Shortest Vampire Diaries review ever... because this was the most boring episode of the show since "There Goes the Neighborhood." Back in season 01. I was talking to sarcasticcheese trying to figure out why it all felt so off. First of all, the main conclusion was that the way that Elena acted with Stefan and Damon was as if NOTHING in season 03 happened, and as if the first three episodes of this season didn't happen. There was nothing other than AHHHHHH!Stefan-and-Elena TWU!WUV!4EVA! vibes all over the place. And Damon was just, you know, this guy who Elena didn't really hate, sorta considered a friend, but she just wasn't that into him. Which is what most of season 02 felt like (once she got over the hating part). Furthermore, Stefan was played completely as the tortured hero with the halo firmly intact, no shades, no multi-dimension.
So I checked for the writer/director. And the writers were Brett Matthews (who last co-wrote "The Departed") and Rebecca Sonnenshine (last episode was "Break On Through"). Whether you liked those episodes or not, they wrote a Stefan who had flaws, who wasn't the perfect hero. They also featured an Elena who may have been antagonistic towards Damon, but was clearly affected by him (in 3.17), and who may have still loved Stefan, but clearly had really, really deep feelings for Damon (in 3.22). So while I, at first, blamed my issues with this episode on the writing, as I was working through it, I realized that with different direction, all of the S/E scenes, Stefan scenes, Damon/Elena scenes, even Bonnie/Damon scenes -- she was back to uber-bitch mode with him last seen in 3.20 -- could have easily played with the same vibe we've had this season. An Elena and Stefan who still love each other but are going through the motions of trying to recapture what they once had. A Stefan who had layers to his words and actions. An Elena who was genuinely heated and turned on by Damon, who had common ground with him, who was AFFECTED by him, who was very much torn by how much she felt for him despite how she feels for Stefan. A Bonnie who accepts the positive of Damon while still being aware of the negative.
The dialogue was there, it was the direction that didn't play it that way. No, the direction played an Elena who wasn't torn at all, who was all about Stefan and Damon was just, you know, this guy. Think of the porch scene at the end-- had the scenes been played earlier with Elena being affected by it all because of her proximity to Damon (as opposed to JUST the vampire-stuff), her saying that it was just the vampire-stuff and leaving the Damon-aspect out of it would have fit with how she's been keeping the whole truth, nothing but the truth from Stefan. However, because it didn't play as if Elena was affected by Damon at all really, what she said to Stefan was the truth.
And the Damon/Elena scenes could have (and so should have been) played with heat and passion and desire that Elena felt for Damon, that Damon felt for Elena that were amplified by the vampire-stuff. Instead, it played as if it was the vampire stuff that got Elena all high and hot (and not all that much bothered at all). And the Bonnie/Damon discussion could have been played with confusion, an understanding that this is the situation, it sucked, and a true questioning if this is what he really wanted. Instead, it was just, yeah, Bonnie in uber-bitch-with-Damon mode.
Sure, you can say I'm grasping at straws and if the next few episodes play more like this one -- Stefan/Elena against the world united in their twuest wuv that ever wuved!, while Damon's just kinda there in the background, an annoying distraction, a fly in the ointment that is the twuest wuv that ever wuved! -- then, I'll concede I've been completely wrong about how I thought things were going. And I'll spend every episode bitching and wondering why the hell Damon doesn't just LEAVE! However.... The last three episodes REALLY did play out with the same vibe. Elena loves Stefan, he loves her, but they are in new territory, are mostly pretending it's old, and both are ignoring the Damon-shaped-feelings Elena has... even when Elena is slap-dash in the middle of feeling those feelings.
