In hindsight, there’s one thing about Elena’s no-humanity arc that I’m overwhelmingly in love with.
Emotions are often seen as an obstacle to logic, and therefore an obstacle to decision-making and reason. (It’s heavily tied to misogyny, of course: women are “more emotional” and therefore less good at making decisions and accomplishing things.) If that’s true, humanity!off vampires should be much better at decision making, and their plans should be much more successful. Elena even says as much to Rebekah in 4x17: she thinks she’ll be better at getting things done with her emotions off.
The reality is that emotional intelligence, which humanity!on!Elena has in spades, is every bit as important as cold hard logic. A lot of her get-shit-done decision making is rooted in compassion, which lets her understand the motivations of others intuitively and know exactly how to manipulate them. She’s still smart as a whip with her compassion dialed down, and carries out a number of plans successfully with her humanity off, but she gets some key stuff wrong.
In 4x17, she fails at manipulating Damon. Fails completely. Humanity!on!Elena would never have tried to manipulate him with sex and booze—it was artless and clumsy and out of touch, because her emotional intelligence was handicapped. We’ve never seen her face plant so badly with him. She’s understood him better than anyone throughout the seasons; historically she’s been the only one who can really influence his behavior through manipulation, because he’s tough to read without the level of emotional intelligence Elena has. With her compassion on mute, she’s lost her touch, and I love it. Rebekah has to step in to snap Damon’s neck and clean up Elena’s mess.
Elena also fails to get Katherine’s location out of Stefan in 4x22, doesn’t even really try. Her humanity’s on its way back, but all she has in her emotional arsenal is anger. She rambles about gruesomely murdering Katherine instead of trying to guilt her location out of Stefan, which is unsuccessful. Then she tries Damon, and actually makes an attempt at manipulation: she tries to remind him of his hatred for Katherine to get him on her side. That’s not what makes him tell her, though—he decides she’ll be less of a pain in the ass if he tells her that Kat and Bonnie are together, and that it’s in her best interest to help him find Bonnie. If anything, he manipulates her there, not the other way around.
Emotional intelligence is important and valid, and it’s often undervalued because it’s seen as largely a female trait. I’m in love with the fact that humanity!on!Elena slays people with it on a regular basis, and without it humanity!off!Elena fumbles a little. This show gets a lot of stuff wrong, but it doesn’t undervalue emotional intelligence, and I think the writers deserve some credit for that.