Arabian (arabian) wrote,

8.12 - 'What Are You?' (The Vampire Diaries)

The countdown begins to the end… one hundred and sixty-seven done, four more to go and then it's bye-bye to The Vampire Diaries. {sobs incoherently}

I loved this and that made me very happy. This is the first episode since "We Have History Together" that I've felt this way about. Don't get me wrong, I loved a lot in the outings in between these two, but I had enough issues with both that they didn't earn full adoration. Not this one… this one was full-on awesome-sauce. Erm, well, OK, there was a minor issue, but it was all on its lonesome and it wasn't that big of a deal. In fact, I'm not even going to address it at the top of this write-up, but rather just discuss it amidst its story. There was so much that I really loved that I don't want to draw any specific focus away from that.

To start with… something *very* interesting happened. It was unexpected on this show, and its effect on me was surprising as well. After Stefan was arrested, the scene between him and the Rockland detective was chilling due to the commonplace nature of it. At least, it would be commonplace on so many other television shows… but not The Vampire Diaries and *that* is why it was so chilling. It was like seeing one of our characters dropped into the middle of a Law & Order episode. Stefan handcuffed in the interrogation room, the detective walking in and laying down picture after picture, describing the victims and who they lost, telling Stefan that his fingerprints matched thirty-two murders… all of it was just so surreal. For The Vampire Diaries. The law enforcement in Mystic Falls is so used to either covering up and/or working with the Supernatural elements that to see another department simply treat one of our "heroes" as exactly what he is—a serial killer—was startling.

I had a few thoughts that grew from this scene. The first was how disturbing I found Caroline's actions. We have seen our vampires compel so many people, using their compulsion to commit and cover up so much and it's just, well, another day in Mystic Falls. But this time… ooh! Seeing Caroline compel away any and everything to do with Stefan Salvatore and his horrific crimes, for the first time watching this show, it felt wrong. Having the reality of the law applied to one of our own, seeing the juxtaposition of that reality against our supernatural world really brought into light just how wrong it was.

Of course, I understand. I'm not saying that I don't. And I'm also not saying that there aren't extenuating circumstances (vampirism, ripper-dom, humanity switches and Devilish control). It is just that seeing the real world versus the supernatural was a cold splash of water. And I'm rather wondering if that was intentional. Stefan is now human. We now know that all it takes is a vial of Elena's cure-rich blood in order to return a vampire to their mortal state. This means that it's very likely that within this last handful of episodes all of our vampires will be taking the same road as Stefan… but willingly. I think it's possible that the real world coming into play now is a sign of things to come. I don't mean their roosters coming home to roost, leaving all of our murderous heroes (because, yeah, they totes all are!) to face prison-time. Instead I'm thinking that it just means that the day-in and day-out of ordinary, human lives and the lack of shortcuts (thanks to compulsion and healing vampire blood) will become more prevalent. After all, not only did we see the possible consequences of Stefan's latest killing spree, but also Stefan's injury. Caroline couldn't heal him; he required boring, non-magical modern medicine to fix him up.

Speaking of… well, there would be my one little quibble. I'm fairly certain that we lost a scene due to the episode running over length-wise. It was probably a hospital scene, detailing more clearly what I just wrote about. The reason I think we lost such a scene is because Stefan looked like he was thisclose to dying when he went into the woods (again). However, the next time we saw him, he was calmly sitting in the car, looking not much worse for the wear. Yes, Caroline mentioned the medical supplies, but it wasn't clear if she was given them or just took them. Also, where did they come from? The hospital or were they from a drugstore? Was Stefan stitched up, looked over, given medical attention? Now, yes, obviously, we did know by episode's end that he went to the hospital because Damon mentioned that Stefan was pumped with three pints of blood. So, we know what happened, but it was confusing to go from Stefan near-death to just sitting in the car, looking all fine and dandy in his next appearance. Again, not a major issue, and it was easy enough to figure what happened, but viewers shouldn't have had to figure it out. Eh.

