In ‘Bad Moon Rising,’ the werewolves finally come out of the Mystic Falls closet, but their big teeth that are all the better to eat you with turn out to be less important than the ramifications of their existence in everyone else’s story.
The theme of control has been one that The Vampire Diaries has toyed with on many occasions, sometimes making it blatant as in ‘Under Control,’ but mostly letting it simmer under the surface of every character’s motivations and actions. It’s fertile ground for any show aimed at teenagers, of course, as learning to balance power against powerlessness is a good theme for any coming-of-age story, and this week the inability of werewolves to control their ‘curse’ plays out against a background of everyone being unable to truly control their lives in the way they’d like to.
Mason Lockwood, despite being the only person we have yet seen fully transform into a werewolf, functions more as the moral of the story than as a character in his own right. We see that he is familiar with his little monthly problem, seeking out a place which is safe to contain him and bringing along his own handy bag of restraints to help him get through the night with no inadvertent snacking. Unfortunately, his idiot nephew decides that that exact same location looks perfect for bringing a girl to after dark (which would be so ridiculous I’d call shenanigans if this weren’t the jackass known as Tyler Lockwood), and so Mason’s plan falls apart. He is forced to retreat to his car, which might have been able to contain him if only his favourite delicious vampire prey hadn’t wandered up and peered in the window at him. Great work, Stefan. But in the end he is saved from doing any serious damage and ends the night with no more to worry about than how he’s going to get all that mud off. He knows what he is, and he seems to be able to live with it without too much soul-searching. Hopefully he’ll be around long enough to help Tyler do the same.
Caroline, on the other hand, is having to deal with the brutal truths of her new reality. Having learned how to be a vampire in one of the most accelerated educational programmes ever last week, she now has to face living as one all the time, which comes with its own problems. Even with a gaudy new ring to protect her against that pesky sunlight, she can’t just pretend she’s the same person who wouldn’t harm a fluffy bunny. She tries to hold on to Matt, to a healthy relationship that has no murmur of the V-word in it, but in the end her bloodlust is stronger than her control. I am hoping she would have been able to stop before killing him, but in the end the point is moot as they are interrupted by all the werewolf drama. So Caroline ends up wiping his memories (worth noting we’ve never seen Stefan or Damon compel anyone they actually cared about, but we have seen Katherine do it), although in the end she manages to push Matt into breaking up with her, controlling her own emotions for the sake of letting him feel like he made the decision.
That this courage reflects somewhat badly on Stefan’s choice to stick around in Mystic Falls is brought up within the show, with Stefan saying he knows he should have left but just couldn’t do it. Whilst I’m sure any number of young girls would think that was the most romantic thing ever – and Stefan is conveniently forgetting that actually Elena took a say in that decision too – there was some weight to his self-judgment, and I have enough faith in this show to think that Stefan will feel some more ramifications from that decision than he yet has. (So far, he has developed a loving relationship with Elena and a restored brotherhood with Damon that seems to be stronger than at any time since 1864. Not looking like such a bad decision in that light, I’d say.)
Elena herself has not had much of a focus yet this season, merely reacting to things happening around her, but in her interactions with Damon this week it began to be evident that perhaps she is slowly developing a tougher shell, an ability to display one face to the world whilst bottling up very different emotions within. That has always been part of her character, ever since the pilot when she told her diary at length about how many times she’d said she was fine that day, but it seems now that she’s doing it less to hide from the world and more to hide from herself. She no longer wears her righteous anger on her sleeve, like a child who kicks and screams about how unfair the world is. Instead, like an adult who understands that her hatred is probably not justified, she lets it burn slowly and come out only as an occasional burst of bitterness and a general lack of belief or hope. She has always been one of the most optimistic characters on the show, but it seems that she is becoming both resigned and cynical as she watches her friends die or put each other’s lives in jeopardy. It seems now like Damon snapping Jeremy’s neck was the final breaking point for her, where she gave up believing that anything good could come of her hopeful influence on anyone and so retreated into focusing on damage control alone. Whilst I don’t have any problems with the realism of this shift, given the amount of crap the storyline has thrown at her, I hope they can keep her bitterness justified and steer her away from the whiny self-righteousness that has come to characterise Bonnie.
