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Wednesday, 30 of September of 2020

The Vampire Diaries — “Homecoming”

Oh no, she seems to be thinking--did the show just totally ruin my character?

Hmmmm.  That’s about where I’m at with this episode.  One thing I can certainly say is that this week was not at all like last week’s super talky episode.  Some stuff happened here.  A plan was hatched. A person was killed.  Things kinda got reset but then, not reset at all.  It was the perfect midseason finale in some ways—they have shifted the players on the board just enough to surprise viewers but not enough to dramatically alter the central thrust of the season.

So here’s my real issue—the central thrust of the season is Klaus.  Yes, it is also bad Stefan (and that I like).  But Klaus…um, how do I put this?  He sucks.  You know, as a bad guy.  He isn’t scary, he’s terribly whiny (runs in the family), and he tends to talk much bigger than he acts.  Why oh why are we continuing with Klaus when other possible bad guys—ahem, Mikael—seem to have so much more potential for genuine menace and mayhem?

Elena and Damon may be coming to terms with losing Stefan.  Maybe.  But that was super tentative because there was no  kiss between them, there was no goodbye between Elena and Stefan, there was nothing that would prevent Elena from ever loving Stefan again.  So really, Elena’s decision to try to move on was not really a decision—it was a statement of fact that he’s sort of out of the picture for a while. Disappointing.

Did anyone really suffer a loss here?  Okay, I did.  My favorite couple is no more, and it seemed an appropriate break.  But I am sad, nevertheless.

Ugh–sad!  I’ve had it up to here with “Sad Rebekah”. I made a joke in last week’s post that we need a “Sad Rebekah” meme like we had with “Sad Dawson.”  With Dawson, the funny part was Van Der Beek’s difficulty playing sad.  With Rebekah, it is her inability to feel anything else.  Bor-ing.  And not moving.  A sad sack of a woman, who is betrayed for 1000 years, worries more about a dance than, oh, I don’t know, asking her brother how he could do that to her? Disappointing.

I suppose I should take a moment to acknowledge that I have always complained that TVD has one big problem—being a vampire is always awesome, so why doesn’t everyone just sign up to become one? But then again, “Sad Rebekah” seems to think being a vampire is all lonely (whine, whine, whine), so maybe I’m supposed to read her predicament as a condemnation of vampirism.  That said, just because Rebekah is herself  a pretty crummy character (with no personal drive beyond joining the cheerleading squad?), I’m not sure that is quite what I was asking for with the whole, “there needs to be something about being a vampire that sucks to make Elena’s decision to avoid being one make more sense.”  [side note: Twilight is a pretty terrible set of books (fun, but terrible), but they were on to something with the monster baby.  Is having a baby the one human experience you lose as a vampire?  If The Vampire Diaries was set roughly twenty years later, that would be the issue—Elena is approaching 40 and neither of her two vampire boyfriends can give her what she needs.  Ha!] Suffice to say, Rebekah’s loneliness is not a terribly compelling plot line.

But let me say a few nice things.  I liked the Elena-Bonnie girl talk scene.  I loved the breakup scene (subtle, simple, effective).  But more importantly, there’s a trait in #TVD that I have long admired–the show’s writers respect Elena.  They don’t make her stupid or weak or whiny.  She tends to be pretty self-aware, confident, and determined.  Even though she doesn’t have Buffy’s advantages, she does have some of Buffy’s strength of self.  And that’s awesome. Elena is the one character that doesn’t need to be “fixed” by becoming supernatural.  Maybe that’s why she doesn’t need to turn.

So this episode is kind of a mess.  Stuff happens, yet nothing much changes.  How can we move forward at 120 miles per hour yet end up in exactly the same spot?  This is the danger of a mid-season finale, folks.  Disappointing.

Stefan chats with Klaus on the phone. Klaus is chipper because Portland is a breeding ground for werewolves.  What follows is a complicated set of scenes that toggle back and forth between the phone and the near past.  Though this was a tad bit disorienting, but it condensed the convoluted storytelling so I say, “three cheers” for editing.  Rough summary: Mikael has a stake fashioned from the now caput oak tree.  He won’t let Damon see it since, you know, it is the one weapon that can kill an Original. But Mikael assures Damon it is in a secure location. This is his insurance policy against what happens next.  Elena stabs Mikael with the ashy dagger (she has to do it cause a regular ol’ vamp that stabs him would die—so many rules, so little time to care if the show is consistent) so that a compelled Stefan could tell Klaus honestly that Mikael was dead.   Despite Stefan’s word, Klaus remains  unsure if Mikael is really gone, so he asks to talk to Rebekah, who continues the group’s lie about Mikael.  Then she walks away really sad (every scene with Rebekah this week ends this way). Elena then removes said dagger so Mikael could go get that special Original-killing stake, and the group hatches their plan. Damon: “Was that easy or what?” [Ha!  Ask the editors if that complicated set of occurrences was easy to organize.]

