This week in Mystic Falls, everyone forgets about tomorrow. Which would be an example that the fans would do well to follow for the next few months as well, although hopefully with less disastrous results…
This review marks the first time I’ve tried to spot a theme in an episode for a while, since I’ve been trying so hard to catch up that all my previous posts have been focused more just on remembering what happened and finding anything at all worth saying about it now that I know what happens next. But I’m writing this sitting on a train, staring out at the somewhat uninspiring red-brick environs of the bottom middle bit of England, and my brain has leisure to turn things over and join the dots.
The dots it has found go like this: everyone sacrifices everything for love. Except for those who don’t love, who therefore win. At least for the moment.
Of course, this has been a theme of the show throughout, right from the moment Stefan succumbed to the ‘need to know’ Elena and laid her open to being discovered/destroyed by Damon (and, as it turns out, Klaus too), but I’m not sure there’s ever been an episode so thoroughly and clearly focused on it as this one. Last week, Elena attempted to sacrifice herself out of some sort of love for her family and friends (even if she forgot the rather obvious problem of the additional sacrifices required), but it got so muddled up by Klaus enacting personal vengeance and everybody else attempting to upset the ritual in whatever ways possible that you couldn’t clearly blame any of the eventual consequences on Elena’s actions alone. This week, however, all three main characters – plus a couple more – put themselves in danger or ignore the consequences of their actions in order to act purely out of love for their friends or relations. (Well, technically not all three in this episode, since Damon technically faced the danger two episodes ago and has now got the consequences, which is kind of the point, but his actions still absolutely fit the mould here – he just got there sooner.)
Stefan, of course, makes the biggest conscious sacrifice of anyone this week. Whether it quite matches Elena’s determination to let Klaus kill her I am not sure, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Stefan would have done almost anything in exchange for that cure, up to and including his own death. (Going to Klaus does, after all, carry that outcome as a fairly high risk.) What Klaus eventually gets from him is probably even more repugnant to sober, sensible Stefan (ooh, alliteration) than death would be – yet he barely blinks as he essentially signs his soul away in delicious Capri-sun bags of blood. Where exactly this will go next season, however, is something that I’m in two minds on. It could become the driving arc of the first part of the season at least, forging new alliances, expanding the world of the show, sending Stefan into a far deeper spiral than we saw in season 1. I hope it does – I’d like that show, I think, and I’d particularly enjoy the changes it would force on a lot of the other relationships on the show. Many, many people owe Stefan some loyalty, and I’d be interested to see how they’d come together to attempt to save him. I’d also like Stefan to do something to really deserve that ‘ripper’ title and make me stop thinking of Rupert Giles when I hear it. But… I’m not sure this show is willing to commit to making its romantic hero quite that dark – quite apart from other factors, of course, such as it seeming unlikely that there will be too many plots set outside Mystic Falls, or the usual plot speed making it seem probable that this will all be resolved within an episode or two. The very setup of the show makes Stefan and Elena true love forever, and given the audience demographics I’m not sure it makes smart business sense to alienate those viewers who like the sweetness-and-light good guy. But, I don’t know. Stefan has always been refreshingly ruthless and badass when he’s needed to be, and it’s one of my favourite things about his character – so maybe they could pull off a full turn towards darkness. Or maybe they’ll keep the touches as light as they have before. I will watch with interest, either way.
Elena, on other hand, makes the biggest unconscious sacrifice this week – being there for Damon, openly admitting that she knows he loves her and that he is important enough to her that she feels it natural to curl up on his deathbed beside him and cry for him. And kiss him. That kiss, incidentally, felt perfect to me. It didn’t feel like a ship-tease (although it undoubtedly was), it didn’t feel like a declaration of love on Elena’s part, but it also didn’t feel completely meaningless. It was a pure gift of friendship and acceptance, and a nice bookend to the start of the season and her insistence that she wouldn’t do something like that… but the problem is that it was only a pure gift if Damon was about to die. With him cured – and with him being, you know, Damon – it becomes a liability, an opening for future problems and heartache and neck-snapping to arise from. That moment of Damon sitting up, of Elena looking back at him, of them both exchanging a glance of ‘what now?’ did a really good job of showing that, I think, and of balancing the sacrifice with the consequences waiting round the corner for them.
Bonnie’s love for Jeremy forces her to accept unknown consequences for saving his life, which she does without question – and without apparently even wondering what they might be (or trying to look it up in a grimoire). Will Jeremy thank her in the end? There’s no hint yet as to whether seeing ghosts (I’m assuming ghosts, and I’m hoping ghosts of humans as well as vampires, or vampire girlfriends) will be a gift or a curse, but… it’s going to be a curse, right? Or at least difficult for him to deal with. I look forward to Jeremy having an actual storyline that is unique to him – I hope to find him far less boring when he isn’t just worry-about-Bonnie-or-Elena guy.