Bonnie, of course, is the epitome of believing that you should be able to control everything. Her power as a witch has allowed her to avoid having to confront the powerlessness that any other human in a world of vampires would have to deal with. Unlike Elena, who simply had to come to terms with the idea that if a vampire wants her dead, she’s probably dead, Bonnie has been able to sustain the illusion that all the vampires in Mystic Falls are there on her sufferance. She makes it explicit to Caroline in this episode how the rules of their friendship have to work now – Bonnie as judge, jury and executioner if she strays an inch over the line of acceptable behaviour – but it’s clear even as she does it that she’s over-estimating her own power. She may have the ability to inflict vampire migraines in the blink of an eye, but does that really stop a super-speeding vampire who only wants to break her neck? No, probably not. And it definitely doesn’t stop Katherine. Setting yourself up so clearly as an enemy to all vampires is not smart unless you really are invincible, or all vampires really are honourable people. Given that neither of those is true, I am interested to see what happens when she runs up against a force she can’t browbeat into obedience. Do witches have any power over werewolves?
As summed up in his most excellent 1920s film reference smorgasbord before the opening credits, Damon is a character who has always sought a level of control over his surroundings. We’ve seen him test all possible enemies around to establish their strength relative to his, and establish relations with the Council etc to keep tabs on everything that could affect him. Yet in the process, he inevitably seems to end up forming actual relationships and thus ends up losing the control he sought because he lets himself care what others think of him, and what happens to them. His sibling rivalry with Stefan down the centuries is a good example: it has reached a point where he needs Stefan around to validate him, and even in early episodes we saw that Stefan was able to get past Damon’s walls and kick the little boy lost inside. Yet Stefan has his own issues regarding Damon, and has been unable for 146 years to bring him back to the point of actually wanting to care, wanting to do the right thing. The person who did that was Elena, and yet Damon’s reasons for changing in season 1 were ultimately selfish and entirely about control – he liked Elena, he wanted her to like him, so he behaved according to how she would want him to. So far, so Spike-and-Buffy-esque. But back in ‘Founders Day,’ we saw his confession that he had somehow ended up caring about more than that, feeling protective of Mystic Falls, of Anna, of Jeremy. He’s confused as to how that happened, and so are we, but it seems to offer the one lifeline that may be keeping him from ‘exploding’ at the moment. He’s lost Katherine, he snapped for a second when Elena rejected him on top of that, and now he’s lost Elena’s friendship as well but – as far as we saw in a very short scene, anyway – he still seems to be holding it together. His word choice regarding Jeremy’s ring intrigued me: he says “I don’t know what I’d have done if he wasn’t wearing it.” In other words, breaking Jeremy’s neck is not something current Damon feels is within the realm of justifiable/acceptable behaviour. Killing him would have destroyed Elena’s faith in Damon, certainly, but is that also a hint that it might have destroyed Damon’s own faith in Damon? It seems that the Damon we are seeing this season is more in control of his own emotions despite letting them come to the surface more often (or perhaps because of it). Seeing Elena’s own imperfections can only be a good step for him, I feel, and if he can find a way to stay connected to the world on his own terms then maybe there’s a path to redemption that doesn’t involve the love of a girl. I’d like to see that path.
Of course, werewolves may complicate the world by providing yet another supernatural force that can’t be controlled, but for now Mystic Falls has all the chaos it needs in the form of one Katherine Pierce. It’s hard to see right now what her plans may be with Caroline, but you can bet they’re not going to promote calm and stability in anyone’s life. Those who have already come to terms with their inability to control their own lives may well be in the best position to handle whatever she chooses to throw at them.
I always like it when vampires reference pop culture from past decades, as it makes perfect sense that it would all be equal to them. But in news of me clearly being too young, I had to research both Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi to make sure Damon was saying what I thought he was. Smart of the writers to purposely avert the obvious Twilight comparison though and just point out that werewolves have never been best of friends with vampires.
Does it seem a little myopic to anyone else that Elena sees Katherine purely as her doppelganger? Given the centuries that Katherine’s been around for, surely Elena is actually the doppelganger in her story rather than vice versa. Though, given that Katherine must surely have had a hand in creating said doppelganger, it would indeed be nice if that backfired on her according to the mythologically troublesome view of such things.
Caroline mocking Stefan’s Serious Vampire Look was excellent. That dialogue could have been lifted straight from a Cordelia/Angel scene, and I don’t mean that as an insult to either show. Effectively mocking an over-serious hero is always good, and seeing Stefan smile for once was well worth it. Now all we need is someone to deliver an ‘I love you so much, I almost forgot to brood!’ style parody. Damon?
Can werewolves be compelled? We know Tyler can, but he doesn’t seem to be a full werewolf yet. I’d assume other things won’t necessarily work – surely you can’t end up with an actually vamped werewolf, for example – so I wonder what would happen if anyone tried to compel Mason. I also wonder how good Mason’s memories are from his wolfy form – does he now know what Stefan and Caroline are?