I was not really feeling this episode, I will not lie. In fact, this was possibly my least favorite Vampire Diaries episode ever. I'm not saying it was bad, but it wasn't good or really good, or really, really good, or great, or OMG!fantastic! and that is what pretty much every other episode has been. This one was just, you know, OK. I don't really expect just 'OK' from The Vampire Diaries, but, yeah, that's what I got.
I don't want to delve too deeply into my (many) issues, but there were too many to not offer up a somewhat in-depth, so delve I'm going to.
Firstly… all the cheese. So much cheese. I am not used to The Vampire Diaries being cheesy, but this episode had not one, not two, not even just three but four major moments of gooey cheese. Don't get me wrong, all but one of the moments wasn't badly done, but it just didn't fit in this show. The Vampire Diaries just doesn't normally go that route. The only time I can honestly think of them doing so was Damon and Elena's over-the-top dance in the season six finale, but, but, but… that was earned. That was a temporary goodbye to their main love story. PLUS! it took place in Elena's head. Literally… Damon stepped right into her mind to talk to her and created that moment which led to the over-the-top dance. It wasn't something that we would normally see happen on The Vampire Diaries. The ONLY reason we saw it, bought it and accepted it as it played out was because of the circumstances: The last time Damon and Elena would see each other for literal years (in their estimation, sixty or seven), and again, it literally did not actually happen. It was all in Elena's head. They were not wearing fancy wedding clothes and dancing all high-falutin' in the middle of the street for real.
However, the over-the-top and/or cheesy moments in this episode all actually happened in real time, in "real life" and not in someone's head to create a 'Let's make this moment as amazing and romantic and over-the-top so it lasts us for a long time!' memory. *sigh* Yeah. So the four things… least to worst. Ironically enough, the least is an over-the-top and/or cheesy romantic moment. I'm talking about Bonnie and Enzo's kiss while he held her in his arms on the ground in front of the burning cabin. Look, I'm not saying that it couldn't have worked, but the way it was shot? Oy vey! It was like a ridiculous, clichéd BIG. KISS. MOMENT! in an action flick. And I was pulled out of the moment because it was so cheesy!
OK, let's talk about Bonnie and Enzo while we're on the subject of them. Look, I totally accept that Bonnie and Enzo are undoubtedly endgame. I'm not very happy about it because I just don't really care about them, but that is on the show! They messed up last season by having Bonnie and Enzo do their whole falling-in-love while Bonnie was basically a prisoner (even if it was to protect her) during the three years we skipped over. It didn't have to be that way. It just didn't. The show had 15 (that's right, count' em, FIFTEEN!) episodes with which to develop their relationship. Their first kiss should have been the last episode *before* the three-year jump after having already established a push-pull, tension-filled romance waiting to bloom. That way the flashback episode giving us a crash course in what happened after that first kiss would have just been the icing on the cake.
But nooooo… they had to go for the shocker of Bonnie kissing Enzo in one of the flash-forwards. It's as if someone in the writing room (or Julie Plec or Caroline Dries) came up with that snapshot of an idea and couldn't let it go. Never mind that it led to a lack of build-up, development or an actual love existing outside of their fucked up falling-in-love-in-captivity story that has yet to see if it can actually exist in the real world. So no build-up, no watching them start to fall, have those moments, that tension spread out over several episodes. Nope, just one shocking!kiss, followed by a few scenes (fixing his tie to make Lily jealous—oh, right, yeah, it was too important to play out Enzo having the hots for Lily, whatever!—and bantering over Julian's sword) and then boom! their love story told in a series of flashbacks in one episode. No matter how well done the episode was, the couple—an endgame couple—should have had their love story told over a period of time, over the course of several episodes.
:Deep breath: With all of that said, I'm sure that for fans of Bonnie and Enzo (and, of course, they have fans), it was a great moment for many of them. So that one alone could have been forgiven as, hey, I'm just not into them. It's subjective, right? Alas, it was not just the one.