Rebekah, painting her toenails, waits for Papa Original to wake up.  When he does, she really gives him what’s for: “Whatever fatherly rubbish you are thinking, save it.  Nothing you say matters to me.”  The odd part here is that the person she really should yell at is Klaus.  Mikael actually seems a bit sad himself that Rebekah is rejecting him.  He reminds her that Klaus is the one who killed her mother. [Hold on—in 1,000 years, he NEVER mentioned this little detail before?].  Rebekah doesn’t care.  It seems she’s pissed her father killed her in the first place.  [Now, I know a dad killing a daughter is a bit extreme, but it has been 1,000 years!  Has she never gone to therapy in all that time to put these feelings behind her?]

Bonnie and Elena have what is perhaps one of the top three scenes of the episodes (and that’s saying a lot cause you should know I kinda hate Bonnie).  But this scene is so nice because it is quiet, honest, and real. Bonnie is sad about Jeremy, but she can’t talk to Elena about it because, you know, Jeremy is her brother, so she can’t be angry at him the way Bonnie can.  True ‘dat.  Of course, this echoes for Elena, cause she’s smart—she realizes that though Rebekah may help them, she will never be angry at Klaus they way Elena can.

Damon and Elena chat about the plan while they prepare wolfsbane grenades.  She’s worried about all the ways the plan could go wrong, but Damon assures Elena he has a secret contingency plan.  When she inquires for more information, Damon says he can’t tell her what that plan is or it won’t be a secret. [Here’s another minor complaint—I am still a bit confused about which was the main plan and which was the contingency plan.  Damon is so vague this week that I couldn’t quite follow all his plotting. If you followed this better than I, would you explain it to me in the comments?]  Stefan walks in looking for a tie–as a 162-year-old vampire going to a homecoming dance, he feels a need for a better tie. His disdain for the dance is clear, so Elena helpfully offers that he could not go to the dance.  [Stefan  is awesome during this scene cause he’s just a prick, but an honest one.]  “I am compelled to protect you, and if I look at your track record at high school dances, it is pretty tragic.  With my luck, you’ll get yourself murdered by the homecoming queen,” and this was a line that had to be seen and heard because the way Stefan inflected “homecoming queen” was pretty great (read: pretty rude).  But he’s not done folks, “If I look back at our  history of epic plan failures, it’s usually because one of us let our humanity get in the way.  So if I’m taking odds on how this thing goes down, it certainly is not going to be me who screws things up.” [I really like that this becomes the central question of the show—who is going to fuck up the plan by revealing their humanity?  Smart move, #TVD writers—you are drawing from a seemingly minor conversation (as with Bonnie and Elena) to indicate much broader thematic implications.  Hmm, the structure of this show is impressing me more as I write.]

Tyler and Caroline are setting up for the dance.  He suggests a quick bite, and he means a real, warm, human bite.  I’m so glad he is being straight up with Awesome Vampire Caroline rather than trying to hide everything.  Tyler doesn’t seem to have any shame about his new vampire lifestyle, so they get to talk openly about what is happening with him.  Awesome Vampire Caroline doesn’t like Tyler hanging out with “the evil blood slut: (an awesome term she uses repeatedly).  She’s even less pleased when Tyler reveals that he has set up the aforementioned evil blood slut with Matt.   Tyler reminds her that Mat is a guy and Rebekah is hot, but Awesome Vampire Caroline is suspsicious.  “This is a sire thing, isn’t it?” she accuses.  “I’m here hanging streamers and have glitter all over my hands.  If I’m sired to anybody, it’s you.” [Good point, Tyler.]

