Vampire Diaries: The Sun Also Rises

“I still have you.”

This episode was simultaneously engrossing and maddening—as long as I pushed myself to remain fully invested in the perils on screen, it was great: passion, death, fire, blood. But as soon as I let that focus slip, bad thoughts started to slip in. Comparisons to reality TV abounded. I started to think about why the writers had made the choices they did, and that’s usually a sign that a show is starting to wear a bit thin. In the spirit of my ambivalence, I offer you two reviews:

My Cynical Review

Watching VD is like watching a reality TV show. We know someone—maybe lots of someones—will be eliminated, and it becomes a guessing game to see who. The interlocking circles of fire would make a great set-piece on the stage of The Biggest Loser, as candidates that slip below the yellow line are slaughtered one by one. Next week: with the Klaus Challenge overcome, the contestants tackle the Great Werewolf Challenge, with an inevitable twist you never saw coming! Who will be sent home?

I suspect now that the Great Sun and Moon Retcon was planned from the beginning, as Elijah and Klaus—and likely their undead kin—will prove to be useful big bads for next season. Not killing them, though, was horribly unsatisfying, making the ritual seem like a handy device to kill Jenna, eliminate Luka’s sister the witch (who never really lived up to her potential), and re-affirm the complex relationship between Elena, Stefan, and Damon.

Damon’s little nip returns us to the status quo of loss+love+impending threat. I wish the writers had left us in the dark about Damon’s bite—it would have made a great surprise if he knew but we were kept in the dark, wondering why he seemed so weak and angry. Of course, the impending threat will require a sacrifice we don’t expect, as writing Damon off would just be silly. And, next season: lather, rinse, repeat.

The Emotionally Invested Review

This was heart-wrenching. Jenna’s death, and the time the show took to let her say goodbye to Elena even as she fought for her life was unbearable. I’ve always liked Jenna and the role she plays in the lives of Elena, Jeremy, and Alaric. Now Elena and Jeremy have very little family left, and Alaric is once again doomed to the burden of a dead vampire ex.

Everyone’s willingness to sacrifice themselves both spoke to the inherent goodness of most of these characters and ratcheted up the tension to an unbelievable level. Jon’s sacrifice was one I didn’t see coming, because I’ve never really trusted his character—in part, because Jenna and Elena never did. (And I still think of him as Sark.) Jon gave Elena the one thing that proved his goodness, finally. It was touching and low-key.

Stefan was just as willing to sacrifice himself, reminding me of his line in an earlier episode that he has lived and the non-immortals are still in their youth. Good guy, Stefan. Bonnie, too, fought the good fight. As did Jenna. And Elena. Really, everyone was good and no one was a chicken. But, like Spanish fascists, the immortals always win, and the fighters lose something in the process.

Damon’s arc is so tragic: throughout the show, he has vacillated between his desire to do good and his inability to control his baser urges. His ending should be epic, a Hamlet-style blowout. So it is even more upsetting that his doom might come from a little nip, as it is such a small thing, so accidental, and so random. I hope he survives, and I wonder how the experience of survival will change him. Damon has proved willing to sacrifice himself for others, especially Elena and Stefan. Would anyone sacrifice themselves to save him?

Stefan might, although I think he would bear in mind how that would affect Elena. But his pain at knowing what the heroes are up against in the coming days was wonderfully played. I don’t give Stefan enough credit sometimes.

Bites:

• Caroline: “My mom knows?!”

• Damon: “You’re a day late and a daughter short, Jon.”

• Damon: “How does one go about killing an all-powerful wolf-vamp and his two-faced older brother?”

• Damon: “More of a nip, really.”

And Pieces:

• Matt, Caroline, and Tyler are still in the game. I assume the relevance will become clear soon.

• This is me not making an untimely joke about a body not being buried at sea.

• Elena’s dress was too short for a funeral, even an unofficial one. With that statement, I officially turned old.

• They buried Jenna sub rosa (pun!), which means Elena and Jeremy likely won’t need to be given to a new guardian.

• I really wanted a screencap of Stefan and Damon talking in the graveyard. Stefan is a close-talker!

• Totally unrelated to VD: Did any of you watch the first part of the Community season finale? That was so awesome!

