After last season’s massive reset in the wake of actress Nina Dobrev’s departure, I was more curious than excited about the seventh season of TVD. I looked forward to the prospect of Caroline taking center stage, but was ambivalent about the Heretics as the new Big Bad. And it turns out that my prognosticating emotions were mostly identical to my postwatch feelings.
Even though Elena is gone, this episode is still all about Elena. On a structural level, the letters she asked people to write are the conceit for explaining what happened over the summer and some of the show's odder choices, like the mass evacuation of Mystic Falls (more below).
On a personal level, Elena’s semi-death is keeping everyone in a particular place: Damon is trapped in a state of longing. Caroline is busy “healing” and therefore cannot pull the trigger with Stefan. Bonnie is, thank goodness, not feeling very guilty about staying alive.
Those personal arcs are, for now, fairly interesting, although I’m more curious about what Ric is doing as he strong-arms psychics in Europe. And with watching Damon and Bonnie’s relationship continue to grow, even as Damon is frustrated by Bonnie’s “knack for avoiding permanent death.” The Damon/Bonnie friendship continues to bring me joy.
The real focus of this episode, though, was setting up the threat to Our Heroes. The Heretics are catty mean girls (and one guy, whose only characteristic is “mute,” which was handled so clumsily that I burst out laughing). They’re British, I guess, even though the Gemini coven is based in Oregon. I found the actresses unconvincing.
But Our Heroes did not. Once they confirmed the Heretics were alive in Mystic Falls, Stefan, Matt, and Caroline immediately set the threat-level to DefCon 1, which was a refreshing change from the typical “will they or won’t they kill the baddies” waffling this show engages in. If only they’d thought of a better plan than a tiny bomb.
Their failure—and their inability to anticipate their failure—seems more related to the necessities of plot than anything else. After all they’ve been through, Stefan, Caroline, and Matt should know how hard it is to kill mystical beings, especially vampire/witch hybrids. But TVD wanted to get us to an empty Mystic Falls as quickly as possible, regardless of how odd that might be.
And it is odd. Why would the Heretics want to live in an empty town? Where will they (and the good guys) get food? If almost all the people are gone, why would anybody stick around? Why didn’t Stefan, Caroline, and Matt just try to kill the Heretics again? Damon and Bonnie bagged one on their own in about 20 seconds.
Those are questions we’re not really supposed to be asking, though, since the forced evacuation of Mystic Falls is all about isolating our heroes and our villains (on the narrative level). On the character level, it’s about Stefan and Caroline preserving Mystic Falls for Elena’s return. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. Conflicted, I guess.
I’m less conflicted about the flashforwards that bookended the episode. I’m a total sucker for this device, and I love knowing that we’re going to get some strong forward (temporal) movement at some point this season. I’m very curious to know about the woman pursuing Stefan and Damon. Why does her presence make their wounds open up again? Is it Bonnie’s witchy power, or a Heretic’s hybrid force? Is it their mom? (Freudian!) I really hope that we get a bit more of the flashforwards each week.
Bites and Pieces:
• Bonnie’s new soft waves are her most beautiful look yet.
• Ric’s imitation of drunkenness was sort of hilarious.
• Matt Donovan is now a cop.
• Enzo is now a bad guy. At least he finally chose!
• Was that Amsterdam van driver just going to plow into Bonnie if she didn’t get out of the road? I thought Amsterdam was a friendly place.
• Did anyone else think of Buffy Season Seven with the evacuation of Mystic Falls? (Did anyone else say to themselves, “Wow, TVD needs a Clem?”)
Two out of four totally unbelievable stories about a mining fire.
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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