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Vampire Diaries: The New Deal

“That’s the thing with younger siblings. You just never know what they’re going to do.”

Should I start with the slap? Or the kiss? Or maybe the sudden departure? Any way you slice it, this winter premiere lived up to the CW’s slogan of “TV to Talk About.” It’s also TV to gasp at, and TV that makes your jaw drop—VD continues to pack more meaty goodness into 42 minutes than a sausage factory on double-time.

Elena’s growing willingness—her apparent willingness, I should say—to leave Stefan resulted in two key encounters tonight: slapping Stefan and kissing Damon. In my completely unbiased opinion, they both completely deserved it. Stefan isn’t just ambiguously evil and painfully disloyal. He’s also withholding. His refusal to clue everyone into his plan, and its possible consequences, is putting everyone at risk. A “Klaus and Stefan problem,” as Elena calls it, will surely result in collateral damage. Does Stefan realize that and not care? He sure took long enough to explain why he’d saved Klaus’s life.

Stefan wants to keep Damon out of his Klaus-plan, and Damon has agreed to it. But just as Damon has decided to be dishonest about Stefan, he’s suddenly decided that now is the time to be honest about his feelings for Elena. It’s a fascinating push-pull dynamic: Damon can only be open because he feels Stefan and Elena growing apart. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s not want I want to say. Rather:

That kiss was OMFG fantastic!

As much as I love Damon and Elena together, it was the Jeremy plot that made me cry this week. I’m a big sister who tries to do right by her baby brother, and my relationship with him is one of the most important ones in my life. Elena feels the same way: she wants to care for someone who is nearly as old as she is, and she struggles with the impulse to play mother to someone who doesn’t always realize that he needs it. (Yes, that’s my biased interpretation.)

Did Elena make the right choice, compelling Jeremy? I suppose that depends on the rules of Klaus’s compulsion: will Jeremy really be safe from Klaus’s power in Colorado, in these days of telegraphs and the pony express cell phones and the interweb? I suppose the rules of drama dictate that he’ll be fine unless he returns. (As Maggie Smith noted in this week’s Downton Abbey, it’s so unsatisfying when things happen off-stage.)

The end of each little-sibling plot is…well, none of them are really ended, are they? Klaus re-gained Rebekah, only to stake her again. Damon knows the truth about Stefan’s actions, but Stefan is still playing a rogue-vampire game that can only result in bloodshed. And Jeremy is (temporarily, I hope) offstage, having been compelled to forget his recent blooding.

Bites:

• Damon: “I can’t drink all this by myself. I mean, I can, but if I do somebody’s gettin’ naked.”

• Damon: “It’s the eve of Klausageddon.”

• Elena: “You’re a day drunk. It’s not exactly your most attractive look.”
Damon: “What is my most attractive look?”

• Klaus: “You’ve been so busy, what with your plotting and scheming.”
Damon: “You know me. Never miss a chance to plan an epic failure.”

• Elena: “Hating me. Hating life. Hating the fact that we can’t even have a family dinner without someone dying before dessert.”

• Damon: “If you’re going after Klaus, you’re going to need to be cutthroat and devious, and I’m so much better at that than you.”

And Pieces:

• Torrey DeVitto, who played Dr. Meredith Fell, is married to Paul Wesley. So many CW stars are married to one another. It’s charming.

• Equally charming? The implication that Alaric might have a new honey. Good thing he finally cut his hair.

• Damon’s version of a screwdriver is just a large shot of vodka and sipping from the OJ carafe.

• Did Klaus really keep his family with him at all times? Didn’t he keep them in Chicago?

• I love the conversation between Klaus and Elena over Rebekah’s body—so much ambiguity, so many motives! Like Spike, Klaus seems to be able to see people’s desires more clearly than they see themselves.

• Why isn’t Alaric’s ring working correctly?

• No Caroline this week.

Four out of four Klausageddons.

(I could explain to why this review was so late, but it’s a long, tedious story and not a good excuse. So instead I’ll just apologize. I’m sorry.)

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

29 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Yay! Josie returns! And I also award this episode four out of four Klausageddons. :)

Harry said...

It's weird, I can't help but read that as Klausausagegeddon. Great read Josie, I'm so glad that VD and your reviews of it are back :-)

The Miller's Daughter said...

Josie, I have a possible theory about why Alaric's ring isn't working. Those rings are for the founding families and their family line. I keep thinking about how John Gilbert wanted to make sure a Gilbert had the ring. But then I also thought about how Carolyn has her daylight ring and it works for her despite her not being a Salvatore. So I'm not sure what's going on but I will be interested to find out.

Great review as always.