Ah, but one awesome thing did come from the above sequence of events. Although we didn't hear that particular conversation, Damon and his current new bestie were obviously keeping each other in the loop. I mean, clearly, Stefan wouldn't have thought to call Damon and let him know how he was doing, what kind of medical care he'd received. Ah, but Caroline did! Of course she did. Throughout the episode, Damon and Caroline kept tabs on what was going on with Stefan and Bonnie, working awesomely in tandem. And didja all notice how Caroline was absolutely positive that Damon would succeed in saving his brother? Yup, like Elena (and Bonnie), Caroline Elizabeth Forbes now has faith in Damon Salvatore. SQUEE! I ♥ them!

Hmm, yeah, peeps that have faith in Damon Salvatore… let's talk a bit about someone who once upon a time felt the same, but that confidence has been shaken (unfairly) of late. Of course I'm talking about Damon's second BFF, Professor Alaric Saltzman. *sigh* Oh, Ric. Oh, Team!Bromance… surprising myself, I must admit that they still have their hooks in me. Yes, I was initially quite annoyed with Alaric for his continued uncalled-for nastiness to Damon. And the top of their first solo scene didn't do much to abate that frustration. Damon laid it on himself again. He told someone that he loves, again, that he is "selfish" and it was just… gah! Damon! Why can't he be given an out on that count from someone who cares? Why, why, why!? And this is why I was upset because he wasn't being selfish. He was saving his brother's life. Any and every single one of them have made decisions that could potentially create wider-ranging problems in order to save their loved ones. To put that solely on Damon, painting Damon—and only Damon—as selfish for doing so is not only not fair, it's not right.

However, by the end of that scene and their next one, I had a different take on that bit. Ric was frustrated about losing the journal and, as mentioned above, his faith in Damon has taken a huge hit. Despite that though—and despite that lack of faith—it was obvious when reading between the lines, and focusing on their body language, especially Ric's, that his frustration came from the fact that he wants that faith back.

See, Alaric didn't just attack Damon, nor was he sarcastic and unfeeling. Instead, he was talking *to* Damon about it. Yes, he was upset that Damon took the journal, but despite his new title as president of the 'I Hate Damon Salvatore' fan club, it was obvious that underneath all of that (unearned and totes unfair) anger, Ric still loves Damon. Damon is still his best friend. When Damon told him that he essentially knew what they would find in the journal and told Ric to follow him, the look on Ric's face was priceless. He was reminded that Damon always has a back-up plan, and despite that surface antagonism, he can't help but follow his lead. Instincts of true love die hard, yo! It was there in the next scene too.


*sigh* My residual love for Team!Bromance is apparently not so much in the residual stage but rather has been just waiting for another opportunity to bloom! Ric's little smirk when Damon didn't give him the weapon right away but instead wanted the Professor to admit that Damon had done good... oh, my heart! And then when Damon suggested a bottle of bourbon and half-assed apologies for all the crappy things they'd done to each other, and Ric couldn't help but smile (just the tiniest bit) in response, I was gone.* Did you see that Ric did smile at Damon's suggestion? *double sigh* (Can't blame him, though, Damon is so irresistible.) Seriously, I just can't help it... Matt Davis and Ian Somerhalder have such damn good chemistry! Why have they kept them apart so much and/or wrote Ric as such a dick to Damon since Davis came back?!?! ARGGHH! *double sigh* Just look at the love in Ric's eyes as he looks at Damon in the last two gifs. I ♥ them!

* Of course, first I had to sarcastically ask my cats what crappy things has Damon done to Ric since his former BFF came back from the dead? Oh, right NOT A SINGLE DAMN ONE! Ahem!

