Friday, May 24, 2013

The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries
Episode 23: Graduation
The Season Finale
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!

I think it's a bit of a joke that the characters are graduating high school considering how they rarely seem to attend. These are supposed to be high school students but the supernatural issues they're dealing with often distract them from their studies. They're rarely shown attending school that it can be easy to forget that they're students. It's a good thing that they are finally graduating as the writers won't have to keep up the ruse that these are full-time students. It also allows the show to employ some graduation moments amidst the supernatural struggles the characters are currently facing. The finale built around the graduation is a pretty good episode. The main threat to the characters are the ghosts as they seek revenge while pursuing their individual agendas. The dead Hunters are willing to do anything to get Silas to take the cure while Kol tries to intimidate Bonnie into dropping the veil. Only she won't because sometimes you don't get what you want. The major antagonist of the fourth season manages to come back in the final moments of the episode that helps negate criticism that he was defeated a little too easily. The finale employs a lot of good plot twists that help to set up the fifth season. It was also a tragic episode as Bonnie had to secretly say goodbye to all of her friends without actually telling them that she's dead. Graduation has some problems because it was sort-of all over the place and it had too many moments between characters to the point where it felt overstuffed with content. It's a good thing every character moment landed or it might have become a tedious episode to go through. If anything, Graduation might have been better-served with a tighter narrative and if it had been a two-hour finale rather than just one.

The main threat in this episode was the ghosts. They might have had different objectives but their methods all put the lives of our group at stake. The good news is that not all of the ghosts are antagonists as many of them are old friends. It was nice to have some great moments between each dead character and the counterpart that mattered to them the most. The disappointing part is that because there was so much that this episode needed to accomplish that the promised war between the dead and the living was way too brief. The only ghost who got the proper time she needed was Bonnie. The writers are sticking with her death and this was an episode where she bid adieu to most of the characters. They don't know she's dead. She doesn't even want them to know after she drops the veil and disappears because she doesn't want to bring down the mood. She thinks that her friends have finally gotten to a point where they can be happy that it makes sense that she wouldn't want to ruin that. They have graduated from high school, Klaus is out of their lives, and the threat of the veil is gone at midnight. She believes that Silas has been defeated, Elena has her humanity back on, and the cure is free to be taken by a character. It truly seems like they have won from her perspective and she can rest in peace. She does manage to give them one last gift before she goes to spend eternity with her grandmother: she's able to bring Jeremy back to life. Since Jeremy can see ghosts, it's the perfect narrative excuse to have her stick around the show. She's dead so she can't be the magic witch answer a plot needs but she can offer indirect aid. It is interesting that Jeremy is now back to life even if it meant sacrificing another character.

The love triangle had come into the foreground this season but it's looking like it'll slightly disappear into the background the next. The show does this in three steps. The first step is by showing that Elena is no longer controlled by the sire bond when she refuses to follow Damon's instructions about the cure. The second is when she chooses him at the end of the episode. She admits that it might be a mistake but it's one that she's willing to make. This implies that the writers will put her conflicting feelings for the Salvatore brothers in the background as they concentrate on her relationship with Damon. As if to remove any temptation, they also decide to get rid of Stefan for a while. The final twist of the episode comes when Stefan is about to throw a petrified Silas into a lake. Only it turns out that the spell making him into a statue was tied into Bonnie's life. Since she's dead and the veil is back up, Silas has managed to become free. He's able to ambush Stefan by throwing him into a safe and throwing it down the lake. Stefan is now stuck in the middle of the lake. It'll be interesting to see how long he stays down there. Paul Wesley still has a role next season as it's revealed that Stefan is actually the doppelganger of Silas. It's a pretty big twist that I'm not sure how I feel about yet. It's a surprise but it's also one that could easily backfire when the show comes back and has to explain it. I'm going to hold out judgment until the series has more time to explore this new doppelganger plot but it did feel a bit like it came out of nowhere. It would have been nice if the Vampire Dairies had left some breadcrumbs so that the idea of Stefan having a doppelganger didn't feel like the writers were just throwing stuff into the show to see what sticks.

A large aspect of the show has been the cure. The idea of being able to revert from being a vampire to being a human has been present for almost as long as Elena was turned into a vampire. A large part of the season has been about getting the hands of the characters on that cure. Klaus might have wanted it to ensure nobody would use it on him and Rebekah wanted to take it but just about everybody else was doing this to give it to Elena. There have been some detours but it's always been a goal to hand her the only cure. She gets it this week but she doesn't take it. She actually tries to hand it off and the writers lead us to believe she gave it to Stefan. This is all to set up a twist where she uses the cure on Katherine in the middle of a fight. It felt like a really convoluted way to set up the twist and I think it would have worked without pretending that Stefan had the cure all along. Having the series flashback to him giving it back to her felt like the writers were trying too hard to manipulate the audience. Obviously fictional storytelling is the manipulation of the audience but it should be subtle so that they don't notice it's happening. I do like the implications of the twist since Katherine is the character whose going to want the cure the least. She wanted to be Silas immortal so that nobody could kill her. Now she's not even going to have vampire immortality or strength. She's going to be back to being a normal human. How she deals with this promises to be interesting.

Graduation is a pretty good season finale even if it felt a bit too full. I do think that if this had been a two-hour finale then Graduation would have been a much stronger episode. It could have allowed the moments to breathe and it could have used the extra time to tighten the narrative. It tried to accomplish so much that it hurt the overall impact of most moments. The manipulative twist with Elena having the cure during the fight with Katherine wasn't necessary and was actually more distracting than anything. Still-it does a wonderful job of setting up the next season. A human Katherine, a living Jeremy with Ghost Bonnie, and the love triangle having less focus? Count me in. I'm not so sure about Doppelganger Silas but I am open enough to give it a shot. The fourth season of The Vampire Diaries has generally been a very good season even if it's been a little bit scattershot as this finale was. Here's hoping that removing the Originals and having Silas as the antagonist sets up a more focused fifth season-especially since Elena has now gotten accustomed to being a vampire and the love triangle is on the backburner.

Other Notes:

Klaus comes back (to cure Damon) and has a great scene with Caroline that really feels like the first time I could see myself wanting him to be with her. He does allow Tyler to come back to Mystic Falls so I guess he's going to be back on the show until they find a way to get him out of town again.

Matt and Rebekah go on a road trip together to Europe. It's a nice way to tip off their friendship since Rebekah will soon be transitioning over to the spin-off in New Orleans while Matt has to come back to Mystic Falls.

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