This week in Mystic Falls, everybody wonders what eternity’s good for anyway…
Firstly, apologies for how ridiculously late this review is. My life has been unusually hectic for the past month or so, and I used the fact that there wasn’t a new episode airing as an excuse not to prioritise writing this. I will try to do better from now on, although I already know my review of this week’s episode will be late because I’m away for 6 days from tomorrow. Anyway, apologies and on with the vampire drama!
Vampire immortality is something that vampire shows often forget to deal with properly, in my opinion. Backstory is often confined to an origin story and maybe a little bit of ‘all the bad stuff I did before I met you.’ This often feels a little remiss when there should be centuries of stories to be mined, many multiples of a normal human lifespan, and it can sometimes lead to vampires seeming younger than a wise old man character in the same show. After a slightly shaky start with Stefan and Damon back in early season 1, where apparently being old just meant you could recite lots of history dates and/or had slept with more women than you could remember, the Vampire Diaries has improved on this measure as time has gone on. The Stefan and Damon we have seen in 1864 are definitely men of their time, and I hope that at some point we get to see them being undead men of some of the interim eras as well. (Damon in the 1920s would be even more fun than Angel saving puppies, I think.) Even in her corsets and fancy hair, though, Katherine never quite seemed an 1864 woman – she seemed almost more modern in her attitudes, more self-assured and worldly than a young lady in Civil War society should have been. Perfectly understandable, of course, as at that point she was already twice Damon & Stefan’s current age, but I’m glad we finally got to see her as the young, scared girl she originally was. Obviously her backstory gives context to all of her actions, but her half millennium of survival really frames her current actions and behaviour in an unforgiving context – she was set in this mould 518 years ago. She’s not likely to change now. On the more flippant side of immortality, Slater asking Damon whether he had a better idea for how to spend his unlife was hilarious. I am so sad that Slater is dead, if only because I’d have loved to see Damon nonplussed by more abstract philosophical questions being thrown at him. It’s not like Damon actually has an answer to the question – nor do any of the vampires we’ve met. Rose makes Damon seem like a kid by comparison, so world-weary after having been on the run for those same 518 years. She has not, however, translated ‘old’ to ‘scary’ as the Originals seem to have done, certainly if Elijah is anything to go by. In this episode he showed himself to be calm and collected in revenge, gathering the information he needs before allowing himself to be ruthless in action. That’s a good start, as new scary bad guys go. (Also, taking out the windows was just coolly badass.)
However, the Originals themselves pose a little bit of a problem for the show, in my eyes. So we know that Elijah can survive staking, has no real issues with vervain or sunlight, and now he can compel other vampires as well. That makes him near to invincible compared to the vampires we’ve previously met, especially since nobody apparently knows all of that about Originals. And Elijah, we’re told, is ‘only a footsoldier.’ With that much power, if Elijah and co. do truly want something fairly straightforward like ‘get Elena plus moonstone and kill anyone who gets in our way,’ there’s no way they shouldn’t be able to achieve that within ooh, a week or so tops. I worry that the show may too soon back itself into a corner where our central characters have to miraculously escape capture/death a few too many times in a row. On the other hand, it seems quite likely to me that Elijah and co. don’t actually want anything as simple as that. Even Katherine is not quite coming clean, since if she was just planning to hand Elena over to Klaus then there’d have been no need to create Caroline, no real need even to make Mason or Tyler turn, if she just told Elijah where they were. No, Katherine wanted to do something herself and is still hiding whatever that agenda is. I’m betting it wouldn’t have directly benefited the Originals, given Katherine’s history. Also, Slater’s logic for why the Originals would want to stop werewolves breaking the curse made as little sense as Damon pointed out – there’s not enough of them to be a problem. Since Originals can already walk in the sunlight and are immune to a bunch of other vampire weaknesses, why on earth would they want to break the curse at this point and give themselves daytime competition for food by releasing every other vampire in the world from the curse? Werewolves must be less of a problem to them than that would be. I am therefore betting that what Elijah wants is not as straightforward as just breaking the curse – and if that’s the case, maybe this storyline can continue without it being improbable that Elena doesn’t die within about ten minutes flat. In other mythology loose ends that seem almost too obvious: how was Petrova blood used in the curse by an Aztec shaman prior to 1492? Perhaps there was an adventurer from Bulgaria (a land-locked nation?) who