Anyhoo, two things struck me while thinking of their scenes. It really does make sense why Ric would start to give in to his feelings for Damon now. Firstly, he's been away for a bit of time, and while he's clearly still nursing that resentment (so not fair), it's also just as clearly faded a bit. Secondly (and more importantly), this is the first scene featuring just the two of them one on one since, well, since even before the murder madness. See? Ric just needed to bask in the awesome that is Damon Salvatore without anyone else around to distract him. Oh, and the other thing that I realized is that Damon flat-out told Ric he could just kill him again if he wanted to stop Damon. Guys, Ric could actually have done that! He could have staked him in the heart and sent him all marbly taking him out for hours. (As far as Ric knew, with the deal done with Cade, Damon probably would have been dead-dead!) Instead… he just went the traditional take-out a vampire route of a vervain shot which only lasts for a handful of minutes. See? The love is still there! It is!

More bro-love? Damon Salvatore and Matt Donovan. Sure, fine, whatever, Damon had an ulterior motive in offering to save Matt's life. But really… while I'm sure Damon realized that he would have an opportunity to possibly grab the journal, still he didn't want Matt to die! And so he saved him. (I will take whatever I can get when it comes to Damon and Matt, OK!)


On a less-duplicitous friendship note, there was Damon in relation to his most recent bestie (before Caroline, of course). Damon was so sweet about Bonnie, so understanding (well, once he found out that Elena was OK—of course, he didn't even have to say her name because at the end of the day when Damon Salvatore says "she," he's talking about Elena Gilbert). Still, once he knew that his love was still doing her Sleeping Beauty routine safe and sound, he was all about Bonnie. Awww! He got her pain, her anger, and her utter lack of desire to want to see him because seeing Damon would be too close to seeing Stefan. That was made clear with her "your brother killed him." Upon hearing that, Damon's instant reaction was to tell her that he was on his way because he realized the possible danger to her. Even after she told him (understandably, if unfairly) to stay away, he didn't back down because he needed her to be safe. Double awww! Oh, and did you notice that while she may have not wanted to see Damon (because of Stefan), Bonnie *did* take his call whereas she didn't even take Caroline's. Uh huh. Cuz Damon is her bestie.

Ah, he's grown so much. The circle of people that he cares for has so moved beyond just Elena and Stefan. There is Alaric, Matt, Caroline… and, of course, Bonnie. Knowing that Bonnie was upset, Damon was still checking on her, seeing if Caroline had talked to her. Then when talking to Stefan, although he was aware that it would take a long time, he had no doubt that Bonnie would eventually forgive Stefan because of what a good person she is. Speaking of that, words cannot describe how happy I was to hear Damon include Stefan in his statement about what a better person Bonnie was. Think about it… in season 01, he put Stefan and Bonnie in the same category. Now, seven seasons later Damon sees his brother for who he really is. Not a truly good person, but as a lost sinner who wants to do better but doesn't always succeed. And because of that it's so much easier for Damon to show how much he loves him.

And how much he loves him was so beautifully on display in this episode. We saw his effort to give Stefan as long a human life as he possibly could—damn the wishes of the others to put a risky plan above Stefan living beyond that day. His gentleness towards Stefan when he came home with such his devastated vulnerability on display, was beautiful. When he lied to Stefan about there being a chance for redemption (and so assuredly—"absolutely"), my heart broke for the both of them in the most bittersweet of ways.


Oh, Damon, he loves his brother so and he seemed so much like the older sibling to his baby brother in that scene. Of course, he would, though. He's once more breakable and there was such a hesitancy with his every word, look and step. And I couldn't help but think back to when he told Caroline that vampirism amplifies key characteristics of a person, and for him, it was empathy. Yes, I know, oh, please, Stefan, your self-centeredness was your key, dude. But let's look at that key. Stefan, unlike any vampire EVER, has just been exposed to some recent, truly heinous actions without the vampiric filter in place. He's a human now dealing with the fact that he had the capability—and followed through on more than one occasion—to be an absolute monster.

As far as we know, Elena, Katherine and Alaric are the only other vampires who have gone from vampire to human. (Yes, I know that on The Originals, so many of the Mikaelson vampires have become witches, but it's all so convoluted and has no bearing on this show so I'm not even touching it.) Elena and Alaric had a brief period of psychotic vampirism, and between the two of them killed "only" one human. Katherine… well, Katherine took too much pleasure in her vampirism and took being a mean girl to new heights. Even as a human, that attitude was so ingrained in her, it just wasn't going away after five hundred years.

