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Thursday, 25 of February of 2021

The Vampire Diaries – “The New Deal”

Man, just as Jeremy became the show's most awesome character... (no really, he did)

Trying to remember the last episode, “Homecoming,” I had to re-read my review.  Boy, it has been a while, right?  I discovered that I kinda hated that episode. You can see my review here. Among the things I didn’t like was the way the episode promised big things but largely left our characters in exactly the same spot where they started the episode—at least emotionally. Let’s recap: Elena and Damon struggle with their sexual tension and with their disappointment that Stefan is kind of a dick now. Awesome Vampire Caroline breaks up with Not-So-Awesome-Hybrid Tyler—a scene I really liked though I hate that the breakup had to happen. More about Tyler below. Bonnie mourned her breakup with Jeremy. Katherine re-appeared and violated everything we know about her by revealing that her sort of human love for Damon and Stefan occasionally rears its ugly head (I cry foul!). Mikael was killed (a seriously premature move). And Stefan, who won his freedom from Klaus’ compulsion by thwarting Damon’s plan to kill Klaus, has stolen Klaus’ casket-housed family. Well, I guess some stuff happened—a lot of breakups. But for a number of reasons, the episode disappointed me.  Maybe it was less that nothing happened and more that a number of the things that happened forced me to think entirely differently about characters I thought I knew.  And Mikael’s premature death was just completely unacceptable.

This new episode—the midseason premiere, as the CW ridiculously called it—was less disappointing. It tried to come to terms with some deeper issues facing our fearless heroes, and Ric was back in grand form [Awesome Vampire Caroline was nowhere to be seen, though—is there some contract clause that means she and Ric can’t appear in the same episode? Maybe they could be the next super couple?]. As per usual, the central preoccupation of this episode is the love story between Stefan and Damon. Though I continue to object to the odd suggestion that Stefan thwarted Damon’s Klaus-killing plan in order to save Damon—a suggestion the show has not yet explained to my satisfaction—the idea that soulless Stefan cares not a whit about Elena but can’t help but care about his brother intrigues me.

The most exciting part of this episode, in terms of ideas and theme, is Jeremy’s story.  [I know, who would have thunk it?]  What has he lost as a bystander to his sister’s tragic love story?  How is Elena processing her responsibility for the shattered remnants of Jeremy’s life?  And what does it take to survive in a world that is constantly forcing one to confront immanent life and death situations.  You know, I don’t expect TVD to be super deep–this isn’t Lost or even Buffy.  But it has the potential in its characters and in its plotting to pause every once in a while to remind of the human costs of a supernatural life.  In those moments, this show becomes more than an adrenaline rush and romantic pleasure–it becomes compelling drama.

So we start with Bonnie, walking towards the crazy, angry witch house. My partner notes, “ah, the character I don’t care about.” Not a great beginning for the episode [don’t worry, it gets better]. Bonnie hears whispering, hushed but insistent, throughout the house. She descends into the basement and finds all of the Original Family caskets. For a second, I wondered if she was hearing the vampires, which seemed kind of neat, but later I realized it was more likely the witches talking to her. Anyway, she opens a casket and finds Klaus, with the Original Mama necklace around his hand. Bonnie reaches for it, hears a floorboard creak as she sees Klaus’ eyes open, and then she wakes up.

Elena, meanwhile, is out for a run, full throttle. She sees another runner coming towards her and gets nervous. She runs faster, thinks she has lost him, but then bumps into him. He has an accent and is adorable, so naturally, he must be evil. At this point, though, he just apologizes and walks away.

