I did like it, but I didn't uber love it. This was an interesting episode because it had a lot of truly great things about it, but unfortunately there were some not-so-great aspects at play as well. Foremost was the fact that there were too many moments that didn't make sense because they were TV-based or plot as opposed to character- or reality-based.
For instance, why didn't Damon hear Elena cry out in that final scene? He had just walked away. When she was being drowned, he could hear her cry his name from downstairs, but couldn't hear her call out in agony from a dozen or so feet away? And speaking of the earlier bathroom scene… why did Damon grab a towel to cover Elena up first before helping her?
The former was so that Elena could get captured more easily. That's clearly and solely a plot-based machination. It pulled me out of the moment because instead of focusing on the fact that the Travelers were capturing Elena, I was wondering why the hell Damon wasn't running outside to help Elena. It didn't make sense. That's where a better script comes in. That's where you simply add that Damon ran out and got taken out by one of the Travelers with a spell so they could nab Elena. Easy-peasy and doesn't make the writers look like they made a big boo-boo by, oh, forgetting Damon and his super-vampire hearing. And as for the latter, TV constraints. You can't show a naked woman on network television, OK, fine. Well, that's directorial fail. If you watch that scene closely, you wouldn't have actually been able to see any of her naughty bits until *after* Damon had pulled her from the water and calmed her down. So, he could have pulled her from the water, and then grabbed the towel. Simple fix, but for some reason, not what was done. And again, as I was watching it, I found myself wondering why Damon was grabbing a towel *first* to protect her modesty instead of pulling her out from the water where she was freaking the ever-loving fuck out. He's seen her naked. A lot. And, yeah, things are a bit squirrely with them right now, but I think she'd be OK with him seeing her naked in this instance.
And those are just two examples. There were more throughout the episode, just littered here and there. This is a sign of not the strongest script or the strongest direction. Normally on this show when one isn't top-notch, the other balances it out. In this case, neither was able to do so. There were just too many clichéd moments that fell victim to standards & practices or plot whether it made much sense or not that kept pulling me out of the moment and I'm not used to that with The Vampire Diaries.
It's easier for me to hound on the direction because it's Joshua Butler and anyone who's read my write-ups of his past episodes already knows that I'm not particularly a fan. You won't find much praise of his work here with this episode again, although I did like a few things. My main issue remains his inability to find subtlety and nuance in the scripts. Therefore, once again, we have to rely on the actors to find those hints and figure out what narrative they are supposed to be selling.
So when Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley and Candice Accola acted out the scene at the car what were they relying on? To play Stefan and Elena as friends with an undercurrent of romantic feelings still there so that Caroline could misinterpret it? Or just as friends completely? And did Accola play it as someone who understood she was jealous or wanted to believe something was going on with them and was happy but didn't want to get her hopes up? Until the scene in the woods with Elena and Caroline, I wasn't sure that it was that she didn't know what it was she was feeling.
And it wasn't until I went back and rewatched the episode that was I able to pin down what we were supposed to get from that scene. That's directorial fail. And this is what always happens when Butler directs episodes. There is simply no clear direction if there is any kind of nuance in the scenes. Also, he doesn't linger; he doesn't let you get a feel for the sense of things. You don't get to taste the flavor, the essence. It's all so cut and dried that the intensity doesn't fill you.
Also (a big also), there should have been a mounting sexual tension in the brief moments that Damon and Elena shared. There wasn't. We should have seen heated looks between them during that parlor game. There weren't any. We should have seen tension ratcheted up between them. There was none built. Nothing. Other than the final scene where the camera held on their individual faces and then a long shot of the two looking at each other—which could have been held a beat or two longer—there was no tension created by the direction at all. Which is insane.
And forget sexual tension. What about tension period?! The four of them, plus Luke, are there in danger. The Travelers out to take Stefan and Elena and make them their blood puppets and kill them. And there was no tension! No build, no nothing. You've got a vengeful ghost walking around who can manipulate physical objects. A pack of crazy, more-powerful-than-witches Travelers trying to track you down. Star-crossed lovers who have been avoiding each other even though they are desperately, passionately in love because they think they're not good for each other. A second pair of friends who clearly have deeper feelings that are simmering under the surface. Two friends, past lovers, who are keeping a huge secret from someone they both dearly love. And your director is incapable of putting ANY freaking tension on display! Seriously?! Please, for the love of all things Vampire Diaries, send this guy over to The Originals and make the last season of my show all the better for it, I beg of you, please TVD gods!
