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.”
• 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?)
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