I thought that this was a fantastic episode, and I am quite happy about that. I hope this is a sign for the rest of the season/series. I was feeling great at the start of the season when we had four great episodes in a row. However, the fifth episode, "Coming Home Was A Mistake," was one of my least—if not least—favorite episodes ever. The sixth was great (if depressing), but then I did have a few issues with the seventh as well, although, overall it was very good. Unfortunately those last three episodes were followed by the winter hiatus and so my view of the season thus far taken as a whole wasn't as rosy as it really should have been. But you know how the saying goes: 'What have you done for me lately?'
This is not to say that I still didn't think the overall season was really good; I just didn't see it as great. Now with this eighth episode, I can happily say that six of eight so far have been great, excellent, awesome—pick your adjective—another very good, with just one merely decent episode. That's a damn good average. Let's talk about the specific now… this excellent outing.
I am an Ian Somerhalder fan. This isn't really a secret… but I try and not be biased when it comes to critiquing either his acting or, in this case, directing. I've given Paul Wesley some praise (and not) in that department, but I've been much more effusive about Somerhalder's turn behind the camera. I've had a few minor issues, but they were really minor. Here's the thing, I took a few directing classes, and maybe because of that I tend to pay attention to how a director sets the pace for an episode, particularly beautiful shots, etc. And it's not like it's just Wesley and Somerhalder that I've commented on with regards to their direction. I could easily roll off the name of a handful of directors I've especially liked and some not so much. (I won't say his name, I won't say his name, I won't say his name.) All of this is to say that once again I may come across like a Somerhalder-fangirl, but honestly, I truly believe that he is a damn fine director.
For example… let's compare this episode with the last. In both of them, horrific things were done (by Stefan). The difference in how those came across, though, is light-years apart. Now, I'm not just giving the credit to the direction. The script by Matthew D'Ambrosio was fantastic as well. But in terms of direction, the pacing, the cuts, when different shots (long, medium, close-up, pan, etc.) were used, all worked in chorus with the script. Combined, all of it created this tension and when we did get to that horrific moment, it was beautifully set-up. It was haunting, it was horrible and it was memorable.
There were subtle clues as well contrasting the pre-credits scene and the final scene. Damon turned his back on Stefan (to take down the 'bad' guy who would have sacrificed everyone in the room to save himself), looked back a few seconds later and Stefan had killed everyone else. At the end, Stefan was alone, we saw him savoring the perfectly made, non-drip puncture wounds of the doctor before going in for his 'in control' feed. We saw Damon next with Elena's necklace before he returned to his brother. When he did, as in the beginning we saw Stefan's carnage from Damon's point of view.
In addition, in that opening scene we had a medium-shot of Stefan caressing the no-drip puncture wounds as if caressing the woman he loves. Still captured in that shot was the desire and passion in his gaze. Ah, but in the final scene, there was a close-up of the puncture wounds, with the camera lingering on his stroking of them. Because we had already seen that blood lust on his face in the opening sequence, we didn't need to see his face as well because we already knew what he looked like while gazing at those wounds. And, of course, in the pre-credits scene, Stefan told Damon that "heads will remain intact." At the end, there were a couple of heads unattached and a headless corpse or two. However, it wasn't in your face, you had to look closer at the horror that Stefan had created in order to see them.
There were other things that stood out to me during the episode, such as the contrast of Damon standing in the bright sun to Stefan in a moody, shadowed hallway. Those choices highlighted what both brothers were going through. Damon was processing the fact that his humanity's desire to push to the surface was winning, and Elena's necklace was becoming a tangible talisman of that humanity. Meanwhile, Stefan was losing the battle to his ripper!induced blood lust. Such a simple thing to have those contrasting sets (outside versus inside), but the script and direction used that contrast to help deliver the state of the brothers.
Finally, when Stefan first was drinking from the doctor, I knew that he was going to snap. However, it wasn't until Damon walked in that I thought: 'Uh oh, how many bodies is he going to find?' And what we saw... ooh, boy, that was way worse than I imagined. Above, I mentioned this in comparison to the last episode. This scene was chilling, and beautifully shot. And because of the script by D'Ambroiso it built up through the whole episode and that tension was amplified by the direction. We had neither tension nor directorial build-up or climax in "The Next Time I Hurt Somebody, It Could Be You."