“I feel like I’m going crazy. I’m totally paranoid all the time,” Elena tells Bonnie. On her end, Bonnie shares that her recurring dream is making her feel a bit paranoid, too. Elena asks if it is just a dream, which leads to the topic of Stefan. Elena doesn’t want to discuss Stefan: “he betrayed us, Bonnie. The Stefan we knew is gone.” Bonnie asks how Damon is handling that….which leads to a straight cut to…

Damon getting drunk at breakfast. He’s bummed that Ric won’t play—but Ric says he’s not there to hang with Damon but is instead waiting for Jeremy, who got an F for cheatting on his midterm. The waitress at whom Damon is making eyes helpfully mentions that Jeremy was also fired last week from his job at the restaurant. Here begins the central thrust of this episode—what I call “The Jeremy Intervention.” AKA—“The Jeremy Swan Song.”

As Ric learns more about Jeremy’s profligacy, he heads straight into really dangerous territory by hanging out with Tyler. As Tyler helpfully explains, the best solution for their love trouble is “to get drunk and shoot stuff.” When Jeremy mentions Alaric standing in as his guardian, Tyler asks if Jeremy likes him…I heard a slight menace in his voice, as if he was about to suggest that he’d dispatch with Ric if Jeremy wanted. Tyler’s arrogance has grown. He brags about the very few ways he can be killed (have to rip out his heart or cut off his head–foreshadowing, people) and then invites Jeremy to shoot him with the crossbow. So Jeremy does, and Tyler catches the arrow with ease.

Elena is worried about Jeremy, so she’s complaining to Damon. “You’re feisty when you’re mad,” Damon gleefully reports. She insists, “he’s spiraling…ever since Bonnie broke up with him, he’s moody and not really talking to anyone” And Damon replies, “he’s a typical teenager.” Annoyed, Elena tells Damon, “You’re day drunk. It’s not exactly your most attractive look.” This pleases Damon because it suggests he has a more attractive look, and some gentle flirting ensues. The ease with which these two banter is lovely.

Klaus has a new buddy, Tony—the random runner who bumped into Elena. They show up at Elena’s. Klaus is worried because Rebekah is missing. He warns that he might fancy a home in Mystic Falls. All of this to intimade Elena because he wants something. “What more could you possibly want?” Elena naively asks. This is where she learns that Stefan has pissed off Klaus. “That sounds like a Klaus and Stefan problem…” Elena suggests, but Klaus notes, “well, this is me broadening the scope, sweetheart.” [Ugh, I hate Klaus as a bad guy—he’s so ineffectual.]

Bonnie has walked to the witch house, only this time she finds no caskets in the basement. From behind her, Stefan says, “hello.” He tells Bonnie that he needs her help to keep Klaus’ family hidden: “his family is his weakness. As long I have them, I can ruin him.”

Elena is home with Ric. She wryly jokes, “Vampires, hybrids, and originals? No problem. My rebellious brother? I’m worried.” Jeremy wanders in the house and says he is going back out with Tyler. This concerns Elena and Ric: “When did you start hanging out with Tyler Lockwood? He was sired by Klaus…he’s dangerous.” Jeremy offers a grand retort: “You of all people are going to lecture me on whom I can and can’t hang out with?” [Nicely done, Jeremy]. Since they won’t let him go out with Tyler, he invites Tyler in—the smirk on his face is kind of mean, and I lose faith in Jeremy being a redeemable character.

Klaus shows up at Damon’s house for a drink [is it noon in Mystic Falls yet? I want to be a vampire—they drink all freakin’ day.] They bond over profligate young siblings, and Damon warns, “That’s the thing with younger siblings, you never know what they are going to do.”

Ric gets more serious with Tyler, asking interesting questions: “What is the difference btw being sired and being compelled?” Tyler tries to explain, “Being sired is like faith—you do something because you believe it is the right thing.” They are sort of horrified by this response, so Tyler tries to explain further, “Klaus released me from a curse that was ruining my life. I owe him.” [You know, I’m really sad that Tyler is dead, having been killed and turned by Klaus, but he has a point. Being a werewolf was painful and he had no control over it. That he feels some gratitude towards Klaus is not surprising.] Elena, however, is less than moved. They ask him the usual “jumping off a bridge” type question that you ask kids when you think they have a friend who is a bad influence. They persist in their questions despite Tyler’s insistence that Klaus wouldn’t ask Tyler to to destroy himself. “What if he asked you to rip your own heart out?” Elena insists. “I don’t know, then I’d rip out my heart,” Tyler admits. Then, shocked by his own admission, Tyler tries to calm everyone down. “You’re overthinking it—I can still make my own decisions.”