Klaus and Katherine, on the other hand, come out smelling of roses. (Maybe roses dipped in blood and ashes.) Elijah’s sacrifice of his vengeance in favour of love for his family turns on him in spectacular style, and Klaus is free and invincible. Though if I were free and invincible, I can’t see why I’d want Stefan hanging around with me, but whatever – we know Klaus is a little strange sometimes. And Katherine manages enough fellow-feeling to bring Damon his cure – which is interesting, but also kind of required by the plot since she couldn’t stay in Alaric’s flat forever and nobody else was around to deliver the antidote – but otherwise gets free and clear thanks to Damon’s gift to her (and Klaus letting her go despite knowing about that, apparently – also intriguing). I suspect she’s not as free as she’d like to think, partly due to Klaus being determined to give her that 200 years of suffering, partly due to her own desire to keep tabs on Stefan, and as such she’s an interesting halfway house of someone who is in no way willing to sacrifice herself for others, but will perhaps take an occasional risk for them if she can’t see a consequence waiting to descend upon her. She’s not Klaus, at least, and this episode did a good job of making that clear (and making Klaus scarier as a result).
And the consequences? Well, as one of my other favourite vampires once remarked, those are always fun. We’ll be waiting a while yet to find out what they are, but I have no doubt that they’re going to make life ever more stressful for the remaining inhabitants of Mystic Falls. This has been a strong season overall, and I hope the changes they’re signaling here make enough of an impact to refresh the show ready for a similar run of brilliance next year.
– a strong season overall, perhaps, but I do have some issues with the pacing. Occasional episodes were guilty of imbalance too, but looking back at the season arc it is very clear how slow the whole seasonal arc was going in the middle section before this hectic rush towards the end of the last 5-6 episodes. I feel like a lot of the material in the final two episodes in particular could have landed with more weight, meant more to me, if it had just had a little more time to breathe amongst everything else that was going on. I think that was my problem with Jenna’s death last week, and it’s my problem with Stefan giving himself over to Klaus this week – there wasn’t a quiet moment in which to properly absorb what was happening before it had happened and was past and the next problem was looming. It didn’t completely spoil my enjoyment or my appreciation of those storylines, but it did mean I didn’t feel them in the moment when watching and had to think about them later in order to really feel that they’d happened.
– Caroline and the Sheriff: so are we done with that plotline? That too was rather abrupt. However, I’m all for keeping the Sheriff alive and bringing her into the main character group on her daughter’s side, so I’ll allow it as the only sensible way to wrap that story up without having to spend a whole episode again on how much she hates and distrusts vampires. I really wasn’t convinced by how quickly she and Caroline reconciled, though.
– I find it interesting that Katherine understands and sounds like she both resents and respects Stefan sacrificing himself for Damon. She sounds a little like she doesn’t believe Damon is worthy of it and wants him to feel guilty about it, doesn’t she? Intriguing, as ever, Katerina.
– the best way to bring Damon and Elena together? Endanger Stefan. Good job, show.
– but one question that I’m not sure was fully answered here – is Damon’s arc over for this season? Is he still a work of progress, living on a knife edge and likely to snap at any moment, or do the twin epiphanies of his whole life not being Stefan’s fault and Elena liking him just the way he is mean we might see a Damon with a more even keel next year? I wouldn’t be averse to that, though I hope he keeps his spontaneous bad planning skills at least.
– was that a whole storage unit full of Originals in coffins that Klaus left Elijah in? If it wasn’t, the repetition of the comment about reuniting him with their family is weird. If it was… then what the hell? He carts his family’s inanimate corpses with him wherever he goes? I hope he compels the removal companies good and proper…
– but seriously, what does Klaus want with Stefan? I can’t quite believe it’s just the amusement of having an out of control manic vampire buddy to haul around the country with him. Because Stefan is not who you’d pick, seriously. No matter how bloodthirsty he gets, I still can’t imagine him being fun exactly. I’m about 50% sure something else is going on here, something else which might perhaps be related to Katherine, or perhaps even more promisingly to that long-ago Petrova sacrifice that (I’m assuming) sealed Klaus’ curse in the first place. Here are the dots I’m joining to make the giant leap to that particular conclusion: Klaus never seems to have loved Katherine, as Elijah did (he was fine with her dying, much as he was fine with Elena dying this time – they were just things to break the curse with), yet he killed her whole family in revenge for her self-vamping despite surely knowing that would destroy the possibility of there ever being another doppelganger. Elijah confirmed that Katherine reminded him of someone else, so Elijah knew the girl who was sacrificed for Klaus’ curse, therefore Klaus presumably knew her too. And they knew her not just as a random person who was killed by the witches to bind a spell but as someone whose face they would recognise 500 odd years later. (And they didn’t have sepia photos to leave lying around their bedrooms in those days, either.) And so I’m certain the original Petrova is crucial to understanding Klaus, Elijah and perhaps the rest of the Originals if we ever get to meet them. With that in mind, Klaus’s simultaneous hatred of and obsession with Katherine becomes interesting – does he hate her not just because of the betrayal but because she resurrected some old wound? With that in mind, how would he feel about the person Katherine declares these days she loves? I wonder. Does Katherine – if she loves at all – love noble Stefan, or bloodlust Stefan? I don’t remember her ever saying that she watched over bloodlust Stefan, whereas she did admit to spying on him at a Bon Jovi concert. And unlike Damon, she’s never tried to force him to face what he is… I don’t know. This is entering the realms of ridiculously wild speculation now. But it’s all I’ve got for the next few months, so I’ll take it. 🙂
p.s. note on blog scheduling – by the time season 3 starts up again, I will be off travelling around the world (hopefully – there’s a lot of planning still to do). I won’t be back with regular internet access and spare time to ramble aimlessly about tv until Christmas. I’ll be here until August talking about other shows (yay, White Collar’s back soon) but Vampire Diaries coverage will be on hiatus until the new year at least.