Okay, I admit defeat. I can’t make a weekly schedule of blogging about tv – no matter how shallow – when I’m also trying to juggle a job which already requires me to spend much of my days typing, planning to flee the country within a few months and also having something that might be called a social life (if I knew what one of those was. Surely a girl who spends most of her evenings at home alone watching tv doesn’t have one?). Oh, and let’s not forget the thing I’ve had going for the last few years where I’m also absolutely shattered 95% of the time and seem to need about 10 hours of sleep a night to function. Okay, excuses done. Point is: it’s about two months since these episodes aired, right? But I’m not just going to give up on them, see, because I actually wrote blog posts for the penultimate and finale episodes in the weeks they aired. They’ve been sitting around in draft ever since, waiting for me to get round to doing this.
So I shall do it.
But I’m going to do it a bit differently. Given that it would be hard for me to evaluate the episodes without hindsight now anyway, and given how much time has passed, I’m going to lump them together and consider them from the point of view of the end of the season. (Spoilers up to 2.22, therefore, ahoy.) These two episodes are full of people trying to avert the seemingly inevitable, convincing themselves they can fight Klaus, survive their own self-sacrifice, stand a chance of winning Elena’s love, etc.
So was any of it worth the effort?
…no, not really.
Elena seems, on the surface, to be taking charge of her life in these episodes. She at least does a better job of surfing on the tip of the catastrophe curve with enough confidence that you almost believe she can come out on top. She brings Elijah back and convinces him to be on their side. Now, as it turns out that they do need him to kill Klaus even on top of Bonnie’s super-witch powers, that’s a pretty good thing to have done. Of course, the fact that he then chooses to betray them for the sake of family ties and brings the catastrophe crashing down on them is unfortunate. Perhaps Elena should have spent longer letting him sip tea and exposit all the reasons he has to hate and distrust his brother. It’s easily the best thing she does in terms of giving them a chance to beat Klaus, though, so kudos to Elena. Unfortunately, she then gets so wrapped up in what the whole sacrifice means to her personally – especially after Damon force-feeds her blood – that she clearly forgets all the other implications of the choices she’s been making recently. By deciding to go through with the sacrifice, in opposition to the Salvatores and anyone else who’s thinking straight, she inevitably dooms one werewolf and one vampire. Yet no-one thinks to send Tyler a text telling him to stay away from Mystic Falls? None of the vampires decide to stay at home in Elena’s carefully un-invited house that week? As far as I can remember, it was never even discussed – it might be logical to believe that he’d use Katherine as the vampire, and I could have gone with that if they’d openly assumed it, but to have just apparently forgotten that two other people also have to be sacrificed is unforgiveable of Elena, with all her self-righteous speeches about protecting family and friends.
Stefan, on the other hand, loses almost all pretence at agency in his eagerness to be the anti-Damon and support Elena in her determination to do the stupidly noble thing. I’m glad I believe Elena would never sit back so easily and allow Stefan (or Damon, or anyone else) to hand themselves over so meekly. Love means you let people make their own choices, sure, but it doesn’t mean you don’t fight them tooth and nail beforehand to convince them they’re wrong. His devotion to Elena also blinds him to everything else going on, and if anyone’s to blame for not seeing the Jenna-vamp sacrifice coming, it’s him. He was there as Klaus enjoyed threatening her and he just left it at beating up Klaus and getting Elena to explain vampires to Jenna? No, not good enough. Jenna is an obvious target for anyone wanting to include some poetic cruelty in Elena’s self-sacrifice, and she should have been kept in the loop on every way Klaus might try to trick them into doing things his way.
Of all of the characters, Damon is perhaps the one best suited to adapting to a chaotic situation where the odds are stacked against him, applying targeted violence in specific doses and somehow emerging unscathed. I’ll at least give him the credit of understanding just how doomed all their plans are at this stage and refusing to believe Elena’s happily-ever-after version of the story where Klaus is easily defeated and they all survive. It’s that desperation that drives him to do everything he can to just cause more chaos and upset everyone’s plans in the hope that something will trip up the inevitable. I don’t think his actions are particularly more selfish or reckless than anyone else’s – Elena doesn’t think through her self-sacrifice, Stefan goes along with everything so long as he still gets to look like the perfect boyfriend – but they’re undoubtedly a bit further out towards the crazy end of the scale. Feeding Elena his blood, trying to get Katherine on their side, picking a fight with practically anyone to cross his path – they’re all extremely reactive actions, but at least he has the grace to recognise that and give it a wry smile. He doesn’t really have more or less success than the rest, though, and if anything the moral of the story as seen from his viewpoint is very backwards – feeding Elena his blood leads to John’s sacrifice, which was probably the most waterproof way of preserving her life and also disposes of one of the least favourite human liabilities in Damon’s life. On the other hand, his one fairly noble and unselfish gesture of going to rescue Caroline and freeing Tyler too backfires in rather impressive form to leave him facing imminent death. Though I guess it turns itself round again as it results in Stefan finding a new way to be noble and sacrifice himself, saving Damon’s life and leaving him and Elena to team up next season. Then again, Damon could probably take losing Elena about as successfully than he could take losing Stefan, so… lose-lose.
It’s inevitable in the run up to a finale, I suppose, but it’s noticeable how none of the characters apart from those three make any attempt at all to control their own destinies during these episodes. Caroline and Tyler are off in a separate storyline, sure, and Alaric has an excuse since he’s got a lot to catch up on, and Jenna has even more to process, but essentially they are just being swept along by the events set in motion by Elena and co. Even Elijah doesn’t attempt to interfere with their actions beyond making sure they serve his ends as well – but as they do, all he really has to do is sit and wait. And needle Damon. Which is always appreciated.
– Elijah does, however, get to be absolutely badass whilst expositing over a tiny porcelain cup of tea. Which is a measure of just how incontrovertibly badass he is. Badass but misguided and far more vulnerable to being played than he’d like to think. Yep, he should join Damon and Alaric’s ineffective buddy cop team next season.
– Wow, Tyler got hot at some point. He’s just extra… wolfy… now. Or something. Either way, Michael Trevino’s cheekbones did some stellar work there.
– At least now I’m certain that someone on the writing staff has seen Buffy, given the ‘close your eyes’moment. Cheesy (and unearned) as that was, it oddly reassures me that at least they know when they’re copying stuff and it isn’t just cultural osmosis that’s likely to make Buffy look bad by association.
– I liked that the Damon/Stefan fights in these episodes were fairly underplayed. They were fore and centre in the scenes where they happened, obviously, but it didn’t come across as a big deal in the Lives Of The Salvatores like it used to in the early days. It’s no longer big bad mean Damon twisting the knife (sometimes literally), but just brotherly bickering and alpha-male stake-claiming between equals – at vampire levels of violence. I still feel like they’re pretty indestructible as brothers, which reflects on how well this season has built up their relationship.
– I wish Tyler had had even a little scene in the following episodes showing he was aware of having bitten Damon and was somewhat interested in the outcome. I know he was off in a purely Caroline story that ignored everything else going on, but he seems like the sort of person who might have some emotion worth knowing about there, and I’d have liked to see what it was. Guilt at having (apparently) killed someone? Satisfaction at having accidentally avenged Mason’s death? Pretending not to care at all? I’m not sure, and I think it could have been an interesting window on his new wolfy self.
– Favourite understated moment: the confirmation that Elijah and Klaus did indeed know a previous Petrova (what’s a word for proto-doppelganger other than ‘original,’ which clearly doesn’t work in this case?), and that she was in some way important to them (or at least to Elijah). Yay, more cool stuff for Nina Dobrev to do some day.