Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries
Episode 21: She's Come Undone
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!

This is a show that loves to play tricks on the audience. A perfect example comes this week when the show pretends to kill Matt off. The good guys are trying to force Elena to turn her humanity back on. Damon tried to go into her mind to show her what she's missing. He gives her an ideal world where everyone is smiling, Caroline is talking about being valedictorian, and they are at school. It's what her life would have been if her parents had never died and she had never learned about the supernatural. If everything had stayed normal. When this fails, the Salvatore Brothers decide that they're going to torture Elena until she turns her humanity back on. The hope is that the fear of more pain will cause the switch to be flipped on. She manages to resist until she proves that the brothers would never actually hurt her. They might let her feel concentrated doses on pain but she doesn't have anything to fear from them. They realize that her assessment is correct. Their tactics aren't going to work unless they change. They enlist the help of Katherine. Katherine agrees because torturing Elena is her idea of fun but she betrays the brothers when she decides it would be more entertaining to see if Elena could survive as a vampire without a safety net. I think she has a point that the only reason she's still alive is because she has a group of people trying to protect her.


The characters have to look for Elena and they decide to use Matt as bait. Elena is able to feed off of him until the Salvatore Brothers intervene. That's when they move on to their final attempt to get her to switch the flip. Damon announces his intention to kill Matt. Elena thinks it's a bluff. It has to be. There's no way they're going to allow Matt to die, right? Damon snaps his neck but I'm not convinced. He does turn out to be alive because he was wearing the ring. Elena didn't know this and the shock of Matt's “death” led to her feeling emotions again. She's only able to process them when she concentrates on one single emotion to deal with it all: her hatred of Katherine. So what was the trick? Matt's death. It never felt real or permanent, not like Jeremy or Alaric, because the show does this all the time. The trick used to work but now the show employs it weekly. Is that a bad thing? It can be if it's supposed to be a twist but I think it's long stopped being one. In this case, Damon snapping Matt's neck was surprising but not that he was wearing a ring. Which is fine since the whole purpose of that scene was to get Elena to turn her humanity back on and in that regard it succeeded without a doubt. It also gave us insight to what is going to drive Elena for the final two episodes of the season: revenge.

What I love about this show is how tightly it can be plotted but it's very mixed when it comes to Bonnie. Bonnie has a small arc where she is trying to get Silas' tombstone. This stone contains the blood of her ancestor that basically gives her untold power. There is some confusion here where I'm not sure what is happening with Bonnie. I understand that Silas is trying to open the veil so he can kill himself and reunite with his lover. I understand that he wants to use Bonnie because she's the only witch who can perform the spell. What I don't understand is what Bonnie is doing. On the one hand, she claims to be helping him but on the other she seems to have her own separate plan that still involves opening the veil? If they're on the same side It's confusing and clearing up what Bonnie is trying to do needs to happen so that the audience knows where she stands. It's going to hurt the last two episodes if we can't follow what she's trying to do. I'm not sure whether I just lost track of her goal or whether the writers just haven't explained it yet. This confusion weakens the show when it comes to Bonnie and Silas but there is one strong element that happens at the end. In return for the tombstone, Bonnie is offering to give Katherine invulnerability. She's going to give her the same spell that was cast on Silas so that no weapon can harm her. Katherine would never have to worry about being hunted every again. That this deal just happens to come right after Elena swears that she's going to kill Katherine? That's where the show succeeds in it's tight plot. It offers a new place for the narrative to go while putting two characters at odds with their desires. Katherine to live without worry of death will need this spell before Elena can get to her. Elena needs to quench her thirst for revenge before Katherine makes it impossible for that to occur. I'll admit that I'm very excited to see where this race between the two of them goes.

A large question that has come up for me is how the show is going to incorporate Joseph Morgan now that Klaus is in New Orleans. I understand that he's going to be in the spin-off but the producers didn't actually know if it would be picked up to series when they finished the season. He was still contracted to appear. At least for this episode, the answer becomes clear. Silas is able to appear as Klaus to torture Caroline. Silas is desperate to find Bonnie so he uses the blond vampire to find her. He appears as Tyler and Matt. The whole “appearing as anybody” trick works a few times in this episode. The first time Klaus appeared and when she encountered fake Matt were both surprises. When Caroline's mom turned out to be Silas at the end of the episode, it also caught me off-guard. It remains an effective story technique although it's starting to lose some of it's impact. We do get glimpses of the real Silas and he's pretty ugly. This whole Caroline being tortured by Silas plot was okay but it didn't feel as important as the main Elena plot. When the writers pretended to kill Sheriff Forbes, it didn't have the impact it should have even as it appeared it might actually be for real. This is largely because the editing kept cutting back and forth so her potential death never really sunk in. In the end, it was a pretty fun plot but it often felt like a distraction.

She's Come Undone is a pretty good episode of the Vampire Diaries. It might have been obvious that Matt wasn't actually dead but it was still used to good effect. I'm going to miss Elena without her humanity but it was necessary for the protagonist of this show to in the end have it on. Bonnie's plot is a bit confusing since we don't know what she wants but her promise to Katherine, and the way it conflicts with Elena's desire, was pretty great. The whole torturing Caroline to find Bonnie was fun but it felt more like filler than anything. It might have had some flaws but She's Come Undone starts to rebuild the narrative momentum that the backdoor pilot had largely severed.

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