Arabian (arabian) wrote,
Arabian
arabian

6.16 - 'The Downward Spiral' (The Vampire Diaries)

Much later than usual, but it's a good thing because I do believe I came up with some thoughts that otherwise would not have percolated had I rushed this when I wasn't ready. :)

I generally don't talk about direction of an episode all that much (except you know when I'm bitching about you know who, ahem), but since another one of our lovely actors directed this episode I figured I would start with that. The lovely actor in question this time around was the loveliest of them all… Mr. Ian Somerhalder. *sigh* So lovely, so very, very lovely. Wait, I'm sorry, where were we? Oh, right, the directing. Give me a second, let me wipe off my drool. Sorry, ya'll, sometimes I just get lost in how truly beautiful the man is. Seriously, good genes, ya'll. Damn good genes. So how did he do?

Overall, I think he did stellar. There were a few glitches which I'll start with, but really. There were a few too many quick cuts at the start of the episode that were a wee bit noticeable, and a few distracting shots slightly off from behind Damon focused on Kai in the first boarding house scene between the two. And the most egregious was a really quick cut in the final Damon/Kai scene that felt like they forgot to snip it in editing. Other than that though, it's all good. Really, really good. They were just rookie mistakes that will be smoothed over with experience. Now on with the good.

He kept up the pace throughout the whole episode; things felt like they were moving. For contrast, remember (sorry Paul) "Woke Up With A Monster" where that episode felt so static, almost like they were in quicksand despite the fact that a kidnapping had happened and things should have felt intense and almost frantic? This episode, we felt the intensity. Even in the Damon and Kai scenes where you just had two characters talking, you felt the tension and anxiety because of the way the scenes surrounding that storyline tangentially related (Bonnie and her PTSD issues) were being built, and the way we had the close-ups on Damon at certain points, the pull-aways, Kai's long shots, the length of shots, etc.

That built the tension, the anxiety so that you felt what Damon was feeling. It never felt slow-moving, it never felt meandering. And considering this episode took place over only a few hours that was impressive. It was fast-paced and energetic. Also despite covering several different locations, it didn't feel jumpy but rather smooth. And like I said it was high-energy, however when needed we did slow down for character beats like when Bonnie had her character breakdown moments, Stefan almost reaching Caroline, and Damon realizing who and what his mother was.

And then there were three individual moments that I can't get out of my head because they were so gorgeously done. The first was early on in the episode. Stefan and Elena were on the phone and the shots of Stefan in Caroline's empty house were just framed and lit beautifully. The emptiness around him like it was swallowing him whole and then the wooden squares of the ceiling were hanging over him like they were boxing him in. And then the next shot was him walking through the hallway and there were two big windows opposite each other, one dark, the other lit and it made the hallway look longer and almost never ending and at the same time, Stefan's voice was growing louder, angrier, his frustration growing. The visual image of Stefan looking like he was walking in an endless loop matched and compounded his vocals. It was brilliant.

 

And I have to be honest, I didn't even realize just *how* brilliant it was until I began to analyze the scene and break it down. Mr. Somerhalder, you do indeed have a future in directing. You truly do.

The second sequence is one that I'm sure everyone noted and loved… Miss Caroline sitting atop the bar. The center framing of it, Caroline without her normal brightness, now as black as her humanity-less soul, her animated face no longer visible to us and that gorgeous coloring around her dark silhouette. Oh, and that fiery red shade of the color around her. What it symbolized was perfection. Caroline had just summoned Stefan to come to her and it was as if she was inviting him straight into Hell. And, of course, by episode's end, his switch is off and he is behind that very bar, partying in Hell with her. Which brings us to the final sequence, my third favorite one… from Paul Wesley's acting, to the way the camera smoothly slides from Stefan to Caroline with that cat-ate-the-canary smile before pulling back to show the both of them casually lounging in hedonistic pleasure. Just so perfect.

 

So, yeah, there were a few glitches, and, interestingly (or maybe tellingly?) all were in scenes that involved Ian Somerhalder himself, but, again, I think those were just rookie mistakes, but overall, Somerhalder absolutely did a fabulous job. He truly has fantastic instincts as a director and brought a visual style to the episode that was outstanding. I hope we see more from him (and I'm sure that we will).