Then there were just some gorgeously shot moments: The low-angle shot of Damon as he was looking to the side before he glanced down and saw the necklace. It was just beautifully done. Or the fire zigzagging across the earth to light up more stakes cutting to a behind-the-shoulder panning long shot of Violet—the student responsible for starting the fire. Also, there was the overhead shot of the blaze in that zigzag formation, and the slow pan up the doctor when Damon first saw her giving the viewer (and Damon) time to see what he saw: A reminder of Elena.
Somerhalder is a really good director; he has good instincts, good pacing, and has an eye for beautiful shots. He also (like Wesley) brings out great performances in the actors. Wesley was the most enjoyable as Ripper!Stefan as I've ever seen him. I'm not sure how much that had to do with the script or direction, but he was great. I love Stefan when he's the good parts version and not on the rip, but I'm sorry, it is true, Stefan without his humanity is more fun, LOL! And, ooh, what I find cool this go-round—because, yeah, of course we've seen Ripper!Stefan before—is that except for episodes six and seven of season 03, we never saw Stefan with his humanity off and not fighting it at all. And even in "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Elena did get to him a few times, and in "Ghost World," well, he was being tortured through the whole thing.
So we've never seen a completely unrepentant, unmoved by a connection before (Rebekah and Klaus in "The End Of The Affair," Caroline in the "A Bird In A Gilded Cage"), thus why this version is so much more pronounced. Yes, Damon is with him and that is his strongest connection, but there is so much antagonism and history there that his connection to Damon actually pushes him to keep the switch off. Especially because Stefan, filled with humanity, is unreasonably upset with Damon right now.
Not that it doesn't mean we still aren't getting some great stuff with the brothers, there was a lot of awesome Brothers Salvatore in this one. Right now, we're seeing a reversal of early season 01 when Damon's switch was flipped and he just wanted his brother to turn it off and join him in the vampire fun to be had. Now, we're seeing that from Stefan to Damon. Another big contrast between the brothers was the sequence at the end (scored by a gorgeous, absolutely fitting song by Michael Malarkey). Damon is reaching out to someone about being good, making up for past deeds and why it's a good thing. Meanwhile, Stefan has lost himself once more in the dark shadow of his blood addiction. Normally, it's the other way around with Damon the problem child, and Stefan the do-gooder. But this time, Stefan is the "jerk," the "trouble-maker."
There was more great stuff troughout the episode, the back and forth testing that Stefan kept doing, Damon's denials, giving in to Stefan's devil on his shoulder to go against what is his nature now. So, so good. Also good, the fabulous bits of repartee at the top of the episode. When Damon and Stefan were in the meeting and at the café, there was some memorable banter. (I've got to include the gifs for one of them because their interaction was awesome!)
Damon: Well, I got my brother this job.Oh, yes, those last two… hmm, let's explore that bit and all that surrounding the pretty, brown-haired, brown-eyed orphaned doctor in her 20s. I mentioned above that Somerhalder did a beautiful slow pan of her when Damon first caught sight of her. The whole sequence there was just ripe with Damon and Elena undertones. Seriously, from the way he looked at her, to him fingering Elena's necklace and his comment that she could be driven by something good (as Elena was when she decided to become a doctor), the entire thing just screamed that Damon loves Elena so much.
Stefan: Actually, I asked for the job.
Damon: Yeah, but through my connections.
Stefan: I thought we were going for like a failed analogy.
Damon: No, they're all compelled. Clarity over cleverness, that's what I always say.
Stefan: You literally never said that before.
Damon: I thought we were only giving Cade the worst of the worst, like this guy.
Stefan: Cade can have him. These are mine.
Stefan: Only in her 20's, and already a doctor. Huh, must have graduated early. Really thrown herself into her work. Why do you think that is, Damon?
Damon: I don't know, Stefan, maybe she had a brother that bored the crap out of her.
Stefan: Maybe she's driven by something dark, some sort of pain in her past.
Damon: Not everybody's a big ball of angst like you. Maybe she's driven by something good.
Stefan: Sound like some betting words to me.
Stefan: Really? Sounds like some winning words to me.
And we saw that unspoken exclamation throughout the episode. Damon's continued insistence while he lay vervained in the hospital bed that Tara would not let him die despite the odds that Stefan had stacked against him. He held onto the belief that Tara, this girl so like Elena, was like her in spirit as well.
