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Thursday, 25 of February of 2021

The Vampire Diaries — “The Reckoning”

Klaus gets serious this week--and actually becomes sort of scary!

I feel like I should say a big “thank you “ to the writers of The Vampire Diaries. Now THAT is what I’ve been looking for. Is there a single character that doesn’t have raised stakes? Well, Bonnie, maybe. But even Matt—yes, Matt!—does something awesome this episode. He becomes a real character, who wants something, who isn’t afraid to make tough choices, and who refuses to let others lead him by the nose. Without going into too many details (to avoid spoilers on the front page), let’s review.

Stefan? He’s f’d, basically, and this is a good thing from a narrative perspective. The best thing about the change that Stefan experiences is that it directly impacts other characters, driving the plot in a really upsetting way (you know, “upsetting” in a good way).

Damon? He makes a series of choices this episode that have serious ramifications. And he’s totally adorable while doing it. Damon basically solidifies his loyalties, and they are exactly where they should be.

Jeremy? Takes responsibility for his new abilities. And he partners with Katherine! How cool is that?

Tyler—oh, my baby Tyler. Let us not speak of it because it is so upsetting (“upsetting” in a bad way). But obviously, Awesome Vampire Caroline’s concerned look at the end of the episode suggests this storyline is far from done, meaning Caroline and I both expect it to get worse.

Bonnie mostly reacts this episode. She is given little to do but to follow everyone else’s lead. The fact that she follows Matt—and that he knows what he is doing—is pretty remarkable. Rebekah also sits around following orders, but I suppose she could still become a useful character. Or she may be another Bonnie. Or worse, Rose.  But TVD specializes in redeeming awful characters, so jury is still out on Rebekah.

Elena witnesses something awful. And she refuses to let Damon help her forget. I’m really excited to see how the psychological torture of the next few weeks affects her.

Most shocking? Klaus finally DID something! I know, I can’t believe it either. He finally grew up to become a real bad guy. And then he gets one-upped by Damon, returning some balance to this battle. A bad guy that is too powerful leaves the viewer with little of interest—bad guys, too, need a weaknesses, or the tension drops out.

The only downside to this episode was the absence of Ric.  But I imagine he will have a stronger role to play in the weeks to come.

It took TVD a few weeks, but they have finally brought all our characters back together, and it was epic.  Look below as I use strange modifiers to describe this episodes–words like “subtle” and “elegant”.  Despite its many other virtues, these are not words that one usually associates with TVD, meaning this episode delivers in new and unexpected ways.

We open in the darkened school. We hear the sound of metal contacting metal, like someone is weight lifting. Sure enough, Matt is getting in an after-hours workout. Then he hears another sound and sees a shadow. He goes to investigate, walking through an empty hallway. When he enters a room, there’s a sudden crash of sound. The lights flip on and we see Elena, Tyler, Bonnie, and Awesome Vampire Caroline. They’ve been setting up a hundred tiny mousetraps—it is senior prank night! Matt is a bit taken aback, and the others admit that Caroline is forcing them to participate. The tone goes from spooky to funny to deadly as Elena walks out of the room and walks right into Klaus. “You’re supposed to be dead,” he leers, “what am I going to do about that?”

Katherine and Damon are bickering in the car. “Stop being cute,” he snarls. “That’s impossible,” she replies sweetly. She starts to come on to him, and he seems interested. Suddenly, Katherine kisses him—while Damon is driving. It is pretty hot for a second, but then Damon pulls away, totally nonplussed. “Truth is, you just don’t do it for me anymore.” Katherine looks at him with anger.

Rebekah is there when Stefan finally awakens. He’s confused until she shares that Klaus has spent the afternoon breaking Stefan’s neck repeatedly. [Guess Klaus is a bit upset, huh?] When Rebekah reveals that Klaus knows the doppleganger is alive and that she hopes Klaus is “ripping that cow’s bloody head off,” Stefan attacks her. “you really do love her, don’t you?” Rebekah says [lamest line ever uttered in any program ever—and every program seems to utter it at some point]. But then she recovers with a much more clever line, “consider me jealous,” she says as she stabs him in the gut with a crow bar.

Klaus is excited about the variety of ways he can torture Elena. For example, he compels two students. The first, he says to stand with one leg in the air. The other, he tells to beat her to death if she drops her leg.