Then we got the cheesy stolen-straight-from-an-action flick move of Damon tearing into Stefan but then… wait for it, all of a sudden someone takes him out from behind. Oh, wow, it's Caroline with a gun pointing straight at Damon's back! See, just out of nowhere comes Caroline to save the day! I mean, really… yeah, we all figured that Caroline would show up, but how it was done. Ugh, so cheesy! Exactly like some lame action flick shot.
And then there was the carnival fun. It's not like Stefan hasn't given big speeches with cheesy follow-through. In fact, aside from the Ferris wheel ride with Elena, the first one that popped into mind was very similar to this one. In "Memorial," Stefan gave his big speech about needing to say goodbye to those they loved and they all lit lanterns and sent them into the sky. Except… that one wasn't cheesy. Why not? Because like with Stefan and Elena on the Ferris wheel, the direction and script offset the cheese with the other characters acting like real boys and girls and not just one-dimensional caricatures smiling sappily in some cheap, manipulative scene.
With the Ferris Wheel, Elena wasn't able to fully accept Stefan's attempts to pretend that you can ignore all of the shit happening in your life just because your pretty boyfriend gives you some cheesy words and a carnival ride. We saw her trying, wanting to, but ultimately still weighted by the pain of what she was going through. It gave the scene resonance. Stefan was trying, Elena was trying and the attempt to create a happy moment as momentarily sweet as it was, that's just not how people are wired, so it couldn't truly work.
The same with the lighting the lanterns scene in "Memorial," the cheese was offset by Stefan's pettiness in only bringing up the loved ones of his that Damon killed. It was offset by the fact that Stefan had designed the entire gesture to make Elena love him the right way (i.e., as she had as a human). However… even as the sweet words of loss were spoken, and the peace was there on Elena's face, the camera lingered for a moment to show us that Stefan and Elena, although standing side by side, were not holding hands and the distance was still there emotionally between them. On top of that, you had Damon as the downer voice of realism… saying that lighting lanterns isn't going to bring anyone back or make up for that loss. This was, of course, followed by the sight of one of those lost (Alaric) listening to Damon's private lament. All of those things made Stefan's speech and the lighting of the lanterns not cheesy, but beautiful.
But this time? UGH! Stefan gives his cheesy, emotional speech and there are no layers. He's really just standing there giving a cheesy, clichéd speech about capturing moments. Then he flips ONE freaking switch and the entire carnival lights up. Every ride! Just like that… with one single switch. Bitch, please.
But then it got so much worse. That was followed by a quick montage of fun times at the carnival! Bumper cars? The whole group playing on the rides, laughing and smiling like… Yay! Again, bitch, please! This is not my fucking show. There was no depth, no emotional resonance because, no, this is not who these people are. The only solitary person who would have ever listened to Stefan's Big Speech and gone along with him was Elena once upon a time because back then she liked to play the 'bury your head in your sand and ignore reality' game too.
Not now, though. And it was just… no bueno. But then neither was the worst of the lot.
I wasn't quite rolling my eyes by the time Alaric pulled out his phone and saw Matt's name, but it was close. The first time was powerful. We knew what it meant; Matt was calling to tell Caroline about Tyler. So sad. But then we cut to Bonnie and her phone rang and we got another lingering shot of her cell phone reading: "Matt" and then Alaric, and his phone and his screen: "Matt." Once was enough, showing the others finding out as well, I get that, but how about just hearing their phone ring… that would have got the point across so much more powerfully. As opposed to character/ring/"Matt" screen again… and again… and again.
Dare I say it? Cheesy! And for all the above I don't know who to blame more, the new writer? The new director? Yup… last season, only 16 episodes and they brought in a new writer *and* new director. Damn, did it show. Because I'm not done yet. OK, fine, Tyler is dead-dead, totally, completely dead. Alright then, but what the hell kinda eulogizing was that? Because I have no clue who they were talking about… it sure as heck was not Tyler Fucking Lockwood. "He was strong in the face of so much loss." Really, he was… you mean, how he was a drunken asshole who treated everyone like shit after his dad died? Or was it when he got all pissy with Caroline and ran off to find himself after his mom was killed? Tyler is the one who was strong in the face of so much loss? No, that would apply to Elena or Bonnie… even Jeremy or Alaric himself. But Tyler? Uhm, no. Not that I'm blaming Tyler. I get why he reacted as he did, but yeah, no, this is not Tyler.
