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Tina’s 2011 TV Goodness All-Stars: The Vampire Diaries’ Paul Wesley 

Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/The CW

Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec and the rest of the TVD producing and writing staff are really good at breathing new life into existing characters. Caroline and Tyler are merely two examples of this. At one time they looked like expendable characters. Once they were turned into a vampire and a werewolf (and then hybrid), they turned out to be anything but expendable. Now things are different. If anything ever happened to those two, I would make some serious noise.I’m not saying the same exact thing was going on with Stefan. He’s never been an expendable character. However, because he was always keeping a tight rein on his deadly vampire urges and he was living la vida normal with his girlfriend, Elena, Stefan wasn’t what I’d call the most exciting guy around. I love him but he just wasn’t. That all changed once Klaus blackmailed him into joining him on the road for raging and hybrid-making.

Photo Credit: The CW

First, Stefan agreeing to channel his inner ripper because of his brother was awesome. It showed he’d doing anything for Damon who was in need of saving. Second, things got even better when Klaus compelled all of his humanity away. So from Season 2 to Season 3, things infinitely changed for the younger Salvatore. Even though we knew about his dark past, we hadn’t known exactly how true blue vampire Stefan was. Now we do. And so does Elena. Seeing him all sarcastic and sadistic and seriously badass was a huge game changer. Then there’s something else to think about: Once this Stefan versus Klaus business is over and done with, how will Stefan and Elena get back what they once had? Will they be able to get back what they once had? I don’t know. If they do, it’s going to take a long (long, long) time.

I’ve talked about why Stefan made the jump from a good to a great character. I really think 2011 was his year on The Vampire Diaries. He’s a big part of why Season 3 is so amazing. And while a lot of that is attributed to the writing, it means nothing without Paul Wesley. It has been extremely enjoyable watching him play Stefan’s dark side. He has the fortune to get to embody someone who has so much going on under the surface. There’s all this darkness simmering and bubbling underneath. And when it’s unleashed, it’s epic.

Photo Credit: The CW

Paul made me believe Stefan was constantly battling this war within himself. He made me believe in Stefan’s noble side, the one that continues to make sacrifices for the ones he loves. After all, he was willing to give up Elena to save his brother. Stefan does this all even though there are major consequences to his actions. Paul also makes me believe Stefan is a formidable opponent to Klaus. You can tell he’s having so much fun with this latest storyline.

I only have great things to say about Paul’s performance this year. As Ripper Stefan, he’s made all the right choices. Now that Stefan’s free from Klaus’ compulsion, will he ever be the same vamp he once was? I don’t think so. And how exciting is that going to be to witness? I’m confident Paul Wesley will do a great job which is why I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to give us in 2012.

The Vampire Diaries returns with new episodes Thursday January 5, 2012 at 8/7c on the CW.

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