The Vampire Diaries: “After School Special”
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The Vampire Diaries: “After School Special”

The title of this episode should have been “let’s remind everyone what happened in the season so far.” Seriously, it was Operation Emotional Exposition this week, with Rebekah as mission commander. A funny thing happened in the last 20 minutes, though: The exposition dump ended, and the fallout led to some very interesting results. Although this episode’s purpose was ultimately mostly setup, what an interesting setup it is.

Every teen soap ultimately has an episode that traps the cast somewhere and forces them to reveal all their deepest secrets to each other (Thanks a lot, John Hughes!), but on The Vampire Diaries, this trope is a bit more twisted. Instead of detention or accidental imprisonment, the plot here is straight up kidnapping, as newly dagger-free Rebekah lures Elena, Stefan, Caroline, and Tyler to the Mystic Falls High library in order to find out everything they know about the cure. Why does Rebekah even care about the cure, you ask? Oh, she just wants to use it to make Klaus mortal again and then watch him die a slow, miserable death. No big deal.

Rebekah’s plan ends up being much more about the emotional torture of Elena and Stefan than anything else, with her compelling both of them to reveal their true feelings about each other. It’s stagey and obvious and a little bit awful, but Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley do a fine job of cutting through some of the nonsense and getting to the core emotional places the scene needs to go to work. No matter the cheesy method, the fact that everything is out in the open—Stefan knows Elena loves Damon, and it has nothing to do with the sire bond; Elena knows Stefan would rather Eternal Sunshine her right out of his life—and now everyone can kind of move on, at least for now. Considering the season has been entirely mired in this angst, the possibility of any sort of relief is honestly refreshing.

While Elena and Stefan are being emotionally savaged by Rebekah, Damon is off at the Salvatore cabin helping turn Jeremy into a true hunter. It’s all very '80s training montage (minus the actual montage, unfortunately), but the entire thing is salvaged when Klaus shows up and continues on his promise of being awesome from the last episode. Where Damon wants to take things slow with Jeremy, ensuring he survives his time as a hunter, Klaus isn’t quite so concerned. He tests Jeremy by turning the poor pizza delivery girl, whom Jeremy quickly dispatches. Klaus’ best moment comes at the end of the episode, though, when he turns an entire bar and summons Jeremy to dispatch them all. Welcome to the deep end, Gilbert.

The most unexpected turn of the episode, though, is the rise of April as an active character. April certainly went from “reluctantly removing Rebekah’s dagger” to “casually accepting all kinds of weirdness and mayhem” awfully quickly. Her only big mistake was to not question Bonnie’s magic, a mistake that almost gets her killed when Bonnie misunderstands how her new magic works and a protection spell meant to keep Professor Shane alive almost kills April in the process. It’s really one step forward, 20 steps back for Bonnie’s character, isn’t it? Of course her new magic, given to her by a complete stranger (whom she never questioned), was going to have side effects. The main side effect it has here is to wake April up to the insanity surrounding her and cause her to go right to Sheriff Forbes and Bonnie’s newly returned father to spill everything about what’s going on with her crazy supernatural peers.

That’s exactly what this episode did best: Set the stage for what is sure to be an epic battle against Silas by putting together unlikely (but very promising) pairings. Stefan and Rebekah team up to get the cure, both working on pure hatred and revenge: Stefan to see what curing Elena does to her feelings for Damon, Rebekah to torment Klaus. Damon and Klaus team up to get the cure for themselves: Both for Elena, but for very different reasons. Shane and Bonnie are teaming up, with Shane wanting to find the cure simply so they can find and free Silas, who will then raise everyone who died in his stead—including Shane’s family. And April just wants Sheriff Forbes and Bonnie’s dad to stop Shane from potentially ending the world by bringing back Silas.

Everyone has a stake in the game, and everyone’s objectives compete against each other. Tangled plots like these are what The Vampire Diaries does best. No matter who wins, it’s guaranteed to be a gigantic, insane, mess. I have to say, I’m Team April. This isn’t a world I want to end any time soon.

Stray observations:

  • Poor Carol. Poor Tyler. Poor Tyler and Carol. Tyler has sneakily become the moral compass of Mystic Falls, and gets nothing but torture in return.
  • I am no longer capable of dissecting the triangle scenes, as the sire bond still troubles me. What did everyone think of the Damon/Elena phone call at the end?
  • Everyone talks of wanting to cure Elena, but how does she feel about it? Has she ever articulated this out loud? Does she even want to be cured?
  • The Originals spinoff. Discuss.
  •  “Was that necessary?” “No, but it was fun.”
  • “Don’t lie. Rebekah says you lie.” I kind of like this version of April.  

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