How about: "He fought the darkness inside of himself and won…" Uhm, again, no. He pretty much gave in and threw a hissy-fit every time things didn't go his way. And, darkness? What darkness? Oh, his werewolf gene… that's now a darkness? How about all of the other werewolves who aren't raging assholes that treat their friends terribly, betray and turn on them when things don't go their way? If Tyler fought his darkness and won… what would Enzo think of them? OK, fine, to be fair, I get Enzo saying something that barely resembled Tyler; he knew him the less out of any of them.
But… "Tyler was willing to sacrifice everything for us." He was? When, where? Show me the receipts. (Oh wait, there aren't any. Ooh, like how about the time when they all had to pass through Bonnie's anchorness to get back from the Other Side and they were all, yeah, we're gonna wait. Enzo, naturally at the time, was all 'Forget that!' and passed through. Oh, and then Tyler—that sacrificial boo—thought that was a pretty good idea and hit the anchor road, Jack, too!
Oh and then Matty-Blue-Blue, yeah, no. "He cared about all of us." Not Stefan; I'm also pretty sure he didn't give two shits about Enzo… and obviously, (see anchorness above), not too concerned with Bonnie either. Now Caroline almost kept it real ("He was more than a small-town kid. He lived more than a small-town life. I loved him…" And then reality stopped. "I mean, we all did." Again, really? Stefan didn't, Enzo didn't, Alaric didn't and I'm pretty sure Damon didn't. (And, yes, Caroline, Damon is one of ya'll, but there's a reason he chose Tyler to be *his* sacrificial lamb. That one he can come back from, because no, you all didn't love him. Nope.)
Look, I get that it's his funeral and when someone dies you're supposed to say nice things about them, but, but, but… this wasn't a regular funeral. This was a group of people who knew Tyler better than anyone. They knew that he was hot-tempered, dick-ish, and that he did some pretty damn crappy things to a good number of them… but they were still his friend. And at least half of them *did* love him despite that. So eulogize the real Tyler. Why didn't Matt say something like, 'He could be a dick, I mean, he hooked up with my mom, but he always tried to there when I needed him. He was my best friend.' Bring the truth with a touch of dark humor. Or something from Bonnie about knowing him her whole life and that having him gone was like a piece of her missing. That would have worked. Alaric talking about how Tyler tried to be better than his aggression. You know, just stuff that fit the history Tyler had with each of them and that was actually about Tyler Lockwood, not these platitudes about a character this new writer clearly knew nothing about.
Speaking of Tyler, explain to me why didn't Matt call Alaric once he got that box from Tyler? It's clearly Armory-supernatural-related stuff and we know that Matt knows that Alaric is in charge of the Armory now. I get it… they wanted the 'Ooh! Shocker!' of Matt seeing the picture of Seline/hearing her name at the end… so then why not have Matt get the box right before heading to the carnival for the faux-Tyler-eulogy? Why spend all of that time (hours it seemed!) thinking on it, wondering why Tyler sent it to him? Why? Why? Why? Just stupid.
Also stupid? Hey, it was cool and all that Tyler was tracking down the Sirens too and knew that Seline was one of them… but this does NOT MAKE SENSE! Tyler knew about everything that was going on with Damon. He told him that he'd heard that Damon wasn't himself lately. Hell, he even flat-out said: "… you threw away everything you've ever wanted to be a Siren's little bitch." And he had an armory-issued gun (which Damon nicely pointed out), but yet, when being given intel on Damon, Tyler never once thought to mention his own search for a Siren named Seline to Alaric? You know, the guy who runs the Armory now? That same guy who has a nanny named… what was it again? Oh, right, Seline. Maybe, just maybe that might have rung some bells?!