My point is that Stefan is in new territory and all of that guilt that he felt as a vampire was, let's get real, for the most part selfishness. Because it made him look bad and Stefan loved his saintly projection. Now without that amplified self-absorption in place, true guilt is hitting him. In the car, Stefan was looking at the photographs of all of his victims. He took those pictures so that he could see, remember, and not forget what he did. This was not him writing names on a wall to savor in the kill. He didn't know any of these people for the most part. This wasn't about feeling guilty because people would know he did this and judge him harshly. This was Stefan facing what he did, the people he hurt, the destruction he left in his wake.

The same was true of his reaction to the realtor's daughter… again, he didn't know her. Think back on it, Stefan has only ever cared about the loss of those he cares about (or the people they care about). Even when he was in 'Saint Stefan' mode. This was a human being feeling genuine guilt and wanting to right a wrong. How Stefan dealt his blood-soaked hands, his arrest, the realtor's attack, all of it was so beautifully played by Paul Wesley. There was a fragility and vulnerability to human!Stefan, a tentativeness that showed how uncomfortable Stefan was in this weak mortal frame, how shell-shocked he was in this new condition. And, unfortunately, that hopelessness didn't only affect Stefan's state of mind, but it also weighed heavily over his attitude towards his relationship with Caroline. There was such a sense of despondency hanging over the two of them. It was just sad.

But hey, at least both Stefan and Caroline are still around. The same can't be said for Enzo. Yeah, now I'm not sure if Enzo (thus, or Tyler) is going to make it back to this earthly plane. I've made no secret of my lack of affection for Bonnie and Enzo, but I really felt for her and her lost love in this one. (I know! I'm kinda shocked myself.) I think it's because of the script by Chad Fiveashe and James Stoteraux (by the way, they've had more really great episodes now than not as great, so they are officially A-OK in my book). There were no protestations of Bonnie and Enzo's deep, eternal, forever love being the most loved love that ever loved. There was no allegorical rending of clothing. In other words, Bonnie's pain felt real, not some hyper-fantasy of what the most grieving grief that had ever grieved.

Even when she was so upset with her mother for burning Enzo's body, I was fine with it because, hello, she does love him. She believes she can feel, hear him and her mother just literally set all she physically has of him left afire. And Abby handled Bonnie's pain so well—shocker! Seriously, that was shocking! She understood Bonnie's anger and pain, and reached her by pointing out that the dark, cold place (i.e., Hell) that Enzo was in was not a place that he would ever want Bonnie to be. Because he loved her. Abby said and did all the right things. Not just in that final scene, but in all of their scenes. That actually surprised me a bit too. I was never terribly impressed with Persia White (Mrs. Joseph Morgan, by the way) in the past, but in this episode, I thought she was excellent. Maybe I've just gotten used to her in the role, I don't know, but I did love all of her scenes with Bonnie. Actually, I just loved all of Bonnie's scenes, period. I thought that everything with her worked.

So I felt for Bonnie, and for the first time in a long while, I was able to appreciate what she had with Enzo. In fact, I'm hoping that when I rewatch the series, I'll be able to just see them exactly as I complained about, but see it as intentional and that will work for me. They were in the real world for the first time and only a few months into their relationship. So, yeah, they were in the honeymoon stage. We'll see, obviously it depends on what they do with Bonnie from this point on. Like Enzo (and Tyler) staying dead-dead. I know, I know Kai (!!) just came back but I don't see that lasting. Maybe it will be just a temporary thing while Cade is roaming around Mystic Falls (of all places in the world… really, he chose Mystic Falls, Virginia?). I would be totally cool with Enzo coming back (briefly) to give Bonnie some kind of closure. Eh, he'll still probably come back for good. But, but, but… if he doesn't… maybe we'll get a hint of a future with Matt! PLEASE! Pretty, pretty please!