Of course he was aided by another wonderful script by my favorite writer Caroline Dries and her cohort Brian Young (who is not my favorite but does quite nicely when paired with Dries). As always, they did a lovely job with the continuing story of Stefan and Caroline. One of the things that I don't think I've touched on as much with regards to their growing love story that I want to focus on here is Stefan's growth. I mean, yes, I've talked about it, but not in length. I've spent more time just squeeing about the two of them, how good they are together, how pretty they are, their chemistry, what they do for each other. But I really wanted to focus on Stefan here because, let's be real, this is not really *really* Caroline. As amusing as all get-out as she was (much like Elena with her switch off was), while she's a part of Caroline, she's not the whole package Caroline, this is not the girl that Stefan loves. So let's focus on Stefan.

I am so freaking unbelievably proud of him. You have no idea. I honestly think that this is the first episode we have ever had where there was literally not one single shade of denial, not one word, not one hint, nada, zip, zero. Boy was having none of it. He was basically done with that shit. For Caroline, he was ready to throw in the towel and go all in. Elena even tried to give him an out, and he was like ‘nope, I screwed up. I wasn't honest, I tried to side-step, play the denial game, and here's where we're at. It's on me.' Yes, he was taking responsibility, but he wasn't playing the martyr. There was a difference.

In the past, Stefan would take the blame for things that he had no hand in, that were beyond his control, that he only peripherally was involved in, six degrees of Stefan Salvatore. But this time, he was directly responsible. If he had given her that truth and honesty, if he hadn't been in denial and given Caroline that bit of sunshine on one of her darkest days, she would have had that comfort to hold onto. But instead he was too busy being Mr. Denial boy because he's lived in that land for so long. So Damon was wrong because, as revealed in the last outing, when it comes to love, Damon actually doesn't know his brother as well as he thinks.

However, this time, Stefan finally sucked it up and let the denial go. Sure, as Caroline said, it only took two years, her mother's cancer-ridden death and Caroline flipping her humanity switch, but hey, better late than never, right? Still, he did it. And I was proud of him. I was also incredibly proud of him for flipping his switch, choosing to make that choice. Elena doesn't get it because Elena doesn't fully get just how selfish a person Stefan is (you know, Elena and her very understandable rose-colored glasses when it comes to Stefan), but we do. And while we've seen it throughout the series, Stefan's lack of making inconvenient (to him) choices has been especially prevalent this season. There's a reason that Stefan hasn't had to make any choice that involves saving Damon's life this season because Stefan always chooses Damon's life. That's the only time he has ever made an unselfish choice. However, we've seen Stefan choose to make the convenient-for-him-selfish-choice time and time again this season. So him choosing the unselfish path this time was pretty damn huge.

And thus unexpected to me. Actually awesomely shocking! I loved it! It's not as if there wasn't the set-up for it to go two very distinct other surprising, but not as surprising, ways. By having Elena bring up the time she killed someone it set us up for either Liam killing Sarah at Caroline's behest, leaving us with Caroline facing the guilt when her switch comes back on. Or Elena reaches Liam and Sarah, but she gets there at the last possible second with only the choice to kill Liam in order to stop him from killing Sarah, thus having to kill an innocent human again.

But nope they went for Stefan choosing, voluntarily for the first time, to turn his humanity switch off… to save Sarah's life, and for Caroline, to maybe get through to her a bit too. To do what she wanted. And so next week, we get Stefan and Caroline-humanity free… and that is not something I thought we would ever, ever see. OK, then.

But first! That scene with them at the rave with the glow-y drinks and the smiles and the flirting and the emotion and my heart! Oh, Stefan! Oh, Caroline! Oh, my heart! Gosh, I love them so much. You know how I talked above about how the episode was mostly fast-paced and energetic, but that it slowed down for the character moments, well this was one of them. Somerhalder as director allowed the moments like this to ease down, to breathe so that we the viewers could sit back and take them in, feel the emotion as it built between the two as Stefan began pushing and pushing. As he told her the truth, telling her simply, honestly: "I like you." And she tried to laugh it off, tried to laugh him off, but he kept pushing and pushing and he almost reached her, soooo close, but nope.

And so as promised, she retaliated. Oh, that promise. Is it any wonder that Caroline as a humanity-free vampire is as awesome and in control as a humanity-full vampire? Of course not. When she told Elena that she wouldn't be like her with her switch off, I had a feeling that it was a little hint that such would be the case. I mean, just because one doesn't have their humanity, they don't fundamentally change as a person and as a person, Caroline Forbes has always been OCD and completely in control. And if she decides something, she'll stick to it. So, Caroline deciding that her life will be more convenient without vampire-relating deaths following her around then she simply won't kill makes sense because that's how Caroline rolls. Oh, and her commentary about Elena and Bonnie was just freaking priceless. And let's get real, the girl has difficulty being particularly tactful *with* her humanity intact is it even remotely surprising that she'd say this kind of stuff without any filter? Of course not.

