Vampire Diaries: Stand by Me

“Beware of the immortal Silas.”

Let’s start by getting this out of the way: if we look at this as an episode about men and women, it’s horrifying.

Caroline spent most of the episode wanting her boyfriend’s support; Elena spent most of the episode coming to grips with what her vampire-boyfriends wanted her to realize, and relied on Damon to help her deal with it; and Bonnie has lost control, influenced by Shane and by Silas.

But if we ignore all that—and I think we must, if we want to keep enjoying the show—we’re left with a stunning portrait of the first stages of grief (denial and anger), and the threat represented by the bargaining stage in a world in which dead doesn’t always mean dead.

Nina Dobrev did a wonderful job portraying the range of emotions brought on by the loss of her brother. As Rebekah pointed out, this is the last of Elena’s family. Mark Greig pointed out last week that “killing Elena’s family members has become something of an annual tradition.” True, but I wish the showrunners would stop doing that; it’s both pesky and unbearably sad.

It’s also an opportunity for the writers to explore a new facet to Elena’s vampirism. Now that she has turned off her humanity switch, she looks posed to become a hollow shell. Stefan and Damon both struggled with the urge to slaughter early in their un-lives, and even Caroline ate a few people before regaining her self-possession. Will Elena become a new Katherine, gnawing on necks and compelling with impunity? For a character with such a complicated guilt complex, that’ll be hard to deal with once that humanity gets turned back on.

I wonder if it will come down to a vampire showdown: Caroline, whose speech about the helplessness of dealing with death was perfect (and reminiscent of a similar speech by Anya in Buffy Season Six), on the side of humanity, and Elena on the side of inhumanity.

Regardless, there will be some sort of showdown: Bonnie has gone full darkside and has started to think that massacring 12 more people is a really good idea—even though “bringing back the dead” only means the supernatural dead (and all the unfriendly supernaturals that hitch a ride). Destroying the veil that separates this side from “the other side” is, as everyone but Bonnie points out, a terrible idea. It is opening hell on earth.

Would the show go there? Recalling all those past guest stars and cast members is no small feat, but it would be fascinating. It would also create a nearly impossible situation: imagine Finn and Kol returned from the dead? Their vengeance alone—regardless of anyone else’s—would be too much for our heroes to handle.

Especially with an inhuman Elena. Her humanity has always been her character’s hallmark: while I think Stefan went a bit far in saying Elena feels grief worse than anyone else (because that seems a bit odd), her combination of compassion and a willingness to sacrifice herself have played a huge part in the show for three and a half years. With those characteristics gone, what is left?

Bites:

• Caroline: “We need a funeral. Or a cover story. Or a funeral and a cover story. I should go tell my mom, she’ll know what to do…I will call Matt, and then I’ll tell my mom, and then I’ll make a list, or a casserole, or whatever people are supposed to do in these situations.”

• Matt: “Poison your best friend once, and suspicion follows you around forever.”

And Pieces:

• I thought all the reminders about rotting corpses were rather hard to deal with.

• I thought Shane/Silas’s (“Shilas” or “Sine”?) speech about how he’d only killed 24 people, not 36, had some hilarious delivery.

The Vampire Diaries will return March 14th.

Three out of four Damon logics.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

37 comments:

Nadim said...

I can't get over how wonderful Dobrev was here. Honestly I was starting to question her acting ability lately so I NEEDED an episode like this to reaffirm that the girl is indeed a VERY talented actress. She beautifully tapped into the first stages of death as you mentioned, and that transformation at the end when her eyes just went blank? Simply astounding. I totally bought the notion that her humanity had been turned off (which I'd always found stupid before).

I can't believe they killed off Jeremy. It's pretty harsh as I was also sure they'd at least leave him to Elena. I guess TVD has regained my goodwill after a horrendously clumsy season which made me doubt my love for the show. Suffice to say, I'm pumped again!

Oh and I was totally reminded by Anya's speech as well! I love that you caught that! But it was in season 5 "The Body" right? Not season six? I'm suddenly confused.

Thanks for the nice read Josie.

Anonymous said...

Anya: "I don't understand! I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's, there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore. It's stupid. It's mortal and stupid. And Xander's crying and not talking, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why."

Absolutely one of the best reactions to death, and is consistently the moment that makes me cry when I watch that episode.

