This week in Mystic Falls, nothing is beautiful and everything hurts…
Having finally admitted to myself that I would never get all outstanding reviews written before the season finale, I am nonetheless writing this one before I have seen the finale, so it’s written from the correct point of view. I will delay posting it until I’ve done episodes 19 and 20 to go up before it, but I’m making the effort to write this one properly when I am still unspoiled and can still enjoy all the speculation of going into the finale when I get to see it tonight…
The main theme of this whole episode – even of this whole half-season, really – is sacrifice. Sacrifice of others, sacrifice of self, the willingness to put others before yourself or the determination to put yourself before others. And although the focus has changed from week to week, we’ve still had some interesting aspects of selflessness that becomes selfish because it doesn’t think things through to the end, or selfishness that achieves an essentially selfless outcome. Elena doomed Jenna (or someone else in Jenna’s place) the moment she so selflessly decided to sacrifice herself. Damon saved Caroline and Tyler and incurred a fatal wound all so that Elena wouldn’t hate him forever. Those have both been played down in terms of obvious consequences of their choices, but for an episode that had perhaps some very obvious good/bad contrasts amongst the sacrificial choices of its protagonists, it makes me wonder just how pure – or how evil – any of our characters are supposed to be.
Klaus is at the heart of this. He is the most obviously evil character we’ve had on the show since Katherine, and appears to be equally selfish, equally ruthless, equally vicious – and much stronger. And yet he doesn’t feel like Katherine redux because a) Joseph Morgan and b) brother Elijah. The parallels were drawn clearly enough with Damon/Stefan two weeks ago that I cannot help but watch Klaus and wonder if there is more to his actions than we are seeing. We know that witches don’t always act for the greater good of nature (indeed, behold Greta). Was there more to the reason his werewolf side was repressed by them than we have been told to date? (From everything we know, surely it would have been better for the world to repress his Original vampire side anyway? Unless Original werewolves are similarly superpowered compared to their modern relatives.) And this is fueled by the moment of Elijah releasing him – whilst it was a necessary plot step in order for there still to be a bigger badder Big Bad out there next season, it makes no sense if Klaus is utterly evil. Because if he is, and if he was lying to Elijah about their family, then the very first thing he’ll do as soon as he’s recovered a little bit of strength will be to kill Elijah. And if that were going to happen, it would have happened on-screen at the moment of Elijah’s hesitation, I think, for maximum drama and immediate payoff. Therefore… I find myself believing that maybe he wasn’t lying, that maybe what we were seeing there was the equivalent of Stefan staking Damon in not-quite-the-heart as payback for killing Lexi because he knew there was more to Damon than that. If that’s the case, I await developments with interest.
Stefan’s decision to attempt to bargain for Jenna’s life with his own was, on the face of it, noble and selfless. And perhaps it truly was. Yet it was noticeably useless and doomed, as well. And it showed that Stefan too had not thought through the choice he was letting Elena make as regards who else was going to be sacrificed – would he have also offered himself as a swap for Caroline? I think he probably would have, and that just shows how stupid he’s being because in that case he should have gone with Elena from the start and faced his death as openly as she’s faced hers. Alternatively he could have done a Damon and just attempted to keep messing things up until eventually something sticks. But no, he needed Elena to see that he wouldn’t leave Jenna to die, and so he made a stupid gesture which had no effect whatsoever. (Note: I actually kind of like him for doing it, I just think he’s a naive fool sometimes.)
John’s self-sacrifice was the one with least fanfare, least need for others to know what he was sacrificing, and worked the best of any of them. There’s not much else to say about that really except that I’m going to miss David Anders on this show a surprising amount.
And Elena… well. Do we think she takes full responsibility for Jenna’s death? She should. Even given the fact that a thwarted Klaus would have undoubtedly wreaked vengeance on everyone Elena knew, Elena’s heartbreak at seeing Jenna there shows she really didn’t think the sacrifice through further than ‘I’m going to die.’ She’s always known that another vampire and werewolf had to be killed too, she even knew that Katherine created Caroline and Tyler for just that purpose, and yet it didn’t occur to her until she got to the quarry to wonder who was going to be filling those roles? She didn’t think to, say, phone Caroline and check she was okay (which she wasn’t)? Much as I admire her backbone and her determination to do things in what she considers to be the least of all the evils available, I am not sure I can easily forgive her for overlooking these additional members of the sacrifice she chose to be part of. And I’m not sure the show is even letting her really register how responsible she is for them. She grieved at the end, undoubtedly, but it seemed to be a self-contained grief, a sadness at those she’d lost, not an uncontrolled misery at the fact that it was all her fault (Jenna and John, and partly Damon too when she finds out about that). That annoys me more than I would like. I’m all for heroines making tough choices and sticking to them, but I’d like the consequences to hurt them deeply when they get it wrong. Just because she’s Elena doesn’t mean she has to be perfect.
Hmm. That’s probably enough about that. I just found it an intriguing connection between the actions of half the cast this week (and you could argue Damon attempted to sacrifice himself last week too, to add another data point to the graph).
– is Katherine still stuck in Alaric’s apartment until Klaus releases her? Because that’s going to be Awkward.
– the Caroline/Matt/Tyler story was nicely executed but I kept screaming at Caroline at least to remember what was going on that night and the whole reason why she and Tyler had been captured in the first place. She couldn’t have phoned someone to find out whether her best friend was being killed?
– there was a similar lack of urgency in the Bonnie/Jeremy scenes at the dilapidated dead witch mansion. Okay, it made perfect sense that they had to stay there until the last minute, but they should have been much more on edge, desperately wanting to go and help before they actually could. They shouldn’t have been joking about Emily Bennet having a crush on Johnathan Gilbert, at least.
– Damon’s wolfbite was kept fairly in the background but was nicely dealt with in the few scenes where it came up. Damon is reacting exactly as I would expect him to – attempting to be stoic, cynical and uncaring about his own imminent death, but bubbling under it all there’s this 5-year-old kid who just wants to tell someone who can hug him and say it’ll all be okay. His scene with Stefan was an excellent mix of the two.
– Meh, Greta. Meh, Jules. At least the cast is being thinned out a little. Rather unfortunately, there’s now no-one left in the regular cast that I can stand them killing off who I think can actually be killed off (the two I’d be okay with would be Jeremy and Bonnie, and yet somehow they feel totally safe).