That, folks, was a great scene.

Back to Damon and Klaus, enjoying a drink together, talking about what they have in common…namely their mutual loathing of Stefan. Klaus confides in Damon about his missing family, “He went in and pinched the bloody lot.” Damon is not surprised: “Course he did. Such a buzz kill, my baby bro.” This bonding, however, is interrupted when Klaus gets firm with Damon: “Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough when I told you to find your brother. So he makes a phone call to some nameless person and asks him to do “that thing” in very vague terms

Jeremy gets off the phone, and Tyler high tails it out of Elena’s house.  Elena is not pleased at all: “So Tyler Lockwood is a lunatic who has access to our house. I don’t think Tyler is even fully aware of how little reason lies behind what he’s saying…it’s this weird cult logic.”  Jeremy has disappeared, and his ring lies on the kitchen table.  They race outside and find Jeremy standing in the middle of the street—as a car comes crashing near. Ric runs out and pushes Jeremy out of the way, taking the full impact of the car upon himself [cause Ric is a real hero—love him.] The driver is the random buddy of Klaus’s, trying to be snarky but being super lame, “There I go again, bumping into people.”

Klaus is busy restoring a home. Tyler enters all in a huff: “You said you were sending them a warning…I didn’t think we’d have to actually kill anyone.” Klaus is amused, “Tyler, mate, what you are feeling is the remnant of a guilty conscience. At the end of the day, human life is a means to an end.” Tyler doesn’t seem to like this. [Come on, Tyler, quit being a douche bag.]

Elena tries to figure out what happened as Damon enters the house. He notices that Jeremy’s verveine bracelet is gone. “It was Tyler—that’s why he was hanging out with you,” she says. Damon realizes that Klaus is sending them a message, and explains that Klaus wants them to find the caskets. Jeremy is upset–he tries to explain the insanity of them considering giving Klaus back his entire family. He says the best plan is for everyone just to leave town: “This happens every time no matter what we do…school, work..who cares?  None of us are going to make it out of this town alive.” [At this point, my partner comments, “this is the most sensible thing I’ve ever heard on this show.”] Elena has her own plan—to give Klaus his sister. [I follow up my partner’s comment by saying that this is the dumbest thing I’ve every heard on this show—which leads to a discussion of terrorism—Never negotiate with terrorists, Elena.] Elena ignores all my thoughts and calls Bonnie, who tells Elena where to find Stefan.

Elena and Damon arrive at the witch house, but Damon is struggling—the witches still hate him so the are using their juju to mess with his daylight ring. Damon can’t go in, so he has to listen to Elena’s conversation with Stefan from outside. Elena tries to explain her predicament—Klaus will kill Jeremy if she doesn’t give him his family. Stefan is decidedly uninterested: “Not really my problem.” So Elena slaps Stefan: “then you can go to hell.” [I’m unclear how “free” is Stefan. It is kind of fun to see him so uninterested in Elena, I guess, but I remain suspicious that we’re going to find out that Stefan is faking this whole thing due to a long game that will save Elena and kill Klaus—I hope not, cause evil Stefan is kind of awesome. He’s a way better baddie than Klaus.]

Damon tries to comfort Elena outside the witch house. “You go deal with your brother. I’ll deal with mine,” he says with an angry enthusiasm. Damon runs in the witch house like the hero he is. It hurts. Stefan is impressed. Damon reveals that he is not there for Elena’s mission—to get Klaus’ family back—“I don’t care about the coffins. We need to talk.” They fight, cause Salvatore fights are hot and the CW people know it. Damon pushes Stefan out of the house so the witches can stop messing with him. He then stakes Stefan in the gut: “That is for screwing up my plan…why?” Stefan answers, “Piece by piece, Klaus took everything from me. I’m doing the same to him.” He then admits, “I did it to save you,” but Damon doesn’t want to hear it, “No, no way” [That’s what I keep saying.] Stefan explains that the hybrids would have killed Damon, as if this is enough [There is no “safe” in this town–why won’t these people just accept that?] “When are you going to get this in your head—stop saving me.” [I’m somewhat unsatisfied with this talk—I don’t trust Stefan anymore, and I’m unclear about what are Damon’s real feelings here.]

