As I do of late, when I have any issues with an episode I like to get them out of the way first. In this one, I had four specifically and I realized that there are four specific story arcs that are going on right now, so I decided to break down discussion into four separate areas tonight to keep that foursome going cuz I roll like that. So let's start with the not-so dandy, shall we? We shall.
First, overall, I liked the script, but, Melinda Hsu Taylor, when she writes alone she can write some really out-of-character moments that just rip me out of the scenes. Like REALLY rip me out of the scenes. The first time she did it was her first solo effort, "The Cell" and she did it twice in this episode, once with Stefan and once with Elena. Considering the things that Enzo has done *especially* in Stefan's presence and what Stefan has done *to* Enzo I just do not buy at all that Stefan would calmly, casually leave Enzo unprotected with Sarah, even in a crowded art gallery. Yes, Enzo walked away, but he was *just* there. For Stefan to leave right then felt very un-Stefan-like.
Yes, I get that Caroline had called him, but Stefan would have used the lure of 'Caroline is here and needs help' to get Enzo to come with him. He knows that Enzo cares about Caroline and Caroline cares for Enzo, so he would have used that to continue to keep Sarah safe. He would not have just walked away leaving Enzo so close to his great niece. Just...no. It pulled me so out of the scene completely, I had to stop and pause the show and go: ‘Wait? What? Stefan just left?' I couldn't believe that he just walked away. So, so, so out of character.
And then we come to my second issue which is more like a 1b, I suppose, as it is another out-of-character moment, but since it goes with the four/four moment, we'll go with number two. And this one involved Elena, my beloved Elena, whose parents died when she was 15. Whose aunt died a year later. Whose Uncle Daddy John died about six months after that. Whose psychotic biological vampire!mommy burst into sunlight ash in front of her too. Then there was Alaric, her guardian, who turned into a psycho evil vampire and tried to kill her and her loved ones before he also died (and eventually came back) but still he died long time and she mourned him. Jeremy, her baby brother, who died and she turned her switch off because of his death and she mourned the hell out of him before he thankfully came back. Her best friend since childhood died, came back, and then died again. The love of her eternal life died (and yeah, came back), but she'd been so devastated that she compelled her memories of love away. And then of course there all the times that many of the above people and others not mentioned almost died on several occasions.
My point is that Elena has dealt with and suffered from the deep, deep loss of a lot of death and near-death of loved ones in her young life. She knows how absolutely, unbelievably devastating it is. Of all of the things in the whole, wide world that Elena Gilbert would joke about...dying is one thing that isn't on that list. So I don't care how sweet and heartfelt that moment was between Damon and Elena when she painfully told him there was one more sliver stuck in her heart and if he had anything he needed to tell, I just get so annoyed with every rewatch. Especially when I see the devastation in Damon's voice and on his face as he tells her that he'll get it out, he'll save her, before she starts to LAUGH!
It's not funny. It's not romantic. And in my book, it's damn straight, not a good Damon/Elena moment. Why? Because it's absolutely, completely, utterly, totally out of character. Elena Gilbert would never, ever, ever, ever put anyone she cares about ever in the position to even think for a moment that she is dead, could be dead or is near-death as a freaking joke because she has experienced all three of those so many times about people that she loves. So completely out of character, it peeves me. A lot. I can barely enjoy the beautiful hand-hold, heavenly, heart-melting looks of love between them and squee-worthy smiles that fall into a moment that just about stretches into a near-kiss right after, it peeves me that much.
Barely. But the hand-holding is really beautiful. And the looks of love are really heart-melting and so full of love and the smiles are so squee-worthy that I let my annoyance fade so I can still enjoy. *sigh* The power of the Damon/Elena-ness is strong, yo!