This easily could have been a season finale, which makes me wonder what tricks and turns the writers have in mind for the next episode. Last season, they left us with a whopping cliffhanger. As so many threads were resolved (or zoomed off into the ether like the Immortal Brotherhood), I don’t know how VD can leave us hanging next week, unless it has something to do with Damon and whatever lengths the heroes must go to in order to save him. That makes me nervous. I suspect more contestants are going to be eliminated, and I don’t want that to happen. Which, I guess, means I’m still completely invested, after all.

Three out of four nips.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

12 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Josie, your review made me laugh out loud four times. I particularly loved your Biggest Loser circle of fire elimination slaughter-fest. Reality show a la Stephen King.

Jenna's loss was truly upsetting, but I had a feeling last week that it was bound to end that way for her, that the story couldn't support yet another vampire in the cast. It was Jon's sacrifice that got to me the most. I actually started to cry when he simply dropped in the road. Maybe I was just hoping David Anders would hang around forever, and now he's gone. Damn.

Elena is seventeen years old and has lost FIVE PARENTS. Five. Who gets over something like that?

Damon has to make it. It just wouldn't be the same show without one of our love triangle.

Chela Madison said...

I got teary eyed about both Jenna and Jon's death. I guess I'm still relatively young and so I still have a tight, almost dependent bond with my parents. Whenever I see people lose their parent figures in shows or movies...it just really gets to me. From the looks of the preview the finale will in fact be about Damon. Meanwhile, Elijah and Klaus are getting the super family together for next season?

Josie Kafka said...

I'm just guessing that the Immortals will return next season, Chela. I can't imagine they'd let that thread drop.

(Maybe we'll get to see "The Girl in Question" from another p.o.v., too. That'd be neat.)

Mark Greig said...

Was surprised how much John and Jenna's deaths effected me, John's most of all. Reminded me a lot of The Searchers that scene, mostly in the way it was shot with John outside and alone, framed by doorway.

And, yes, I did watch the first part of the Community season finale and it was indeed awesome.

Felipe said...

Not SARK! I was weepy through most of this episode, mostly when I wasn't cheering. I clapped when Jenna went for Greta. I even thought Bonnie was cool this episode. They already had alternatives to saving Elena's life in place, why kill John, especially considering Klaus got away. It felt like it was done just to kill off another character.

Funny you mentioning Community I just finished watching the first season, marathon style, 2 days ago. I'm now midway through season 2, great show.

carmelek98 said...

It's interesting how opinions can differ - for me, this was the best episode of VD yet. I didn't cry, but my sister did (it's the first time she cried watching this show). It's weird that I somehow felt more sorry for Jon than for Jenna.

Also, I think Damon should get killed. Not that I don't like him, but I think he got boring this season and his death would really shake things up... Now that's cynical!

Chelsea said...

I've never liked Aunt Jenna but I thought she went out really well, and so did John. But I'm not as sad to see her go as I am to see Elena and Jeremy's reactions to it since I've always thought Jenna was kind of a waste of screentime.

Anonymous said...

Wow, oh did i cry on that episode! I still have goose bumps writing about it! I'm sad to see them go and I'm actually upset about it a little! ok maybe more than a little. I liked them because they brought another dimension to the show. I don't want to see Damon go!

johanne said...

I can't believe that Elijah bought that story!! Klaus would have said anything to survive, and he obviously found Elijah's soft spot.. *aargh*

CrazyCris said...

farewell Jon and Jenna... *sigh*

I totally did not see Jenna fighting to the end like that! I thought she'd make a run for it but not enough to get away from Klaus. Goes to show that family sure won't go down without a fight! :p

Has anyone else given a thought to Katherine still "locked" in Alaric's apartment? lol!

They'd better come up with a cure for Damon!!! grrr...

can't believe the season is ending... can't believe that wasn't the season finale! AMAZING episode! :o)

Patryk said...

Jenna, no! I've been counting, do you know it's the 6th female vampire they killed off in the show? And apart from Isobel al of them were not villians (at least not for long). Any of you keeping the male vampire body count?

Klaus not dying feels like a letdown, they could have killed him and then let our heroes help Elijah find his family in season 3. He's definately more interesting of the two originals.

I bet the finale will include Damon's bite and the sheriff will try something, plus Klaus said he had a plan for Stefan so maybe that'll happen too.

JK said...

Good thing I'm still identifying with Damon, because otherwise I may very well have decided to drop the show after this whole idiotic carousel of pointless self-sacrifice...