Jeremy is mad at Tyler now, but Tyler keeps trying to explain his insanity: “He doesn’t care about you…all he wants is to get his family back.” Jeremy won’t let Tyler off the hook: “Whenever Klaus wants something, someone ends up dead. You think about that before you blindly do whatever he says.” [Jeremy just became my favorite character—and he’s about to get EVEN BETTER.]

Ric isn’t feeling too well. Like, you can tell he has died today despite the fact that he was wearing his magical ring. So Elena has to call the ambulance. The ambulance arrives, and the techs announce that Ric has internal bleeding. At that moment, the good looking-but-evil hybrid arrives, and he compels the ambulance guys to leave. He offers his blood for Ric ,but Elena first has to invite him in. [Elena is so dumb sometimes in this episode, you can tell she’s considering it—she should put up a sign that says, “Hybrids welcome—young girl that is tasty to eat here.”]

Instead of Elena inviting the scary hybrid in, Jeremy arrives and shoots the bastard with his crossbow. “He’s not dead yet,” Jeremy grunts, so he goes in the house, grabs a meat cleaver and cuts the fucker’s head off. [For real—Jeremy just got AWESOME.] Nonplussed, covered in blood, Jeremy explains, “Now he’s dead. We’ve got to get Alaric to the hospital.”

Damon and Stefan are chatting. Damon wants to know why Stefan would save him—good question [see, even Damon knows that it makes no sense]. Stefan tells him to go away, but then says he is convinced there is another way to kill Klaus—“there has to be,” Stefan assures his brother. Okay, Damon wants in, then, but Stefan wants to do it alone. Damon reminds Stefan that he’s the brother who has cornered the market on being devious and cutthroat, so Stefan concedes, but with one condition—Elena has to stay out of it. Stefan then invites Damon back in the house, saying he’ll be okay in there this time. Seems the witches hate Klaus more than Damon—in fact, they hate him so much they’ve agreed to use their juju to hide the coffins in the basement.

In the hospital, a random hot woman doctor is shocked to see Ric up and walking around. [Alert—she’s hot and seemingly clueless—she must be supernatural, too]. Her name is Dr. Meredith Fell—apparently we are going to see her again. She asks Ric if he has a really great guardian angel or if he sold his soul to the devil. “A little of both,” Ric replies. [P.S. For a guy who almost died, Ric looks totally scrumptious in this scene. No wonder the doctor is drooling all over him.]

Elena meets with Klaus and apologizes that she couldn’t find Stefan. Klaus knows she is lying, but Elena informs him that she has something else for him. She shows him the daggered Rebekah in the cellar cell of the house. They make a deal—he won’t try to kill Jeremy and she’ll give him back his sister. Klaus agrees that that is a bargain, though he does remind her, “the question you should be asking is who will die next? Bonnie, Caroline, Damon…” [You can tell he knows that last one hurts her.] Elena wants nothing to do with Stefan: “you’ve turned him into a monster. Now he’s your problem.” As her parting blow, she lets Klaus know that Rebekah learned hs killed their mother, so she doesn’t imagine she’ll be too pleased when she comes back to life. “You can let yourself out,” she says as she walks out of the room.

[Okay, so Elena got the last word, but was it really wise to give Klaus back his sister? This whole episode, Elena has been eager to capitulate to Klaus—but towards what long-term end? She’s solving one mini-crisis but doesn’t actually do anything to resolve the larger problems in her life. Also, now I’m worried we’ll have to deal with Rebekah again, and she sucks worse than Klaus.]