Damon has had enough of Katherine being coy, so he pulls over and throws the keys into the woods. He wants to know what is her plan. She explains that the necklace—Elena and Rebekah’s necklace—was meant to be her leverage with Klaus. Then she found a better plan. She warns Damon Elena won’t like her plan, then opens the trunk to reveal Jeremy lying inside.

Awesome Vampire Caroline, kissing Tyler, asks him if he thinks Matt is okay. Tyler reminds Caroline that bringing up the ex while kissing the current isn’t a great idea, but he quickly adds that he loves how big is her heart. They continue being super cute until Rebekah arrives: “you two are adorable.” [For once, Rebekah says something with which I agree!] By way of introduction, Rebekah says, “I’m the new girl.” [This is a bit too self-aware. I’m not sure the writers know what to do with Rebekah yet—it seems like that are trying too hard to make her clever.  Sarcasm is not a character, people.]

Bonnie and Matt talk about Jeremy’s ghosts in a rather refreshing example of frankness. They marvel at how messed up life has gotten since that summer they both worked as lifeguard.  Matt admits he’s feeling pretty lost. He goes to get more toilet paper for their teepee-ing of the school pool. In the bathroom, he sees a stall door open by itself. We see Vicki appear behind him, saying “I’m here Matty, I can help you.”

Rebekah brings Tyler to Klaus, who promptly feeds Tyler his blood and snaps his neck, effecitively changing Tyler forever into a hybrid monster. [Now, if you have been reading my TVD posts, you know that I have have LOVED the redemption of Tyler Lockwood. Having him move so effectively from total a-hole to a kinda sweet and super vulnerable a-hole (just kidding) has been incredibly moving. This change, though, may ruin all that. What will it be like for Tyler to lust for blood? How will he process his new powers, his new heightened desires? How will Caroline react to his transformation? This is a troubling development from the perspective of my Tyler love.]

Now, from the perspective of wanting Klaus being a scary bad guy, this move was AWESOME. He suggests Bonnie better be quick about figuring out how to keep Tyler alive.

Stefan awakens with the crow bar still in his chest [dude is having a really rough day] and off he goes to see if Elena is dead yet.

Rebekah meets Elena and responds in typical dumb girl form by trying to insult Elena: “the original [doppleganger] was much prettier” [Here’s why Rebekahis an idiot: the whole point is that the dopplegangers look exactly alike, hence the use of the word “double”. So basically, Rebekah just told Elena she was pretty. Looks like I need to start advocating for Rebekah to get, you know, a character aside from being a pest.]

Bonnie is pondering how to save Tyler, when she realizes that while she may not be able to talk with the dead, Jeremy sure can. So off she goes to find Jeremy [a venture doomed to folly, of course, since the audience knows Katherine has already kidnapped Jeremy].

Speaking of Katherine, she teases Damon, “what if I told you there was a way to kill Klaus? And I not dagger dead, dead dead.” Katherine reveals that Pearl knew a vampire that could kill Klaus—in fact that was Pearl’s leverage over Katherine because she refused to reveal who was this mystery hunter. The only other person Pearl told about the man was Anna…which brings us to Jeremy. [Katherine is the smartest character on this show, for reals.]

Stefan arrives at the school to apologize to Klaus and pledge his loyalty [man, whipped Stefan is bor-ing.] He swears to Klaus, “whatever you ask of me, I will do” [which is another really dumb statement since Elena is right there in front of him and we all know Stefan won’t kill her.] But Klaus is feeling generous, so he only asks that Stefan kill the two teenagers (remember the girl with her leg in the air?). Stefan hesitates, and Klaus has lost patience. He compels Stefan—“All I wanted was your allegiance, so now I’ll have to take it.” Stefan then kills both the kids, to Elena’s horror.

Anna appears to Jeremy but she balks when asked to give away her mother’s secret to help Damon and Katherine. Katherine comments to Damon, “My advice? If you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few legs.” Damon says, “it’s nothing personal” and smacks Jeremy upside the head.   Anna reveals that there is a vampire named Michael who hunts other vampires—so it would be very stupid for either Katherine or Damon to wake him. This warning, of course, will not deter Katherine, cause she’s terrific.

