Vampire Diaries: American Gothic

“People change.”

After a long, long, long, long string of episodes that left me questioning my loyalty to the show, The Vampire Diaries finally offered up an episode that has everything I love: snappy dialogue, snapped necks, and characters acting in ways that make sense.

The opening scenes were the best indication that everything was falling into place. Katherine’s confused and compelled neighbor was hilarious—I loved her responding to Elena and switching to forgetfulness when Rebekah jumped into the interrogation. It only got better when Stefan and Damon played “who can be the more sarcastic brother?” at the rest stop. Stefan’s funny when he’s angry and on a mission. It gives Damon more to play with.

The quips weren’t all this episode had going for it, though. “American Gothic” is a series of dialogue-based vignettes that clarified where each character is emotionally, while still making sense as conversations that people might actually have. Klaus and Silas, Klaus and Caroline. Stefan and Damon, Damon and Katherine. Rebekah explaining her desire for humanity to Elijah. Elena and Elijah discussing the nature of self: can people really change?

The answer is ambiguous. Katherine seems to have developed a heart and “gotten back to [her]self.” (Either that, or she’s cold enough to make it seem that way, but I don’t think so.) Elijah was right about Katherine, and he wasn’t wrong about compassion—but that’s the old Elena, one who just isn’t around anymore. Will she eventually turn her humanity back on and regret killing random waitresses? Of course. Will that probably be painful to watch? Of course. But for now, Evilena is fun.

Especially since she has managed to get the brothers back on a unified Team Salvatore. (Never has their last name seemed more ironically appropriate.) Stefan was willing to move on, which is an astonishing character development, albeit one that makes sense given his recent behavior. Now that he and Damon have a moral reason (saving lives) to “save” Elena, rather than a merely personal one (getting their old flame back to herself), the mission takes on a new dimension.

Katherine told Rebekah that “the cure will only take away your immortality. Everything you hate about yourself, you’ll still wake up with in the morning.” Elijah said much the same thing: “the grass won’t necessarily be greener.” Change is possible for both Katherine and Elena, but changes have to be internal rather than external. It reminded me of the old AA saying about the “geographic cure.” If an asshole gets on a plane in Boston, hoping a change of place with change him, he’s still going to be an asshole when that plane arrives in San Francisco.

Those “geographic cures,” or attempts to change character through alteration of external circumstances, are what have plagued the show recently, so it’s nice to see those external forces starting to make internal, character-based sense. Damon’s actions and realization about wanting to cure Elena are a good example: he didn’t really want that possibility until he realized it was gone. “I had a moment of weakness. It’s my thing,” he said. And he’s not wrong.

Nor is Stefan wrong about the two of them “repeating [their] own history.” It does have to stop—forward momentum of some kind needs to be the order of the day. Now that the characters on this show have started making sense again, I’m hopeful that might continue to happen. Evilena is an interesting anti-heroine, especially when in comparison to a cuddlier Katherine. I wonder if Stefan and Damon will force Elena to take the cure, only to have her choose to be a vampire again, this time without the sire bond. That would be interesting, and a great example of a character taking initiative for their own internal and external circumstances.


• Katherine: “So sad for the boys, though. Their special snowflake of humanity—gone.”

• Damon: “You’re losing your touch, evil one.”

• Damon: “No sudden moves. No tricks. No Katherin-ing.”

• Rebekah: “I thought you were the smart brother.”
Elijah: “You don’t have a smart brother.”

• Elijah: “Complication speaking.”

And Pieces

• I loved the series of “ughs” that went around the table as Stefan and Damon realized Elijah was sleeping with their ex, and Rebekah realized a vampire she hated was sleeping with her brother.

• This is me not talking about Caroline/Klaus. Except to mention that a super-old evil that gets into vampires’ heads and can appear as dead people is not precisely new vamp-show material.

• Did anyone else momentarily wonder if Rebekah turned human but retained her vampire super-strength? The possibility freaked me out.

Four out of four empty aquariums. Aquaria. Whatever, things without fish. Fishes. Ugh!

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


Morgan India said...

I loved Elijah's return. Less Rebekah, more Elijah.

Katharine is making me despise Elena and I'm not sure how I feel about the whole "vampire!Elena is a special!vampire" thing.

Josie Kafka said...

Morgan, I thought Elijah was referring to her turning off her emotions. Do you think it means she's special? Ugh! I don't want that--she's too special in too many others way.

Julia said...

This was a really good episode, I'm happy the show seems to be back on track.

I thought for a moment that Katherine was going to take the cure herself to prove to Elijah that she had changed, that would have been an interesting twist too.

Morgan India said...

I'm really hoping that it is just about her turning her emotions off; I miss "normal" Elena, not this Elena.

Am I the only one who went WOOO! at the whole "Kalijah" thing?

Joseph Morgan has some brilliant tattoos. And it was nice seeing a different side to Klaus this week.

Also cheekbones.

Mark Greig said...

With Klaus soon set to depart for New Orleans, I’m surprised they are still bothering to push him and Caroline together. Unless they plan to have Caroline make regular trips to the Big Easy, what is the point of building up to something that will have no real pay off?

Anonymous said...

so the first evil, I mean Silas, can get in Klaus's head. not good.

can Silas appear as Drusilla?

Anonymous said...

Can Silas please appear as Drusilla? Please?


TJ said...

I think that Rebekah is now poisoned. She will die...

ChrisB said...

Although normally I would have seen it as a step too far, I cheered when Elena snapped the waitress's neck. Finally, finally, finally, she is telling the boys what she is going to do and not just reacting to them.

This is me, breathing a sigh of relief and hoping that we see a little bit more of this.

Juliette said...

More than a decade of reading Latin, and yet it was only in church the other day that I suddenly twigged what 'Salvatore' means. Bad, bad Latin scholar!

Lik G said...

I wonder, if they want the old Elena back so much, why can't they ask Rebekah or Klaus or Elijah to compell her to turn her feeling back on, instead of watching her killing people and going bitchy...
And imo Elena without feelings got a lot more character than Elena with feelings.. and i like katherine better either way... i really missed her and Elijah..

Jenneal Lomeland said...

Best Episode all season. Glad I have stuck around through all the rest of this nonsense. The fact that I have started to feel more for "Katherine" then "Elena", completely shocked me.
Elena is making me "Ugh"
(And the name "Evilena" - best. name. ever.")

Oh, and was I the only one drooling over Elijah in that suit?! WOAH!

Mallena said...

Maybe it's because I was a teenager in the eighties that I like Elena much better with curly hair. That super flat hair against her face was really boring before. Katherine has great hair and great attitude. I love the scenes the most between Damon and Stefan, they should focus more on them and less on Elena. They have great hair, too.