This episode wasn't at that level of greatness, yet it was a very solid hour. Nina Dobrev really is a marvelous actress. I think almost everyone forgets that she's Kathrine too, and those character's are so totally different that I've been able to tell just from her subtle mannerisms which one is on screen.

Jeremy's death wasn't so much a shock as it was a wow they went there. Elena is now totally alone, and her burning down her house was the perfect metaphor for that.

Billie Doux said...

I often react to The Vampire Diaries with "I can't believe they did that". And I couldn't believe they did that. Nina Dobrev should get an Emmy for that scene in the house. (But she won't, because she's the star of a CW vampire show.)

At least they can't kill another member of Elena's family next season -- they're all dead now.

Juliette said...

I loved this episode, though I realised afterwards that it was so incredibly depressing I had to go watch a sitcom before going to bed!

My only quibble was Damon sire-compelling Elena to switch her humanity off. It's pretty much in character for him, but a bit... squicky. Also, she'll be really pissed at him when she gets it back (which I doubt will be as easy as he thinks). Also, I worry that the writers are moving us back into a Stefan-is-better-for-her conclusion, which would drive me up the wall. Can't we have just two or three episodes of Damon and Elena actually being happy together?!

Jeremy really is dead - but for the first time I wondered if they really will bring back some of the lost characters before closing the hellmouth or whatever, partly because of Elena's now total lack of family. I want Alaric back, obviously, but I wonder if Grams or Jenna might be in with a chance... or Jeremy. Part of me was with Elena - I couldn't quite believe he was gone, even as I realised that was the only way the narrative was heading!

Oh, and Matt was totally awesome in this episode too. He's my favourite. I sorta hope Elena ends up with him in the end.

Morgan India said...

I was happy that John got a mention. And I actually cried when Jeremy started burning up in the house.

Also, it was nice to see Paul and Torrey get a proper scene together.

I liked David Alpay on The Tudors; I just want to slap him in TVD.

ChrisB said...

Thank you, Josie, for pointing out the anti-feminist slant during this episode. It bothered me a great deal, but you are absolutely right. I have decided that this particular bias is not going away from this show and that I have to get over it or stop watching it.

I'm glad that I'm still watching it because this episode was a big step forward from the rest of this season. Filled with small, intimate moments between various members of this group, it touched me in a very real way. I liked that Jeremy's "funeral" was a fire; it felt fitting for a hunter.

As so many have pointed out, Nina Dobrev did a magnificent job. The scene where she turns off her humanity and all of the subsequent scenes were very well acted. It was like watching another person on the screen.

Josie Kafka said...

ChrisB, I realized as I was watching that a lot of the anti-feminism comes from the coincidence of age: Stefan, Damon, even Klaus and Shane are all older "experts," whereas the female leads are younger.

Now, an easy solution would be a positive female vampire role model (a la Lexie) or, retrospectively, making Shane a woman. But hopefully the creators will realize that soon enough and give the young women a real role model, or at least a life-coach.

Billie Doux said...

You know, this "opening the hellmouth" plot might be the perfect device for them to revisit some of their poorer decisions in killing characters off. Specifically, they could bring back Grams, Lexie, and/or Jenna, couldn't they? Female role models, check.

ChrisB said...

Josie -- that's a very good point about age. I tend to forget how old the Salvatore brothers are. And, Billie -- I really like the idea of bringing back an older woman role model. Although opening the hellmouth might not be worth it!

Anonymous -- Anya's speech is one of the best ever. Like you, it is at that point that I always start to cry. The first time I saw that episode, I played that speech over and over again.

Billie Doux said...

TVLine named Nina Dobrev as their performer of the week.

http://tvline.com/2013/02/23/nina-dobrev-vampire-diaries-season-4-performer-of-the-week/

Nadim said...

I saw that and I was very happy she was recognized. She really deserved the spotlight this week.

Panda said...

Great episode, and great review.

I don't want this to get interpreted the wrong way, but I honestly didn't see the issues you pointed out at the start of this review Joise.

Is wanting someone's support wrong? Caroline turning to Tyler makes sense. Isn't she in love with him? It doesn't make her weak, it makes her relatable. Bonnie is being influenced by this season's big bad because of her abilities, not simply because she's a female.

As for Elena, she was simply struggling with the loss of her brother. I honestly think there isn't a hint of anti-female in there.

Seriously though, I don't want this to offend anyone, I just want to put it out there!

