After last week’s episode, I was expecting…Well, I don’t know what I was expecting. But it wasn’t this!
The destruction of the Phoenix Stone didn’t destroy all of the vampire souls contained within it. Rather, it set them free. And, just like with Jo earlier in the season, a free vampire soul finds the nearest convenient corpse to jump into. Like Stefan’s body. Or the body of a drunk bus driver.
That scenario led to a fairly streamlined episode. Stefan’s body is inhabited by a serial killer vampire with a penchant for college kids; Stefan’s soul is trapped in Marty Hammond’s body, riddled with death, detox, and hypothermia. Cue the odd alliances, as Alaric, Valerie, Rayna, and Damon struggle to unite Stefan’s body with his soul.
Damon’s adventures with Stefan’s body and the serial killer inhabiting it were good fun. I get so used to Paul Wesley as regular-guy Stefan that it’s always a pleasure to watch him try a new approach. His subtly archaic phrasings and cool gaze were a nice clue that he wasn’t really him, so to speak. And Damon’s slowly dawning realization was hilarious, especially his trying-to-be-sneaky phone call to Alaric. (I also really liked the baddie vamp flying out of the car window.)
Actual Stefan, trapped in Marty Hammond’s dying body, had less fun. Pursued by the police during a record cold snap, he was sick in all kinds of ways. It was hard to believe that he might actually die, but his solitary trek through woodsy Arkansas did lead to some beautiful shots.
Even though Damon did rescue Stefan, even though he explained that he was going to fix the problem of Stefan’s scar, Stefan still doubts his brother’s loyalty. Or doubts his brother’s ability to act on that loyalty in an effective way. As Evil Stefanganger explained: “In all honesty...your brother truly, truly hates you.”
But the truth is that almost everybody on this show hates everybody else. Matt hates all vampires and can barely tolerate Alaric. Alaric hates Valerie, Damon, and Stefan—for a combination of reasons. Damon and Valerie hate each other. Rayna is a walking disaster, which is sort of like hate, but more like a wacky mission.
I wonder if that’s why I’ve been struggling with this season so much. This show used to be about plucky supernaturals banding together to defeat common enemies. Sure, there was always drama and anger and vengeance, but friendship was what held everything together. Now, relationships that used to seem stable are either ignored (Damon/Bonnie) or on the rocks (Damon/Alaric, Stefan/Caroline). And those plucky supernaturals band together out of necessity rather than compassion.
They will have to continue to do so, as Mission: Stefan Recovery is only half-complete. Damon has Stefan’s soul (and its rickety human body) but not his body, which is on the way to a frat house in Memphis. Oh, if only his name really were Elvis!
Bites and Pieces:
• Get your Bonnie while you can: next season will be Kat Graham’s last.
• Showrunner Julie Plec directed this episode, which she referred to as “our Revenant episode….The idea being, we wanted to put Paul Wesley through as much total misery as possible while Stefan suffered through the experience of being trapped in a human body.”
• The cops in Arkansas were very, very coldhearted. “Oh, we’ll just let the snow kill him!” isn’t my idea of great police work.
Three out of four high-maintenance hairs.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, 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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