But, pssh, logic… who wants to worry about that? Oh, right, that little thing popped up (or rather didn't) in a couple of other areas. Going back to my question from last week, why did Damon not just kill Tyler in the middle of the road and leave him there? He wanted the group to know about it—that was the whole point of killing Tyler! So why did he put him a trunk in a random car and park said car some far-off random place? Why? Why make it harder for the rest of them to find Tyler if Damon wants to break ties from them as soon as possible? Hmm, that pesky logic thing again.
And why exactly did Damon dig four graves? (Pshaw! As if Damon would ever deign to perform such manual labor himself unless being forced to do so by someone standing right over him.) I mean, what was the point? Damon doesn't do psychological warfare. That's not how he operates. And any plan that Damon Salvatore would come up with would not involve him (a) wasting his time—which the grave-digging clearly was, or (b) see above: manual labor. But fine, OK, Damon tried his hand at psychological warfare because of Sybil's influence… why only four? How did he know that Bonnie (and/or Enzo) wouldn't be there? He doesn't have a spy on the inside. Why weren't there five or six graves?
Again, silly, silly logic getting in the way.
And one more, so Sybil replaced Elena with herself in Damon's memory of their first meeting, right? Right. Sybil also rewrote the Wickery Bridge accident with Gilbert mommy and daddy to include Elena so that she bit the big one too in Damon's memory, right? Right. So it was a bit odd when Damon casually mentioned that things were over with Elena to Matt in the last episode, but I hypothesized that unbeknownst to Sybil, he did indeed still have a little bubble free from her control and that's where the memory of Elena resided. OK, fine, that's good…
Except? When Damon was talking to Sybil at the Armory, whaddya know? Sybil casually mentioned Elena to Damon, "… and Elena's reaction to everything? Let's not even think about that." Why would she even mention Elena to Damon or think that Elena's reaction mattered to Damon since we saw her replace his first meeting with Elena and kill Elena in the car accident in his memory. You know that memory where she asked him if he knew who Elena Gilbert was and he said he'd never heard of her? Yeah, that one.
Arrghhhh! *sigh* But you know what the worst thing is… Damon. Damon is kinda boring right now. These are words I never thought I would type; this is a sentiment I never thought I would feel. However, it's the truth. It's been five episodes now and n-o-t-h-i-n-g is happening with him. He's still just Sybil's little bitch (TM Tyler Lockwood). Sure, he has a few moments where he's not happy about it, but Damon still is. And the end of this episode? How is it any different? He's supposedly had his humanity switch off all along, but now, no, it's REALLY off. Wait, what? And Damon being separated from everyone else is just… NO BUENO! Ian Somerhalder is pretty, yeah, but that is not why Damon Salvatore is so awesome (it helps, but…). It's how he interacts with the Scooby gang: Stefan (especially), Bonnie, Alaric, Matt (!), Enzo and even Caroline. We are missing that, or at least, I am.
And speaking of my other Damon-related issue—that is not related to Damon himself—what the hell, Scooby gang? Why does it seem like no one really seems to get that Damon is freaking the fuck out and is scared out of his ever-loving mind? He is not acting like himself at all, not even humanity-switch off Damon. Dear lord, while threatening to kill Matt (as if! Pssh! Damon loves Matt!), he was all, 'You guys hate me for reals now, right? I'm dead to you all metaphorically-speaking? Good, good. I'm gonna split now. Just keep on hatin'! Cool!' Stefan keeps saying "something is different this time," but then he just drops it and it's like... uhm, Stefan, do be doing the EXPLORE OF THAT TRAIN OF THOUGHT. Sybil has given you some huge, freaking clues! He's really, really afraid of what happens in Hell. Let's explore that! Oh, and the fact that Bonnie even said "Damon gave up," and Stefan didn't stop and think: Hmm… that is not like my brother. Damon never gives up; Damon never doesn't fight. I get Bonnie thinking that way in the moment (Damon tried to kill her and Enzo, blah, blah), but, dude, Stefan! Come on, use your brain. I know that Damon is the smarts of the family, but you're not completely clueless. You did eventually realize that Elena belonged with Damon and you belong with Caroline.