just happened to end up in southern America in the 1300s, but… it seems unlikely, and if they wanted us not to think of the question then 1492 was a very silly date to pick. Also, who were the Petrovas? Pretty rich in Katherine’s day, to have a leather-bound family history book in Latin in 1492 (as it has to be a book from then, or why would it have a sketch (presumably by Katherine’s hand) of her parents tucked in it?). And how did it end up in Isobel’s possession if Katherine herself hadn’t had it? I think I’ll forgive the props department for the fact it’s clearly a bible, not a family history book at all, although maybe Damon and Elena are just dumb enough they didn’t realise it was a bible because it was in Latin. I certainly don’t get the impression either of them know anything more about Katherine from having read it…
One more little point which might become a minor niggle if they take it far enough to contradict previous storyline: Rose’s statement that there is no switch once you’re a vampire that’s been around for a century or two. She didn’t really clarify what she meant, but I hope it’s a flexible enough definition to allow for having flicked the switch shortly after you were turned and staying ‘switched’ for any length of time until you choose to start feeling things again – at which point, you may not be able to flick it off again. If that’s how it works, then that makes sense with what we saw of Damon last season, and with what we’ve heard of him over the previous 140 years. If not, then he has really been feeling a full range of human emotions for the whole of that time but just ignoring them – which would make him a far less sympathetic character, and also a bit dumb to not have noticed. The first interpretation would also seem to fit with Katherine’s actions – she may have always been a fairly selfish person, but she was certainly given quite comprehensive reasons as a newbie vampire to switch off all emotion and focus only on survival. She remains the same person she became then, as far as we can tell, but if she’s been capable of feeling true love and regret and so on throughout that whole 500 years then she becomes even more heinous. I’d prefer the option that has her still feeling-less at present but in a position to choose to feel things again if she wanted to, and possibly to develop a small amount of familial feeling for Elena?
Elena, of course, is the VIP of this episode and makes any of my doubts above seem minor. (Not even counting Nina Dobrev’s performance, which is amazing.) Elena continues to do her best to steer her own destiny despite the ridiculous number of powerful supernatural beings trying to tell her what will be. Of course she’d question Katherine, and of course she’d do it without telling the Salvatores. And she wouldn’t be stupid, wouldn’t have to be rescued, because she’s Elena, and she’s just quietly awesome, always. Katherine may not have told her all the truth, but she knows enough now to work with and to see clearly how limited her choices are. She can’t protect herself from those who want to hurt her, and Stefan/Damon/Bonnie/Jeremy would probably die trying to protect her if she even tried. She can’t run away, or retribution will fall on her family and friends as it did on Katherine’s. Even vamping herself or just killing herself probably wouldn’t avoid that consequence, from what she knows at the moment. So what will she do? I don’t think she’ll consider vamping herself. She’s just not in that place yet, or even thinking like that. Similarly, she’s not the suicidal type. She is very much the fighting type, so I think she’ll try defensive action, but from what we know Elijah knows and is capable of, that seems pretty doomed. That would leave willing sacrifice, which seems a possible fit for her character… except that from what Katherine told her, Tyler and a vampire also have to die for that. Which she won’t do. So… wow. I’m not sure I’ve seen a main character so effectively completely screwed in all their options since the Farscape episode called We’re So Screwed. Good luck with this one, Elena… hopefully there is a loophole we just don’t know about yet.
– I don’t like Luka, but hopefully that is intentional. Having some evil magic users around might make a nice change (though unfortunate if all witches are good and all warlocks (hah. Stupid term) are evil…)
– I found Rose and Damon surprisingly hot together. Hmm. I doubt she’ll survive the season, but I like having her around at the moment. Particularly liked how they effectively built her up as a trustworthy new ally very fast through a combination of openness and sheer logic that she has nowhere else to go.
– Damon threatening people who are stronger than him: always fun to watch. Incidentally, do we think Rose knows who killed Lexi?
– Caroline was brilliant at both distracting Stefan and holding her own when he tried to guilt-trip her into telling him where Elena was. Boo to Elena for doubting her. Also, I’m glad she told Stefan that Tyler knows she’s a vampire, because keeping that a secret would have been a bad idea.
– Bonnie, I can understand finding the idea of a date with your best friend’s little brother a bit odd, but you were just plain rude at times and ignored him entirely for the new guy. Bad form.
– O where, tell me where, have my Matt and Alaric gone?