Elena finds Rebekah in her room getting ready for the dance.  [I’m not really a fan of the dress—seems a bit 1980s to me, but since none of the usual #TVD audience was alive during the 80s, maybe it is new to them.And I guess Rebekah was unconscious for all of the 80s, so it is new to her, too]  Sad Rebekah is sad cause this is her first high school dance [as if a high school dance is this wonderful rite of passage—ugh, I hated high school dances. And it isn’t like Rebekah missed out during her youth—she was a freakin’ Viking—no high school dances then, either].  Elena tries to be kind since she knows betraying Klaus must have been hard for Sad Rebekah, who replies, “Mikael is not a good person and he definitely can’t be trusted.  No one in my family can.” Elena then gives Rebekah back her mother’s necklace, and I thought, “wow, really bad idea, Elena.”  Luckily, Elena isn’t as dumb as I thought—Elena apologizes that she can’t leave anything to chance and she stabs Rebekah in the back with an ashy dagger.  [Super cool move, Elena.]

Damon is as impressed with Elena as I am: “In the back?  Harsh….It’s very Katherine of you.”  He assures her that is a compliment (I sure read it as a compliment), but Elena isn’t worrying about a descent into darkness.  Rather, she is concerned about how much she cares:  “Stefan’s right, someone is going to let her humanity get in the way, and it is probably going to be me…I care too much…I’m the weak link.” [Not if you keep stabbing bad guys in the back like that, Elena.]  She wants a better plan, but Damon says he has it covered.  “I know what to do and you’re not going to like it.” [Again, I’m confused about what is Damon’s plan here—I think it has to do with Stefan, but more about that below.]  “Do you trust me,” Damon tenderly asks Elena.  “Yes,” she says.  “Then you have nothing to worry about,” he explains. [God, I’m sure a sucker for Damon…oh, wait!  I just figured out to what he is referring here–he doesn’t want Elena to have ANY part in this plan.  He’s referencing Katherine. So Damon is purposely vague here for no reason–like he couldn’t tell Elena about Katherine.  This meas the writers are being vague just to “shock” us.  Cheap.]

Now Awesome Vampire Caroline is sad—but her sadness is way more entertaining than Rebekah’s.  Seems the school is flooded so the dance has moved to Tyler’s house.  When she arrives at the Lockwood mansion, Awesome Vampire Caroline is suspicious because she sees that in very little time, Not-So-Awesome-Hybrid Tyler has managed to throw a better party than Caroline’s—complete with My Morning Jacket playing out back.  We quickly see that Tyler is not really the host—rather, this is Klaus’ wake for his father, a party he has been planning for some time.

Matt arrives at the Salvatore mansion to pick up Rebekah [boy, wish I could have seen that date—would have been a riot], but Elena says he can take her as his backup date. The show does pause for one second to acknowledge how odd it is that Elena and Matt are attending a dance together again, but it is just a brief moment.

Stefan and Klaus talk about dead Mikael.  Stefan asks, “So what now?  Stop running?” Gotta give Klaus some credit—he says the first thing he wants to do (you know, after the party) is reunite his family.  He’s hoping “bygones will be bygones.” [Another question—how many coffins has Klaus been carting around with him?   I know one contains Elijah and one that was his sister’s is empty.  So who is in the others?]  Stefan, too, wants to let bygones… he asks Klaus for a reward if he brings dead Mikael to Klaus—freedom from Klaus’ compulsion.  Being in a really good mood, Klaus agrees.

During a conversation between Mikael and Damon, we learn that Damon has been in touch with Katherine—which means she survived Mikael’s attack. [The way the writers have handled all this Katherine nonsense is a bit nonsensical, but as mentioned above, it is more about the writers trying to leave out information for a fake surprise rather than a legitimately motivated character action.] Anyway, Mikael explains that he feeds on vampires because the bloodlust was an unintended side effect of his plan to protect his children.  Stefan walks in, wanting to know about the plan.  Damon is quick to the point: “Oh, we have a plan.  It just doesn’t involve you.” Mikael then feeds off Stefan and they leave him on the floor.  “You couldn’t just break his neck?” Damon asks.  “Well, that certainly occurred to me,” Mikael says with sass [see—now that is a good bad guy—sass and gumption.  Take a lesson from Papa, Klaus] [second side note: did Elena know about this part of the plan?].

Tyler asks Klaus where is his mother, and Klaus says he compelled her to go to church to pray for Tyler’s friends. At this point, Tyler is a bit suspicious (yes, it took him that long to get there).  Hey, Tyler thinks, who are all these strange people in my house?  Suddenly, he sees a small army of hybrids surrounding them.  [I’m afraid we have definite proof that while Tyler sure is purty, he ain’t bright.]  Klaus encourages Tyler to warn his friends that the hybrids are ready to make a move if anyone threatens Klaus.

