Vampire Diaries: We Have History Together

“That’s why it’s called history. It won’t repeat.”

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?)

7 comments:

TheShadowKnows said...

All these pretty brunettes who look like Nina are starting to get a little bit ludicrous. At least it was a plot point this time.

Lamounier said...

"That’s why it’s called history. It won’t repeat."

That quote reminded me of this Buffy quote:

"You know what they say, those who fail history are doomed to repeat it in summer school."

I stopped watching TVD ages ago, but from your review it's safe to say Damon and Stefan are repeating history in summer school.

Billie Doux said...

Josie, you're right about the moral gray zone on this show. I've always sort of not thought about it. In the VD reality, vampires are at the top of the food chain. But this isn't the droll sort of killing they used to do that was easier to not think of as murder. This is the Salvatores as killing machines, and I really don't like it. I can't stand the Sirens and I am especially hating the Salvatores finding stupid excuses to see people as evil so that they can kill them for Cade.

It's not like I'm going to stop watching a few episodes from the end. But I'd much rather be enjoying the last season of a show I've always liked. Let's hope this silly bell improves things. Maybe, like you said, they'll put it together, it'll ring, and they'll go back to Damon meeting Elena on that road while she's on her cell phone and ... you know, I'd hate that, too. It's officially a rock and a hard place, isn't it?

Mallena said...

The only thing that I liked about this episode was that Stefan and Damon were interacting with each other. That's always been my favorite part of this show. Forget Elena, I always do until they remind me again. I don't like Ripper Stefan or the Sirens. They had the right idea to have Stefan and Damon go on a quest together, but they're doing it the wrong way. This show can be funny, it doesn't have to be this dark and depressing. I think my favorite scenes are when Damon and Stefan are just snarking at each other about something. "That needs to be pointier"...Stefan says. "I know how to whittle, Stefan"...Damon says. I enjoy those scenes a lot more than some heretic witch or siren storyline.

Josie Kafka said...

Maybe that's the power the bell has: it can turn this show into a wacky sitcom. I'd watch that!

Anonymous said...

It occurred to me during the episode that not one of the shows characters has actually progressed or had character growth since season 2. Maybe Bonnie.
Its incredibly creepy how many Elena lookalikes have been on the show in the short time since her death.

Also its highly annoying but again it occurred to me during the episode that Damon and Stefan have never been 'evil' at the same time and they ruined it already.

Patryk said...

Even with all my distaste for this and the previous season of VD I kinda enjoyed the Salvatores basically doing the evil Winchesters. They even talk a lot about feelding in the car driving at night. :)

If You are right and the shows does a Seinfeld ending I will forgive the writers everything they messed up along the way, but there is a snowball's chance in hell they'd do that.

Not many episodes left and then we can enjoy the Originals that, flawed as they are, have been the more interesting series ever since it was spun off.