Oh, right, yeah, Caroline. *sigh* I thought we were done with this, but nope, she's reverted back to Damon is all the evul! And because of this, Stefan's emotional upheaval over his brother and his attempt to try and figure it out (as piddly as it is) are going up against a brick wall. Bonnie (at this point) is all about Enzo, Enzo apparently still blames Damon for not dying in the fire with him 60 years ago. Alaric is consumed with daddy-duty and the Mysteries of the Armory. Therefore, Stefan is the only one who really even seems to care that something is seriously off with Damon.
So sorry (nope, not really sorry at all), but that doesn't make sense. Regardless of what Damon just did or what they are doing. So much of the off-ness with Damon has happened in front of the others. Killing Tyler—humanity switch off or not—is not something that Damon as he is now would do, yeah, especially with Elena at the end of it all. Then there was the whole 'Hey, you all hate me? Awesome, we're all good' at Tyler's funeral. And Stefan literally heard Damon completely unable to speak his own thoughts to him. He could only say gibberish instead of telling his brother what is going on. Finally, Matt was witness to Damon acting like things being over with Elena and him with someone else was no big! At the time, Matt was disbelieving, but no mention of it from any of them when discussing what is going on with Damon now just doesn't jibe. As if it's just Damon being old school!Damon when they've all seen/heard so much to know that it is not the case. (And, yes, despite them dealing with Tyler's death—which is a big deal—Damon is part and parcel of the why of Tyler being dead so it's pertinent discussion material.) But nope, other than Stefan doing a little (so, so little) talk of the whys and wherefores with Caroline (who doesn't care) and Alaric (who does), Damon being in some serious shit is coming across like a bunch of ho-hum. So Stefan goes off on his "rescue mission" of locking Damon on his own, but, yeah, even that came across with zero urgency.
Of course the whole episode was fairly lackluster in that regard. The events of the episode (and there was a lot going on) happened over the course of a day… but dear Lord, the pacing and lack of urgency anywhere made it feel as if several days had passed in show-verse. *double, triple, quadruple sigh* Really, show? A new writer *and* new director in the last season with only 16 episodes? Why, why, why? (And, I know that episode 07 has another new writer and director. GAH!) I just… I'm not happy, folks, just so many issues with this episode that (mostly) boiled down to the writing and direction. The bigger picture of Damon's lack of story movement and apart from the others would not have been such an issue with a better (more experienced, previously-used) writer and director. It just really jumped out at me because of the many flaws overall in the episode.
Phew! With all of that said (and, I know, that was a lot!), I did enjoy things about the episode. Despite the cheesy end of the scene, the Damon and Stefan conversation at the carnival was wonderful, really top-notch. Damon, without even realizing it, has changed in such good ways. The things he was telling Stefan ("...there are no amends to be made. I can't munch on bunnies and save people and work my way back to peace. I'm hellbound.") were the kind of things that Damon had previously only revealed to someone he was about to kill (Jessica in "The Descent"). He showed an open vulnerability with Stefan that we've only seen him do before with Elena. And right back at him, Stefan was just as open in how he feels about his brother.
For so long Stefan has held himself back from fully accepting, admitting his love for Damon as if that makes Stefan look bad for still caring so deeply for his brother. But no more. He listened to Damon; he tried to respond openly and as honestly as possible to all of Damon's fears. He even flat-out told him that he loved him: "I'm your brother and I love you." It was a beautiful moment and long-waited for... but, of course, Damon is not in the frame of mind right now to accept it. And Ian Somerhalder did a fabulous job showing Damon's resignation about his circumstances. You could see him taking in that everything that Stefan was saying, but helplessly keep spiraling back to his fear of Hell and his desperate need to hold off his arrival as long as possible. Really, really well-done.