Awesome Vampire Caroline awakens to find Tyler dead. Rebekah corrects her, “dead-ish.” Super bored, Rebekah is flipping through Caroline’s phone and sees a photo of Elena wearing her necklace. [note: the egregious product placement was again absent this week, even when the storyline sort of justified it. The CW profits must be up, meaning they don’t have to whore themselves so often.] Rebekah rushes off to yell at Elena for wearing her necklace, but Elena explains that Katherine stole the necklace from her. Rebekah bites into Elena’s neck, but Klaus stops her.  “Make her tell me where it is,” Rebekah shouts.  Klaus’ patience is again thinning, so he sets a clock—literally sets the big clock in the gym to 20 minutes [why does Klaus know how to operate a school gym clock?!  Will another flashback reveal his series of side jobs throughout the years?] and informs Bonnie that this is the amount of time she has before Klaus makes Stefan eat Elena. [Another great move by Klaus since he’s forcing the others to do his bidding on his timeframe. Setting a literal clock infuses the action with suspense, though I wish this one had more of an organic origin. The better clock would be a natural one—Klaus has seen enough hybrids to know that Tyler only has a half hour before he dies…something like that. Then the clock is less capricious and more urgent.]

Matt is getting ready to leave the school with Bonnie so they can find Jeremy, but he sees that his clothes have been laid on the floor, in a path, leading him back to the pool where his keys are waiting at the bottom of the pool. Vicki texts Matt, and for the first time ever, Matt is one step ahead of me. He gets an idea, and it is a crazy, daring, brave idea. He calls Bonnie to warn her that he will need her to bring him back from the dead. She insists she doesn’t have that power anymore, but he assures her that she won’t need magic. He grabs some weights from the gym, ties them to him with his weight belt, and jumps in the pool to his death.

[There is a lot that is nice about this moment. First, it brings us full circle. Now it is not only clear why we see Matt working out at the beginning of the episode (to prepare us for the eventual use of the weights to drown himself), but we also understand why Bonnie and Matt were joking about spending their last summer as lifeguards, before all this vampire craziness started. Matt knows that Bonnie can perform CPR, because they trained as lifeguards together. I will note that when the lifeguard line came up, I was a bit annoyed, wondering why I was hearing these two reminisce. But once Matt jumped in that pool to kill himself, I appreciated the comparative subtlety of the plotting.]

Damon is running low on patience himself [am I wrong to try to read parallels between Damon and Klaus—as sort of the flip sides of a coin?], so he demands Katherine return his cell phone to him. Damon rushes off to save Elena, annoying Katherine to no end: “You’re going to get yourself killed.  The Damon I knew wouldn’t have been that stupid.” Damon gives her a wry smile, “I wouldn’t have done it for you.” [Nice one, Damon.]

Bonnie races to Matt and does indeed find him dead. She begins CPR, but we see that Matt has found Vicki on the other side. Vicki gets right to the point—she has a message for Bonnie.

The clock reads 6 minutes remaining.

Stefan is pretty much freaking out. Elena assures him he will be able to stop if he feeds on her. “I’m a ripper,” he explains in frustration to Elena, “a ripper doesn’t stop. I listen to the words coming out of your mouth and all I hear is the sound of your heart pumping blood through your body.” She tries to calm him down by reminding him that he can stop if he wants it badly enough. His reply is rather hopeless and sarcastic, “why, because I love you?” ____________Now Elena is angry: “you’ll fight because after everything that we’ve been through, you owe me that.” Stefan’s voice is small, “I can’t help what I am, Elena.”

The clock read 4:51.

Tyler is conscious now. Awesome Vampire Caroline has to tell him that he is in transition.

Matt explains to Bonnie that the hybrids can’t transition because Elena is still alive.  Bonnie looks with despair at Matt because she knows Tyler will die without Elena’s own death.

As the clock runs out, Stefan orders Elena to run. Elena says she loves him and begs him to fight his urges. She runs, and he chases. He tries to stop, throwing himself into walls. When he finds himself in the cafeteria, he breaks a broom and stabs himself in the gut. Klaus is impressed: “The only thing stronger than your craving for blood is your love for this one girl.” Klaus tells Stefan to turn off his humanity, “all the guilt must be exhausting.”  Stefan fights him, saying, “no.” Finally, Klaus resorts to compulsion, ordering Stefan to turn off his humanity.  We hear a sound effect like a door closing [sorry, but the sound was cheesy].  Elena asks, with horror, “what did you do?” “I fixed him,” Klaus answers. Stefan dives into Elena’s neck and she screams.