Great review though Josie, not that that's a surprise! March 14th CW? For real?!

PlatinumRosebud said...

Nice review, Josie.

Yeah, Billie!
Lexie should be back.
The show would be more fun with her back in it. :)

I hope the show does not drop its momentum towards the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

The idea of Lexi coming back, Jenna, Alaric... wow there's been a lot of death on this show. Honestly I would love to see Caroline and Lexi interact.

TheShadowKnows said...

Great job by Nina Dobrev this week. She reminds me a little of Sarah Michelle Gellar even though they don't resemble each other physically (apart from being small and beautiful). But SMG would have been turning on the waterworks a little more, I think.

Josie Kafka said...

Panda, I don't think you're wrong, and I'll bet the showrunners would agree with you.

ChrisB and I (if I may speak for her) are troubled by the sum of those coincidences, especially in the way that Elena (and Bonnie) have both been stripped of their "agency" or self-determination this season. Very few women (possibly just Katherine, who is running from Klaus) seem to be in charge of their own actions on this show anymore. It's one of the more troubling aspects of vampire fiction these days, and I'm a bit miffed that VD has decided to go down that path this season.

ChrisB and I are also probably coming at it from a different perspective, as female humans, versus the perspective you bring, as a male panda bear. :-)

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, if the feminist angle is what's most important to you, then you should probably never have liked this show, in the first place. After all, this series was basically always about sweet, helpless, little Elena being protected from the bad world by her male admirerers. Your present objections sound a lot like the old "guilty pleasure" dilemna to me. Sorry, but even in the real world, not every woman measures up to the feminist ideal. So why should they on a show like this? If you want to see what it looks like if your characters always have to behave according to some ideologically determined role model, then you should take a time machine ride back to communist Russia and watch some of their old movies...you know, that "hero of the working class" stuff.

Sorry, but that's my opinion. No offense intended.

ChrisB said...

Josie -- you may speak for me at any time.

:-)

Billie Doux said...

Anonymous: Clearly, we feminazis need access to time travel so that we can check out future plot points and not watch episodes in which we might observe feminist or anti-feminist themes. Then we'd never have to make comments that include feminist viewpoints, and your world would be perfect.

Anonymous said...

Billie,
my point was simply that the whole premise of this show (sweet, good, helpless Elena) could be considered to be anti-feminist, if you get right down to it. Elena was never conceived to be another Buffy or another Sydney Bristow. So, I don't get this sudden surprise over anti-feminist undertones which have actually always been there.

Billie Doux said...

Anonymous, what about the wonderfully empowering Caroline plot? Initially a victim, she came into her own when she became a vampire. What about Bonnie being the most powerful person on the show? What about Elena being the power in her relationship with both Stefan and (until the whole sire bond thing) Damon? Elena is not Bella, or I wouldn't like her. I never said every woman has to be Sydney Bristow.

And I'm done. I'm sure Josie will have something to say, and I'm equally sure it will be terrific.

celticmarc said...

"feminazis"

Billie, you've just made my day.

(BUT) If I learn that you burn book, I'm pitching myself through my 3rd storey's window.

Billie Doux said...

I can't take credit for "feminazis." That was coined by Rush Limbaugh. :)

Anonymous said...

Every example has its counter-example: Katherine, one of the strongest women on the show, is evil. Bonnie is always teetering along the edge of evil. Lexi, another strong woman (who I absolutely loved) got killed off after an episode or so. Klaus' mother was totally gaga (and evil. too, by the way). Rebecca? Well let's reserve judgement on her for now.

I didn't say there weren't positive examples. But there have also been plenty of examples that could have been construed as "portraying women from a traditional male perspective." Only, in the first few seasons, these didn't seem to bother anyone.

You may be right in that this season really is lacking a shining female figure (a la Caroline), though.

Billie Doux said...

Clearly, I need to turn in my NOW membership. And I'm tired. Anyone else want to take this?

Josie Kafka said...

Anonymous, you clearly did intend to give offense. You implied I'd be happier as a Communist propogandist. How is that not offensive?

I will engage you, nonetheless, because you seem to be struggling with a very simplified version of feminism, in which you imagine that I want all women to be super-powerful ass-kickers who never exhibit a moment of weakness. That is not my version of feminism.

As I said earlier, and as Billie just re-stated: one character (Elena) does not equal anti-feminism, because not all female characters stand for all women.