Tyler makes a beeline for Awesome Vampire Caroline, who is pretty pissed.  Tyler wants to know what is the plan to attack Klaus, but Caroline swears she knows nothing [why does Caroline know nothing?  Seems like having another vampire helping…not to mention someone clever like Ric…may be a good thing].  Tyler is a bit panicked, but Caroline won’t stop: “You’re sired to team Klaus now, so you can’t be trusted.”  He then verveines her with a syringe, and down she goes. [Oh, Tyler….]

Elena chats with Klaus, cause why not? [Least explicable scene, even after the so-called “reveal”].  Klaus thinks Elena looks nervous, but she assures him it is just that she doesn’t like him.  Klaus taunts her as well—go ahead and take your best shot (a paraphrase).

Damon arrives at the party and on his way into the house, he pulls out the heart of a guy standing outside.  “Hybrid,” he says with extreme disdain.  [Yes, the moment was as terrific as it sounds.]

Tyler grabs Matt and begs him to get Awesome Vampire Caroline and everyone else out—Tyler knows he will have to protect Klaus, and he’s nervous what he would do if confronted by one of his friends.  He leaves Matt with the unconscious Caroline.

Damon then grabs Tyler, and they fight.  When Tyler tries to bite Damon, Damon tries to stake Tyler.  Bonnie does her mind melt trick on the both of them, saying killing Tyler is not part of the plan. [Okay, I’m a big Forwood fan, but Tyler is completely out of control.  Maybe protecting him doesn’t make much sense anymore.]  We see that Damon has the Original-killing stake [cause Damon has been invited and Papa Original has not, it seems.]

Klaus is told by a  minion that a visitor named Mikael is here to see him.  [Um, what??? What about the element of surprise?]  Klaus seems a bit bummed but not terribly shocked.  Klaus welcomes Papa Original with a  threat to have his hybrids tear Daddy limb from limb.  Mikael is unimpressed by his not-son’s bluster: “The big bad wolf.  You haven’t changed.  Still hiding behind your playthings like a coward. You forget, they may be sired by you, but they are still part vampire, and they can be compelled by me.”  A hybrid comes into view, with Elena in his arms.

Now it is Klaus’ turn to be unimpressed (the Originals are super unflappable, it seems—is that a vampire power, too?).  He tells Mikael to go ahead and kill Elena.  Mikael reminds him that without Elena, he can’t make any more hybrids, but Klaus doesn’t care—he just wants Daddy dead.  Then Mikael goes in for the kill with the emotional torture: “Nobody care about you anymore, boy. Who do you have, other than those whose loyalty you forced?  No one.  No one.”

Klaus is upset, but he won’t back down: “I’m calling your bluff, father.  Kill her.”  They go on like this back and forth for a bit, until Klaus shouts “Kill her!” repeatedly (so much for non-plussed).  Mikael senses victory, “Your impulse, Niklaus.  It has and will forever be the one thing that keeps you from being truly great,” and he stabs Elena.

Up pops Damon who stabs Klaus with the Original-killing stake, but he appears to have missed the heart.  [You’d think he’d have better aim, no?]  Katherine, who had been pretending to be Elena (nice that Papa Original seems surprised by that), pops up and throws the wolfsbane grenades on the hybrids (which we are supposed to believe totally removes them from the fight).  Stefan then pops up and jumps on Damon, allowing Klaus to grab the Original-killing stake and dispatch Daddy (Klaus does not miss the heart).  [Damn, Mikael is dead.  Just as I was getting to know him.]  Having earned his reward, Stefan gratefully steps up to Klaus, who frees him from compulsion.  Our losing heroes all disappear quickly. [there were so many so-called surprised here that I’m not sure if we are supposed to be impressed or confused.  I’m going with the latter.]

