Last week, I lamented over the many, many things happening on The Vampire Diaries right now that, while intermittently entertaining, lack any clear purpose or focus. “Handle With Care” did absolutely nothing to alleviate my concerns, but it did feature some delightful new character combinations, a surprise stabbing, and the escalation of the show’s Dobrev level, so at least that’s something.
Interestingly, the one big question everyone had at the end of the last episode—what the heck happened to Katherine?!—is treated not as a pressing question, but as a slow-building mystery Katherine herself is going to have to solve. She wakes up starving, with graying hair and falling-out molars, but what is she? Is she dying? Some sort of zombie? Or something entirely new the world has never seen before? It seems Dr. Maxfield is going to help her figure it out.
At least that’s going to give Dr. Maxfield something to do that we can actually care about, because what he’s doing right now is decidedly uninteresting. He’s doing mysterious experiments on vampires, and is part of a secret society called Augustine that has its own vampire mascot or something, and what started out as a fun Elena college story is becoming more and more of a slog as the episodes pile up. The only saving grace of this story is Caroline and Katherine teaming up to drain the vervain out of his system, trick him and the Augustine into thinking Elena isn’t a vampire, and then wipe his memory so he remembers nothing. The Caroline/Katherine pairing isn’t one we’ve seen before, but it surely will be one we see in the future, because they are a joy to watch together.
The rest of the episode was devoted to the Silas story, which is becoming more convoluted by the minute. It’s like a giant endless knot; when you pull on one segment, a totally different segment tightens in response. Basically, Silas took the cure, and now he wants to die, but in order to do that he needs to find the anchor Tessa used to bind her magic (aka the MacGuffin) and then destroy it. Then he can bring Bonnie back from the dead, destroy the other side, and join Imara in blissful oblivion. But because this is a plan, and more specifically a plan on The Vampire Diaries, the place where well-considered plans go to die fiery deaths, it was destined to fail.
But exactly how it fails is the fun part. TVD is great at not revealing exactly what its end game is, and its end game with the anchor was a good little surprise: The anchor is Imara, and in order to die, Silas is going to have to kill her. Imara marks the third character for Nina Dobrev on the show (the fifth if you count vampire Katherine, human Katherine, human Elena, and vampire Elena as different performances, and the seventh if you count Katherine-as-Elena and Elena-as-Katherine, and I am officially confusing myself now), and really, the series can’t go wrong by giving Dobrev more to do. Imara so far is basically just crazy, hilariously stabbing Silas immediately and drinking his blood so she can cure herself. I guess 2,000 years being shuffled around by Travelers will do that to a gal.
Here’s where things get confusing, though, and where the show might be going to the exact same well too many times: Now that Silas is dead (I think?) and didn’t bring Bonnie back, if Imara dies, the other side will be destroyed and take Bonnie with it. So now the gang is forced to keep crazy, desperate-to-die Imara alive in order to save Bonnie, who is already dead. It’s yet another tug on the endless knot, and it might be one tug too far for me. Basically, Bonnie’s entire story is not working. It hasn’t worked for one moment this season. The kicker is that almost every emotional beat (that isn’t being sucked up by the love triangle) is tied up in the Bonnie storyline, so to have such a significant thing not work makes for a hollow place where the heart of the show should be. TVD has always been very good at finding the emotional stakes in a story, but the show is struggling to make this one work.
At least we have Tessa, and Tessa is just pure fun. She’s a villain who enjoys narrating her evil deeds for the audience’s edification, but is self-aware enough to point out when she can’t tell the audience everything lest she ruin the big surprise. She enjoys tricking Elena. She enjoys flirting with Amnesia Stefan. She enjoys pulling one over on Damon so he'll do her dirty work. She spent 2,000 years planning her revenge on Silas, and damn it, she is going to enjoy pulling off her plan. She doesn’t enjoy Stefan tricking her, saving Elena, and ultimately ruining everything, however, so she does what she does best: gets revenge by giving Stefan all of his memories back, all at once.
Goodbye, Amnesia Stefan. I’ll miss you most of all.
- Katherine likes a wide variety of breakfast foods, just cementing her status as the best.
- With Stefan regaining his memories and Silas getting drained by Imara, does this mean we’re down to only one Paul Wesley performance? If so, that is a tragedy.
- Lots of surprise stabbings happening here, between Stefan stabbing Tessa with a knife and Imara getting Silas with a shard of glass. The more surprise stabbings the better, if you ask me.
- Matt: Still watching that tape of himself over and over and over again. (Nope. Still me.)
- “You know what? I think I still need to be drunk to understand this story.” Me too, Stefan. Me too.