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Friday, 23 of April of 2021

Tag » the CW network

The Vampire Diaries — “My Brother’s Keeper”

Dang, and I was so excited about this image–now undermined entirely.

I used to write weekly reviews of The Vampire Diaries. Somewhere along the way, I got busy and found it harder to find the time. But now I think that’s not so much true. I think the show stopped inspiring me to write.

I remember during season 2, running out of my TV room to tell my partner about something awesome just happened on a show that seemed completely unafraid. It took chances. It sped through plots such that you almost cried out, “slow down, let me pause and relish.” The characters were curious but bold, anxious but determined, sexy but real.

Now the show feels like one big cheat. Over and over and over again.

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The Vampire Diaries – “The Departed”

The way I see, she could be the salvation of #TVD. And that just may save her absolutely devastated, wasted character.

Last year, I used to complain about certain aspects of The Vampire Diaries. I would note that this world made being a vampire seem, well, kind of awesome. Like, so awesome that trying to keep any of these people human made ZERO sense. And the show’s writers seemed, themselves, completely fascinated by the life of vampires, so much so that when they tried to give Damon a more complex backstory by reminding us that he is a reluctant vampire (or was), they couldn’t make the story work. We had one episode where Damon was experiencing angst and killed someone—seeming a sharp rupture from his new life of relative abstinence. And then the show never returned to that topic at all.

I now dream of last year’s problems. The show has become so convoluted as to be worth nothing. Without any constant—without any set  of stable reference points or code—the viewer has nothing to hold onto. This becomes most problematic when all I can think when watching a character “die” or a bad buy seemingly get put out to pasture is–wait, will it stick? Should I go ahead and be impressed that the show did something bold? Nah, I shouldn’t. Cause these writers always find a loophole that undoes their bravery, rendering it less brave and more shallow.

I don’t trust these writers any more. I believe them incapable of recognizing their really interesting characters (Michael, Elijah, Mama vampire) due to their truly bizarre preferences (menace-free Klaus, whiny Rebekah, who the hell is Kol and why is he still alive?). Would I go so far as to say the Original family has ruined #TVD? I might. Because once you create a bad guy that is somewhat invincible, the story loses stakes. When a bad guy is too powerful, your characters become helpless, and weak characters are not interesting characters. Worse, when the too powerful bad guy becomes a showwriter favorite, it seems all other characters are sacrificed on his altar of mediocrity.

So here are a few reasons why Klaus should have stayed dead, and a few other deeply troubling character journeys this season. While not a complete rejection of the show, this exploration documents my growing antipathy, even while it is, in itself, an expression of love for a show that used to delight me.

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The Vampire Diaries — Heart of Darkness

Look up chemistry in the dictionary, see reference to this scene

I haven’t been keeping up with my TVD reviews as I’d like, and I was sitting on some pretty serious disgruntled feelings in the last few weeks that I was pretty desperate to get out. After “The Murder of One,” I was pretty frustrated. It seemed the show was not only not going anywhere but also was displaying extreme signs of fatigue–dangerous ground for an energetic, youth-focused show like this. Most problematic, perhaps, is that I began to doubt the authority of the show’s writers.

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The Vampire Diaries — “All My Children”

You know? I kinda agree.

This week The Vampire Diaries presented one of their big showdown eps–a big huge buildup that lead to very little change of our current stasis. Dang.

Let’s review: Elena? Still torn between brothers. Stefan? Still fighting life without a soul (though there was one reveal—more about that below). Damon? Pretty much where he has been for years—was his choice a step forward or a big ol’ step back to normal? Klaus is a hybrid, Rebekah is a bitter annoying girl, Kol seems psychotic (I could get behind his version of vampire crazy), Ric has been shot, killed, maimed, beaten, or some other awful physical punishment…AGAIN.

In fact, the main character that changed (a literal change) is so minor I can’t figure out why I should care. Oh, and another minor character disappeared. So she is apparently back where she was, um, two episodes ago.

