In retrospect, it wasn't all that shocking that it took less than a season for "The Originals" to usurp "The Vampire Diaries."
"The Originals" wasn't just a spinoff that took one character away from "The Vampire Diaries." For the better part of two season, Joseph Morgan was a menacing force on "TVD," while Daniel Gillies and Claire Holt supplied both charm and threat. [I'm not going to try pretending that Phoebe Tonkin's Hayley was any particular key cog in the "Vampire Diaries" machine, but y'all know I like Phoebe Tonkin.]
Stripped of Morgan, Gillies, Holt and Tonkin, "Vampire Diaries" was left with a fundamental adversarial weakness in its fifth season and the show compensated by doubling and tripling down on doppelgängers and by trying to make viewers care about Travelers, who were scary enough to make you clutch your passport if they sat next to you on a Eurail journey, but nothing more. In only a season, "Vampire Diaries" went from a show that constantly made fans say "Whoa" to a show that mostly left me saying, "Huh?"
In contrast, "The Originals" went through the sort of early series growing pains that every new show goes through -- Denizens of Mystic Falls were compelled to forget Stefan's time as a football stud -- in short order. There was a clarity of purpose that was admirable and understandable. See, vampires and werewolves and witches all wanted a piece of New Orleans' French Quarter. And who could blame them? Oysters! Po Boys! Gumbo! Jazz! Even if I couldn't always understand the in-fighting within the factions, I knew that vampires, werewolves and witches don't get along under normal circumstances and as those factions battled and a seemingly human faction interceded as well, that made for a clear narrative thrust.
Did I still have problems with "The Originals"? Certainly.