Klaus tells Rebekah that the original witch says Elena should be dead.  Rebekah is excited, “does that mean we can kill her?”  “No, I’m fairly certain it means the opposite.” Seems he has had a bit of realization. If the original witch set up the spell such that Klaus would kill Elena, he determines that the better approach may be to do the opposite of what the witch intended. He gives the transitioning Tyler a vial of Elena’s blood, and  for a moment, he writhes on the floor.  Then his vampire teeth come out, and Tyler’s transition is complete. Klaus reacts with relief, “now that’s a good sign.”

Elena awakens in a hospital, but she quickly realizes that the compelled nurse is draining her blood rather than supplementing it.

Klaus explains to Rebekah that the original witch hated him. This means she would never have wanted there to be an obvious path for Klaus to become a hybrid and transform others. So her failsafe was to make killing the doppleganger—the key to making other hybrids—a requirement of his own transformation. Ironically, Uncle John’s sacrifice for Elena has actually helped Klaus beat the witch at her own game.

[I have to admit—I love this explanation. Often with a show like this, we get half-assed rationalizations that are one part reason, one part imagination, and two parts suspension of disbelief. The theory of the original witch’s plan has a real elegance—it feels like an organic development to this story. Whoever came up with it in the writers’ room should be commended.]

As they talk through the witch’s plan, Klaus comments that she intended for him to be alone for all time.  His faith looks genuinely sad.  Rebekah notices, “Is that what this is all about—your obsession with hybrids? You just don’t want to be alone?”  [For a guy who has killed every member of his family, loneliness seems a strange motivation.]

Klaus sends Rebekah off to get “his hybrid”, but Damon arrives and says Klaus will have to kill him if he wants Damon to stop.  Klaus reminds Damon that unlike Stefan, Klaus keeps his word. Then he thinks better of it and tries to kill Damon…until Damon drops the name, Michael.  Klaus freezes. “Consider it our leverage,” Damon warns him.

Damon finds Elena, weak, in the hospital room. He detaches and tube from her arm, and stares at the traces of her blood within it. It is a strange moment—his face is hard to read—is it compassion? Sadness? A guilty hunger? Or is he just trying to understand why they want her blood? He picks Elena up and carries her out.

Awesome Vampire Caroline is walking out of the school with Tyler, who is anything but weak. In fact, he feels “phenomenal.” “It’s a rush, everything is just better,” he exclaims. He kisses Caroline, “this is going to be an amazing year.” But the look of concern on her face as she hugs him suggests that she is not so sure. [And neither am I.]

Bonnie is yelling at Matt, “what you did was reckless and stupid.” “But it worked,” he says with a satisfied smile. Bonnie has gentleness in her voice when she recommends that Matt try to avoid the craziness that is their lives—he’s the only one that can live life like a normal person. Matt looks lost, but he says he understands what Bonnie is saying. He asks her to give him a moment to say goodbye to Vicki, and then we learn that Matt can see her.

Damon hands Elena a bourbon to help her forget. When he offers to make her really forget, she turns him down. “I need to remember—all of it.” Damon holds up Elena’s necklace, proudly noting that he stole it back from Katherine for her. He offers it, seemingly, as a tacit acknowledgement that the necklace is Elena’s link to Stefan. She sighs, “he’s really gone this time.” Damon places the necklace carelessly on a nearby table [And I scream at him, don’t you know how important is that talisman? Have some care, buddy.] Then Elena looks at Damon with hurt, “where were you, Damon?” He is shaken, admitting that he shouldn’t have left: “I promise you, I will never leave you again.” [Of course a Damon/Elena shipper like myself is happy to see Damon be loyal and strong, but he also is doing something super unhealthy since he knows Elena will always choose Stefan. As a result, while I’m excited to see their relationship develop, I’m equal parts worried about my Damon.] They smile at each other, committed.

Stefan walks into the Salvatore living, noting how cozy  are Damon and Elena.  He announces that Klaus has left him in Mystic Falls to keep an eye on Elena. Stefan is cold and careless, “by all means, carry on.” Elena’s torture is just beginning.

Katherine and Jeremy break into a tomb and remove the lid to a stone sarcophagus. Michael’s eyes open.

Place your bets on who is Michael, people.  Is he Klaus and Rebekah’s father?  Is he another potential hybrid?  Is he the true Original vampire? I’m not sure, but if balance of Klaus’ power is what I wanted, I am hoping we just got it.

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