.
Buffy, The Vampire Diaries, and Legacies’ “Monster of the Week” Problem
Legacies has, since season 1, offered one interesting variation on the format of both The Originals and The Vampire Diaries. Like the previous shows, Legacies has numerous overarching series-length plots, with stories like Hope and Landon’s relationship running throughout the show’s three seasons. However, unlike The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, Legacies has also relied on a “monster of the week” format that owes more to Buffy The Vampire Slayer than The Vampire Diaries, such as Legacies’ bizarre Darth Vader monster. Legacies season 1 sees the cast face off against dragons, dryads, zombies, unicorns, and mummies. Season 2 saw the arrival of Krampus and a minotaur among many, many more mythological threats, and while this daring change-up does keep the show fresh, the fact that Legacies already has a lighter tone than both The Originals and The Vampire Diaries means the show becomes goofier and more over-the-top than the often tragic, poignant action of The Vampire Diaries due to these many zany monsters (few of which, as outlined above, ever pose a mortal threat to the main cast).
Legacies: The Hope and Landon Show
For its first two seasons, Legacies focused on Hope and Landon’s relationship at the expense of the rest of the cast, failing to follow the lead of The Vampire Diaries and flesh out the stories of supporting characters outside the central love triangle. This has resulted in the dynamic of Hope and Landon, an initially interesting inversion of gender stereotypes wherein she was the proactive rescuer and he was the passive dude in distress, becoming stale for viewers who are tired of the two receiving most of the show’s focus and screen time. This issue is less of a problem with Hope and Landon’s character development (although neither has grown as much as their Vampire Diaries counterparts Elena and Damon did in the first two seasons of The Vampire Diaries), and more to do with the show sidelining potentially interesting figures like Lizzie, Alaric, and MG in favor of repeatedly revisiting variations on the same basic story between the main duo.
How Legacies Can Earn The Vampire Diaries/The Originals’ Popularity
Upping the stakes of Legacies’ main conflicts would significantly help Legacies’ attempts to emerge from the long shadow of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. For one thing, the younger cast of the series is now getting closer to the same life stage that the cast of The Vampire Diaries was in when TVD began, with Landon, Hope, and Josie’s actors now being 24, 21, and 23, where Damon, Elena, and Stefan’s actors were 31, 20, and 27 respectively when The Vampire Diaries started in 2009. As such, despite Legacies’ school setting (which again, The Vampire Diaries did share) Legacies season 4 can start to extricate itself from being a softer, less intense variation on The Vampire Diaries formula and start to gain the sort of dramatic impact The Vampire Diaries had on viewers. Separating the central couple by trapping Landon in the prison world was a solid start to the series maturing as a whole, and while a darker tone may mean killing off a few characters, the sprawling cast of Legacies means that an impactful character death or two could up the show’s dramatic impact without messing up its central character dynamic.
Ultimately, Legacies is not as popular as The Originals and The Vampire Diaries because the series has not yet grown the dark edge and sense of genuine threat that its predecessors shared, and as fun as the “monster of the week” formula can be, the format detracts from the melodramatic tragic elements that led viewers to connect with The Originals and The Vampire Diaries. As of now, Legacies is the worst The Vampire Diaries spinoff, though that’s yet to be officially determined as the series continues.
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