Moving along to number three, I continue to have an issue with this whole Damon and Alaric situation. Why is Damon having to offer up the use of his "mansion" (as Damon called it—and is it the first time he's referred to the Boarding House as his mansion?) as an apology to Ric? An apology to Ric!? Excuse me? Damon is not the one who chose his 40-year-old girlfriend of one month who has vampires and witches and information and tons and tons of people at her disposal to help protect her as opposed to an 18-year old magic-less witch who is stuck in an alternate prison world all alone.
And Damon is not the one who accused Ric of caring only about his own selfish desires of making himself feel better. And Damon is not the one who ignored the fact that his supposed best friend just came back from the dead to find that the love of his life had had her memories of their love erased by said best friend. Oh, and Damon is not the one whose supposed best friend has been acting like a total and utter douchebag. So, again, excuse me, why is Damon the one who has to offer up an apology? I am confuzzled. I'm trying to keep an open mind and believe that there is an explanation as there was in season 03, but I'm really thinking that we're supposed to believe that Damon was in the wrong here for compelling Ric to get the ascendant, but I'm sorry, I still don't. Bonnie over Jo, forever and ever. Yeah!
Harrumph! Shakes that off and heads on to number four and I am sad to write this one, but I must be honest. I did think that Paul Wesley did a good job in his direction of "Resident Evil." I wrote in my write-up of that episode: "Paul Wesley did a good job directing. I wouldn't say it was great, I mean there was nothing particularly outstanding, but all the performances were good, Buzolic wasn't as awful as usual and there was nothing that stood out glaringly bad, so for a first-time director... good job, Paul. Thumbs up."
And then in my rewatch of the series, including that episode and talking about the episode later, I was much more effusive when recounting the episode as a highlight. "I think Paul did a great. There was the in and out of the dream sequence to Elena turning around to a suddenly deserted house. Damon walking into his bedroom and Elena standing there with the wide shot of the distance between them at the top of the scene, and then towards the end with Elena standing there, hugging herself. Elena coming out of the dream sequence sitting on the steps at the boarding house with the glass breaking, Damon and Markos walking the street and noticing the different Travelers, Stefan walking into the boarding house and Elena turning to him and then Stefan's "it's over." Oh, there were a lot of gorgeous directorial flourishes. I thought he did a lovely, lovely job."
So obviously I was expecting that direction-wise this one would be a keeper as I had fairly high expectations there (and I didn't know who had written the episode going into it). Although, I complained about a few out-of-character moments above, I did think the script was strong overall except for those two moments so with strong exceptions this should have been a pretty knock-em-out-of-the-park episode. Alas…well, this is in the issues section, isn't it?
I think the reason that Paul Wesley's direction worked well in "Resident Evil" is because that episode was about understated moments and closure. All of the things I described in my second paragraph as being such great directorial flourishes were the smaller moments, and the best moments in this episode were the smaller, understated moments. Those were all so beautifully done. However this was not an understated, smaller moment episode. Like every Vampire Diaries episode, it had those moments (and it's why I love the show so much), but it was one of the more suspense-type episodes. Part of the problem was in the editing of essentially four separate arcs together, but the seamlessness of those arcs could have been eased with better direction, that's part of a director's job. They have to give the editors stuff to work with, and based on what we saw, I don't know that Paul Wesley did.
There should have been tension, a sense of urgency throughout most of the episode. There was not. When Damon and Liv were standing outside the school, there was zero sense of danger, zero sense of MUST. GET. INTO. THAT. BUILDING! Think of "The Reckoning" when Matt was walking from the gym down the empty hallways towards the classroom and then he opened door and surprise! It was Caroline, Elena, Bonnie and Tyler setting up the mousetraps. It was suspenseful, until, haha, it was just his friends fooling around and then two minutes later, Elena walked out and boom! there's Klaus. And that was a jump out of your seat moment.
That director, John Behring, also did (among other fabulous outings) "The Last Dance" which had the Bonnie/AlariKlaus fight which was suspenseful and beautiful and exciting. That thrill was missing throughout this entire episode. The Elena/Kai scenes, The Damon/Liv and then Damon/Jo scenes, the Caroline/Stefan and then Stefan/Enzo scenes, they all just sat there. They were static. There was movement in the script, and the actors were excellent, but they were stuck in quicksand.
