Vampire Diaries: Hell is Other People

“We all just want to go home.”

Your opinion on this episode probably depends on three factors: how much you like Groundhog Dayesque repetition, how much you like the Lily plot, and how much you like TVD’s flashbacks.

I love Groundhog Dayesque repetition—my favorite example is the Supernatural episode “Mystery Spot”—and “Hell is Other People” did not disappoint. Damon is the perfect character to march through a temporal construct, since he can do his best snark when he knows he’s talking to people who aren’t real. His attempts to change the details, only to experience a bloodbath again and again, were both hilarious and poignant.

The Phoenix Stone hallucinations were strongest when they were set in the modern day. Everyone’s tolerance for TVD’s flashbacks differs; for me, they’ve never quite worked, and have been particularly clumsy this season. (I think it’s the dialogue; the writers seem to think that “stilted” is an adequate substitute for “old-fashioned.”) But Damon’s conversation with Caroline about losing his humanity shows just how much he fears that side of himself.

The hallucinations also show how little Damon understands himself. First, he thought the farmhouse massacre was supposed to represent his own personal hell. Then it was his attempt to pursue Stefan. But it turned out to be angst over how he dismissed his mother, Lily, and how he’d repressed his need for her. It took an imaginary Stefan to coax that realization out of Damon.

Do I buy it? Not really. When someone is over a century old, I sort of expect them to have already dealt with their mommy issues. And I think this resolution is rather pat: Lily did abandon Damon. She mistreated him—and Stefan—horribly, both when they were children and more recently in Mystic Falls. Can’t Damon have complicated feelings for his mother? Does it have to be as simple as love?

For me, the best part of this episode was the final act: Damon, confused about reality, causing a very real massacre. Bonnie, Caroline, Matt, and Stefan are all in a bad way. That’s one of the most interesting cliffhangers this show has done in a while, and I’m very curious to see how it plays out both for the victims and for what I imagine will be a very upset Damon.

Bites and Pieces:

• I thought it was sort of hilarious that, in Damon’s imagination-resurrection, he was shirtless. In his real resurrection, Bonnie left him appropriately clothed.

• I also liked that Damon’s Confederate buddy had a girl named Olive, who’s a real peach. I wonder if her sister is a plum, and they’ve got a little stone-fruit baby brother.

How many Confederate soldiers would you give this out of four?

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?)

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I was also freaked by that final scene. Stefan and Caroline will probably revive okay, Matt might still have that ring, right? but what about Bonnie? Of course, Bonnie dies every season, so she might be okay somehow.

The Civil War scenes were interesting, but I mostly kept thinking about what a bad hair day Damon was having -- over and over and over.

TheShadowKnows said...

We know none of the characters are seriously hurt (except maybe Matt) because they're in the flashforwards we've been seeing.

Katie Hart - Freelance Writer said...

A better episode than I expected - and I agree that Damon is one of the best characters for this sort of time loop episode (does anyone even want to see Stefan's experience?). I feel like get bonus points for watching this on Groundhog Day, however!