The Vampire Diaries
Episode 16: Bring It On
By: Carlos Uribe
The Vampire Diaries is a show about Elena's love triangle with two vampires.
What does it mean to turn off emotions? Specifically, what does it mean when Elena Gilbert turns off her emotions? She's a character who is primarily driven by the fact that she cares. She wants her friends to live and have happy lives. She loves her friends. She considers them to be part of her family. She feels a lot of love but this can lead to sadness. Elena has never been a particularly happy character. When the series first began, she was still trying to process her parent's untimely death. Since then, she has lost every parental figure she got. She lost her Aunt Jenna to Klaus and then Alaric to madness. She recently lost her brother which caused her to start to break down in her grief. She is a character who has always been driven because she cares. What happens when you remove that? You get the Elena in this episode who frankly doesn't care about anything. She doesn't care if they get caught or who she hurts. Bring It On makes this point over and over again. The episode opens when Damon takes Elena out on a hunt so she can have fun. The idea is that this fun will somehow lead her to start turning her humanity back on. She does manage to catch a prey but she wants to take it too far by drinking all of the blood. That's the first sign that this is a different Elena. She doesn't care if she kills a random stranger and thinks it's boring when she's not allowed to.
The second sign is an important one. Elena joins the cheerleading squad because she has nothing better to do. She also uses a cheerleading conference to drink blood from a visiting cheerleader. This is a sign that's similar to the first one but it's also different because Elena had been told not to feed on anybody by Damon. He had invoked the sire bond and Elena was able to ignore it. The sire bond had been created because Elena held feelings for Damon. When she became a vampire, these feelings grew so that she would do anything he suggested. Remove those feelings and the sire bond disappears. The question becomes what happens if Elena turns on her emotions again. Does the sire bond come back or is it broken forever? The third sign comes soon after she feeds. The squad is doing a routine when Elena refuses to catch Caroline. Caroline falls down and could have been seriously hurt if she was a normal human. Why did Elena do this? Caroline was bothering her. Elena trying to hurt her friend was a bold statement that stated that this version of Elena doesn't care about her friends. She's not only careless about her own survival but she's willing to actually hurt her allies. Stefan brings up that turning off the switch makes you the very worst version of yourself. Elena is a character who cares so the worst version of her has to be one that doesn't.
The final sign comes after Stefan drags her back to the Salvatore mansion and basically grounds her. He doesn't want her to come. Elena's response is to undermine him by inviting a whole bunch of teenagers to a party. She just wants to have fun and she's not going to let anybody stop her. She's only slightly fazed when Stefan dances with Caroline but she claims she's not jealous. She wants the two to have fun. That is until Sheriff Forbes comes in to try and shut down the party. Elena hurts the sheriff before Caroline and her get into a big fight. Elena gets close to actually killing her before she gets stopped. That's right: Elena cares so little that she's actually willing to end her best friend. This point could have easily been made but sadly the show feels the need to constantly reinforce it with the dialogue. If it wasn't for the never-ending reminders that she simply doesn't care then the episode would have felt a lot tighter. The cliff-hanger ending of the episode promises Elena and Damon going to New York City so they can have some fun.
Bring It On is an episode that explores what happens when Elena stops caring about people. Her entire desire becomes about trying to have some fun and it led to a great episode where her friends had to try and contain her. There are a few problems with this episode. The first is that it drives the point home that this Elena doesn't care a little too hard. We get it based on the plot alone, we don't need Elena telling us over and over again. The second is that the serialized plot didn't get enough movement this episode which hurt the narrative momentum a bit. Overall, this was a pretty good Elena episode but that's it.