However, the script overall was really strong. It really was. And one of the things that I really liked, as I mentioned above, was how in this one we saw that there are four main arcs humming along right now and they were highlighted in this episode. It was interesting, and all four have one thing (and one thing only) in common as of now. Mr. Damon Salvatore. Read on…
First let's start with Story Arc Number One: Love On The Backburner, i.e., let's talk about Stefan and Caroline. And yes, I know I'm talking about them, but right now since Stefan is so firmly at Caroline's side (yay!), Liz's story is a part of their story. I am really intrigued by this idea that vampire blood briefly heals cancer and then speeds up the disease leading up the patient to blood spewage. I gave Wesley a lot of grief above for the direction, but sprinkled throughout the rest of the review, I will give him kudos where I did like his work because there were some lovely touches. One of those things was the whole ending sequence where Caroline is giving her mom this whole positive spiel on how her blood healed this guy up at Duke and that everything is going to be alright.
And, of course, Liz trusts Caroline and so she drinks her blood. And we have these wonderful cuts to Colin, the cancer patient, waking up, Liz drinking the vampire blood, Colin coughing blood and then spewing it all over the glass. And then there is Liz is just daintily sipping what is essentially toxic to her system now from a tea cup while Colin is crawling across the floor crying out for help. Beautifully done.
Also beautifully done is how the show is continuing to build Stefan and Caroline's friendship even while those underlying feelings are there and known between the both of them, but because Caroline believes that Stefan doesn't feel them and Stefan doesn't realize he feels them they've just set it aside. And even more so because of this situation with Liz, they are completely backburnering any awkwardness because really in the scheme of things, it doesn't matter. What matters is that Caroline loves Stefan and she needs him and maybe he wasn't there last summer when she needed him, but he figured that out and he learned from that. So he's here *now* when she needs him.
And Stefan is really stepping up. I did think it out-of-character and wish they had done something differently to make it more Stefan-like, but I liked the idea behind it. You know, that Stefan would drop what he was doing to go run to Caroline because even though he did want to check on Sarah, he still was there *for* Caroline. And even though he knew that it probably wasn't the best idea to go along with her so gung-ho, he still did it… because it was Caroline and what she wanted.
Guy's so far gone.
Speaking of crazy ideas. I so, so, sooooooooooo loved that segue from the Damon and Ric scene at the end there. Damon raising his glass in a toast to Ric says: "Here's to women who make crazy, screwed-up decisions and loving them more for it." He was speaking of course about Elena and Jo and he and Ric, but then the scene cut to Stefan and Caroline and Caroline had just made a crazy, screwed-up decision and Stefan had gone along with it, and part of the reason that Stefan loves her and he continues to love her more and more is because of her optimism, her brightness. I just loved that so much.
Oh, and they were on the porch.
Stefan told Caroline everything about Sarah. Soooo different from his relationship with Elena. Damn. He doesn't do the white lies, half-truths with Caroline. He tells her everything. I love it. So hard. And he trusts her. And she loves that he trusts her. And they are best friends and it's beautiful. And it happened on the porch. Like a lot of their sweet moments have.
So, I think it's almost becoming official that Stefan and Caroline are stealing the porch moments from Damon and Elena, aren't they? It's just a different porch. It's her momma's!
But that's OK! I mean, the way that Liz is looking to Stefan, you just know that she is basically seeing in him the guy who will take care of her daughter when she is gone and for eternity. On one hand it makes me all verklempt in a good way, but on the other hand it makes me all verklempt in the absolute worst way possible because, damnit, I love Elizabeth Forbes and I don't want to lose her. EVER!