Sam B said...

He kissed her. He kissed her. He kissed her! That is all!

Anonymous said...

I thought maybe Alaric got really hirt because the car wasn't magical - so maybe the damages from the car still stuck while he revived because the driver was supernatural. I might be grasping at straws, and I don' recall if he's been killed by other non-supernatural objects that didn't leave wounds after.

Might also be the ring acting up, but that stramge as well of cource.

Besides that - loved the kiss! :-)

Citten

ChrisB said...

"You go deal with your brother; I'll deal with mine."

Another great review, but I saw the episode slightly differently. I saw the central theme as sibling love and how that particular relationship is so intensely love/hate.

Damon and Stefan, Elena and Jeremy, Klaus and Rebekah all had very emotional interactions, all of which impacted on those around them.

I think Elena made a mistake with her decision to have Damon compel Jeremy. Watching the episode a second time, he seemed very strong as he killed the hybrid and I think would have made a good addition to the Scoobies.

I agree completely that the two highlights were the slap and THE KISS!!! Both were extremely passionate.

JK said...

Alright, can I just take a moment to kvetch about the double standard apparent in these reviews? How is it that Tyler trying to save Caroline by removing her from the equation for the evening was all kinds of wrong last week, yet when Elena takes the same trick to a whole new level and has her brother mind-controlled into getting the hell out of Dodge, it's treated as morally ambiguous?

Sorry, Josie, but this is really beginning to grate on my nerves...

It WAS a pretty excellent episode, though. Really hoping those two crazy kids (i.e. Elena and Damon) get together, and stay that way - I'm not really a big fan of broody vampires. But I'm not terribly optimistic.

Of course, this post is coming from April 2013, so who knows what I could learn over the course of the next twenty-odd episodes...

Josie Kafka said...

JK, if the double standard you're referring to is just the one described in this episode, the key line is: "I’m a big sister who tries to do right by her baby brother, and my relationship with him is one of the most important ones in my life."

If the double standard you're referring to is my dislike of Tyler, then I'm afraid there's nothing I can do. I can't make myself like him.

If the double standard you're referring to is me not liking it when men boss women around, but not minding when a big sister bosses her little brother around, I suggest you read a different reviewer.

JK said...

Look, I'm sorry if I've offended you. I'm just finding the persistent and casual misandry rather irksome. (If you don't see what I mean, well...)

Josie Kafka said...

Nope, I don't see what you mean. But I'd love it if you would explain.

JK said...

In a nutshell, I have trouble believing you'd be equally sanguine about a big brother having his little sister brainwashed. You've demonstrated a bit of a chip on your shoulder about that sort of thing. It's important to note that I don't really hold that against you - everyone's got their own thing. It's just that your chip and mine happen to be somewhat at odds.

Apart from that, though, I tend to quite enjoy your reviews. So unless you're planning on becoming an openly man-hating extremist, I reckon I'll keep reading. :)

(In fact, despite the aforementioned irksome bits, your reviews were one of the two main influences that got me to give this show a shot. The other, for the record, was my little sister.)

Samantha M. Quinn said...

I'm not sure the comparison between the Caroline/Tyler situation and the Jeremy/Elena situation is exactly on point. What Tyler did to Caroline was overly protective to the point of controlling. He has no position above her, she is his girlfriend, not his child. He would have no right to dictate what she should or shouldn't do. Sure he can be worried, and voice that objection. But to actively stop her, to phyisically restrain her (ala vervain) is absolutely objectionable.

Do I agree with Elena's choice to erase Jeremy's memory, yes and no. She was the only active parent in his life at the point. Sure they had Jenna, but Jenna couldn't make that decision because she was out of the loop, and didn't have the necessary information to make an informed decision.

Jeremy was at the point of suicide, what Elena did was compassionate and impossible, it wasn't as simple as her forcing her opinions on a significant other. Transfer the situation to Matt and Vicky. Would Matt doing the same thing for Vicky so that she didn't fall into a deeper hole be essentially the same thing? Is it right for our family to protect us from ourselves? That's the question, not some vague sexist complaint that has no merit.

Billie Doux said...

I've been thinking about this, and as J.D. basically said, it's apples and oranges, significant others versus family. It isn't even an older sibling protective of younger sibling thing. If Elena had been in a state of overload and suicidal despair and Jeremy had asked Damon to glamour her in order to save her, I am fairly certain I would have felt the same way about it -- that it might be a mistake, but I understand the protectiveness we feel towards a close family member that would make us do such a thing.