And in a lovely, albeit sad, parallel there was Bonnie's attempt to turn Enzo's switch on that worked. With the exception of the uber-cheese of the fiery kiss, I thought that the Bonnie and Enzo scenes were also really, really well-done. Especially how she succeeded. While I am not a big Bonnie/Enzo fan—gee, really?—I did find Bonnie flipping Enzo's switch (where Stefan had failed to turn Damon's) good stuff. Bonnie figuring out that the way to get Enzo back was to prove that unlike everyone else she would never leave him was really good. It touched not only upon Enzo's issues, but how Bonnie can so completely understand that because people leave her all the time too. Having Bonnie show such complete and utter devotion by literally risking death to bring Enzo back was powerful. And so in character for Bonnie. I ♥ her so. (I just wish that I ♥ ed her and Enzo. Fifteen episodes, show! You had fifteen episodes before the three-year time jump to develop the pair. *sigh*)
Another thing I did like was the twins, all of it, everything with them. I take back my previous complaint about the young actresses playing Josie and Lizzie. I think they're equipping themselves quite well and they both have a great chemistry and comfort level with the adult actors they're working with the most. I actually loved all of the twins' scenes in this episode from the opening tea party with Ric to all of the creepy (but in a 'this is good television' way) stuff with Seline. Knowing that she has been warping their little minds this whole time is just a new low of evil. I mean, we thought Sybil was bad, but Seline must really, really, REALLY die in the worst way possible. And that final bit showing one of their drawings was shocking and heartbreaking at the same time. Obviously we knew that Seline had been indoctrinating them and talking about Cade, but that picture revealed (or at least seemed to reveal) that the girls have seen Cade and interacted with him. And that is freaking scary, in a good way.
Also good? The Matt and dad story. I'm enjoying seeing this exploration of Matt and all he's dealt with from an outsider perspective. It's good, and I continue to applaud the casting of Joel Gretsch as Matt's father. So good.
OK, phew… onto the randoms –
- Damon loves Matt. He couldn't/wouldn't kill him, of course not. Pfft!
- Seline having the girls burn Georgie was terrible and just another awesomely awful bit in the twins' story that was really well done in this episode.
- Damon's eyes looked really, really pretty when he was threatening to turn Matt into a vampire. (Not that he would; he loves him.) On the other hand, Damon's hair does not look really, really pretty. One half is like a chunk just floating away from the back of his neck. It was very obvious in the carnival scene with Stefan; it kept distracting me.
- I may have had issue with how they handled Stefan and his Big Speech and the aftermath at the carnival, but I liked the callbacks. As soon as I saw the Ferris wheel, I immediately thought of that Stefan and Elena scene from "Brave New World," and so when Stefan talked about that moment, I liked it. And, of course, the carnival setting alone made me recall Stefan and Caroline and the scene that launched their ship which the two of them were basically discussing. Speaking of, I did like all the Stefan and Caroline stuff… the two talking, confiding, being there for each other (even in a really cheesy, action-flick-type of way at one point). And I loved their final scene; that was beautifully written and shot—touching upon their history and highlighting where they are now. Really nicely done.
- Another thing I'm getting a kick out of is how the show is subverting the season 01 quotes that are being used as episode titles. Episode 03's "You Decided I Was Worth Saving," originally from/about Damon applied to Enzo. "Coming Home Was A Mistake," was a quote from Stefan about his regret in bringing Damon (and the dead bodies that followed) back into town since he came back. The flip here was about Matt, but also tied into the original meaning of the quote. Clever.
So, yeah, that was this episode. As I said at the top, I don't think it was bad (despite my detailed issues, LOL!). It was just OK, and comparatively this season has been great so far, and on The Vampire Diaries in general most episodes that aren't great are at least really good, or even just good. This one didn't even reach that height. Hopefully it is the only weak one out of sixteen. Onto the next episode.