This brings us to Damon and how he fits in. While I am VERY peeved that we did not get to see Damon told about Liz's condition (I mean, really, really, really peeved), I did absolutely love that scene between the two in the hospital. I love their friendship; I love the little moments we get with them and how real they feel (unlike, oh, that totally unearned Damon/Ric scene at episode's end, but more on that later). His little teasing of her, the open and honest way he deals with the situation with her alone and in front of Caroline. I like a lot. And when push comes to shove, if they do go vampire!Sheriff route, I won't be surprised at all if Damon is part of that conversation.
Another conversation that Damon will no doubt be a part of even if he's not yet is the Story Arc Number Two that I am dubbing The Enzo and Stefan Saga. I talked a bit about this in my review for the last episode where I wrote: "I am loving where this story is (I think) going. The idea of bringing "hero" Stefan who does have failings that have never been dealt with out into the light—which WILL bring Damon into the story because Damon will protect his brother, and the Damon/Enzo relationship will come into play as well, is just going to be fucking awesome when this arc reaches its climax. All of Stefan's wrongdoings (which so many aren't aware of), the "good brother," St. Stefan will be brought down to earth, but the thing is that he IS good, he's just not a saint. And, aaah, the potential of all of this and how it all comes together (especially the brothers and their bond) will be amazing."
I was thinking more along those lines after this episode because it really struck me what a bold move they're making here. Stefan is a lead (anti-)hero on the show. Enzo is a supporting (anti-)hero on the show. He's not even like Klaus was before. Klaus, while a main cast member, was never anything but a villain. Sure he had his teary redeeming moments, but they were always undermined by some torture or a Christmas slaughter. Enzo is not a villain. Everything he said to the gallery curator was true.
Stefan (our hero!) set Enzo (another one of our heroes!) up to be killed. Instead Enzo was tortured which brought to mind memories of his 60-year torture that Stefan's brother also endured for a brief period beside Enzo. Now I know that the dark depth of this really didn't hit as strongly as it should have and for that I blame Paul Wesley as director a little bit, but mostly I blame Michael Malarkey (Enzo). When you think about it, what Stefan did to Enzo was truly horrible and bringing back those memories of being tortured for sixty years is terrible and so it's not petty at all. Yet it just about came across that way. And for this I blame Malarkey. He's just not that strong of an actor alas. I mean, think of Ian Somerhalder in the last scene of "Dead Man on Campus" when we found out that Damon had been an Augustine vampire and got the brief glimpse of him being tortured. In just a few seconds here and there we got a glimpse in just his eyes and his face that he was clearly devastated by the memory of it.
However, in the scenes over the course of a few episodes where Enzo was held captive and tortured by Tripp, by Matt and when talking about it to the curator in this episode... you didn't get that sense of devastation AT FREAKING ALL! Yes, that is somewhat on Paul Wesley as the director here as I said above, but what about all the other episodes? Uh huh. Exactly. So, no, it's so not all on Paul Wesley. Or the other directors. It's on Malarkey. It is definitely mostly on Michael Malarkey. He's just not selling it. Still, when you really think about it, think about what Stefan did and what Enzo went through because of what Stefan did and what Enzo was reminded of... again, it's pretty damn awful. So how do you reconcile that without dealing with the darker side of your supposed "good brother?" It's so fascinating. And, as I said, Damon has to come into this.
Because you've got the fact that Stefan has lied to Damon for 18 years about Sarah. It made sense before that Stefan kept it from him, but once Monique came in as Sarah, and Stefan went to check on her again, why didn't Stefan let Damon know? Damon has changed. Why not help alleviate Damon of some of that guilt? Why let Damon continue to think that he murdered his great-niece? Why? So you've got that secret that Damon will find out, which will hurt. You've also got Damon finding out what Stefan did to Enzo and that will piss him off.