But when all the female characters, at the same time, lose their agency to the dominant men in their lives, that stops being an issue of individual characters and starts being an issue of how the show treats women with power.

You also seem to have misunderstood the context of my comment: I was explaining my perspective to Panda, who had done a great job providing an alternate opinion in a kind and thought-provoking way. In the review itself I make clear that I am ignoring these concerns in order to continue to enjoy the show.

I could post a lot more--about how I'm equally upset by the trend of portraying all men as a type of "man-child" in so many modern comedies, about how disturbing it is that "feminism" is so easily understood as "reductive" rather than "in favor of gender equality, for all genders." But given the tone of your comment, I doubt I could even convince you of my perspective (which you seem to want to misunderstand), much less of its veracity.

celticmarc said...

Billie
awwww crap

Nonetheless, still believe you're a genius...

Anonymous said...

Josie, I probably AM being rude, especially as I am a guest on your blog. But I think you misunderstand me, as well. You wrote:

"I am ignoring these concerns in order to continue to enjoy the show."

My point is: If you regard your concerns as serious, then how could you? And if they're not that serious, why mention them at all?

And now I'll shut up. Sorry for the disturbance.

Josie Kafka said...

I am capable of watching, reading, and enjoying texts that do not agree with my political philosophies. That doesn't mean I pretend my political philosophies don't exist.

drnanamom said...

What an interesting conversation and how cool is it that we get to have discussions about feminism? One of the things I love about this blog is the depth of character and intellect in the reviewers and their reviews. They show that you can be a feminist (anarchist/liberal/conservative) and enjoy a show even as you question it's portrayal of the world. In fact, it's that kind of nuanced viewing that drew me to this blog in the first place. I review the Walking Dead which doesn't exactly do a great job with it's women characters but it does address other important human issues (and it has some hot actors) so I watch and review it. (I can be shallow and intellectual at the same time). If we just turn off everything that bothers us, if we don't question the things we love then how will change happen?

Jenneal Lomeland said...

Pulling things back for a sec...
I'm wondering if the writers planned to bring characters back all along. Maybe turning Aunt Jenna into a Vampire, Lexi was a vampire, Grams being a witch, Jeremy and Alaric hunters, was part of the plan? They will all be back when the "veil" is dropped (cause honestly, who can stop Bonnie and Shane/Silas?)Everyone dead was turned into a supernatural being.

Or am I reading too much into it? Steven Moffat has totally ruined me.

M said...

Intense.

Kudos to Nina Dobrev for that last scene in the house. Not just the moment when Elena switches off her humanity, but also the grief-crazed destruction of her house. I know that feeling. OK, not the feeling of burning down my house, but of irrationally wanting to destroy objects that remind you of someone you have lost. I feel like that compunction has been played out a lot in fiction, but somehow she captured it perfectly and it brought me to tears. I don’t know which is more sad, Jeremy’s death, or the house burning down! I really loved that house, and I think Elena is going to regret losing everything inside. Seeing her journal burning was the kicker. I think it is interesting that she made the same decision to burn down the house both before and after the “switch”, first out of emotion and afterwards, out of unemotional logic.

I didn’t really see the anti-feminist thing. I, for one, tend to turn to those I love when I am in pain, so Caroline calling Tyler seemed perfectly human, and the fact that he is male is sort of beside the point. I think we are supposed to understand that Caroline has lost someone she loved, too. As for Damon telling Elena to turn off her humanity, that is also a pretty human thing to do, male or female. When you see someone you love in pain like that, you are desperate to do anything you can to make it stop. Not that it was a good decision, and one that is going to come back to haunt him, but I think it was made out of love and not out of some patriarchal attitude. Also, don’t forget, the one person Elena really wanted was Bonnie, and Damon was so desperate to find her (because he knew Elena needed her most of all) that he hugged her. He didn’t run to Elena thinking he was the solution to her problems, he stayed on the island to find the woman he really thought could help.

BTW…Interesting all the references to Buffy “The Body”. I suppose the writers saw that connection, too, since they named the episode “Stand by Me”, which is also the title of a film based on a short story called “The Body” by Stephen King.

Juliette said...

Jenneal - yes, I wondered that. Whether or not they planned it all along, it would make more sense of the fact both Jenna and Alaric were vamped before they died, which seemed kind of pointless at the time, especially in Jenna's case. Why vamp her and then deny us the chance to see Vamp Jenna in action?!

