The fifth season of The Vampire Diaries has felt very hit-or-miss to me, so I was surprised—pleasantly—to find myself utterly enjoying this episode. The dialogue had even more punch than usual, in no small part because Enzo is more than capable of meeting Damon snark for snark, but I also enjoyed it because of the stately pace of the story, which focused on the emotional complexity of our heroes’ lives.
Paul Wesley directed this episode, and he did a wonderful job with an already strong script. Throughout, I was reminded of the Angel episode “Awakening,” in which Angel had to work superhard to accomplish [redacted]. In Elena’s and Stefan’s fantasies, so much had to change for them to be happy. They were human. Elena’s parents were alive, as was Aunt Jenna. Elena didn’t like Damon at all. They had children. Stefan was a bad cook. The fantasies may have been happy, but they were also impossible: if Stefan hadn’t become a vampire, he would have died in the nineteenth century, and never met Elena.
But those fantasies did look nice, even though I don’t have any passionate desire to see Elena and Stefan reunite. Their happiness wasn’t just them being together; it was them not living the turgid supernatural soap opera that is life in Mystic Falls. The fantasies also looked different from the real world. The kitchen scenes (appropriate, given how few people on this show eat food that needs to be cooked) had a false-nostalgia fuzziness that made Elena and Stefan look less hip, but more average. And check out this shot:
I admired it on my first watch, because of the lovely way that Stefan and Elena are framed by the door and the columns. They’re almost heart-shaped, with the red door providing a Valentine’s Day backdrop. On second watch, the significance becomes clearer: the visions were meant to draw Stefan and Elena to the house, and the house visually defines their relationship. They must find the house to find happiness.
Why? Because, well, that whole “the universe wants them together” thing was all a big lie. TVD has pulled this trick before, with Klaus engineering the sun and moon curse. I liked the trick more then than I do now, but it’s an interesting rejection of the idea of prophecies, which TVD likes to remind us are ultimately man- (or supernatural humanesque)-made. In this case, that means Markos, the 1500 year-old Traveler who just wants to bring his people together with doppelganger blood. And he has empassengered an entire town, hybrid included, to do so.
Perhaps Jeremy, Bonnie, Liv, and Luke can do something about that, even if the only passenger-killing knife is gone. The coven that Liv and Luke belong to has been working for centuries to stop the Travelers, so they might have a useful plan. But they also fell for the whole “universe” thing, so I don’t have a lot of faith in their abilities. Plus, Liv’s insistence on secrecy led to her A) being mean to Matt, and B) forcing Jeremy to keep a secret from Bonnie, which just seems silly, since Bonnie is very connected to the Other Side, and that’s what is at stake here. That plot, in which characters withhold the truth for stupid reasons, was one of the few annoyances of this episode.
In its own way, however, even that plot fit with this episode. Remember the old days, when someone got into trouble and everyone came running? Now, each character has so much baggage that asking for assistance becomes a political act. Just think of Elena calling Damon, Damon rejecting the call, Caroline calling Enzo, Enzo convincing Damon to get on speaker phone, and then Damon getting upset when Elena told him what was happening. That sort of emotional complexity doesn’t bode well for our heroes, who surely must need to band together to fight the Traveler’s Evil Plan©.
The Evil Plan is interesting: the Travelers just want to find a place to live permanently. That’s not a bad goal. Is the havoc they’re causing on the Other Side a side effect, or a sign that their plan is eviler than it seems? Vicki got whisked off to someplace whisky—is that the same place Katherine went? Is the Other Side more awful now that the ghosts can see each other, or less awful? What does it mean that Matt can remember his conversations with Kohl and Vicki? Those are interesting questions to set up the last few episodes of this season, which looks to end on a stronger note than it began.
Bites and Pieces:
• Caroline: “They’re more like romance dreams.”
• Enzo: “Or, we could stay and listen to them resist the desire to tear their clothes off.” Enzo is definitely turning into an Abed.
• Damon: “Liv has a twin? Is it possible for there just to be one of someone around here?”
• Elena: “Perfect. A dead old guy with an evil plan. I’ll take that drink now.”
• Enzo: “Probably the bedroom. Stefan’s pretty vanilla.”
• Markos: “It turns out, the best way to get people searching for each other is true love.”
• Damon: “I’m sorry: are we walking so I don’t fall asleep?” Did anyone else think of Aaron Sorkin when Damon said this?
• Stefan: “Everybody loves a biter.”
• New TVD drinking game: take one shot of espresso if someone mentions Matt’s anti-death ring. Then squirt whipped crème into your mouth when he inevitably dies, as he always does after someone mentions his anti-death ring.
Four out of four biters.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)
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