And Candice Accola is just killing it! (No pun intended.) I mean, her telling Enzo, "Right after my mom's funeral—thanks for coming by the way. Kidding!" was hysterical, as was basically just about every line reading that wasn't heartbreaking or horrifying. Speaking of Enzo and Caroline, I really liked the fact that Enzo—despite all the history of him clearly having a little thing for Caroline—was not interested in humanity-less Caroline because it wasn't really her. I thought that was sweet. I may not be Enzo's biggest fan, but I do like the character and I wish that the show was doing more with him because we are mostly just seeing him as rather a bad guy right now (without the Damon/Enzo friendship to balance out his actions) and so his sweetness with Caroline is a nice reminder that he does have good in him.

Although, I still remain one of the few people watching the show I imagine who is intrigued with the possibility of Enzo, Sarah and Matt. Wait, Matt? Matt who? Seriously, where was Matt in this episode? I'm really surprised there was no Matt with Bonnie's return and Caroline's switch being flipped, I would have loved to see his reaction to both. I mean, of course, we'll get it when we see him, but not seeing it with the others in this episode makes me a sad camper.

But back to the story… that was clever of Stefan to make Sarah—whose main attribute remains that she's really, really pretty—bored by vampires (LOL!) and also really clever of Caroline to figure it out so quickly. (See, perfect for each other!) So now Enzo needs to figure out another in with the girl, haha! I wonder if he'll now rope Matt back in as the anti-Vampire, all-American boy, hmm…

As for the anti-all-American boy, Mr. Damon Salvatore and Matty-Blue's ex, Miss Elena Gilbert, well, not much with them this week, but call me crazy, I wonder if that was by design. I was a little miffed at first, but yeah, I'm wondering now if that was on purpose.

I mentioned recently that as much as I'm enjoying the re-falling in love of Elena with Damon so that we have their love story without the specter of Stefan (as I call it), I'm really beginning to miss having Elena's memories now. The reason is because it doesn't feel like Damon and Elena because that shared history, all that they've been through together to *BE* Damon and Elena is gone with her memories. And this episode was a perfect example of that. The Damon and Elena of before with that shared history would have been in communication throughout the episode. Elena would have known about Mama Salvatore already because Damon would have told her the night before as soon as he heard about it from Bonnie. She would have been with him in the crypt so that he didn't have to deal with that discovery alone. Instead, she didn't even know about it. He's facing this all alone because he doesn't feel that connection with *this* Elena. It's like she's not *his* Elena because she doesn't have those memories of all that they've shared.

And when Kai wanted to make that deal and Damon found out that Bonnie didn't want to even hear Kai's name, Damon didn't even think to call Elena and talk to her about it. The Damon and Elena of before would have, but now? Damon didn't even run it by her. No discussion, nothing. And on the flip-side, Elena finds out about Sarah Salvatore, she must know that Stefan is keeping this from Damon but there's not one word about Damon. Elena's running through the halls of Whitmore Hospital and she knows that Stefan is contemplating flipping his switch and she not once considers calling Damon! Damon! Stefan's brother! The Elena of before would know that Damon is the person that Stefan loves the most, but this Elena doesn't know that, she doesn't realize it, doesn't think to call him to get him to try and reach out to Stefan, or to even try and help with the situation. Which Elena with her memories would do.

Finally, yet again, Damon makes another bitter, snarky comment about his girlfriend forgetting she loved him. So, yeah, no, he hasn't let that go. Now, I'm not saying that things are bad between them or that they are going to fall apart, but simply that something has to give soon because their relationship is not where it should be or needs to be because right now Elena is still thinking of Damon as just a hot guy she's been dating for a few months, and Damon's thinking of her as an Elena who's not *his* Elena fully yet. Because their shared history just isn't there, all they were, all they are to each other right now is just… gone.

But it's not forgotten. There was a reason we kept getting those reminders from Caroline about how Elena chose Damon over Liam, liked Damon more, still had feelings, etc. And despite forgetting that shared history, Damon and Elena, especially (duh!) Elena *did* find their way back to each other, so they will get where they need to go. They just aren't there yet.

