If you're seeking comfort in the familiar, now is a great time to revisit an old favorite TV show. Of course, there are plenty of new options on streaming platforms delivering much-needed distraction and entertainment while we go through social distancing, or maybe there is a series you never started but always wanted to. But for me, I'm going back — back to The Vampire Diaries.
Whether you watched all of The Vampire Diaries when it first aired, fell off at some point when it hit the later season slump, or never got around to it, now is an excellent time to dip your toe in the steamy supernatural waters.
Running for a total of 171 episodes over eight seasons, the number of hours dedicated to the Salvatore brothers are plentiful. Of the many vampires, witches, werewolves, and hybrids (and various other combinations/magical beings), there is one devious and manipulative character who was always a welcome sight. Katherine Pierce (originally Katerina Petrova) has a lot to answer for, which includes turning Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) into vampires back in 1864. She is also Elena Gilbert’s doppelganger, which is what draws Stefan to the high school student in the pilot.
As is often the case, the villain is the most fun to watch. Katherine’s power as a character lies in the thrill she takes at whatever nefarious game she is playing. However, she isn’t devoid of emotion. Self-serving to a point, Katherine is a complex villain driven by desire, fear, and ego. Nina Dobrev played both parts with such skill that it was easy to forget she was the same person wearing different clothes. Appearing across multiple seasons, The Vampire Diaries was at its best whenever Katherine was around, so it is no surprise it suffered when this character was sent to hell. Nina Dobrev departed one year later at the end of its sixth season and the show lost its not-so-secret weapon. Flashbacks, pretending to be Elena, real heartbreak, and leaning into her unscrupulous nature ensured it never got old whenever Katherine rocked up. Here are the 21 best episodes to check out on Netflix for your dose of Katherine Pierce.
Lost Girls (Season 1, Episode 6)
The first truly great episode of The Vampire Diaries, signifying not only the many tricks up the writers’ sleeves but also introducing its best asset. Before this, Katherine had been discussed and appeared via a photographic portrait. Stefan told Elena how he came to become a vampire, which included flashbacks depicting Katherine's charm in action. Even at this early stage, Dobrev showcased an ease at playing these two different characters.
Children of the Damned (Season 1, Episode 13)
More flashbacks to 1864! The origin of the Salvatore brothers' rift is depicted, including Katherine’s role in transforming best friend siblings to sworn enemies. The love triangle elements will get old over time but this is the sweet spot for the original tension that led to their present-day conflict.
Founder’s Day (Season 1, Episode 22)
Elena and Damon kissing on the porch is a shocking Season 1 finale romantic development, but the show that perfected the surprise stabbing was also very good at the character switcheroo. Until this point, we had only seen Katherine via flashback, so the big reveal was a major landmark twist. Chopping off John Gilbert’s (David Anders) fingers and stabbing him in the gut after smooching her ex demonstrated Katherine’s lack of scruples and mischief-making ways.
The Return (Season 2, Episode 1)
“She certainly knows how to make an entrance,” quips Damon about this big return after Katherine has tried to fool both brothers. Stefan sees right through the charade and another rift between brothers opens up when Damon admits to kissing who he thought was Elena. Awkward. Katherine sure knows how to needle her former beaus in the most delicious fashion. In a creepy moment, she stands behind Elena but makes her exit before they can meet face-to-face.
Memory Lane (Season 2, Episode 4)
The Vampire Diaries has a propensity for dense “Previously On” clip at the start of each episode to remind the audience of every single thing that might come up. “You must be Elena” is one such moment that played with frequency, and this is the episode it comes from! Elena and Katherine's first interaction gives Dobrev the chance to flex her skills at playing two very different characters. And if you did have any trouble telling the difference, Katherine’s penchant for tighter clothes, curls, and more makeup will clue you in. More 1864 flashbacks and relationship drama are signature Katherine Pierce episode ingredients.
Masquerade (Season 2, Episode 7)
Throughout the long Vampire Diaries run, the desire to kill Katherine is strong and even though she dies more than once, she is normally two steps ahead. On this occasion, she enlists the help of a witch so whenever Katherine is stabbed, so is Elena. Not exactly the desired outcome, but the episode does end with the vampire languishing in the tunnels beneath Mystic Falls trapped by a spell. One of many times she is imprisoned before she figures a way out.
Katerina (Season 2, Episode 9)
Kicking off in Bulgaria in 1490, a pre-vampire Katherine gives birth to a baby girl and Elena's family tree is made clearer. In exchange for blood, Elena wants to know the truth behind her heritage and, as Katherine isn’t going anywhere, she obliges. A witch who became a vampire, the mythology that later got a little muddled is pretty clear at this early juncture. Klaus (Joseph Morgan) et al are in play as is the moonstone that everyone desires and the curse that dominates. This episode is a foundation of who Katherine (and therefore Elena) is and we get to see a tender, heartbroken and vulnerable side of the chief antagonist.
By the Light of the Moon (Season 2, Episode 11)
Stefan is imprisoned with his ex, which is an awkward situation for all involved. However, he uses this moment to invoke his infamous hero hair as he tries to get Katherine to prove she is a decent person. Katherine is at her most fun when she is messing with these guys but every villain needs a weakness. In this episode, the fear of Elijah (and Klaus) is on Katherine’s list of don’ts.
