by Josie Kafka
The Vampire Diaries has always occupied a moral gray zone. To watch it the “right” way means assuming that our heroes’ survival matters more than anyone else’s. To watch it the “wrong” way is to see this as eight seasons of selfish pretty people ruining the lives of everyone around them in order to continue their petty, needlessly complicated lives.
At its best, TVD encourages the “right” kind of viewer, the sort who can separate TV-watching morality from the ethics of real life. A fast-paced, engaging show makes it easier for us to root for Our Heroes; the suspense obviates ethical nuance. A slow, meandering repetition of previous tropes gives us the time and emotional distance to develop disgust.
In the opening scene, Stefan challenges one of the support-group members to a choice: would he choose to save himself if it meant sacrificing someone else? When, under compulsion, the guy admits that he would, Stefan and Damon take that as an excuse to kill him.
But where does that leave Stefan and Damon? If TVD expects us to ignore the parallels…well, how can we ignore the parallels? Stefan and Damon have agreed to commit mass murder in their own self-interest, and by episode’s end Stefan went full Ripper in a scene evocative of The Walking Dead.
I do not understand how we’re supposed to come back from that. Is TVD heading towards a Seinfeld ending of long-awaited punishment? Short of a massive time-travel reset, how could we achieve an ending that is both happy and appropriate in just eight more episodes?
Maybe that’s what Sybil and Cade are waiting in the wings for. Ancient, evil, powerful—maybe they can undo time, or something. (Hey, the Gemini cult could create alternate universes, which is no small thing.)
In the meantime, Sybil is playing schoolteacher. It’s an interesting callback to Alaric’s original job. Sybil is also eviler than he ever was. And less concerned with permission slips for field trips, although I’m not sure how many parents would have okayed their children possibly burning alive. Sybil is also more obsessed with a “mystical, witchified superbell,” which is probably something like the tuning fork, but bellier and more fraught for Matt’s dad, who has a serious, bell-sized chip on his shoulder.
I’m curious to see what’s up with the bell and how it might do more than mess with the Sirens. Does it shatter the space-time continuum? Ring real loud? Fix all the world’s problems? Exist only for some sort of convoluted Philadelphia/bell/city of brotherly love pun that I can’t make work? Bring back all the people who’ve ever been killed on this show? Make cookies?
Bites and Pieces:
• Damon: “Clarity over cleverness, that’s what I always say.”
• Sybil: “You can’t save ‘em all. Torches, lighter fluid—poof.”
Caroline: “Yeah, I know how fire works.”
• Caroline: “By the time I marry Stefan, he will be the man I’ve always loved.” I don’t know what’s more confusing there, the grammar or the retconning of Caroline’s love life.
• Do you remember Aunt Jenna, played by Sara Canning? She’s on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Her character is awesome!
• According to the Phobia Wiki, which is a thing, fear of bells is also a thing: it’s called kampanaphobia.
How many out of four mystical, witchified superbells?
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?)