Lots of backing and forthing again this week, as TVD continues to grapple with the challenge of relocating characters from Mystic Falls to the entire American South (which is much smaller than I remember it being!).
I’ve gotta be honest, dear readers: I’m just not feeling it right now. Maybe it’s the April doldrums—so many shows are spinning their wheels before revving the engine for a big finish in May. Maybe it’s the inevitable letdown after this season’s constant flashforward teases. Maybe it’s the mild stomach flu I had for most of this week. Or maybe TVD has just lost its je ne sais quoi.
Ambiguous doubts and French phrases aside, I did put on my thinking cap to try to figure out what was so completely not working for me this week. This is what I came up with:
Remember Mystic Falls? It used to be a character on this show. The council, the parties, the high school. Even Whitmore College, which wasn’t in Mystic Falls, but was close enough to count. The first half of this season was all about the loss of the town: Our Heroes (remember when we felt okay rooting for them?) evacuated the town to save people from the Heretics. Then the Heretics fizzled out as baddies. Then Julian did turn out to be bad and took over the town after everyone (except, as always, Matt) had left. Then it all receded into the background.
We’ve known for a long time (since last season’s cliffhanger finale) that the flashforwards would relocate at least some people to Dallas. Since the show has jumped to its current three-years-later timeframe, though, we’ve bopped around from Virginia to Texas to Tennessee to North Carolina—not to mention the Philippines, if we count those flashbacks.
On a practical level, this results in lots of conversations on cell phones while people drive around. Those are not as exciting as they may sound.
On a thematic level, though, the Great Mystic Falls diaspora is making it hard to focus the show—or the viewer, or the characters—on the larger stakes. There are lots of minor problems that need to be fixed, and characters occasionally bump into each other, but everything feels very separate and diffuse.
Remember Damon? I sorta feel like I don’t. He’s bad, he’s good. He’s selfish, he loves Elena—those are the things we know about Damon. But last week was all about how selfish his actions were, throughout his life, especially towards Stefan. And this week was, rather counterintuitively, about how he selfishly removed himself from the lives of Stefan, Alaric, and Bonnie. If my friends hated everything I did and me trying to do nothing, I’d be really confused and hurt. Desiccation just might seem preferable to that sort of weirdness.
Some of my discontent about that plot might be due to Bonnie, though. I like Bonnie. But her anger about Damon’s decision to hibernate through a few years feels selfish to me, because I can’t imagine getting angry at a friend for choosing not to be miserable, even if that means I have to miss them. And, since everyone else is constantly talking about what a useless troublemaker Damon is, I can’t imagine Bonnie wanted him around for support or assistance. Also, I liked their friendship; her anger feels like an artificial roadblock.
Remember forward momentum? That flash-bang force that keeps us watching? That OMG, no-they-didn’t, how-did-that-happen thrill? It’s gone. It’s gone for all the reasons I mentioned above, plus one more: I don’t even know what we’re supposed to be rooting for, long term. Are we supposed to want Alaric to bring his baby daughters into the orbit of a bunch of supernatural drama queens? Are we supposed to want Caroline to leave her daughters behind to be with Stefan? Are we supposed to root for Stefan and Damon to make up, or part ways? For Bonnie to stay with Enzo? In other words: what would be the best way for this season to end? What would be the worst? I seriously have no idea where these plots are going.
But we do know where we’ve been: Stefan is back in his body. Bonnie is dying of Raynaitis. Valerie finally gave up on Stefan. The Armory is the new Big Bad, or keeps the Big Bad in their Bennett-locked Basement.
I miss Caroline.
Two out of four keg stands.
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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