This is one of those episodes that just sort of leaves me scratching my head. Beyond a few nice character moments, so much of it felt like filler—strangely unsexy almost-threesome filler, at that—and not necessarily the type of highly entertaining filler this show often excels at. Throw some accidental decapitation in there or something next time!
The characters were scattered to the wind tonight, with three main arcs competing for screen time: Alaric’s descent into ring-induced madness, Damon’s quest to get into Rebekah’s head, and Bonnie and Caroline’s attempt to help Abby’s transition into full vampire. The most interesting of the three was, surprisingly, Alaric sliding further down the serial killer pole. Although I’m not a huge fan of Alaric being revealed as the killer (mostly because I just plain love Alaric) the way the writers have handled the arc is working for me. A large part of this is due to Meredith, who started off as someone I detested but has slowly evolved into someone much more compelling. Or at least much more tolerable. Also, Matt Davis has been great at selling every aspect of his character, from the blackouts to the regret to the really creepy horror. Now that Bonnie “fixed” him, it will be interesting to see if he’s really fixed or if, yet again, Bonnie’s magic isn’t enough.
Less interesting (much, much less) is Damon’s sudden interest in getting into Rebekah’s head so he can figure out why she’s always hanging about, causing trouble. He is facilitated by Sage, who is ripped out of last week’s 1912 flashbacks and plopped in Mystic Falls with a convenient back-story involving Finn as the love of her life. (Being a vampire is like living in a small town: Everyone knows each other, and eventually, everyone sleeps with each other. Or maybe that’s college.) Still, although it’s annoying Sage has a history with an Original—Finn turned her so they could be together forever—it makes sense it would be with him, since they are both completely crazypants. They decide Rebekah’s afterglow sleep is the best time to get into her head, where Damon learns about the white oak tree and figures out exactly where all the wood is: Wickery Bridge. That this weird non-threesome/shower scene is so incredibly unsexy and boring is a major misstep in the episode, taking up a giant chunk of screentime and essentially instantly making Sage a tiresome character. Although Sage and Rebekah team up to double-cross Damon (of course), there’s still a little bit of wood left, so the Original killing scheme is on! Again.
Finally, there’s the Abby story, which I’m just going to come out and say has been a complete botch from the get-go. The tension between Elena and Bonnie has been yawn-inducing, Abby’s actual transition was almost forgotten about, and then brushed aside and done off screen, making it barely register emotionally. There is a constant refrain of Bonnie not being well-serviced, and this story is a huge example of that gap. Her long-lost mother comes to town and is turned into a vampire, and nearly all of it is done during a commercial break with no focus on Bonnie’s emotional arc. In fact, the person who gets the biggest character moment in Bonnie’s story tonight is Caroline, who delivers a rousing and emotional speech to Abby about the importance of just being there as a parent. Now that Abby’s gone, what will Bonnie’s story be? A love story with Jamie? As much as I want Bonnie to have a legitimate love interest, wouldn’t an emotional story with her mother be more compelling?
In between these three main stories was a fairly interesting thread continuing Stefan’s arc from last week and his attempt to control his blood urges. Only fairly interesting, however, because we’ve seen Stefan hit very similar beats before. Still, it’s bringing out some lovely Salvatore brother moments, which in the end is the very heart of the show and something it always does well. It also is one of the only things that seems to be thematically connected to where the season started.
There’s something to be said about this season focusing on obsession and compulsion, about the battle between what outside forces expect from us versus what we expect from ourselves. But these themes are gray and murky right now, lost amidst a really poorly handled arc with Bonnie’s mother Abby and an increasingly meandering quest to kill the Originals. What’s happening with Stefan makes me think the writers are trying to bring everything full circle. I just hope they can crystallize things and gear up for a smashing last third of the season. If there’s anything this show can do, it’s go out with a bang.
- But IS Alaric really the killer? It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, baby. And Jeremy is happy and has a dog. Red flag!
- The opening sequence with Alaric in the CAT scan was striking. Disorienting, sad, and creepy at the same time.
- So the Bennett witches made the invincibility rings, and the rings eventually make people crazy. Do we think this is some sort of stealth consequence designed by the witches, or simply an unintentional side effect of messing with the balance of life and death? I would love it if the witches embedded a Manchurian Candidate-esque kill switch.
- Damon dancing? Yes, please.
- The only thing worse than Sage saying that she could defeat Rebekah since Rebekah is a girl and therefore has weaknesses is that a woman wrote that for Sage to say.
- Damon: “Ric, the world can’t stop just because you’re an accidental psycho killer.”
- Damon: “Unless you’re interested in a Sage/Rebekah sex sandwich, I suggest you make yourself scarce.”
- Thanks to Rowan Kaiser for stepping into my shoes last week with an excellent take on the season so far.