The older male vampire in love with a teenage girl thing can be tough for us card-carrying feminists. I find TVD a lot easier to take than, say, Twilight. If I were reviewing this series, though, it would be impossible for me not to mention situations that can be construed as really, really sexist. Because it's there. It's so there.

JK said...

That may be a big part of why we see this differently; to me, it is emphatically not a case of apples and oranges. As I see it, the people you love - the people you'd lay down your life to protect - can't be meaningfully subcategorized in terms of what you'd do to keep them safe, even at the expense of their own agency. In other words, I'd go to similar lengths to protect a sibling or a significant other, so it's difficult for me to see what Elena did as right while what Tyler did was wrong - or indeed vice versa.

(Also, as it's clearly been much longer since you've seen the episode than it has been for me, I should point out that Jeremy was a far cry from suicidal at this point. In fact, he was just beginning to prove he didn't need looking after; the catalyst for Elena's decision to send him away was Jeremy killing a hybrid. She simply wanted him out of harm's way, much as Tyler did Caroline in the previous episode.)

So maybe that's the only double standard at play here. But still, with the frequency with which the feminist perspective is invoked here, I can't help but feel that there's an issue of gender politics at work as well.

And for the record, I consider myself a card-carrying egalitarian. :)

Billie Doux said...

JK, everything you've written makes it clear that you have a bias against feminism and against feminists. I have tried not to be offended and to engage in discussion, but that was a mistake. I will repeat what Josie said earlier -- please feel free to find another site whose reviews don't make you want to attack the reviewer.

Anonymous said...

"If I were reviewing this series, though, it would be impossible for me not to mention situations that can be construed as really, really sexist. Because it's there. It's so there."

LOL! I believe that this is exactly what I was trying to point out several weeks ago...

JK said...

I... beg your pardon?

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

This is why I have a bias against feminism, and indeed -isms in general. People who identify with special interest groups often have a very difficult time accepting another perspective. I'd hoped that wouldn't be the case here. I suppose it was my mistake for posting a dissenting opinion; it's a basic fact of all internet forums, after all, is that those whose opinions differ from those of the local majority should sit down and shut up if they know what's good for them.

Up until your last response, Billie, I was a touch annoyed by the bias present here, but only now do I find myself truly offended. Or maybe I'm just hurt. I really thought this place was better than that. Search me as to why.

I suppose this'll be deleted, but at least you (or someone with administrative privileges at any rate) will see it. Before, y'know, feeding it to the cats. Anyway. Consider me well told off. I shan't be posting here in the future, though I'll like as not continue to be a reader. Because the reviews are really rather good, by and large.

I'm truly sorry if I've offended you, but honestly I hope you're at least a little bit sorry as well. Feel like I'm back in bloody high school...

Josie Kafka said...

JK, I just wrote a long comment, for a long time, but I chose not to post it. Clearly we're not speaking the same language. Dialogue seems impossible at this point.

And I suspect many of us involved would agree that this comment thread has become a joyless time-suck.

Anonymous said...

Hey JK,
can I interest you in my kind of "...ism", misanthropism?

Anonymous said...

JK,

The problem is you attacked the reviewer, not the show. That's not accepted on any site. Disagree with her position, but when you start to call someone names, using labels to describe them, that crosses the line.

You say you don't like isms, but you clearly do. I could label you a troll, but that's being judgmental. A voice of dissent is fine, on the surface the basic argument is sound. Are Elena's actions more justified than Tyler's. Only you didn't phrase it that way. You attacked the review.

Just my opinion, take it as you will.

Anonymous said...

As Billie herself states somewhere above, the basic concept of this show IS fundamentally sexist (older vampire, helpless young, teenage girl)... as is any fairytale, for that matter, in which some prince or white knight swoops in to save the poor damsel in distress. What I can't quite understand is how you can accept this fundamental flaw in order to enjoy the show and then constantly dwell on the secondary, little manifestations of sexism that occur during the show. It's like rejecting trees, but embracing the forest.

Josie Kafka said...

Okay, I can't take it anymore.

Could someone, please--anyone--point me to a line in my review of this episode that bring up feminism?

I simply don't see it, and I've now re-read my own review probably five times in the past few days.

I feel like I'm being attacked for something that isn't even there.

Anonymous said...

Josie, I was reacting to the comments above (in the context of a few other reviews this year), not your review of this particular episode. Please don't be offended. I was criticizing, but not attacking you. In fact, I have read many reviews of yours over the past six months or so and have greatly enjoyed almost all of them.

Josie Kafka said...