Way to move the plot forward, team TVD. (Keep reading, my review gets better, I promise)

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The Vampire Diaries – “Bringing Out the Dead”

Someone better tell her the life expectancy of long-absent parents who return to Mystic Falls. Oh wait, isn't she already dead?

After the high of last week, an episode that climaxed with the return of the only interesting Original, Elijah, this week’s rather convoluted episode brings us a whole bunch more Originals. Thing is, what are these Originals going to add? They haven’t done enough to develop the personalities of those we already know, so how the heck are they going to find time to make us care about the new ones?

As usual, Klaus is all bark, no bite. In one of his fits of temper, he threatened to stick his hand down Damon’s throat and rip out his innerds, yet have we ever seen Klaus actualy act on his hyperbole? Damon rips out a heart every three episodes. Heck, Elijah pulled one out last week, and he was only on screen for thirty seconds. But Klaus? Mr. Bluster keeps insisting that he’s so evil, yet I think the vampire doth protest too much. Your nudity is showing, Mr. Emperor.

There was one bit with Elijah that upped the stakes in a way that will give the rest of the season genuine tension and drive—Klaus refuses to give up Elena…ever. In fact, his plan extends to his exploitation of her children. This line in the sand—there will be no deal with Klaus that will free Elena—assures that Klaus has to die. Not that there was much fear the Salvatores would want to keep Klaus alive, but to hear him state so baldly that Elena is his must have riled the hell out of our beloved Salvatores. There were other treats in the dinner scene, as when Damon had to remind Stefan that he, like Klaus, is guilty of killing a parent, but I imagine next week’s dinner party will put this one to shame.

I also really, really, really loved the scenes with Awesome Daddy. His reminder to Caroline of what it means to be human—to experience death—underscored Elena’s own terror over Ric’s life. While Elena was crying that she couldn’t handle losing another family member, Awesome Vampire Caroline was learning that only by losing a family member can you really understand the significance of life.

And once again, Elena shows us that she’s a pretty great fantasy heroine, willing to do extraordinary things and refusing to let others dictate her limitations. Somehow Elena remains fully human without becoming a pathetic victim. And she saves the life of one of my favorite characters this week, so there’s that.

In general, this episode felt rather exposition-y.  The Salvatores were basically wasting time at the dinner party so they could buy time for the Bennett witches.  But that means the audience got stuck wasting time, too.  Interestingly, that made the human parts of the story–Elena and Awesome Vampire Caroline contemplating loss–the most interesting moments of the night.  Honestly, that’s a nice  change.  I mean, Damon–with his wit, charm, and all-around sexy appeal–can’t be allowed to steal our attention in every single episode, right?

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The Vampire Diaries – “The House Guest”

Mystic Falls has a witch problem.

The houseguest of the title is Katherine, shacking up with Damon and Stefan. Her interactions with Damon throughout this episode were kind of hilarious. He is working so hard to hate her, but Katherine still has the ability to wound him, and she knows it. Damon needs to take my advice about exes—buy an island, put them on it, sail away. Nothing good comes from hanging out with an evil ex.

In other news, one of our clueless characters discovers there are vampires in town. This character’s reaction to the news was horror and anger—an incredible scene depicting a vampire’s hopes dashed against the shores of that island where exes should live.  This scene delivered.

Less successful this week was the depiction of the witches. Many viewers have commented about the oddity that witches in this world are apparently exclusively African-American—the implications of that for race studies are profound. On a more practical level, however, it seems the witches are best used in small doses, as with Katherine’s witch, Lucy. Lucy came to town, caused havoc, betrayed Katherine, demonstrated her awesome power, offered Bonnie advice, and got the heck out of dodge. Awesome. When witches stick around too long, though, they end up betraying one of our heroes and getting killed. Why Bonnie hasn’t learned that she should better corral these witches, I do not know. Oh, wait, yes I do. Though being redeemed slowly by her sexy affair with Jeremy, Bonnie still has moments of extreme suckitude. After Dr. Martin stole her power, instead of turning to despair, Bonnie should have gotten tough and gotten her powers back. Perhaps she could have spared some lives.

