Lillian Lily Salvatore has a difficult time keeping her "new family" of heretics in line in season 7 of The Vampire Diaries.

The Salvatore brothers have no time to lament Nina Dobrev’s departure in The Vampire Diaries. They have a mother of a problem on their hands, writes Debashine Thangevelo

NO one actor is greater than a show. As much as fans believe that the exit of lead actors spells doom for a series, it’s often not the case. Mistresses retained its allure despite the exit of Alyssa Milano as Savvy. Grey’s Anatomy has seen a host of actors leave – Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), Mark Sloane (Eric Dane) and Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) – and it didn’t weaken the melodrama nor the appeal of the series.

And The Vampire Diaries isn’t creatively haemorrhaging from the loss of Nina Dobrev, best known for her role as Elena Gilbert.

For the past six seasons, she has bounced around like a ping-pong ball between the Salvatore brothers: Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder). And it’s been exhausting – not to mention infuriating – waiting for her to finally make up her mind about who she wants to be with.

Now that she has been laid to rest, so to speak, the story can move past the love triangle that has overshadowed the series for far too long. It also gives other actors time to shine, like the altruistic Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham).

The seventh season brings more trouble to Mystic Falls. And to think the Salvatore brothers and their friends were finally free from the terrifying reign of the Mikaelson’s, the original Vampire family, and Klaus, who is the original vampire-werewolf hybrid. (In fact, this storyline and characters proved to be so formidable and popular that the creators decided to give them their own show, The Originals.)

In the new series, the threat comes from the Salvatore brother’s own blood – their mother Lilian “Lily” Salvatore. Ever since Lily returned to Mystic Falls, she has been unable to forge a bond with her two boys. In fact, she had but one agenda – to reunite with her Heretic (part-witch, part-vampire) family.

Thanks to Kai’s spell, she was able to fulfil her goal as well as find an ally in Enzo (Michael Malarkey), whom she turned centuries ago. While Lily and her new family are playing happy home in the Salvatore family house, the heretics are anything but obedient. They go on a vengeful killing spree in Mystic Falls, turning it into a ghost town.

The first episode lays down the foundation for the war that is slowly building between Lily and her sons. And she becomes blinded by rage when Damon and Bonnie kill her son. And Caroline (Stefan’s new girlfriend) becomes a pawn in her grand plan for vengeance, with a little help from Enzo.

Although this season sees the girls penning their thoughts in a diary for Elena, life also goes on. Caroline has many things to figure out. Damon continues his love/hate relationship with Bonnie while Alaric struggles to make peace with the fact that his wife is gone.

Instead of adopting a historical theme, as was the case before, the writers have embarked on a narrative that is anchored more in emotion.

In a recent interview, Julie Plec, the co-creator and executive producer, said: “We have a delightful new group of players, who we call the Heretics, which are Lily’s Island of Misfit toys. They are people she’s accumulated over the years, cast out and shunned witches like Kai (last season’s villain, played by Chris Wood) and are only able to do magic that’s been siphoned. They are mutated witches, in a way, who have discovered that they can also be vampires, which up until now has been impossible. They bicker like siblings and love and hate each other with equal measure.”

Meanwhile, Bonnie is bearing the brunt of Matt and Damon’s annoyance over how things have panned out. There is also that looming question of whether she and Damon will eventually hook up.

And Caroline’s pregnancy is going to make for an interesting twist in the tale. The war is in full swing with Lily’s “daughters”, as the new Mean Girls, contributing to the unfolding pandemonium that has broken out in Mystic Falls.

Talk about a mother of a problem – the Salvatore brothers, joined by their friends, clearly have their hands full in what looks like another nail-biting season.

The Vampire Diaries 7 airs on Vuzu Amp (DStv channel 114) on Wednesdays at 9.30pm.