'The Vampire Diaries': In Defense of Matt Donovan (Or, how to be awesome without needing magical jewelry)

tvd-roerig-vid.jpgHey, "Vampire Diaries" fans -- we need to talk.

Listen, I really value our relationship. I travel all over the country stalking chasing down the cast and creators of your favorite show to get you the scoop you're fiending for, and in return, you guys keep me endlessly entertained with your comments and tweets and occasional profanity-ridden battles over who is going to end up with who. It's all very mutually beneficial.

But something's been bugging me, and I just can't bite my tongue any longer. Recently, there's been some negative energy toward my favorite character, the adorably clueless Matt Donovan ( Zach Roerig).

Matty made #1 on a certain list of the worst things about "The Vampire Diaries," and a reviewer who has been mixing haterade with his morning coffee compared the kid to "a pile of mashed potatoes." And okay, maybe the mashed potatoes thing was sort of hilarious, but that doesn't make it any less wrong.

So now, with a little help from my friend Zach, who I caught up with on set in Atlanta, I'm going to educate you on all of the reasons Matt is awesome. You may want to take some notes, kids. This stuff will be on your final exam.

Secrets, secrets are no fun... without someone to keep them from. "I must say that I am honored to hold down the human fort in Mystic Falls," Zach jokes. In a town where you can't sneeze without spraying a vampire, a witch, or a werewolf, Matt remains one of only two regular characters who isn't in on the supernatural drama.

But being out of the loop doesn't make Matt boring -- it makes him the wild card. (Sexy, right?) We were all shocked when Katherine compelled him to provoke Tyler into triggering the werewolf curse because the twist came out of nowhere, and you can bet that there are more Matt-related game-changers to come.

Since his friends haven't bothered to fill him in on the various monsters using his workplace as their favorite pre-kill watering hole, we can't predict how he may act in any given situation. "Matt's strength and weakness are the same," Zach says. "He doesn't know about the vampires. So he could think he's like superman, and then get his neck broken."

Luke Ward, your services are no longer needed. In the pilot episode, we were first introduced to Matt as Elena's cute jock ex-boyfriend with a bit of a staring problem, a tendency to mouth off to (terrible) teachers, and an unfortunately lingering thing for our heroine.

More than a decade of watching television led us to the inevitable conclusion: Matt was going to be A Problem. He'd be the jealous ex who got in the way of True Love with his bad attitude and inability to leave the past in the past. He'd probably make a bunch of macho attempts to steal Elena back. He'd probably drive an obnoxiously expensive car to make up for certain shortcomings. He'd probably threaten Stefan with a rumble or, at the very least, a "Welcome to Mystic Falls, bitch!"

So imagine our surprise when Matt saw Stefan making eyes at Elena and walked up to him to say, "Hey, I'm Matt. Nice to meet you." Swoon! Maturity, in a high school football player? A good-looking blond ex who doesn't treat a girl like a prize to be won? As a character, Matt defies all stereotypes, and in a TV landscape where plots are recycled more often than Vitamin Water bottles on "Gossip Girl," that's a good thing.

He's hot. Consider this your obligatory his-eyes-are-so-blue mention. It's true. They are so blue.

Everyone loves a triangle. Stefan, Elena, and Damon are going to dance around each other until Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, and Ian Somerhalder bid adieu to Mystic Falls and become huge movie stars who have to allocate trophy rooms in their houses for all of their various awards.

We love to watch their cat-and-mouse games, which is a good thing, because we probably won't find out who gets the girl until the series finale. (That is, assuming she doesn't pull a Kelly Taylor, forcing the 'shippers to storm Warner Bros with tar, feathers, pitchforks, and picket signs.)

In the meantime, we can take an occasional break from getting the word "Stelena" or "Delena" tattooed on our foreheads and enjoy the more immediate satisfaction of the tension brewing between Matt, Caroline, and Tyler. In the upcoming January 27 spring premiere episode, "The Descent," both Matt and Tyler kiss Caroline (her life is soooo hard) - which is further complicated by the fact that Matt and Tyler, despite being perfect opposites, are total BFFs.

But like we said -- Matt is a mature guy. He won't be pulling any Pacey-Dawson "sailboat race for her love!" douche moves any time soon. Instead, he's going to start investigating the situation. "He's probably going to discover some weird habits of Caroline and Tyler," Zach admits.

Reality doesn't bite. In Mystic Falls, it seems like every kid has a magical piece of jewelry of some kind. Enchanted rings are the new Silly Bandz. Everyone and their brother can outrun a speeding bullet or survive being staked in the heart or make autumn leaves dance Swan Lake in the school parking lot just by thinking about it.

But Matt Donovan doesn't need any sparkly jewelry to stay significant. tvd-matt-smirk.jpg

Matt is the grounding force of the show. He's a real kid, dealing with real kid problems - like keeping gas in his truck and regretting things he did after dipping into a liquor cabinet. Presumably, he even goes to school once in a while. With Matt around, the show remains relatable to those of us watching from our apartments while drinking $8 wine and deciding whether to pay our car insurance or our cable bill first.

He's a Twitter goldmine. Okay, I know there are a million role-play Twitters and Livejournals and Facebooks out there, and I don't mean to play favorites, but... I have a favorite. If you know what's good for you, you'll follow @Matt_Donovan1 on Twitter. His tweets are so delightfully tragic. We don't know who is behind the Twitter -- it's definitely not any of the "Vampire Diaries" writers, or Zach himself, and despite speculation, it's not yours truly. It is, however, the highlight of my day when "Matt" tweets about the various repairs needed for his truck.

The hits just keep on coming. How can you call someone boring when he's lost two girlfriends, a sister, and potentially a best friend to supernatural forces he's unaware of? Not to mention, he blames himself for the death of a friend (okay, an acquaintance) that unbeknownst to him triggered Tyler's lycanthropy.

"I think that Matt is probably still completely guilt-ridden," Zach says. After all, it doesn't exactly fall into the gray area when it comes to Matt's tried and true moral compass. "Getting over fighting with his friend is one thing, but having the death of another person on his shoulders, that's not the kind of thing Matt can just brush off."

There's only so much a guy can take. "Everyone knows Matt's going to snap," Zach says. "If Matt was let in on the fact that there are vampires, and all the other craziness that's going on, that's a lot - to find out his sister was killed, and it was covered up by his friends. His original girlfriend that he loved was involved, his second girlfriend was involved and now she's messing with a werewolf - that's a lot to process."

It's all about potential. Just because Matt isn't secretly a mind-reading fairy doesn't mean that he doesn't have some incredible stories waiting to bite him in the neck. How quickly we forget, while we're raving about Caroline as a vampire or Tyler's transformation scene, that last season, she was just a vulnerable Type A and he was just a typical two-dimensional bully.

If there's anything we've learned from the secondary characters currently embroiled in suspenseful, unpredictable character arcs, it's that the powers that be behind "The Vampire Diaries" never let a character go to waste. Matt's time will come. Patience, grasshoppers. Have a little faith.

Basically, if you think Matt Donovan is boring, you're not thinking enough.

Watch the video of my interview with Zach below to find out his take on Matt's future... and his hopes for Matt's next love interest. (Here's a hint: "Matt has some serious mom issues." Scandalous.) And when you're finished, take that final exam I promised. You will not be graded on a curve.





Photo/Video credit: CW/Zap2it