This week in Mystic Falls, everybody leaps before they look. Which works out just as well as you’d expect. When Damon seems the most rational and prepared of you all, residents of Mystic Falls? You’re doing it wrong.
This episode seemed to behave a lot like my imagination does sometimes when I ask it to take a show and imagine new things happening to the characters. (I am particularly fond of doing this for cancelled shows, obviously, but it’s fun for all when lying in bed failing to sleep at night.) My mind seems to find it hard to concoct scenes between any more than two people, maybe three at most, and what it finds most interesting is often putting characters together who don’t usually share that much screentime (or less than the standard pairings, anyway) to see how they interact. This is partly how the show has built/is building all its love triangles – taking two people who haven’t spent that much time together and forcing them into bonding situations to create a relationship. Even if it doesn’t become romantic, the mere existence of that relationship will change all the others around, and that’s good for both drama and continued energy in a long-running show. Some of our pairings this week were established ones which have had less focus in recent episodes, Damon and Elena in particular, where some were entirely new. Elena and Rose off investigating together was an example where both characters got to know each other really fast through a super-quick round of manipulation, betrayal and deception. So of course they now respect each other more than they did, because they’re both kind of awesome. Caroline and Tyler spending time together was inevitable, but I’m glad they addressed head on why they both need each other at the moment and therefore made it clear that this is not yet a fully-fledged triangle, just a close friendship developing. Of course, it will almost certainly go further, but once again this show manages to pleasantly surprise me with making triangular relationships seem real and awkward and inevitable in a small group of friends, rather than purely a device to amp up the drama.
Pairing Elena with Damon for most of the episode almost always leads to some good moments when they do it, and I wasn’t disappointed here. Elena seems to have a number of qualities in common with Damon and Stefan individually which they don’t have in common with each other, and I find it fascinating how she changes based on which of them she’s with. The two sides to her story this week involved anger and acceptance: one very much Damon’s quality, one Stefan’s. Yet Elena embodies both: she can calmly accept the necessity of her own sacrifice to save those she loves (apparently conveniently forgetting about Tyler being required for the sacrifice too, or maybe she just doesn’t like him very much), yet she rages against unfair things that she cannot defeat, such as Stefan being stuck in the tomb or Damon enforcing his decision on her in not allowing her inside. It’s always noticeable in her scenes with both brothers – an Elena/Stefan scene will almost always be calm and rational in its discussion of problems facing them, with muted debate until they agree on a joint course of action. An Elena/Damon scene will be argumentative, opinionated and even physically confrontational until one of them convinces the other to do things their way. Both work, in their different ways, and once again Elena becomes common ground between the two brothers, someone who can work with both of them as an equal and who seems to have very nearly come full circle now in undoing the division that Katherine created between them by playing those two very different personalities off each other until they self-destructed. It won’t last, of course – Katherine’s statement at the end was given enough weight by the cut to black to make me sure they’re planning a rocky road ahead – but once again this season we have Stefan trusting Damon with something, and Damon able to step up and accept that.
Elijah, interestingly enough, may not actually be the thing to break them. He is apparently happy to have Elena protected, ‘for now,’ which makes his motives considerably more unclear but makes me happier because if all he wanted was to grab Elena and the moonstone, he could clearly do it in half a day, slaughtering all of Mystic Falls as he went. It looks a lot like he intervened here to prevent news of the doppelganger’s existence filtering further up the vampire grapevine, which is very intriguing indeed (and would also explain his killing of Slater – Rose is not a threat since Elijah knows she will stay in the background and has no contacts herself, but Slater with his network of conversations absolutely would be). The options that I can see are: he too is/was in love with Katherine and is working in concert with her to sacrifice Elena such that she can finally be free. (That option seems least likely to me, given Katherine’s attempt to gather everything herself and Elijah’s current disinterest in grabbing Elena.) If Elijah is working directly for Klaus, then Klaus’ intentions must be something quite different from how Katherine and Slater have represented them, because again – no reason to keep Elena safe and off the radar if all you want to do is get her together with the moonstone and do the spell. I am hoping for what looks like a probable third option, which is Elijah working on his own scheme independent of Katherine or Klaus. What that could be, I have no idea, but he certainly seems to be something a lot more than the ‘footsoldier’ that Rose painted him as. He seems to be working from a position of weakness, and advancing his plans cautiously, but he undoubtedly has some much larger game plan afoot of which we have seen the barest tip of the iceberg yet.
On the whole, this episode was exciting but felt a little disjointed to me. Part of that can be assigned to the previous hiatus, especially in conjunction with a plot that was arc-heavy even for this show, but I think part is also due to the minor inconsistencies and scrappy nature of some of the smaller parts of the plot which it sometimes feels like nobody has really thought through at all. The tomb spell is one that really annoys me – I would completely buy that the spell is too strong for Bonnie to bring down on her own, too permanent for Stefan to ever escape next week as he obviously will, if it weren’t for the fact that, you know, it must have stayed down for days after Bonnie and her Grams originally lowered it, for all the tomb vampires to get out. Maybe there is a way to explain that way with how Grams died because of the spell and that put more energy into their lowering or something, but… I don’t want to do that much background fanwanking, thanks. I’d rather the rules were just consistent and the writing found a way to make the plot work round them. I’d also really like them to clarify what year we are in and when at some point, since Jeremy is apparently still 16 and yet I thought he was only a year younger than Elena at the start when she was 17? Also, it’s autumn (given the leaves), and I swear there hasn’t been enough breathing space between episode plots for us to get from early summer in Founders Day to autumn now.
But those are minor niggles. Let us instead enjoy the sundry observations…
– Matt! Alaric! Whee! Even if both of them had very little to do, it still makes me happy. Now we just need the return of the Sheriff asap.
– Ian Somerhalder’s inflections were on top form this week. “Of all the idiot plans, Stefan” was beautifully brotherly, and I cracked up completely at Damon getting his ‘what are you doing here?’ response to Elena’s ‘what are you doing here?’ question before she’d even said it. Hee.
– Did Slater invent tempered glass himself, or something? Or was he just well-connected enough to know the people who did?
– Vamp-wannabe girlfriend could have just been annoying, but instead was entertainingly annoying.
– Did I mention in all my blather above that Damon and Elena angry at each other were also just amazingly hot? I’m not above a good wallow in the shallow end sometimes.
– And on a more serious character note, I really appreciated Elena defending her right to try to die for her friends as much as they keep trying to die for her. The logistics of the supernatural world don’t let he be on an even playing field often, but I’m so glad she sees herself as an equal even if the rest of the world doesn’t.