This show is at its weakest when it makes certain points of mythology super vague or otherwise allows characters to act in inexplicable ways in order to justify a delay in the action. I bring this up because the show went out of its way to justify showing a band at the Grill. During a conversation between Awesome Vampire Caroline and Matt, she notices a stage being set up at the Grill, so Matt explains that the Grill needs more business and has hired a band for that night. Later, the girls make a plan to go see the band. We get all kinds of exposition to justify this band at the Grill. But the logic behind having to leave the dagger in Elijah—forever—for him to stay dead? We’re supposed to just take that for what it is–justified by some sort of vampire honor code. Bonnie sucking it up that Dr. Martin stole her powers? Totally understandable—in a completely inexplicable way. Why would she not try to explain to Dr. Martin that her goal was to protect Elena, an innocent? I know I shouldn’t ask too many questions, but sometimes the show brings its less believable moments into a spotlight that can’t be ingnored.

As it is, Bonnie’s failure to talk sense to Dr. Martin led to all this week’s biggest shenanigans. Interestingly, Katherine did very little to force others to act—instead, she offered comedic relief. So our heroes were largely acted upon rather than taking charge. This goes for Ric, trying to deal with Jenna’s anger; Damon, trying to ignore Katherine; Awesome Vampire Caroline, hemming and hawing about Matt, and even Elena, whom we barely see this episode.  With Elijah gone, Elena’s plan to save her friends is kaput.  You’d think she’d be actively trying to forge another plan rather than leaving it to the Salvatore brothers.  Didn’t she say she was in charge last week?  What happened to that girl?  Oh, yeah, girl’s night.

I struggle with these weekly recaps because they inevitably descend into nitpicking.  Was this episode enjoyable?  Darn tooting it was.  Did it offer a few surprises?  Yep.  But did the central plot expand?  Only in one major way.  Damon learned something from the Gilbert journal that only he and Stefan have seen.  We also learned a few things from Katherine that are likely all mixed with lies anyway.  A couple of reveals at the end of the episode set us up for more adventure when the show returns in a month [argh!].  But that means this week provided set up and it is for the rest of the season to execute.  Makes for a less satisfying episode.

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The Vampire Diaries – “The Dinner Party”

Don't let his mild-mannered career fool you--dude is Bad Ass.

I read some comments on Twitter that suggested this episode started slow and got bogged down in flashbacks. Allow me to disagree. Sure, the flashback stuff can distract from the always-more-interesting awesomeness of the present moment, but there was much goodness to be had this week.

Right at the top of my “goodness” list is Alaric Saltzman. Can I say enough about why this character rules me? Important to note: Alaric? Not undead. Yet he still manages to be quite the badass. As the show’s coolest humans, aka guys who don’t take guff from vampires, I kinda want Ric and Uncle John to form a bromance. Course, I haven’t actually seen Uncle John kill a vampire, have I? So maybe he isn’t good enough for Ric.

Elena and Stefan largely took a backseat this week. Sure, they talked about the past, and that final scene was pretty terrific, but largely, this episode was about Ric and Damon negotiating their friendship. Not sure if I was supposed to read a parallel between Stefan’s relationship with Lexi and Damon’s relationship with Ric, but I won’t mind if it goes that way. There’s a respect between Damon and Ric, solidified this week, that I hope the writers nurture.

There are some issues with this episode.  The rules surrounding the Originals seem awfully slippery–less for logic than for the writers to have an excuse to surprise us.  Trouble is, surprises work best when they are consistent with the world view developed by the show.  Without that, they are cheating and cheap.  But hey, this is a show about vampires so I won’t be too particular about realism.  More troubling is that Damon seemed to have a breakthrough (the bad kind) a few weeks ago–rediscovering his need to suppress all genuine emotion.  Other than feeding on Andie, though, we aren’t seeing much of that.  I hope the show is just taking its time, waiting for the darkness to explode in dramatic fashion.

As for my other favorite, literal bromance—there’s some signs the show is trying to create a divide between our Salvatore brothers. Was wondering when that whole “Damon killing Lexi” thing would come back up. Could be a good way to get Damon to rethink a few things. But more about that…after the jump.

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