I'm just going to start with my absolute favourite thing about this episode. I rewound the scene. I sat up pointing at the screen. I pumped my fist. I pointed at the screen shouting, "Yes!" I nodded emphatically. I seriously did all of the above, I kid you not. Of course I am talking about Damon's speech to Stefan about dear Mommie dearest.
Totes that lovely, splenderifous speech was a thing of beauty. It was so fantastic hearing Damon just lay it out to Stefan. It wasn't about what she did when they were kids. It was about what she did *after* they became vampires. It was the fact that she kept her "death" a secret and left them with their very human monster of a father. A father who physically abused them, well, at least Damon and emotionally abused them, well, at least Damon. She chose *herself* over her children. She chose *her* happiness over her boys. And once they turned and were no longer bound by their ties to humanity and Giuseppe at all, she *still* did not go to them. Even then she did not choose them. Even then, she chose this man, Julian, and this new family that she'd created over them.
And two freaking hundred years later when she had the chance to make it right, to make amends... she still chose this new family over her two sons. And not only then, she has chosen to emotionally torture her sons. Damon, by taking Elena away for decades, and Stefan (to a lesser degree), by taking Caroline away and allowing her new family to torture her.
So it doesn't matter that she intended to take away Damon and Stefan when they were boys for one brief moment in time. Almost every other time when it has mattered again and again, she has turned her back on them. And having Damon tell him that was just sweet, sweet music to my ears. Partially because it was more than just about Lily... it was also about the many times that Stefan has failed to see the freaking forest for the trees. He never sees the big picture. It's why he's never quite gotten the depth of his big brother, or why he never got Elena's pain or how deep her love for Damon was or their love for each other.
And it's also why he has yet to see how broken he himself still is, but yet, that's Stefan, the king of compartmentalization and denial. (I really, really, *really* hope that Paul Wesley sticks around beyond this season because there is so much further to go with Stefan's journey.) *sigh* And I'm going to say it. *double sigh* As much as I do love Stefan and Caroline, and as great the Paul and Candice King chemistry, I don't think that Stefan and Caroline should be an endgame couple. *triple sigh*
It was different when Damon and Elena were on the show and they were the lead IT couple, and Stefan and Caroline were the adorable, secondary couple, but as a lead couple, they don't have the juice. Damon has found his peace; he really has. He does know who he is, he's really just playing a waiting game right now waiting for his love and then they'll be together, live out a human life and he will have what he's truly always wanted. Essentially, he found his peace and happiness at the end of "I'll Wed You In The Golden Summertime." It's just on hold right now until Elena wakes up. So now it's Stefan's turn, and from a showrunning point of view, Stefan needs to take the lead and as I wrote about last, as much as I adore them, Stefan and Caroline have *always* been written as a secondary pairing. Stefan needs to be part of a lead couple. I don't know that he and Valerie will succeed there, but I think that the show is trying to set that up.
I'm still not happy with how they did it. (I will never be happy with how they did it.) But I do get why they have done so. A problem so far this season has been the rushing of things to set things up for transitioning our new leads, our new oomph!factors, I think. Stefan and Valerie were part of this. They shoved their story all into one episode in that was quite out of character to the time period frame when using two to three episodes would have worked so much better. And they could have possibly done a parallel set up of Stefan and Caroline enjoying their new relationship with Stefan and Valerie doing the same in 1863. But they didn't, they rushed it to get Valerie on our team and away from Team!Heretic.
Whether Valerie is just a way to lead to a Stefan and Caroline break-up or whether she's intended as a potential long-term love interest for Stefan, I don't know. What is clear is that Stefan and Caroline are not together in a couple of years and beyond, so long-term is not in the plans for them right now. So I'm making myself understand that letting go is probably not the worst idea ever.
And then there's the other couple that they're rushing to get to the punchline: Bonnie and Enzo; it's just moving too fast. Where they are at right now, I don't think we should see them at this comfort level until at least a few more episodes, if not a lot more episodes. Bonnie should still be in the "I really can't stand everything you are" phase, not in the flirting/banter thing they've got going. It's just too much too soon. We're not getting any kind of anticipatory build here. They are forcing them instead of letting viewers *want* them to be together.
And then we have Alaric and Caroline... I'm going to allow myself to be open to this. They've barely interacted like ever. Except for the scenes where they talked about the fact that his Esther-messed-with-self killed her father, they've had like no real anything. Yes, they knew each other when she was 16, a junior, he was her teacher, etc., but she was never part of that inner circle with him. And she is an adult now, they've both experienced great loss (Jo, her mother) and they are both going to be sharing something incredibly intimate and bonding together (the pregnancy). So, I will keep an open mind. I love both characters (and if it helps bring me back *my* Alaric, yay!) so, yeah, open mind it is.
And then there is one other rushed thing, but that goes back to something I talked about before: Lily goes from being the WORST MOTHER EVER to yeah, maybe she doesn't suck that much. And I'm not talking about Stefan's interpretation. I'm talking about Lily herself. Lily's actions, Lily's words, how Lily herself is written, directed, portrayed. In one episode she comes across as if she loathes her sons and frankly couldn't care less, but then the next, nope, she does care, really, she's torn and it was just these choices in her life that led her down this path and she has so many regrets. And I'm like ‘Good Lord, which is it?!' And it does frustrate me because I've been waiting for the Mama Salvatore story since season 02 and I want to love it, but they are making it hard because they are rushing stuff to get to some... thing. So we are jumping too quickly between horrible Mommie Dearest and loving Mama Salvatore.