Tyler asks a recovering Awesome Vampire Caroline if she is okay, but she is still pissed.  “What do you think,” she spits.  “I’m sorry I stabbed you.  It was the oly thing I could think of to get you out of there,” Tyler feebly explains [don’t you hate when your boyfriend stabs you for your own good?].  Caroline is despondent, “How am I supposed to be with you when you are sired to him?”  [And here the scene gets interesting.  Tyler isn’t as dumb as I was thinking.]  He tells Caroline that he needs her to understand.  “Understand  what?” she interrupts him, “that you are one of the bad guys now?”  Tyler is quiet but firm, “Understand that this is who I am. There’s nothing that I could do about it. Klaus can’t be killed.  I can’t be fixed. Understand that I am okay with it…Because it’s better.  I don’t have to turn, Caroline, not unless I want to. I never have to go through that pain again.  If being sired to Klaus is the price that I have to pay, so be it…Don’t turn your back on me now.”  Caroline looks at him, and he knows.  When she says, “Tyler,” he hears it in her voice.  “Right,” he says quickly.  “I just…” she falters.  “Got it,” he says in a rush and leaves the room.  [That was their break-up—six words and a look of realization.  Really freakin’ well done.]

Damon is super unhappy, pacing the floor as Elena asks, “How did this happen?”.  Damon says, “we thought of everything…” and pur another drink.  Elena continues, “I don’t understand.  Stefan wanted Klaus dead, more than anything, that’s what we were counting on.”  Damon can’t even process his frustration: “I had him, Elena, I had Klaus.  This could have all been over.” Now Elena tries to comfort Damon, putting her hands on his face: “We’ll survive this.  We always survive.  Trust me.”  “We’re never getting Stefan back,” Damon says with pain in his voice, “you know that, don’t you?”  “Then we’ll let him go.  Okay?  We’ll have to let him go.”  They look at each other for a moment, and then the phone rings.

It is Katherine calling Damon to say goodbye since she’s going back into hiding.  She gets off the phone and says, “He doesn’t know where it all went wrong.”  The camera pans, and we see Stefan in the car with Katherine.  She says this is where he must get out of the car.  We see a series of flashbacks that are meant to clear everything up, but this is where the show really lets us down.  In part, cause it makes no sense.  In part, cause any potential for genuine character interaction, growth, and recognition is evacuated by the flashback technique.  #TVD is going to have to learn that flashbacks are almost always a cheap device.  They add little, and the only surprise they provide is one that seems forced and scripted. How about you give us character reveals in context, in the midst of a fight between the related characters or in the midst of a fuck?  Give us real tension, real connection, real rupture.  Enough with the flashbacks.  You are better than this, #TVD.

So here’s the quick synopsis of what is supposed to be a perfectly logical reveal.  During the scene in which Elena told Klaus she didn’t like him, it was really Katherine talking with Klaus.  The bit of the scene we didn’t see (cheap!) reveals that Klaus says if he dies, Damon dies, too [one presumes because a hybrid will kill him, I guess.]  In the car, Stefan asks Katherine why she knew he would stop Damon from killing Klaus.  “I didn’t,” she admits, “I was just hoping you would want to.”  Another flashback (cheap!) shows us that Katherine tried to force Stefan to care about Damon again [my notes here just say, “huh,” as I sat there and tried to determine how I felt about this moment.]

Here Stefan asks the million-dollar question—“You’ve wanted Klaus dead for 500 years.  Why would you risk all that to save Damon’s life?”  THIS IS A REALY IMPORTAT QUESTION, PEOPLE.  Her response?  “I wasn’t just trying to save Damon’s life.  I was trying to save yours.  Your humanity.  Let’s just say I liked the old you better.”  WHAT?!?!?!?!?! [I throw my remote at my TV.] Katherine doesn’t want to run off with evil Stefan to they can be a super evil couple?!?!

Then it gets even worse as Katherine tries to make Stefan believe that she, too, suffers from the incursion of her long dormant humanity: “I loved you.  I loved Damon, too.  Humanity is a vampire’s greatest weakness….it just keeps trying to fight its way back in.  Sometimes I let it.”

NOPE.  UH-UH.  NO WAY.  Katherine is a survivor.  This is super lame.

Stefan doesn’t want to let his humanity back in, but Katherine persists, “If you don’t let yourself feel, you won’t be able to do what I need you to do next.”  “What’s that?” Stefan asks.  “Get mad,” Katherine says simply.

Taking her advice, Stefan decides to get mad.  He tells Klaus on the phone, “You took everything from me, Klaus.  You know what never gets old?  Revenge.”  And we see that Stefan has taken all of Klaus’ entombed family away with him.  “What’s the matter, Klaus?  Missing something?” Stefan asks with glee.  “What are you doing?” Klaus asks darkly.  “Just enjoying my freedom,” Stefan explains.

And there ends a rather disappointing mid-season finale.


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