*sigh* Speaking of direction… I wanted to amend what I said about the last episode. I no longer think that my issue was with director Michael Allowitz. As I added to that post, after watching “What Lies Beneath,” while I like Michael Malarkey and think he's a charismatic actor, I don't think that he's necessarily the strongest actor and “Man On Fire” was driven very much by him. I think the lack of verve that I felt from that episode I can now lay to rest at his feet as opposed to the direction because the previous episodes directed by Allowitz have all been particularly fine outings in the directorial department.
*Phew* OK, I got my directorial rant out. I'm good. The script, as written by Elisabeth Finch and Holly Brix was good, with stuffs that was very good, and moments of great. The lapses in logic just bothered me, but could have been overcome by stronger direction and the good stuff was really, really good. Like the Damon and Stefan stuff.
As I suspected, one of the main reasons that Stefan didn't want to tell Damon about Enzo was because he was afraid that it would hurt the relationship that they'd been rebuilding. I loved that. And I loved that Stefan wouldn't let it go. Even though he was the one who suggested they talk about it later and deal with the big issue going on, Stefan needed Damon to know. He just couldn't let it go.
And I just freaking love that they are communicating so damn much now. Stefan tells him that he didn't want Damon to know because he didn't want Damon to hate him. And Damon admits that he would have done the same thing. And that he's most upset that Stefan didn't tell him. But then, even more importantly, he admits that he's the most upset because Enzo is his friend and he blames himself because he should have known that Enzo was dead without anyone telling him. Damon actually told Stefan that, opened up that way to Stefan, like whoah! And then he made sure Stefan got out of there while he dealt with Enzo. Like a big brother should. And it just took one punch, which Stefan took like a man, and then they were cool.
I just love the Salvatore brothers so much and these last few episodes have really given me a lot of great stuff with them that I've adored.
What I also adore is how the Damon and Elena love story is playing out. Firstly, can I say how much I loved that Damon did not spend a single, solitary second worrying about Stefan and Elena at all? Even when Caroline brought it up, he didn't bat an eyelash. He immediately connected it to Elena's (very bad) lying earlier about Enzo. Even when Caroline said they spent 20 minutes collecting firewood together or questioned/heavily implied that Elena had kissed Stefan that day, Damon just didn't even remotely have a care that Stefan was part of their problem.
It's like once he found out that the doppelganger prophecy was all a lie, any remaining fear he had that the two of them were meant to be just went away because he does know that Elena loves him. He does believe in that. Right now, their issues are all internal. Stefan has nothing to do with that, which goes back to what Damon told Andie all the way back in "Daddy Issues." Another guy was never the problem. It was always Damon himself.
Damon: I'm in love with a woman I can never have.And isn't that still the crux of the issue now and what we're dealing with? Who Damon is, how he's changed, is changing? Isn't that what we've seen happening over the course of the last couple of seasons, hell, over the series? Damon said that in this scene in mid-season 02, and Elena brought it up in "Heart of Darkness" in late season 03. It came up in season 04 and it's come up throughout this season bunches with the two of them together as a couple, on and off. And now here's Damon saying he's not doing it, he's not spiraling because he saw what Elena's reaction was to him doing exactly that and it was bad. Very, very bad. She was willing to take him back despite all of the other stuff, but his spiraling was too much.
Andie: [...] So, why can't you have her? She's with another man, I assume?
Damon: Yeah. but that's not the point. The point is, I'm in love with her, and that drives me crazy. I'm not in control.
Andie: You don't trust yourself around her?
Damon: I don't trust myself around anyone, Andie. I'm bad, Andie. I do things. I kill people. [...]
Andie: Why do you kill people?
Damon: Because I like it. It's in my nature, it's who I am. But then, I have to stay together to protect her, and she wants me to be the better man, which means I can't be who I am. Do you see the problem I'm having, Andie?
Andie: Well, maybe this is who you are now. Love does that Damon, it changes us.