Finally, you know who directed this episode? Joshua Butler. You know what the last episode he directed was? "Do Not Go Gentle." The episode that inexplicably played a Stefan/Elena as if none of the events in season 03 had really happened, as if nothing between her and Damon had happened in the previous episode in how they interacted (nor her connection with him that had grown throughout the season), the one that played Stefan as nothing but the tortured hero with a halo and no layers or dimensions. In other words, the Stefan/Elena of season 02, the Damon/Elena of season 02. So, unless the next batch of episodes play Stefan/Elena like this one, and Damon/Elena like this one... I'm choosing to call this episode here an anomaly based on the directorial decisions.
ETA: Thinking more on this, it really was the direction because Stefan did a LOT of shady shit in this episode. Went behind Rebekah's back, used her vulnerability, played with Klaus to take Rebekah out, used Jeremy as a tool, didn't even seem agonized in the slightest as he lied to Elena's face about why he was with Jeremy. (Remember, Damon had difficulty keeping Stefan's secret from Elena.) Yet, the direction played him as the stalwart hero. On the other hand, Damon *was* doing good stuffs! He was helping Elena, he wasn't killing anyone, he kept Elena from killing anyone, he was teaching her how to be good, to feel good. He didn't do anything bad, and yet the way everyone treated him (and the way Damon acted) it was as if *he* was the bad guy.
Just very, very, very off in the direction. Big-time.
Quick thoughts --
- So did I call about Elena being humanized by season's end? I think I may have!
- Rebekah staked again. Damnit, Klaus!
- I did like the Five reveal backstory, and the Connor stuff, and the surprising Shane/Connor stuff, but man, that Todd Williams (Connor) is just a blank page. Nothing there.
- I did enjoy the Matt/Rebekah/April scene. "Hey! Hands off! I've got dibs."
- And Matt is keeping the truck, awesome.
- My favorite line was Stefan's "I'm thinking of the million other people I would prefer to be having dinner with."
- I did not realize until this very moment that there was no Tyler or Caroline. Damnit, Tyler has so dinged the character of Caroline for me.
- You want a character plot device? JEREMY was a character plot device.
- I love Ian Somerhalder. I think he's sexy as hale! That dancing tonight? So not sexy. He looked DORKY as hale. I don't know if they were dancing to no music while filming, or a different song than what played, but, yeah, no.
- I was really disappointed in the Damon/Elena moments. First reciprocated hug between them (she's hugged him before, but he's NEVER returned the hug) and you could barely tell and there was no significance given to it. All of the hyper Elena moments did not seem to be about Damon at all. Damon/Elena in this situation should have left viewers breathless. Nope. Didn't happen. What the hell? Again, very poor direction.
- What a waste of Daniel Gillies/Elijah. Geez.
- Ooh, another sign of poor direction... I wasn't sure if Rebekah had staked Alexander or he had staked her until Klaus told us coming out of the flashback.
- So, if you didn't know any better, would anyone *anyone* have had any clue at all that Stefan/Rebekah had a history? Yeah, didn't think so. Claire Holt and Paul Wesley still play off of each other beautifully, but this episode did not highlight their history at all in a very, very disappointing fashion.
Sadly, most underwhelming episode in like FOREVER. Very disappointed in the direction and NOT looking forward to any other episodes this guy directs unless, I suppose, Damon/Elena are clearly, clearly as written to be THERE FOR EACH OTHER, INTO EACH OTHER! He directed "Homecoming," which had some great Damon/Elena scenes, but as I said that was VERY CLEARLY WRITTEN FOR THEM, and I remember now I had issue with the 'were we supposed to think they were going to kiss?' moment that should have held longer. So yeah, don't want to see his direction again.
Sigh, and it was going so good. Again, I could be wrong, this could be the real direction, but I really, really, really don't think so and the next few episodes should give us an indication on the matter. We'll see.
ETA: Everyone read archangel_blood's post below. She REALLY nailed the specifics that make it absolutely clear it was ALL ABOUT THE DIRECTION. The writing wasn't the problem. Which is GREAT for Damon/Elena fans. The clear intention -- in the writing! -- was to keep the narrative going that's been building, but Butler's direction took a nose-dive... as it did in 3.20.