Thank you for clarifying, Anonymous--rereading your comment, I see now that it was general and not directed at this review in particular. :-)


For what it's worth, I think I can respond to part of your question even if it wasn't directed at me:

I recently re-read Plautus's Haunted House. Plautus is an ancient Roman playwright; the Haunted House is a wacky comedy about a clever slave. It's hilarious and interesting. And it is, undeniably, a pro-slavery play. That is its underlying message: Hooray, funny slavery! (I am simplifying.)

And yet it is still hilarious and interesting, and I've read it numerous times. But if I'm talking about it, I'm going to include the good (interesting plot, funny dialogue) and the bad (slavery).

For me, TVD works the same way. Because so many male characters are both older and more powerful than their female love interests, TVD skirts the edge of pernicious sexism. It's modern enough that it also often avoids it, too. And, even though I may not agree with the politics of the show, I still almost always enjoy it. But I can't read or watch a TV show or book without bearing those ideas in mind. I am simply incapable of it.

So my reviews bring up gender politics when that's what I think of when watching an episode, and they don't bring up gender politics when I get distracted by something else, like snarky Damon or Caroline's general awesomeness.

In fact, there are very few examples I can think of in which I've rejected a book or show or film because I don't agree with its politics. I can only think of two blatant examples of the top of my head:

1. China Mieville's book, which I want to like...but they're so idea-y and politcal that I feel like all the joy has been sucked out of them.

2. Weirdly enough, the American version of Shameless got my hackles up so much I wound up ranting to Billie via email after watching just one episode. Couldn't stomach it, absolutely hated it--and my reaction shocked everyone I knew who had seen the episode, because I was the only person who had problems with the way they portrayed class and labor. (Okay, Downton Abbey got on my nerves a bit in that arena, too, but I loved the clothes too much to get bothered by it.)

Reading the comments on this review and a few other recent TVD reviews, I get the impression (although it might be wrong), that as soon as many people hear the word "feminist," or get a hint that feminism is the reviewer's political stance, they start expecting the reviewer to reject the entire show out of hand--and are surprised when that doesn't happen.

But that perspective only makes sense if we treat "feminism" as a "special interest," rather than as part of a continuum of how we think about social equality, social justice, etc. It's one perspective among many, and the label "sexist" doesn't have to be an end-all, be-all taboo dictate from on high. It can just be an explanation. I don't need my entertainment to agree with my political perspectives, and I would be bored if I only watched and read shows that validated my perspective. That's no way to live.

Anonymous said...

OK, but one last comment: Don't you think it's a bit too much to expect genuine social awareness from a CW show? You aren't actually expecting that, are you? ;-)

Josie Kafka said...

I'm not expecting social awareness or an enlightened afterschool-special attitude to gender equality, although I hope for it. (That we don't expect TV to show the genders as equal says something fascinating about how easy it is to grow complacent with "close enough.")

But regardless of how "low-brow" a show is, it's still political, because everything is political, in the broadest possible sense of that word. So I maintain that occasionally examining the [gender, race, class, etc] politics of any piece of culture, high or pop, is completely appropriate. That is my analytical stance. It is how I was trained, and it is a method I've thought about, and read about, for a long time.

(I say that last bit not to end with "therefore, I'm right!" but to emphasize that I am not going to change my stance because someone up-thread decided to declare that I have a chip on my shoulder. I have given serious consideration to the role of politics in these shows and in my reviews, and I am comfortable with the choices I have made about what to talk about and when to talk about it, because I did so thoughtfully, while attempting to avoid any sort of knee-jerk reaction.)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, what I take away from our discussion then is that snarky Damon trumps concerns of gender equality any old day, right?

/"Just kidding," he yells as he dives frantically for cover...

Josie Kafka said...

Snarky Damon isn't sexist. He's sexy.

Suzie_B said...

Ok, I know I’m coming into this discussion late (and I usually don’t get into discussions at all because I get pissy), but I’m in the middle of a re-watch of my favorite shows while we’re on hiatus, and of course I have to read the reviews here, because I love them! Anywhoo, the biggest difference between the Caroline/Tyler and Jeremy/Elena thing to me is that Caroline is a badass vampire that proves time and time again she can hold her own. While Jeremy has his magic ring, he’s still a human. A teenager who has lost all of his parental figures (minus the sexy history teacher), *two* vampy girlfriends, and his innocence. Klaus showed how easy it was to convince him to take his ring off and compel him into the street. And I think Elena was disturbed at how casual he was about chopping somebody’s head off. While the rest of them (vampires, witches, werewolves, doppelgängers) can’t escape this life, he still had a shot.
That’s it. My two cents, not asked for but still freely given. ;) Love these reviews, Josie! The pictures and comments on them always make me laugh (which gets me strange looks when I read them at work), and anytime you reference Buffy my heart smiles!