And he's realizing that he loves her more than he likes killing people. That he loves being with her, loves who he is with her more than he loves who he is when he's spiraling. Even though they aren't together right now, he's making the right choices, he's being the better man. Because it's not just that he's changing… it's that he has already changed, but it is even better than that because he is still changing. He's a work in progress. And he's getting there, I think he's beginning to realize that he's a better work in progress with Elena by his side than pushed away.
As much as The Vampire Diaries is a story about Elena's journey into adulthood, and about the brother's journey to reconciliation, and Stefan's journey to self-love, Damon's journey, one of romantic love, is tied up with Elena because she is his love (and I think Elena's is tied up with Damon's too if you look into it, oh heck, they are all connected). I just don't see how anyone could watch that final scene with them, how it was set up at this point in the series—with just two episodes left in this, the second to last season—with those kind of lyrics playing over them* and not see that, yes, they are it, these two are the couple.
And, yes, I gave Joshua Butler a lot of bunk earlier, but I really did love how he shot this scene. The close up on Damon's face, and then Elena's and then the long shot as the two stared at one another before Damon strode forward and kissed her and then the camera zooming in on the two as they kissed was beautifully done. Especially that zooming in on the kiss. I did really love that.
*"Chemical" by Kerli is the song that played over the scene with the second verse being where you can really hear the lyrics:
Every time the darkness falls around meI mean, really, playing a song with these kinds of lyrics? Yeah, *this* is your show's OTP, folks. Uh huh.
I can feel you move beneath my skin
Eh and something strange is happening inside me
Don't know where you end and I begin
I want you to know
This love is more than chemical
It feels unusual
And I can't get enough
This love is more than chemical
And we're unbreakable
Oh be forevermore
More than chemical
Adding to that belief is what is happening with Stefan and Caroline because if we thought they were planting the seeds before, boy, oh, boy are they planting them deep down. There were so many obvious things in this episode that pointed to more than friend-ly feelings. The fact that Caroline was upset when watching Elena and Stefan interacting at the car, and when she talked to Damon about it, she wasn't all too keen to tell him. In the past, one would imagine that she would have been nearly gleeful to point out to him that, of course, Stefan and Elena were slipping back into their old patterns.
So many small things, her making it clear to Stefan that he was delusional to think there was anything there between her and Enzo. Stefan finding an excuse to touch her face. Just, you know, little things. Then there was the obvious conversation in the woods with Elena and Caroline where Elena basically called Caroline out on the fact that Caroline was the one who made it awkward, pushing about some big secret Stefan/Elena "thing." And the less-obvious grumbling way she said "Team Stelena," and the way that Stefan not only felt the need to explain himself to Caroline, but more importantly *how* he explained himself. One of the things I've always said in regards to Stefan and how he is with Elena is that he always tried to present the best version of himself to her. And what did he say to Caroline? Now it's becoming important to him that Caroline doesn't think any less of him. Uh huh, uh huh.
Yuppers, it's all adding up to Stefan and Caroline. Eventually.
OK, time for randoms –
- Aww, when Damon came to her for the kiss, Elena's face automatically turned up to him for it.
- So, uhm, Tyler is gone, yes? YES?!?! I mean, the free-the-passenger-from-the-host-body knives are all gone, so Tyler Lockwood is officially gone now, right? Can I do a happy dance?!
- OK, ya'll know I love Jeremy and Bonnie, but didn't their scenes feel oddly out of place for some reason? Or was that just some more of Butler wonky direction at work?
- Hmm, Matty-boy there was showing some awful-Damon-like tendencies there. I do kinda wish Elena was around to see that. She really needs a refresher course that she's been viewing her relationship with Damon in a vacuum. The whole Scooby Gang does morally questionable things all the time to protect their own.
- Ooh, Damon you're so smart, figuring out Enzo's plan. OK, fine, Caroline helped a bit what with the reminder that it's not like Enzo could actually drown Elena. Uhm, speaking of... when Enzo said "smart girl, I can see why you like her." Which "you" was he referring to? (See what I mean by not so strong script and direction?) I mean, the other "you's" he'd been referring to were all Damon, but no one would refer to Damon liking Caroline at this stage in the game, so he must have been referring to Stefan, but there was no quick camera shot to Stefan to indicate that Enzo was referring to Stefan. So.... yeah, ugh, Butler.
