David Mamet’s now-infamous memo to the writers of The Unit breaks scenes into their basic parts: characters have needs. They pursue those needs and encounter conflict from other characters. Success or failure, the result leads to the next scene. And that is plot.
I probably thought of Mamet’s memo during tonight’s episode of The Vampire Diaries because a large portion of “After School Special” was exposition: Rebekah used compulsion to force our heroes to explain what we’d been watching since she was daggered. As far as exposition scenes go, it was a decent excuse to catch us all up: Rebekah did want info, and I can’t think of a better way for her to get reliable dirt on the denizens of Mystic Falls. Plus, we learned Elena’s true feelings for Damon, who makes her happier than clowns.
But I’m struggling with Rebekah for the same reason I’ve always struggled: I don’t care about her needs. That’s what Mamet’s memo misses—creating sympathetic characters. (If pressed, I might say the same thing about most of his plays.) Rebekah is petulant, vindictive, and bent on vengeance against her brother because he didn’t love her enough. I’m tempted to grab her pretty blond hair and scream, “Get over it!”
Just as I was getting thoroughly depressed at her return—to the point of being so distracted I zoned out for an entire scene, trying to decide if I should grow my hair out, and had to rewind—Rebekah finally got put to some use: agent of chaos, which is something The Vampire Diaries does very well. She discovers she needs Prof. Shane, she acquires him (thanks, Kol!), she interrogates, Kol impales…And all hell breaks loose.
Bonnie’s discovery, or partial uncovery, of the true nature of “expression” has been a long time coming, and the bone necklace should have been a clue. But now she knows how creepy and uncontrollable blood magic can be: April, eternal virginal victim, was seriously harmed by Bonnie. Thanks to that same magic, Shane is very much alive. And while Bonnie might not know that’s a bad thing, we do: he wants to raise Silas, who will be able to raise all the dead who have died for Silas’s cause. Who wants to bet a kitten that Shane lost someone to Cause Silas in his dark, mysterious past?
Stefan, meanwhile, has caught the petulance virus from Rebekah, and is pouting because his brother stole his girl. (Ring any Civil War bells, readers?) He still wants the cure, although I’m starting to wonder if he wants it for revenge against Damon rather than to restore Elena to her factory settings. Stefan/Rebekah vs. Damon/Klaus. It’s interesting, to say the least.
So is April, who has never had much to do. (I miss her wandering around in each episode, chiming in with “Have you seen Rebekah?” and then wandering off.) She’s spilling the beans to Sheriff Forbes and Interim Mayor Hopkins, aka Bonnie’s persistently MIA dad. I wonder if April, Caroline, and Tyler will form their own team to try to put a wrench in Stefan/Rebekah vs. Damon/Klaus/Jeremy vs. Bonnie/Shane, etc. Where does Elena fit into all this?
Bites and Pieces:
• So Sheriff Forbes really only has the one outfit, her uniform? She couldn’t swap out the jacket for a nice blazer, even for a memorial? Really?
• I didn’t realize who the new mayor was until Bonnie called him “Dad.”
• Best quote of the night goes to Damon: “I know how to whittle. Thanks.”
• Mark Greig discussed the proposed Originals spin-off here. I want to go on record as saying I think it is horrible, but I’d love to see Klaus and Rebekah go elsewhere.
Three out of four whittling vampires.
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