I mean, I cannot be the only person who watched their final scene and saw something there. Right?! If I'm wrong and it's just my bias in play then I will be sad. But… that scene! Oh, show, why must you toy with me? I've wanted Bonnie and Matt for a few seasons now and I really did think that we were heading there before the Bonnie/Enzo twuest love that ever loved this season. But then… THAT scene?! Matt waiting on her porch steps for her return just to check on her. He was so sweet and understanding, drawing on his own history (with Penny) pointing out her strength.

Bonnie: I don't think I can do this.
Matt: I do. You're one of the strongest people I know.
AWWW! MY HEART! Even his allusion to his forefather's closeness with Beatrice Bennett was a great, little bit. He offered her a bit of a tease, a story that she'll want to hear someday, something to distract her. (Oh, and I totally noticed that Bea is the first Bennett that we have met who had the same initials as Bonnie. And, Matt's ancestor and Bea totally had a thing for each other. Uh huh.) *sigh* Lastly, there were a few shots that just screamed "couple," including that gorgeously shot, final forehead kiss. If this means nothing, I will cry! (OK, not really, but I will be very bummed.)


Speaking of Bea, so, uhm, she had her hand on her stomach at one point in the tunnels, when she realized that she had to leave Ethan behind. So are we going to find out that Bonnie and Matt are actually distantly related?! (But going back that far it wouldn't be incest-y, right? They could still get together, though!) Or maybe that wasn't supposed to signify that (I mean, I figure they would have spelled that out explicitly). So maybe Matt and Bonnie will be the Maxwell and Bennett who have a happy ending whereas Ethan and Bea weren't able to. Or, we were supposed to get a pregnancy vibe from that moment and it will be revealed in a future episode (like really future with only four {sobs} left). In that case (*sigh*), maybe the whole point of the scene between Bonnie and Matt was to show that familial relation? Yeah, that was probably it. I'm going to cry.

So, yeah, their ancestors were pretty cool. I quite enjoyed that jaunt into the town's history. At first, I didn't understand why if they got Zach Roerig to play Ethan Maxwell—and, hey, YAY! for Roerig in old-timey stuff—why not have Kat Graham play Bea? However, I then realized that Ethan looked like "Matt" because Matt was essentially Ethan in his memories and of course, Matt would just see himself. Without Graham not playing Bea, though, it was OK because the writing of and the actress cast (Jaz Sinclair) for the character was wonderful. I thought she was delightful. Once again, one-off casting on this show does its job damn well.

The other aspect of casting where they (generally) are spot-on? Their villains. Wolé Parks is just doing a fantastic job as Cade. He doesn't act evil AT ALL; he's polite, smiles so deeply and he seems so genuine, but still manages to just drip with complete evil. Parks is just amazing, I mean, I still remember how sweet and open-hearted he was when we met him in ancient times before the villagers turned on him. There's such a difference between Arcadius and the Cade we know.

Also awesome? My precious Sybil! I was not expecting to ever see her again so this was a lovely surprise for me. Not as lovely… or should I say… AWESOME! as the return of my beloved Kai! Now, I do wish that Chris Woods' name had not been in the credits, though. I knew he was coming back, and had been spoiled that he was returning in episode 13 (or so I thought). Since he actually showed up in this one, it would have been a surprise had his name not spoiled his return in this one. Although, I do admit that I forgot about seeing his name about half-way through so it was still a bit of an unexpected squee moment when he walked in. Yes, the episode was that good! And the ending—with the awesome that is Kai!—was fantastic. Alaric and Damon's reaction to Kai's matter-of-fact attitude with his appearance was perfect. Of course Damon is just going to have a 'What the?!' reaction, while Ric would be beyond that and enraged. Kai, after all, did kill Ric's bride… on their wedding day no less. The best part, though? OMG! Kai's little hand wave at the very end! I LOVE HIM SO MUCH!!!


And on that adorable rascal, onto randoms –

- Matt's bloody feet were creepy and gross!

