The Vampire Diaries: "Monster's Ball"
B

The Vampire Diaries: "Monster's Ball"

B

The Vampire Diaries

"Monster's Ball"

Season 5, Episode 5
B

The Vampire Diaries

"Monster's Ball"

Season 5, Episode 5

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What is happening on this season of The Vampire Diaries, really? The first five episodes, while mostly entertaining, have contained a lot of different plot threads and ideas, but nothing seems to be emerging as a central theme or even main focus yet. It somehow still feels like the show hasn’t shifted gears from its season five premiere, stuck in setup mode for all the big reveals that are sure to come later. But how long is the show going to set things up before finally knocking a few things down?

The biggest thread is obviously Silas and the increasingly complex quest to kill him/side with him/stop him from killing Katherine/help him kill Katherine/use him to resurrect Bonnie/send him to the other side/destroy the other side/listen to him be a snarky delight. Since his introduction to the show, Silas has basically been an excuse for multiple plot machinations with very little actual character to go along with them. The introduction of Tessa (look, Quetsiyah is annoying to spell so I’m just always going to call her Tessa) to fill in his back-story a bit gives just a tick more shading, but his story is still mostly about what he wants with very little on why he wants things. He wants Katherine’s blood—all of her blood, it turns out—so he can turn mortal and then die. That’s just not a very interesting character motivation.

But what it is giving the show is halfway decent stories for the people revolving around him. Even though her scorned lover motivation is ultimately a bit tiring, Tessa has been a lively addition to the show (based almost solely on Janina Gavankar’s deliciously over-the-top performance). Damon also finally gets a bit of something to do by conspiring with Jeremy to use Silas to bring Bonnie back from the dead. The real winner in the Silas sweepstakes, though, is Katherine Pierce.

Season five’s Katherine-becomes-human story has been its strongest thread for a few reasons. First of all, Nina Dobrev’s performance as Katherine is one of TVD’s very best things, and the more we get to see her do it, the better. Secondly, Katherine herself is just an inherently interesting presence in this world, with a distinct and compelling dynamic with almost every other character. It’s the type of thing that elevates everything around it. Finally, stripping Katherine of her invincibility takes all of the above elements and boosts them to the next level, with an extra added dose of humor from watching her adjust. The reveal tonight that Nadia was Katherine’s long-lost daughter isn’t necessarily a big shock—I’m pretty sure someone in the comments here predicted it after the season premiere—but taking everything we know about Katherine, adding humanity, and throwing in the physical reminder of her very first heartbreak in life is bound to be a great thing.

This is why at the end of the episode, when a remorseless Damon feeds Katherine to Silas in a lame attempt to make him mortal again so he can bring his girlfriend’s best friend back to life, I can’t imagine anyone was rooting for Damon and not Katherine. It’s nice to see Damon do something active and not toothless for once, but if this show is going to give us a choice between a live Katherine and a live Bonnie, I’m choosing Katherine every time. The show seems to recognize this very thing, sinking to near silence as Katherine’s heart stops, and then ramping back to life when Damon and Elena hear her heart start beating again. Katherine appears to be alive, but is she somehow a vampire again? Or is she something else, some sort of immortal human made that way by drinking the cure?

The Katherine arc was the highlight, but there were many more disparate threads throughout the episode. First is Dr. Maxfield and his vampire experiments of doom, which have a Buffy season four stink to them that’s kind of hard to shake. In the season premiere, the death of Elena’s roommate Megan and the knowledge that she somehow had a picture with Elena’s father was a nice, intriguing bit of mystery for Elena to solve. Here, as Elena gets closer to Dr. Maxfield and we meet Dr. Maxfield’s son, Aaron, who has people die all around him like he’s the male version of Elena Gilbert, things are looking a bit less inspired.

Most of this is because the show is struggling with just exactly who Elena Gilbert is as a vampire. All of season four was dedicated to the sire bond and her turning off her humanity switch, but very little has been done to show exactly how this Elena is different than the Elena we knew for three seasons. Last week, Elena mentioned to Stefan that they broke up because she became a vampire and it changed her, but how? The season premiere looked like it was going to establish vampire Elena as much more freewheeling and fun-loving, but Bonnie’s death took all the wind out of those sails immediately. If the show wants Elena to remain the main character and wants to truly explore her relationship with Damon, it must devote some thought to what being a vampire means to her. One step in the right direction: She certainly didn’t object when Damon basically killed Katherine to resurrect her friend. Don’t sweep this under the rug, TVD. Do something with it. Evolve.

The final disparate thread here is Caroline and Tyler and finally dealing with the long-distance nightmare that has been their relationship for the last year. It’s clear the writers haven’t known what to do with Tyler since his quest to help the hybrids break their sire bonds to Klaus back in early season four, so when he showed up here, it was almost a given that he would be leaving again. This might not be the best sign for this episode, but my absolute favorite part was the moment where Tyler said he was going to get revenge on Klaus, which means it shouldn’t be too long until we see Tyler pop up on The Originals. Tyler’s fight to free himself of Klaus was always his best story, so it’s nice to see it live on, if on a different show.

This episode was perfectly fine, in a season five that’s been full of fine so far. What I’m waiting for, and what I hope this Katherine story is going to bring, is the thing that elevates it beyond the fine to the fabulous.

Stray observations:

  • I really thought we left the diaries behind when Elena burned them. No more diaries!
  • Caroline and Tyler don’t do much for me, but Candice Accola broke me during her big “Leave Whitmore and perish” speech. She’s damn good.
  • Did Matt spend the episode watching that tape of him turning into Gregor over and over again? In slow motion? (No, wait, that was me. Carry on.)
  • Tyler and Caroline’s Bonnie & Clyde costumes were pretty great. And Dr. Jekyll for Dr. Maxfield? GET IT? DO YOU?
  • Damon’s “Eh, what are you gonna do?” look when he snapped Stefan’s neck the first time was perfect.

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