And on top of that, Enzo has Matt in his pocket. And on top of that, Matt is still, to some degree, Damon's little minion. And then on top of *that* we come to the final, inescapable conclusion of all conclusions, that no matter how pissed off Damon is at Stefan over the lie, over what he did to Enzo, when it comes down to it, Damon will choose Stefan. Period. So where does that leave Enzo? And what will he do? And what will Damon do because he's really smart and unlike the whole lot of them he can see several steps ahead and he knows Stefan and he knows Enzo and knows how they think. He just doesn't know what's going on right now because he's dealing with Liz, and with Kai and the Gemini Coven.
Yeah, them. That's another one that Damon's got his sticky little fingers all involved in, but unlike the previous two, he's all in the thick of this right now, Story Arc Number Three: The Gemini Coven's Bad Seed. So Kai continues to remain awesomely awful. I think my favorite thing about his scenes was when Elena was all ‘dude, you care more about your ruined shirt than the people you killed?' and he's all :shrug: Yuppers, that's Kai. Dude, be crazy. He's just this insane mix of totally normal human and totally souped-up crazy-ass psycho that it's scary to watch. So unpredictable, he just doesn't care about anyone. (I was going to say "or anything," but obviously that's not true. He cares about his shirts.)
I could wax on and on about how awesome Kai is but at this point you either see it or you don't. So I'll just be preaching to the choir or making people go whu? Therefore I'll just leave it at: Kai? Is awesome and move on. What's going to happen here? I'm still not sure. Obviously Kai and Luke are stronger, and I liked the callback to "Home" where we did see that Luke pulled her out and it helped to explain why Liv has been so much more concerned about this than Luke all this time.
As for Kai, though, he's not stronger. It is the Traveler's magic running through him, so keeping him knocked out with the drugs (I think they said Phenobarbital) might work, but knowing how things play out, I'm sure Kai will get away while he's still got the magic, baby. Of course. And if Kai still has the magic in him, I don't see how Jo beats him.
However, the show seems to really be selling this whole Alaric/Jo love story, so maybe they're really sold on it themselves and they want to keep her around. I don't know. I just wish that I liked Jo and the two of them better. Alas, I don't and it's really a shame. As is my issue with how Ric has been treating Damon because that little reunion scene between Jo and Ric was actually really beautiful. It was a full-blown romantic moment and I would, should have loved it if I (a) actually liked Jo, and (b) actually cared two hoots about them. However, (a) I don't, and (b) I don't, so (b) I didn't, and (b) I didn't.
It was really, really lovely though, wasn't it? Jo on her knees, so weak from using her unused magic for years to save Elena (her fault, by the way that Elena was kidnapped because it's her hubris that decided she could randomly after twenty years beat Kai so she told Ric not to kill him, but never mind all that*) and Damon. Ric comes rushing to her, pulls her to his feet, brushing her hair back, pulling her into his arms, the swelling music and all that. It was really beautiful and I wanted to care, I did…but I just didn't. Because Ric has been a dick to Damon since he came back from the dead. He chose this woman who he's known for about two months over Damon and Bonnie (!!), he's been awful to Damon. And this woman (who wondered why Damon didn't like her!) was mean to Damon when she first met him, throwing Elena's new guy into his broken-hearted face. So, I just, no, I don't care. Sorry, not sorry.
* OK, fine, it's Kai's fault, but I just, grr, do not like Jo. To be fair, though, I almost liked her in this episode. Damnit, Ian Somerhalder makes almost everything better. Damon was just so dang sweet with her!
Aww, but Damon was such a doll to her, wasn't he? He was so sweet, taking care of Jo and treating her way better than she and Ric both deserved, pfft! I'm assuming that's why Ric decided to be all buddy-buddy and nice to Damon again at the end of the episode there in a scene that would normally have me smiling, but it just felt so unearned. So Damon has to throw himself prostrate apologizing to Ric because Ric is an asshole to him, but Ric gets a free pass? Not cool, just not cool. But that final scene with them was pure classic Damon/Ric bromance, sigh, I just wish it had been earned.