Jeremy and Ric talk about whether his ring is broken—turns out Damon was Ric’s guardian angel/devil, giving Ric his blood. Ric is worried about Jeremy, who seems much too cavalier. He comments, “I shot a hybrid in the back and then cut his head off with a meat cleaver. Typical Sunday. This is the way things are. It sucks, but I’ve just got to get used to it.” [To be honest, this is the healthiest Jeremy has ever seemed. I like this new and improved Jeremy. Unfortunately, Elena is not as happy with the new Jeremy as I am.]

Damon finds Elena clearning up the hybrid’s blood from her front porch. He assures her he took care of the hybrid’s body and Ric. She admits that she gave Klaus back his sister: “what other choice did I have? I don’t trust Stefan.” [I can almost buy this—having Stefan as a wild card must be super disconcerting, but still…she really had no other choice but to make a deal with an untrustworthy vampire? Elijah had integrity, but Klaus is rather unlike his brother. Why would he keep to his word, anyway? They all think Tyler is nuts to trust him, but when Elena does, it is suddenly her only choice.] Damon concurs, “My brother is sort of running his own show.” Elena commiserates, “Well, my brother just chopped off someone’s head… It’s not right—he’s 16 years old. There has to be another way. We have to fix it.” Damon comforts her: “we will, okay?”

Klaus watches as the life comes back into Rebekah’s body. He talks to himself, knowing she won’t be as happy to see him as he will be to see her. So he stabs her again with the ashy dagger. [Oh, thank God—no more Rebekah for one episode.]

Elena wants to talk to Jeremy. “You were right,” she tells him, “You shouldn’t have to give up a normal life just because of me.” Damon walks in to the room, saying. “Your sister thinks we should have another one of our talks.” [At this point, I was suspicious, wondering what this means…they aren’t really going to remove his memories again, are they?] Damon continues, “Here’s the thing, Jer. You are going to go out of town for a while…date living girls…” Ric joins in, “Tell him he’s going to leave Mystic Falls behind and never think twice about it.” Damon finishes, “You’re gonna have a better life, Jeremy.” [They are getting rid of Jeremy? For real? I’m kind of surprised by it. But then I thought about it. Jeremy has already been a druggie, a depressive, a fighter, a lover, and a person who’s loved and lost three times. There’s no story left there. Though I’m sort of annoyed that Elena is doing this more for herself than for Jeremy.  He seems fine in accepting the new realities of his life–it is his sister that can’t deal.]

Bonnie is hanging with Stefan. She is curious about who is in the coffin she dreamt about. Stefan says it won’t open, but Bonnie hopes she can break the spell: “I think whatever is in this coffin is our answer [for how to kill Klaus].”

Elena is upset about the Jeremy situation—I mean, she did have Damon compel him once before, and that turned out pretty poorly. Damon disagrees: “Take it from me. Strange is bad. Dead is worse.” To make Elena feel better, he tries to comfort her [with what can only be the biggest lie he ever told]: “He’s so lucky to have you for a sister.” [Um, what? I love you Damon, but no way.] Elena is comforted: “Thank you…for everything. I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here.”

Damon is feeling tender, but he has a strange compulsion to be honest all of a sudden. He tells Elena, “Stefan didn’t screw us over. Well, he screwed us over, but he had a good reason.” He tells her the nonsense about Stefan trying to save him. Now he’s frustrated: “I thought for one second that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty any more…for wanting what I want.” Elena is nervous because Damon is standing very close. “Damon,” she caution, with an implicit plea to stop talking. “I know, believe me, I get it. Brother’s girl and all,” he says as he walks away.

Then he stops. “No, if I’m going to feel guilty about something…I’m going to feel guilty about this.” He grabs her and kisses her. It is very tender. And she seems into it. She takes his hand, but doesn’t push it away. Damon pulls away gently, with a simple, “Good night.” Elena looks very confused, stunned, shaken. Good kiss.

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