Damon: Toldja she'd be a challenge, hmm.Like Elena. Elena couldn't be corrupted; Elena is just plain good. And I think it's a safe bet to say that had Elena been in the same position as Tara she would not have done what she did. Elena would have resisted… because, yes, some people are plain good. Like Elena Gilbert. And the necklace that lie in his pocket and Tara's similarities to Elena just kept reminding him of that, reminding him that she saw and believed in the good in him too. Even after Tara "killed" him, he still wanted to give her a second chance and clearly procrastinated on the whole serving her up to Cade thing. Because that good that Elena saw in him is pushing to the surface big-time and that leads me to Damon finding the necklace again.
Stefan: What are you so pleased about? You're supposed to be on task.
Damon: All I'm saying is maybe some people can't be corrupted. Maybe she's just plain good.
I knew that he was going to go back and look for it, but oh, how that scene was written, directed and acted was a beauty I was not expecting. Damon said he was going through an existential crisis—familiar words—and that the valuable thing he lost made him feel better. And we saw that it did. Throughout the scene, I was afraid that Damon was going to kill the inmate, after all the last time he had an existential crisis, he killed the person he was talking to… the look on his face certainly appeared to indicate that he was planning to. Then he saw the necklace. Elena's necklace.
*sigh* He loves her so much! Just like Caroline loves Stefan. And just like Damon and Elena with Elena having to deal with Damon's demons, Caroline is now getting a taste of what that feels like. Of course, Caroline has known for a long time that Stefan as a Ripper is not a good thing, but this is the first time that she got a hint of how it could destroy her world. Sybil, for all her faults—and there are so many—had a very valid point. It's actually one that I have mentioned a time or two. Due to Lexi's horrific torture-help, Stefan spent most of his vampire life fighting his addiction entirely the wrong way. It's only in the last few years that he's tried any other strategy… and it's going to take some time before he gets it down pat. So, Caroline's concern for her daughters is legitimate.
I go back to the last episode and how Bonnie had to ask Seline if she was sure that it was Stefan Salvatore who had committed the atrocity at the Monterey migrant camp. I really don't think that anyone other than Elena ever learned just how bad Stefan on a Ripper binge was. The rest of the gang, I don't think, have a clue that Stefan can be and has been worse than Damon. And because of that, despite his Ripperdom, it is very likely that that side of Stefan has never been taken to heart. Well, Caroline's now seeing it. I don't know… I am thinking more and more that somehow, someway we are going to see more vampires-turned-human than just Damon. How else does Caroline get to be with her kids again when the danger to them is because she's a vampire? And even if Ric softens his stance there, how does Caroline allow Stefan—with the Ripper gene—near her children? And how does Caroline choose Stefan over her children if push comes to shove? So, yeah, I wonder.
Anyhoo, speaking of the lovely Sybil… At last we finally know what she has been looking for, and it certainly makes sense. Based on what Dorian said, that tuning fork, excuse me, "the Staff of Arcadius," clanging back and forth inside a bell designed to enhance the vibrations and sounds of the fork might be something that could take out a Siren, period. So my question is… I know why Sybil wants the bell. Obviously she wants to keep others from using it to harm her. However, why does Seline want it? She's trying to walk a righteous path and save herself from hell so what would she need the bell for then? Hmm, I don't know… Maybe she wants it to end Sybil. Think about it, from her point of view, taking out Sybil who has caused so much harm and destruction and is continuing on that course might help make up for the fact that she is the one who led Sybil down that road to begin with. Seline made the deal with Cade because Sybil was dying and she wanted to save her life. That could be a pretty big step on the way to forgiveness, indeed!
Ah, forgiveness, what Peter is hoping to get from his son but with every reveal of the young man that Peter was, the harder it is for Matt. When Peter was talking about his family's past, their legacy smothered by the rich "founders," I noticed that Matt looked not only surprised but also upset. Seeing his reaction, I thought of the fact that had he (and Vicki) known that about their family history, their attitudes might have been different. Because of that, I wasn't surprised at all when Matt said something very similar to his father. I do believe that it very well could have made a change for the better in Matt's life. The thing is that Matt Donovan and Peter Maxwell are intrinsically different people. Peter saw the negative in that the legacy had been tarnished. On the other hand, Matt would have worked to rebuild it. Oh, Matty.
And on that note, randoms –
- Hmm, did Ian Somerhalder's face look puffy in that opening scene and in a few others as well, or was it just me? In some scenes, he looked normal, lean, but in that one and a few others, not so much. It was odd.
- Aww! Caroline writing to Elena this go-round. *sigh* And, again like the last episode, so much Elena. If anyone doesn't realize that she's coming back, they know nothing about how television works.
