Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries
Episode 15: Stand By Me
By: Carlos Uribe

The Vampire Diaries is a show about Elena's love triangle with two vampires.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Jeremy is really dead. I'm going to be honest with you: I took longer than Elena to really accept that he wasn't going to come back. This might be a show that has killed main characters before but it just seems to cruel to get rid of Elena's last surviving family member. This is a show that has managed to find a way to beat death before. This isn't even the first that Jeremy has died. One of the reasons he was able to see ghosts was because Bonnie had been able to use the spirits to bring him back to life. She can't do that anymore. She has lost her connection to the spirits. There's still hope. Jeremy was wearing the ring that protects him from a supernatural death. He was killed by one of the most powerful supernatural being, Silas. The show manages to explain that away by explaining that since Jeremy was one of the Five then the ring isn't going to work for him. He's a supernatural being. Elena doesn't want to believe that. She claims that since Jeremy's tattoo has disappeared then his supernatural duty has been fulfilled and the ring will be able to bring him back. It doesn't work that way. Once he starts to smell because he's decomposing then it's clear that the ring didn't bring him back. So he was really dead but that doesn't mean he's going to stay that way. The show could easily find a way to bring him back to life. It already has the perfect opportunity as Bonnie is convinced by Silas to help him raise the dead.

It's actually pretty great storytelling to kill a main character while another one learns they can get rid of the supernatural afterlife. The cost of bringing Jeremy back is going to be high. Shane had talked about how he needed three massacres but he had only committed two of them. It turns out the massacres aren't to raise Silas but to prepare the spell in order bring the supernatural dead back. If Bonnie wants to bring Jeremy back then she's going to need to kill twelve more people at a specific spot. She'll be able to channel the energy of the massacres to perform the spell. Killing twelve innocent people is bad enough but it only gets worse. Bonnie wouldn't just be bringing back Jeremy but every single supernatural being to have died. That means every witch, vampire, hunters, and werewolves. Some of them might be good like our heroes but a lot of them should remain dead for a reason. A lot of them are going to seek revenge on the people who killed them or their descendants. It would not be very pretty. The cost to bring back Jeremy is so high that even Elena realizes that she can't pursue it. She realizes that she's not going to be able to use magic to solve this problem. Jeremy is actually dead. She has lost the last member of her family. Her grief is handled well but it might not be permanent. Elena might not want to bring everyone back to life just so she could be with her brother but Bonnie does. She's going to perform the massacre and the spell even without the help from her friends. Why? Silas is manipulating her mind in order to get what he wants. The question is do we as an audience root for the show to basically bring back every character it's killed back to life? The answer should be no but Jeremy is dead. The chance to bring him back is very tempting. The Vampire Diaries could have easily stuck by having the audience root against Silas' plan but Jeremy's death allows the viewers to be conflicted about the manner. That's what makes it great storytelling to have Bonnie learn what she can do right after her ex-boyfriend is killed.

There is no way that the Vampire Diaries is going to get nominated for an Emmy but this is an episode where Nina Dobrev proves she deserves one. Elena begins the episode in denial. She doesn't want to give up the hope that her brother is going to die. There's a part of her that realizes he's actually dead but her hope is keeping her from breaking down. When Bonnie reveals her plan to bring back the dead, Elena realizes that she can't pursue it. The cost is too high. This is what finally makes her accept that her brother is dead. There's a moment where she answers the phone. April is calling Jeremy. Elena's first response is to claim he can't come to the phone but she eventually admits that he's dead. In that phone call, the show was able to reveal her acceptance in a direct but subtle manner. Once Elena accepts that Jeremy is dead, she starts to rapidly lose it. Her emotional response is to burn the house down. She claims it'll make the best cover story if he dies in a fire but she really just wants to get rid of her home. It's simply filled with memories of the people she has lost: her mom, dad, Jenna, Alaric and even John. Now she can add Jeremy to that list. That house has stopped being her home and a prison of all the memories she's held of people. She wants to burn it down because her life has become too unbearable.

The good news is that Stefan and Damon saw this coming. The two decide that the best way to handle this is for Damon to use his sire bond to keep Elena from breaking down. It makes sense that they would want to help Elena but it's shocking how Stefan seems to accept this. You would at least expect him to be conflicted about it considering how he's reacted towards the sire bond. Damon realizes that the only way to get Elena to calm down is to have her turn off her emotions. It removes some of her agency because this should have been HER choice but it makes sense since the character was spiraling in her grief. Stefan isn't happy with his because it basically means that Elena has lost the last of her humanity. Elena is able to recapture some of her agency. She decides that the logical choice is to burn down the house as it remains the best cover story. Jeremy might be dead for now but burning down the house makes it feel more permanent. An actor can always come back to a show but a set? It can never be rebuilt the same way. A set is a fixture of the show and so many important events have happened in the Gilbert house. Burning it down feels like a permanent character death but it also allows the show to state that it's going to be moving in a new direction. As if Elena turning off her humanity wasn't a big enough clue.

Stand By Me is an absolutely fantastic piece of television and an instant classic. There's a lot of grief going on in this episode: Caroline having to try and catch Tyler up with what happened through voicemails, Matt grieving Jeremy, and a great scene where Matt shows Elena what gave him hope when Vicki was gone. The one that overshadows everything is when Elena loses it and when Damon forces her to turn it off. Jeremy might be dead for now...but the show has left the door open for his return.

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