Oh, and speaking of Liam… hah, he's back! So, I hope I'm right that we're going to continue to see him and he will be integrated into the gang because, dangit, I like him. He was cracking me up so much in this episode, his conversations with Caroline ("The bathroom line was a mile long…" "I'm a pre-med sophomore, I'm terrible.") and Stefan ("I like to bite the lower lip a little bit, I think it's kinda weird you're asking me this…" "I'm late for this party and you're really weirding me out.") were so great, his line deliveries were fantastic. Just so, so good. And then in the "surgery" scenes, his freaking out was really well done. I felt so bad for him. Plus, yeah, truth be told, his chemistry with Candice Accola was pretty damn hot (way, way better than he had with Nina Dobrev). So yay to Liam's return. I still like him. I'm so glad that Caroline didn't kill him, yippee that he got blood on her necklace!

Erm, not as yay-ful? Well, that would be…wait for it…poor Bonnie. *sigh* My forever poor Bonnie. You know, I've been freaking looking forward to Damon and Bonnie back in present-time forever and wanting to see everyone react to those was friends and how awesome it would be…and we get this. Of course. Oh, Vampire Diaries, look at you being you! *double sigh*

I am so sad about Damon and Bonnie and what happened with them. So, so sad, but I get it. I totally do with both of them, from both points of view. I get why Damon did what he did. He did at first try to respect her fear, but when he couldn't get the information about his mom, he then pushed through because that's what Damon does, and of course, he couldn't know *just* how bad it was for Bonnie. Plus, he does actually know how the Gemini twin merge works (which Bonnie doesn't) and he genuinely knows that Luke's personality does reside within Kai and that Kai has changed somewhat and genuinely feels remorseful to a degree, so it is real. And he thought she would realize that because, again, he didn't know how bad it was for her.

Plus, he also wants the information on his mother and, again, *again,* doesn't realize just how bad Bonnie is suffering. Because Bonnie is Bonnie and per usual just pasted on the brave face and was all ‘I'm back, I'm good, let's carry on.' So, no, he didn't know. That's how Bonnie do. And let's be real, Damon doesn't have many friends, he doesn't really know how to do friendships/relationships and he's kinda used to screwing up and then he's forgiven. And then he screws up again, and then is forgiven because he's had Stefan, Elena, Alaric and Liz. And that's been the pattern. So that's all he knows.

And I completely get why Bonnie did what she did. Damon knew what happened with Kai when he left, but he didn't know, couldn't possibly know just how bad it got for her. As for Bonnie, well, she's clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (the champagne cork popping was the first clear indicator, her reactions at the rave—really, Elena?!), but she's pretending like she's fine. She's not telling anyone, not Damon, not Elena, she's just not dealing, so when she saw Kai, it just all boiled over and of course she let it go at Damon, punishing him because she felt betrayed. No one else can come even close to understanding what she went through but Damon. So she kinda felt that he understood, and so when he failed so miserably, it felt like a betrayal. But hopefully what held true in the prison world (as Kai—hah, ironically, Kai!—said there holds true here) that no matter how many times they fought, Bonnie always came back. She'll realize that Damon is sorry and they'll repair their friendship, and then I'll get my wish of the others seeing the two of them as besties!

I hope so because for more than Damon's sake at this point, Bonnie needs it. Elena, as much as I love my girl, was just not thinking of Bonnie as much as she should have been. I get that Caroline was in a state, but I still would have put Bonnie's state of mind first, yo. Bonnie has been in a freaking prison world ALL FREAKING ALONE FOR MONTHS! PUT BONNIE FIRST! Damn. She has no one. Her mom is off being a selfish vampire, she might as well have her humanity off. Her father is dead, her grams is gone too {sobs}. Jeremy is off at art school vampire hunting. Caroline flipped off her switch and is being a total beeyotch to her. Elena is more about Caroline that she's being blind to how much Bonnie needs her to be about her. And Damon is more concerned with his ripper!Mama than with Bonnie's PTSD-issues and so he just sent her over the edge.

The only fortunate thing is that Bonnie Bennett is one very strong woman and hopefully those around her who claim to love her will wake the hell up and get with the program and be there for her. So this is what needs to happen: Damon needs to do some groveling. Elena needs to focus on Bonnie. And once Caroline flips her switch back into the on position, she needs to do some major making up to Bon-Bon! And Matty Blue-Blue come back and be the best human ever to my favorite witch!

But what about Kai and Bonnie? I am confused about these two, I admit. Are they doing a love/hate relationship here? The two actors have really good chemistry. I've thought that from the beginning. Kai and Bonnie were flirting and it was definitely mutual before Bonnie found out he was a psycho. And there was a definite connective-aspect there with Bonnie and Kai because when Bonnie was talking (erm, well, that's one way to put it) to Damon she said that the worst thing Kai did was leave her. Yes, that obviously had to do with her being left alone, but still it's there.