And this episode just highlighted that lack of a transition between the awfulness of her actions and attitude and this sudden, yes, sudden change of heart. I partially blame the writers, James Stoteraux and Chad Fiveash (ugh, these guys, despite Damon's gorgeous speech to Stefan—which Caroline Dries probably wrote, I bet!—they generally write the worst episodes these days) and the overall design of the episode. Honestly, I don't know who that goes on more. I just really think that laying the ‘Giuseppe is an ass' angle based on ONE FREAKING incident was, well, I'm gonna call a spade a spade, stupid as fuck. Lily was married to the man for 20 years. Damon and Stefan dealt with him for approximately 20 years and they used *literally* one incident to point out that Giuseppe Salvatore was a jerk? Really? I mean, come on! I just—words escape me at the idiocy of this.
And then we get to Julian, yes, it was crappy what Julian did his whole risking Lily's life by sword-fighting with Enzo, but Lily has been so obsessed with him for so long that I find it unbelievable that she wasn't swayed by his 'well, I'm so awesome, I knew there wasn't a risk at all.' Mildly suspicious enough to let it start the lingering doubt, yes, but enough to set her on the path of betrayal then and now? Nope.
Instead, think of how awesome it would have been to see Lily as a more modern woman in this modern world see that and start to see that, yeah, Julian's a dick. She's now been without a man for over a century. Before she pretty much went from Giuseppe to Julian. Now being with him for even a bit longer, with these thoughts running through her head from the boys, she would see it herself. But so quickly? Too much.
Now to be fair, I think that all of this ties into what I wrote about after the last episode in that I think the show is trying to mix things up and find that new IT couple, and all of the above involves that. I totally get that; I absolutely appreciate that. Presumably if Ian Somerhalder is leaving and Paul Wesley, Candice King, Kat Graham, Matt Davis and Michael Malarkey are sticking around, it makes sense that they are trying to get these pieces in order and see which is going to click as soon as possible. However, the rushing the story is frustrating as a viewer because the whole journey should be well-told. But, but, but... I do want to stress that other than the really bad Stefan/Valerie so not of that time period-ness of that episode (because it was bad), it's not as if the other stuff is not good, because it is, in some cases, it's really good, even great! I just think it could be better. It's good and/or really good, but it's not great (or not enough of it is great), and I think it has the potential to be great (or more of it). And I expect great (on a more general basis) from The Vampire Diaries.
- Damon correcting Mommie Dearest on her racial slurs. Oh, Damon.
- Enzo and Julian? (Michael Malarkey and Todd Lasance) have like zero chemistry and so all of their scenes, including the swordfight scenes which should have been exciting were boring. Of course, if we cared about either couple (Enzo/Lily—no! or Julian/Lily—yeah, right) that would have helped too. But we don't, so we didn't. So... boring.
- Hmm, whereas I was intrigued a few episodes ago with "Three Years From Now..." with the Bonnie in the mental ward and the Bonnie/Enzo reveal, I have to admit that the last couple just have me going, 'OK, yeah, blah, blah... whatevs," because I know I'm not finding anything out legit anytime soon and it's only coming out in drips and drops.
- That doctor in the Alaric/Caroline scene looking for the babies was bad, like really bad. I mean, "There's no heartbeats either," she says like, "oh, your hair is blonde." So bad.
- The kid they got to play young Damon was pretty good, but his nose wasn't as perfect as Ian's and his eyes not as blue which I probably wouldn't have noticed that spectacularly had they not gone from him to a close-up of Ian's face and those ridiculously gorgeous blue eyes of his. Still, pretty decent casting.
- I want more Matt; I want Matt Donovan to get a real storyline, damnit. I feel like they are wasting Zach Roerig. He is so good and is being so wasted. Grr. My favorite Matt moment? His expression behind Caroline after Valerie said that Caroline was pregnant and Caroline kept denying it and, lordy, Matt just had the best expression.
- I REALLY want a REAL storyline for Matt Donovan.
- Tyler and Jeremy got namechecked!
- I know it will never happen at this point, but I want Caroline and Valerie to become best friends now. The actresses work really well together; they have a great chemistry and just play off of each other with a great rhythm. See next bullet-point for more details on what is so great about them!
- I love how Caroline found out about Valerie's secret; Valerie didn't tell her spitefully. She truly was trying to help Caroline and Alaric, and she wasn't trying to spill about Stefan's daddy-making part. Caroline recognized that, didn't fly off the handle and the two just sat and absorbed it together. Now how Caroline will handle it when she speaks to Stefan we'll see, but I loved that scene with Valerie and Caroline.
- So the question of the IV'd humans remains since they are not being used as blood banks. And we can guess that it's clearly Julian's plan and *not* the Heretics overall since this seems like it's something that didn't start until Julian showed up and Beau is clearly in on it.
- Ian Somerhalder's acting in that speech to Stefan about Lily was so on point. Loved it. So good, so, so, soooo good. Paul Wesley's acting in reaction to Damon's speech was so on point. Loved it. So good, so, so, soooo good. Damn, I love me my Brothers Salvatore so hard.
Again, I don't want it to seem like I'm not enjoying this season, I am. And I do get what they're doing, I get that they're putting the pieces in place. I also imagine that the back half is going to pretty stellar and when watching the whole season together in one sitting, this first half will play out much stronger. I just do see the cracks, but I also see where they are trying to fix things and I have faith; I do. Still love my show.