Klaus (Season 2, Episode 19)
More flashbacks! This time to Katherine’s first meeting with Klaus and Elijah (Daniel Gillies). The Salvatore brothers were not the first to be enticed by Katerina’s powers. An English accent from Katerina is another reminder of ye olde times (if you were wondering). Plus Klaus is in Alaric’s (Matthew Davis) body so there is a lot of impersonation shenanigans going on. Klaus tells his brother that love is a vampire’s greatest weakness, which is proving to be the case when it comes to matters of the heart and Katherine Pierce.
As I Lay Dying (Season 2, Episode 22)
Katherine is still under Klaus’ compulsion, which leads to an extremely frustrated vampire unable to run away from peril. Not to mention, Damon’s wolf bite induced hallucinations depicting his time back in the 1860s leads to a fever dream version of his past with Katherine. It is a season finale so there is a lot of twists and turns, as well as double-crossing and those never-ending surprise stabbings.
The End of the Affair (Season 3, Episode 3)
This is a Stefan-heavy flashback episode back to 1920s Chicago, in which he lets his inner ripper run free while partying in a speakeasy. The Katherine appearance is all-too-brief, but the flapper style and Louise Brooks bob suit her well.
Homecoming (Season 3, Episode 9)
Klaus claimed love is a vampire’s weakness but Katherine’s hot take is humanity takes this title. Restoring Stefan’s ability to feel is the order of the hour, which gives her the chance to reiterate that she did love both brothers and that her humanity has a habit of slipping through her devilish cracks. The plan doesn't end Klaus, but this is another case of Katherine coming to the aid of her supposed enemies. After the failure, this will be the last time we see Katherine for a while.
Down the Rabbit Hole (Season 4, Episode 14)
The cure to vampirism is the object of desire in Season 4, which has added new villains and mythology to the sprawling narrative. Oh, Elena is a vampire now too and she is nowhere near as fun as her doppelganger. A fan of the dramatic, Katherine shows up to impersonate Elena so she can steal the cure. And Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) is the one that suffers because of it.
American Gothic (Season 4, Episode 18)
The search for Katherine leads Elena and Rebekah (Claire Holt) to a small town in which Katherine has compelled all the residents. After Jeremy’s death, Elena has turned off her humanity but her doppelganger is still in control. Katherine stole the desired cure so she can barter for her freedom from Klaus. She always has a plan and a quick way out even if Damon thinks she is losing her touch. This episode is all about the lengths Katherine will go to survive, but in the end, she gives up her leverage to prove she can be trusted.
She’s Come Undone (Season 4, Episode 21)
Calling on Katherine to bring back Elena’s humanity leads to a back-and-forth of mean comments. Katherine sticks her hand in Elena’s chest, Elena points out Katherine has some guy trouble — the usual Vampire Diaries banter. Meanwhile, Bonnie (Kat Graham) offers Elena a deal to make Katherine truly mortal — an offer that she cannot resist.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (Season 5, Episode 1)
In a battle to the near-death in the Season 4 finale, Elena forced her double to drink the cure and now Katherine is out here getting drunk and chipping her nails like the rest of us. She is still incredibly resilient as she causes a car accident to flee a dangerous predicament. Even without immortality, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Monster’s Ball (Season 5, Episode 5)
Katherine has long been sought after for a variety of reasons but now her blood is the cure, which means she is the ultimate prize. Not only that but her long lost daughter Nadia (Olga Fonda) has tracked her down. A reunion that is centuries in the making involves deception and trickery — the Petrova way — before all the cards are laid out. A tender introduction follows, but she has little time to play happy family.
The Cell (Season 5, Episode 9)
Having her blood drained didn’t kill her, but Katherine’s body is being ravaged by time as her hair turns gray and she rapidly ages. Stefan is dealing with PTSD from being buried alive in a safe for three months and he is the perfect companion for his ex-beau. They find solace in each other, and in Vampire Diaries language, one thing leads to the next — Stefan and Katherine are bad long-term wise but super hot in these circumstances.
500 Years of Solitude (Season 5, Episode 11)
Katherine’s daughter has figured out that her mother can live on in another body. What better person than someone who looks exactly like her? Meanwhile, everyone drinks to Katherine's demise while she lays on her deathbed and Damon laments how much she ruined her life. The 500-plus-year-old vampire-turned-human version of “This Is Your Life” is messy and painful, but she still has one card up her sleeve. It is an emotional episode, but one with a final delicious Katherine twist as she takes over Elena’s body.
Gone Girl (Season 5, Episode 15)
After figuring out Katherine’s plan, things go downhill for her quickly, including her daughter's death by a werewolf bite. She gets a brief do-over with Nadia before saying goodbye to the gang, but it isn’t the swift exit she planned. Instead, she is dispatched to the other side and ends up getting sent to hell. This episode is a showcase of all of Katherine’s rage, humor, desire, sorrow, and one final devious final gift.
I Was Feeling Epic (Season 8, Episode 16)
We can’t say goodbye to Mystic Falls in the series finale without one last Machiavellian plan from Katherine. Even in hell, she has wrapped the devil around her finger — something we can definitely believe. The old rivalries, heartache, and one-liners are a good reminder of why we fell in love with this character in the first place.