I’m sure there are some fans out there who disliked this episode, given the passivity of our main characters, the relationship reset, and the Bonnie/Damon situation. But I absolutely loved it, because...
I am now reviewing a show about time-traveling vampires.
I really couldn’t be happier. And, sure, the Mystic Falls version of Purgatory is a bit of a Lost ripoff, a bit of Groundhog Day ripoff, and probably a few other things that aren’t occurring to me right now. I don’t care, because Damon and Bonnie were hilarious together, the 1994 jokes were delightful, and the end was really creepy.
Damon and Bonnie both commented on being stuck in hell with a person they did not like, but over the course of four months (of the same day) they grew to understand one another and achieve an interpersonal rhythm. Facilitated by pancakes and crosswords, of course.
As well as a bevy of in-jokes for those of us who lived through 1994. Once they realized they were in 1994, most of Bonnie’s clothes contained some element of flannel. Mid-nineties music was a major theme, from Salt n’ Pepa’s “Whatta Man” to the best comic moment Vampire Diaries has ever done: Damon putting a CD into the player, hoping it would turn out “for better or for worse,” then Bonnie realizing it was The Spin Doctors’ horrible “Little Miss Can't Be Wrong” and immediately shutting it off. Then—as Damon realized they were likely stuck where they were—just putting it back on again.
Those little jokes were cute, but the emphasis on music neatly tied into the creepy reveal that Damon and Bonnie were trapped in a snapshot of May 10, 1994 with a something. We know it’s creepy, we know it probably has something to do with what’s going on, and we know it can’t stand unfinished crosswords about Pearl Jam songs. I hope we learn more next week.
I’m glad we got to enjoy an episode of Damon and Bonnie existing in a supernatural sitcom, but their actions were oddly passive. Bonnie is researching, but there’s not much they can do besides eat pancakes and nag. Ditto for the other plots: Caroline was dragged into a confrontation by Enzo, against her will, and provoked into an emotional breakdown. Even Elena’s decision to “supernaturally rewir[e] three years” is about removing the past rather than moving forward.
It does make sense, though; it’s similar to her decision to turn off her humanity after Jeremy’s death. But it’s also quite sad, as so much of the Delena relationship has been defined by the supernatural: the sire bond, her vampirism, and now this. I’m curious to see what happens to the two of them if/when Damon returns to Mystic Falls. Will they reconnect despite Elena’s rewiring?
Touching as the flashbacks were, for me the saddest part of Elena’s mindwipe was Alaric’s reaction. Alaric just removed Damon from the brain of one of the people who loved him as much as Alaric did. With Stefan gone, Alaric has no one to really share his mourning. After all, he should be sharing it with Damon. That’s one of the ways their friendship works. Ric’s face when Elena finally forgot Damon was heartbreaking.
Caroline crying was equally depressing. I had sort of forgotten about Enzo, but was happy enough to see him back. His snark is fun, and he’s an interesting wildcard: when he went back into Stefan’s house to beat him up for making Caroline cry, I thought it was cute…until Enzo killed Stefan’s girlfriend. Yikes.
Enzo also told Stefan that he is a bad brother for not looking for Damon. In the world of the show, that idea makes sense. But in the real world, not so much. As Stefan said, he “had to move on.” Stefan, especially now that he’s not dating Elena, is a relatively undramatic character. Enzo telling him not to give up is basically Enzo telling him that being well-adjusted makes him a bad guy.
I mentioned last week that the premiere episode seemed to be flirting with the idea that the lives of Team Mystic Falls are overwrought to the point of absurdity: should these people just move on? Stefan has, and of course he will eventually be drawn back into the madness. But should we want that for him? Of course, Damon and Bonnie should get rescued. But should we want our characters to continue to live these lives of unending death and misery? I’m not sure.
Having said that, I sort of hope that our characters do jump back into the insanity, because this was a four out of four neck-people episode. Vampire Diaries is off to an excellent start this season.
Bites and Pieces:
• Damon: “Maybe it’s the sound of existential despair. I heard that’s what hell sounds like.”
• This is the second episode of TV I watched this week that featured “Whatta Man.”
• If they’re trapped in 1994, and Bonnie is a college-age student, why would her house have her favorite toy? She was probably born around 1994.
• So Tripp is a Fell. That’s mildly funny.
• “Yellow Ledbetter” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Here you go:
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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