I’m once again writing this review far too late for real discussion of the issues raised, so after the cut I offer merely a few thoughts on all the things that can happen in darkened school rooms after hours. Aren’t they the best?
Okay, so can I say firstly: Matt Davis is great. Not only was he acting a character we’d never seen before, so we didn’t know what he was copying but he had to live up to the real thing in the immediately following episode, but he was also playing a character somewhat different than I think most of the audience had been expecting. Klaus, surely, was in our imaginations a sort of Elijah squared – cold, ruthless, utterly single-minded when focused on his goal. Turns out, though, Klaus isn’t like that at all. Ruthless maybe, but fickle, vain and more than a little tempted to do things in the most entertaining or grandstanding way possible. I applaud the show for doing that – it makes the Big Bads a lot more interesting and entertaining when they’re all as different from each other as they have been to date – but for Matt Davis to sell it to us first took some balls, on the writers’ part and on his. And yet, it worked. From his first scene with Katherine, where a handy sort of early-Damon shorthand was used to establish that he likes looking good and causing other people pain, right through his scenes at school, a wonderful sense of Always Chaotic Evil permeated the whole performance. Great stuff.
(Even better, having seen Klaus in his real body later, there was perhaps an extra layer of recklessness in Matt Davis’ performance to reflect the fact that Klaus was endangering someone else’s body and really didn’t care in the slightest who knew he was there or what damage they tried to do to him.)
I also, as always, loved how quickly the show set up plot points and knocked them down. Elena now owns the Salvatores’ house. Elena toys with them for a few moments about that, and especially Damon, because she has Petrova blood in her and if you chopped her in half it would say ‘tease’ through the centre. But Klaus walks straight through the defences as Alaric almost before we’ve even had time to wonder if it would work on him in that form. (Side note: who else is still uninvited? Have we seen Caroline there since the deed swapped hands? Katherine certainly knows nothing about it and would be shut out if she returned…)
Bonnie being set up to die left me very uninterested. I’m beginning to feel the beats of this show far too well to be surprised by most of the deaths, and I was fairly certain that this one was fake. There’s something in the pacing of exactly when in the episode certain things are revealed about the person’s chances of survival which tells you whether they stand a chance or not (more on this when I get to episode 21). In this case, I knew it was too pretty to be a real death scene and I knew as soon as Damon said Klaus wasn’t going to win tonight that Bonnie couldn’t die as part of his plan. So I enjoyed it for the bizarre ways in which witchcraft seems to affect the world around it – fluorescent light bulbs exploding in showers of sparks? Really? What’s even in them to make sparks? Also, as someone else’s recap pointed out I think, where did all those flyers even come from? The very few Mystic Falls kids who are still alive and actually go to school must console themselves for how lonely they are by printing hundreds of the things and sticking them all over the walls to pretend there’s actually stuff going on that doesn’t involve getting eaten by monsters.
Good subtle work on some of the relationships in this one. Matt almost being unable to be around Caroline and yet grudgingly starting to recognise that she is still Caroline was beautifully done, and I was both surprised and not-surprised by Stefan so easily tagging Damon in to dance with Elena while he went off to talk to them. You don’t have to spell out trust issues and friendships for them to be clear and fascinating, and in both of these cases the show did a very good job.
At the end of the episode, though, I punched the air and cheered. I’ve seen commentary online saying Elena was stupid to bring Elijah back, that there was no reason on earth he wouldn’t just turn round and kill them all – which is at least partially true, he has no reason to keep anyone but Elena alive – but I was so pleased that she looked at the immoveable object of Klaus and Bonnie’s inevitable death and thought ‘what I need is an unstoppable force, and I’ve got one in the basement if I can just figure out how to use it.’ Also, I love Elijah, so there’s that.
– I always love Damon making his own plans and doing his own thing if no-one else is around to consult. I’m particularly happy that they occasionally let it work when he does that, like this week.
– Damon telling Klaus-in-Alaric he wasn’t that impressed by Klaus was funny.
– I was obviously a fan of the ‘I will always choose you’ scene, but I think what I liked about it was that both of them were honest when it would probably have been easier for them not to be. Damon is used enough to Elena hating him that she didn’t really have to apologise, and choosing Bonnie’s death over Elena’s would be much easier if Elena didn’t know that’s the choice you’d make. But something compelled (heh) them to tell the truth despite those things, and I like that angle of unwilling honesty that their relationship has.
– The product placement this week was hysterically awful this week. Hee. But at least it made some storyline sense… sort of.
– Oh, and one thought that I couldn’t escape when watching Klaus-in-Alaric teach a class: funny as it was, there’s no way a class speaks up to tell a teacher what they’re supposed to be learning about. Especially in a school as unengaged as Mystic Falls. If your regular teacher comes into a class and goes ‘er… and what are we learning, again?’ you just stay silent and enjoy their deep, painful embarrassment. A student immediately piping up like he might not know and it was a perfectly normal thing to tell him = deeply wrong. (Unless, of course, Alaric is just always that absent-minded. Which would be funny.) That said, I did appreciate the fact that they made Elena blunder and call him Ric and thus give a semi-believable reason for the class to focus their amusement on someone else instead of noticing how out of character their teacher was being.