- It was nice seeing Caroline doing her job again. That's something that is not often touched upon on this show. (Like Bonnie… how is she surviving? Did Enzo get all of the St. John money and she's living off of his wealth now?)
- Well, I'm glad to see that these peeps are finally learning! Ric letting Dorian in the loop was a smart move. (And one that might have saved other people in their past. Psst! Jenna. I'm talking about Jenna.)
- Ah, so the turning fork is known as the Staff of Arcadius and was forged in the fire that killed him. Yeah, like that is not going to be important in the future and help defeat Cade somehow. Uh huh.
- Someone mentioned that Bonnie and the twins are effected by the fork as well, and that got me thinking. Obviously, the plan would be to keep all three of them away from the Staff and bell when utilizing it against Sybil, but... if Bonnie winds up near there, trying to save someone—and it would be in character for her to risk herself to save someone else. Maybe, she had already injured herself prior and thus had Enzo's blood in her system to heal her, or whatever happens with the Staff and bell affects her enough that Enzo gives her blood then to try and help her, but instead she dies? With his blood in her system, she would then become a vampire. And voila! Elena would wake up since Bonnie would be technically dead.
- OMG! I loved Sybil's response and facial expression when Caroline repeated what she said about her assignment:
Sybil: I want to teach you history. Why else would I have told your boss to send you here on assignment.
Caroline: The news assignment came from you.
Sybil: I just said that. you mustn't have been a very good student.
She looked so annoyed at Caroline, and then truly shook by what a "bad student" Caroline must have been. Haha! I love her so… yes, yes, she needs to die. I still love her.
- Ooh, we already knew about the story of the hundred witches. We learned about that back in season 03. And that house in the background of the field that Sybil took her students too looked like the same house that Damon was barred from entering by the witches (his ring wouldn't work) and where Esther's coffin was hidden. I love how the show pulls from their own history/mythology. It's so cool!
- I thought it was awesome how Dorian, Matt, Peter and Caroline all worked together to save the students.
- I like Dorian, but I liked Georgie better. If one was going to live, I would have preferred her. Sorry, Dorian.
- Haha, Stefan's expression when he found Elena's necklace in Damon's pocket was hilarious!
- That was Caroline's pink non-training wheels-bike hanging in Caroline's garage! Aww… LIZ!!! I miss you! The fact that they included that keepsake from two seasons ago… oh, this show! They know what gets you.
- I mentioned the scene above with Damon and the inmate and how much I loved it. I wanted to add two more comments. The first is that I thought the actor, Devin McGee, playing the inmate, did a great job with such a small role. Really, really good. Also, I loved this bit of their dialogue because of the double meaning, especially with that last line. This episode truly had a great script along with the acting and direction.
Inmate: Sometimes people bounce back.- I mentioned the song that played over the final sequence was by Michael Malarkey, and that is the same Michael Malarkey who plays Enzo. I thought it was an awesome choice, and I think the song is gorgeous. You can hear the full thing here on Youtube: Michael Malarkey – "Scars"
Damon: By doing penance like you? One wrapper at a time?
Inmate: Beats leaving 'em on the ground.
Well, I thought this was an awesome episode. One of my favorites of the season. I can't wait until the next one, but *sigh* every episode brings us closer to the end. It's bittersweet.
BTW: For anyone who missed the write-ups and wants to read my season 01 posts, I spent the hiatus finishing them all up (episode 2-22, minus 19 as I'd done that one when the episode aired). Here are the links to all of them:
- 1.01 - Pilot
- 1.02 - "The Night Of The Comet"
- 1.03 - "Friday Night Bites"
- 1.04 - "Family Ties"
- 1.05 - "You're Undead To Me"
- 1.06 - "Lost Girls"
- 1.07 - "Haunted"
- 1.08 - "162 Candles"
- 1.09 - "History Repeating"
- 1.10 - "The Turning Point"
- 1.11 - "Bloodlines"
- 1.12 - "Unpleasantville"
- 1.13 - "Children Of The Damned"
- 1.14 - "Fool Me Once"
- 1.15 - "A Few Good Men"
- 1.16 - "There Goes The Neighborhood"
- 1.17 - "Let The Right One In"
- 1.18 - "Under Control"
- 1.19 - "Miss Mystic Falls"
- 1.20 - "Blood Brothers"
- 1.21 - "Isobel"
- 1.22 - "Founder's Day"