Anonymous said...

Different anonymous here. Perhaps nothing more needs to be said on the topic of VD/gender/communist time travel, but it may be worth pointing out that a feminist critique of a TV show has less to do with character behaviors than it does with writers’ choices. What’s been interesting (and often problematic) this season is the writers’ approach to the effects of power on women.

Caroline spent much of the first season being terribly violated, and her transformation into a vampire proved how vital strength and empowerment are for a young woman. Whereas this season, both Elena and Bonnie have suffered a lot of judgment as a result of becoming more powerful. Yes, there’s something to be said for an examination of the abuse of power, etc… the feminist critique comes in when the show’s not really examining that, or at least not doing it very well. (And are there that many young women who would relate to a character whose problem is Too Much Strength?)

Personally, I find the characters’ increasingly random approaches to morality to be more distracting than the gender issues, but that doesn’t mean those angles and interpretations aren’t relevant, interesting or thoughtful. That said, if someone has a Soviet Time Machine, davayte!

Deborah Gallegos said...

Woah. What an episode!

There's been some talk lately of the morality of the heroes on this show getting lost. With that in mind, I found it interesting that when it came down to a very real, very emotional reason to do some mass killing (resurrecting your last family member) Elena was the one that made the tough call not to; interesting in juxtaposition to the mass killing resulting from killing Kol.

Glad Nina Dobrev is getting credit for this performance, too.

After being reminded of Anya's spech, I was about to go watch the Buffy ep "The Body," but couldn't take all this sadness at once. Maybe tomorrow.

-Deborah

P.S. I thought I was a feminist, but I didn't see this angle at all until I read the beginning of Josie's review.

Suzie_B said...

Such an awesome episode, and a great review, Josie! I'm re-reading these as I'm re-watching before season 5 starts, and they always make me happy!

While I don't see the feminist thing as strongly as some, I understand where you guys are coming from. To me it's not about a lost little girl (Elena, Caroline, Bonnie) reaching out for her big strong manly-man (Stefan/Damon, Tyler, Shane) to save her, it was more about a loss of childhood. While non of us can say these characters have been innocent children for a while, it remains that they still have a lot of growing to do. I very, *very* vaguely remember being 18 and thinking I knew so much, and that I was so much more mature than when I started high school versus when I left. Now, years later, I realize how innocent I still was at the time. My point is that our heroines still have so much to learn, and so, sooooo much more to lose. And while Buffy was (and still is!) a complete and utter badass, Joss himself said that the Slayer was most interesting when she was vulnerable, which is why he stripped her of everything so often. "No weapons, no friends, no hope. What's left?" "Me." BAM! :)

My biggest issue this season has been that everyone in Mystic Falls acted like Elena shouldn't want to enjoy her vampirism. That she should brood and drink animal blood because that's what Stefan does. Damon was right that she was much more like him. She's not a ripper. She killed Conner, but, to be fair, he was trying to kill her and her brother. He was fair game in my opinion.

Can I say how much I loved Damon finally finding Bonnie and hugging her? Made me smile.

Also, I would love to see how Caroline acted with her humanity turned off. I think she would just be super efficient and probably take over the world.

​Oh, and on the issues of what supernaturals would come back, ​it was mentioned in an earlier episode that Jenna wasn't on the other side because she hadn't been a vampire long enough, and didn't kill anyone or something like that. I want to say it was Anna that told Jeremy that. Not sure though.

​That was a much longer post than I thought it was going to be, but oh well! I'm killing time until all my shows start back up. ​

Marianna said...

Caroline: “We need a funeral. Or a cover story. Or a funeral and a cover story. I should go tell my mom, she’ll know what to do…I will call Matt, and then I’ll tell my mom, and then I’ll make a list, or a casserole, or whatever people are supposed to do in these situations.”

I never realized before how Caroline and I are similar, probably because she's a cheerleader and I cannot emphasize enough how much I'm not; but that is the exact reaction I would have had to this situation. Especially the list part. I don't know what I would have made a list of, but I would have made a list of something, possibly a spreadsheet.

Because Silas killed Jeremy, is he now afflicted with the hunters curse?

Can someone please remind Bonnie of when all the ghosts were made corporeal including all those vengeful vampires and how horrible that was and how this would about a thousand times worse?