- Grr, stupid Stefan, Damon doesn't lie to Elena on a regular basis. That would be your gig. Didn't really like that line at all, or how Elena just shrugged like, yeah, true dat. So not true dat. Stefan is the casual Salvatore who lies, not Damon. Get that right, non-regular writers.
- Oh, heads-up for those who didn't see my quick Originals-related post. For some reason, Julie Plec decided to impart some clear-cut information on what is going on with the Other Side on that show on Tuesday's episode instead of on, you know, The Vampire Diaries because, I don't know, she lives to continue to prove to the universe that she doesn't give a rat's ass about TVD anymore, I guess. Anyhoo, here's the deets: Klaus said that he spoke with a certain Bennett witch in Mystic Falls and she basically said that the Other Side is disintegrating and that once it's gone for good, all of the other supernatural creatures over there will go poof!, bye-bye forever. (Why Bonnie is talking to Klaus as if no big is beyond me, but OK, and why Bonnie suddenly knew that information all clear-cut when she didn't know it the last episode of TVD, who knows? But hey, see first line of this bullet point, re: Julie Plec.)
- I continue to adore any and all Damon and Caroline scenes. They remain such wonderfully delicious friendly antagonists who do care about each other.
- I loved that when they were torturing Tulian (?) Jyler (?) (Nope, that's the slash name for Jeremy/Tyler, we'll go with Tulian), Jeremy mentioning saving Elena and not Stefan. Not that I don't love my boo, but I love any proof that I'm right and that Jeremy really don't give two figs about Stefan, LOL!
- I wonder if the Other Side is actually going to disintegrate? Hmmm... And if so, does that mean (gulp!) that Bon-Bon is gonna permanently go bye-bye at end of the season? They only threaten to basically kill off Bonnie every season. Well, technically they did last season, but you know what I mean.
- I liked the coming full circle of the burning man with Enzo and Damon.
- OK, I do like Enzo, but if Damon is gonna figure out a way to bring someone back from the Other Side, I want Alaric, not Enzo! HELLO! And Tessa. I've randomly decided I want Alaric and Tessa to hook up on the other side and come back together to the mortal realm, ie. here, earth, with our gang. Yuppers. Uh huh.
- Going back to Damon and Caroline... Taking the pen and slipping it on his shirt. Hee! His face! Gah, his face, it just kills me!! And how snugly he slips it on. Haha!
- OK, Tyler turning into a wolf to escape at the beginning was mondo cool. It truly was cool. You may be gone, Tyler (pretty please) but you went out cool at least.
-Elena called out Damon's name when she was freaking out. You know I had to mention that. Of course.
- Poor Luke, stuck out on in the cold, sitting on the hard porch while the gang is inside, drinking Damon-made cocktails in front of the cozy fireplace, playing games! Speaking of...
- Another parallel I can honestly say that I never thought I would see between Damon and Elena, but there ya go. Damon and Elena playing parlor games! (ALARIC! JENNA! ALARIC!!)
- Aww, Caroline saying that it was good news they could get inside the cabin, and then her face dropping as it hit her it was sad news when you think about it, a reminder that her dad was dead. Again, this show... never forgets family.
- Always nice to see Grams.
- Yup, Stefan is over Elena. He was totally being a girl bestie, telling her about Damon taking her home the other night, teasing her about how Damon tucked her in, read her a bedtime story. He's so trying to get those crazy kids back together. Awww.
- I'm 99.9999999999% positive this is completely wrong, but wouldn't it be cool if the season ender involved the doppelgangers having to be separated and sent in different directions? Like Elena takes off with Damon and Luke one way, and Stefan with Caroline and Liv in another. And next season, we start out in three different locations with the Travelers weakened because they are split up trying to track them down. Again, I'm pretty dang sure it wouldn't happen, but it would be cool.
Anyhoo, it was a very good episode. Unfortunately, as some of you may have guessed by the lateness of the post, I wasn't feeling 100% so that affected my mood watching it so it might actually be better than even my rewatch allowed. I do think a better script and direction would have made for an even better episode, but even less-than episodes of this show are still great in my opinion. I really have no idea where they are going, but I look forward to the next two episodes. I've really loved this season overall.
A quick plea... if you're reading, let me know. I'd really appreciate the feedback.