Kai obviously has the feels for Bonnie. When he'd kidnapped Elena and brought her to the school, he made a point of noting Bonnie in the cheerleading photograph. And, well, he always makes note of her when possible. Heck, this entire episode was all about Kai wanting to make amends with Bonnie. So I don't know if they are planning on trying to build something here… some long game or if it's just some story build for Bonnie. I don't know. Maybe it's leading up to a catharsis for Bonnie eventually killing Kai. I don't know. We shall see.

We shall also see what happens with Mama Lily Salvatore. Namely why did the Gemini coven decide to handle her? Kai wasn't able to provide that answer. I'm still thinking it's possible that she was a member of the Gemini coven herself. That would explain why they didn't kill her, but instead imprisoned her. After all, they didn't kill Kai, but imprisoned him, one of their own.

I wonder if Damon will come to that conclusion himself. I don't know, he's not quite himself about this. One big difference between Damon and Stefan has always been that Damon faces things head on; he doesn't live in denial, but in this situation Damon was very un-Damon like. Boy was so in denialsville. Despite evidence pointing to the very obvious, Damon was so insistent that his mother had died of consumption in 1858, never mind that she still looked much younger than her 70s in 1903 in a Gemini-created prison world. Oh, Damon. He had to be hit with the cold, hard facts to finally face it and it was devastating and because he just pissed off one of his besties, and some *thing* is going on with his other bestie, his girl doesn't remember most of their history, his brother was off being protected by him and now is humanity-less, Damon is all alone in his devastation. Oh, Damon, Damon, Damon.

So, a vampire ripper, huh? Well, I so called the vampire part. Called that back in season 01 when I decided that was the Mama Salvatore backstory, yeah, baby. The whole psychotic ripper vampire who killed 3,000 (!) people and was locked in a prison world created by a witchy family consisting of twins, well, that one, yeah, no, didn't figure that one out. Ah well. Still, a ripper, huh? So, hmm… I'm guessing this means the ripper gene is passed down then and some kids get it, some kids don't, like a hair or eye color or a predisposed disposition, maybe. OK, then. Damn, I love this show so hard. So very hard.

Alrighty then, just a few randoms –

- I thought they did a good job explaining why Jeremy won't be coming back. I mean, yeah, you'd think Jeremy would still rush back, but so much time has passed and with whatever is going on with Jeremy in art school vampire-hunter land, one can imagine he probably does want to stay away right now because he's changing as much as Bonnie says she has. (Recalls Bonnie pensively looking at her arrow scar.)

- The whole opening scene with Caroline at the bar, the conversation with the bartender, then with Liam, the making-out, the vamping and attack… all of it, was just such an awesome cold open.

- I crack up every time I get to the part where Elena notes that Caroline not only cleaned out all of her clothes, but also her thank-you notes. I don't know why, but it's just so Caroline.

- I'm so glad Bonnie burned that douchebag at the rave. So not cool. Bonnie said no, you don't force yourself on a girl, no matter how hot she is. Jerk! Ah, if only all women had that power.

- Speaking of Bonnie at the rave... oy vey! Not a good place for Bonnie to be. Coming off of being completely alone with zero human companionship for months to being surrounded by hundreds of swarming bodies, my gosh, poor Bonnie. Again, Elena, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!? Elena was just so focused on Caroline that she was not thinking of Bonnie and what she'd been through at all. I defend Elena a lot, but she was not being a good Bonnie-bestie in this episode. I get why, she was concerned and understandably so for Caroline, but oh dear.

- Speaking of Elena and friendship, I find it interesting that we're still getting dings back and forth between Caroline and Elena. When Elena's switch was off she told some not-so-nice truths to Caroline, and now vice versa. And, of course, she tells Elena that she's making it all about her when Elena tries to offer up a sympathetic parallel. Yet when Stefan does the same thing, Caroline says he's kind and just this great guy and that's why she fell for him. It really goes back to the beginning of the series... while Elena and Caroline are truly friends, there has always been that annoyance factor on both ends.

- I continue to really like Stefan and Elena as friends; they work really well together as such. I always thought that they would and they do.

- Kai looked really good in this episode. The stubble does him good.

- Elena just grabbing and breaking both of Liam's wrists just gives me a little shock every time, like whoah! OK, then.

So another great episode, I missed Matty, but still great episode. Ian did a fantastic job; he has a future as a director. I'm very excited to see what happens next!!
Tags: bonnie bennett, caroline forbes, damon salvatore, damon/bonnie, damon/elena, damon/stefan, elena gilbert, ep discussion-tvd, ian somerhalder, stefan salvatore, stefan/caroline, the vampire diaries, tv
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