- So Bonnie's psychic scream of rage and pain did not enable her witchy powers. It just opened the door to Hell. That actually does make a lot of sense since Arcadius' original psychic scream of rage and pain—which was way, way more intense considering the circumstances—opened a crack and created Hell.

- Damn, Persia White (Abby) looked GORGEOUS!


- Arrrggghhh! Once again Damon blamed himself for Stefan being in the "mess" he was in… NO, NO, NO! Stefan had to AGREE to Cade's deal and he did so to save Caroline's kids. HELLO! Yes, Damon had the ulterior motive of not wanting to ever go to Hell, but it was a double-pronged deal. It also saved Alaric's children for goodness' sake!

- I have to say that Ethan surrounded on either side by the Sirens was pretty hot for a moment (if you ignore the situation).


- There they go again with Stefan "changing the deed" with the realtor for Bonnie's house. :RME:

- Oh. My. God! The show actually remembered canon about the cure… once taking it, vampire blood doesn't heal someone.

- I did like that the realtor remembered Stefan and what he did, and so attacked him when seeing him again. That made sense. I'm also glad that she's going to survive. Yay, Stefan and Caroline kept a child from being an orphan and all alone (thanks to Stefan's ripper self that set the whole situation in motion).

- So now we know how the one hundred witches burned—I LOVED that it wasn't some dastardly, evil plan that took them out. Rather, the witches chose to make that sacrifice in order to save the "village" of Mystic Falls. It was *their* choice.

- Hmm, when the Sirens were "singing" and controlling Ethan, Bea wasn't affected at all. That made me think of the third episode when Sybil didn't use her control to get Bonnie to do what she wanted. At the time, I thought it was that the Sirens couldn't control women, but now I wonder if it's just that they can't control witches who are so psychically strong themselves (whether their magic is dormant or not, like Bonnie).

- Hah! Damon is smarter than everyone else—he knew that the possibility of getting the journal was there and he took it. Also, I loved two things about "how it ends." Firstly, that Damon (of course) figured out why Cade wanted the journal, and secondly, making use of a character trait. Sybil really did tend to go on and on, so Damon knowing about the weapon and where it came from because of her talkativeness was hilarious… and made perfect sense.

- Oh, speaking of the journal, at first I thought that Damon was looking over at Ric when he was feeding Matt his blood. Nope, he was looking at the journal! Hah! And no one noticed. Oh, silly fools… you can't compete with the brain power of Damon Salvatore.

- Not only did Ian Somerhalder look really good in this episode (of course), but in that final Damon and Stefan scene, I have to say that Paul Wesley looked really good too.

- Uhm, what was up with Dorian reacting that way to Damon at the end? I would understand if he responded that way the *first* time that Damon showed up at the Armory. After all the last time he'd seen him, Damon had ripped into some innocent's throat and killed her. But that reaction came later. Weird.

- So Bonnie kidnapped Stefan, yes/yes? That so had to be her. The hooded person was short, and tasered him (so, the attackee knew that Stefan was now human). Plus, it totes made sense that Bonnie would have been waiting for Stefan to show up since either Caroline or Damon probably would have left Bonnie a message to pre-warn her (and in their mind, soften her up) that Stefan was coming over to apologize profusely for killing her boo. On the other hand, a really good comment was made that it could just be someone from Hell coming for Stefan. After all, a few minutes later we saw Kai.

Phew! Well, like I said at the top, I loved this episode. After having a few not-totally-awesome episodes in a row coming into this one, I was hopeful this would not disappoint and that hope was fulfilled. I really can't wait to see what happens next!
Tags: alaric saltzman, bonnie bennett, bonnie/matt, caroline forbes, damon salvatore, damon/alaric, damon/bonnie, damon/caroline, damon/elena, damon/matt, damon/stefan, ep discussion-tvd, ian somerhalder, kai parker, matt donovan, paul wesley, stefan salvatore, stefan/caroline, sybil, the vampire diaries, tv

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