But you know what has been earned? SQUEE! Story Arc Number Four: My beautiful Damon and Elena! Yes, yes, I really did not like Elena pretending to be near-death for a joke (puhlease! as if!), but other than that, of course, I adored every other single, solitary little moment with them. Of course. So many looks between them, so much love. I mean, Elena is just so in love with him. He's her rock; he's who she turns to. She's in danger, and Damon is who she calls. Oh, and then there was them teasing about their attempts to date, the making of a date, her accusing him of sulking, the inability to keep their eyes off of each other.
And there was also the delicious fact that any moment that they aren't in immediate danger they are eye-sexing each other like nobody's business. See examples above (post annoying, totally out-of-character joke gifs) and below as Elena attempts to uselessly clean blood out of a blouse she's going to have throw away anyway because it has a hole in it (duh!).
It was all just so marvelous and beautiful and wonderful. And aha! I keep saying that behind this mental barrier, it's all there, Elena's love for him and that's why this is all happening and so Elena telling Ric (while she gave Damon the whole ‘DO ME! DO ME RIGHT NOW!' look) that "I've never felt more alive" was so proof of that. She used his words and it was AAAAHHHHHHH! Oh. My. Goodness!
And finally the best moment in the whole episode for me:
Do you realize what this means? DO YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS MEANS!?!?! Elena will get a new ring that DAMON will give her! YES! WOOHOO! HAPPY DANCE!
- Hmm, so, I guess that Damon really did just let the random knock go then? OK. Sorry, florencia7.
- Damon winking at Liz? Adorable and Sexy.
- Elena is so awesome. When she deliberately set her hand on fire and then set it aflame to burn Kai, I was all ‘Damn, you go, girl!' And she's the one who remembered the tunnels under the school. Elena is so awesome.
- Speaking of awesome, you so know it was Damon who came up with the back-up plan of Alaric and Jeremy showing up, even though originally Damon didn't want Jeremy as part of the plan because he didn't want Jeremy getting hurt. Aww.
- As much as I'm enjoying the potential of The Enzo and Stefan Saga, it would be a lot more enjoyable at this point if Paul Wesley and Michael Malarkey had, oh, you know, any chemistry. *sigh* Paul. Other than Ian Somerhalder, Candice Accola, Claire Holt, Kinda Nina Dobrev as Katherine, Zach Roerig and Kat Graham, Paul really doesn't have chemistry with many actors on this show, does he?
- Again giving directorial kudos where due, when it was revealed that Damon had actually staked Elena and not Kai. That was a great moment, both as scripted and directed.
- Speaking of... Chris Wood is so good. When "Kai" was staked he did such a good job when you rewatch it knowing that it's actually Elena getting staked, and look at his face, his body language, he's playing "Elena" not "Kai." So good.
- I'm amused at the almost-running gag at how everyone rifles through Damon's bedroom. So far we've had Bonnie, Caroline, Elena (in 4.03), Katherine, (I believe we've been told that Jeremy and Matt have done so as well) and now Liv.
- I'm getting bummed at how Liv and Tyler as a love story has been sidelined because it's been done enough for me that I've rather lost that loving feeling for them. I did like that one scene with them, but it wasn't enough to really make me squee, just a little sigh.
- Luke is awesome. I continue to love the character and how the actor plays him.
- Darn. That bit from the preview where Damon said "I should have gouged his little eyes out when I had the chance," was not in the episode. So sad, that was hilarious
- So, real Sarah is really, really pretty.
- I loved that Damon knew even though he was not there that Jeremy was standing there with crossbow in his hand. Bwahahaha.
- No Bonnie. :(
- Matt was in the episode, but not really by much.
- Damn, Ian Somerhalder looked REALLY good in this episode. As did Nina Dobrev. Especially her hair.
So, not the bestest episode to come back to thanks to rather lackluster direction (sorry, Paul), but still a really good episode and I can't wait until next week. Still loving this show and this season.
PLEASE don't spoil me on casting spoilers, writers/directors, general spoilers at all. THANK YOU! :)