Sometimes, when writing about television on an episode-by-episode basis, it’s easy to get caught up in all the “what ifs.” It can be really hard to just turn off that part of your brain that’s constantly wondering where everything is going. Since Stefan declared war on Klaus, I’ve completely fallen into this trap. My concern with where the story is leading and whether the journey will be justified once we get to the destination looms over every plot twist, as I search for something to finally click into place and give me the “a-ha!” moment I’m looking for.
The problem with this mental roadblock is that it completely discounts a huge part of what makes a show work: the characters. The Vampire Diaries has done a really meticulous job over the past few seasons developing a core of strong characters, mostly by putting them in insane situations and giving them the agency to get themselves out of them. And while I still have concerns about what seems like the ultimate futility of Klaus vs. Stefan, “Our Town” was so stuffed with wonderful character moments that it allowed me to turn off the “what if” part of my brain and simply enjoy these people.
Or not enjoy them, as you will. The main character we got to spend time with this week was Stefan, and Stefan was definitely not on his best behavior. His vendetta against Klaus has reached the psychotic, obsessive stage at which Stefan doesn’t seem to care about anything around him except vengeance. He’s basically Damon in season one, an unfeeling, out-of-control, unreasonable vamp on a mission to make everyone else miserable. By blood-raping Elena and then almost driving her off Wickery Bridge (which is where her parents died, like, really Stefan?) he basically just took everything he ever had with Elena, wadded it in a ball, and lit it on fire. In the process, though, it was easy to see he isn’t actually unfeeling. Everything he’s doing to Klaus, to Elena, to Damon, to himself, is because of Klaus taking Elena away from him way back when he forced him to leave town. Now Stefan is just punishing himself, and in turn Elena by forcing her to stop loving him. Paul Wesley has been great in this entire storyline, and he and Nina Dobrev did nice work in what looks to be their ultimate breakup scene. Heartbreaking stuff.
Elena and Caroline, while dodging potential death, are dealing with similar dilemmas this week, the notion of being stuck. Both are far from the people they thought they would be just a year ago, and both are having a hard time coming to terms with what this means. For Elena, it means letting go of the girl who knew nothing of vampires and the supernatural world; for Caroline, it means letting go of everything she thought she would be as a human and embracing her future as a vampire. While Elena made her peace with her former self with the help of a trusted friend, Caroline’s came from a decidedly more sinister source: Klaus.
Klaus is in a really tricky place as a character right now. After spending most of his time as the show’s “Big Bad,” suddenly, there are no immediate evil schemes up his sleeve. As I mentioned last week, although the show is sort of still playing him as the bad guy, Stefan is really the one driving his story right now by forcing his hand. The beauty of having such an evil guy hanging around, though, is that you can basically have him do heinous things each week just for fun. His big project this week was threatening to kill Caroline in retaliation for all of the hybrid murdering Stefan’s been doing. After unwittingly forcing Tyler to bite Caroline (which was chilling: Tyler has absolutely no free will anymore, and that is frightening) he showed up under the guise of “helping” Caroline recover, which led to one of the more interesting scenes we’ve had this season. Caroline – whose birthday has thrown her into a bit of an existential crisis – gets just the counsel she needs from Klaus, who tells her she needs to embrace her new life or simply allow herself to die. He then saves her, comforts her, and leaves her a birthday present for when she wakes up. It’s oddly compelling, and the chemistry between Joseph Morgan and Candice Accola is definitely there. There’s no way Klaus isn’t using Caroline for some scheme along the way, but there was also definite feeling in what Klaus was saying to Caroline. Like he said, he never specifically wished Caroline ill; she was collateral damage, a means to an end. Klaus desperately holds on to his family because he needs connection to others but has no idea how to create healthy ones. Will Caroline be the person outside of his family he can connect with?
This episode was full of so many plot points, and was structured rather well, but when I look back on it whether or not Damon ripped out any hearts (he did) or Stefan chopped of any heads (he did) isn’t going to be what I remember. What I remember will be Stefan and Elena coming to a crossroads, Klaus and Caroline broaching an unlikely truce in her bedroom, and Matt comforting Elena on the bridge. The “what ifs” of the plot can wait for another day.
- The episode MVP has to be Matt, who came back from a long absence to give Elena that gorgeous friendship speech on the bridge. Definitely one of my favorite scenes of the entire series.
- Goodbye for now, Jeremy.
- I liked where they left the Damon and Elena relationship after last week’s big kiss. There are obvious feelings there, but now isn’t the time. Great maturity on Damon’s part, there.
- What is up with Alaric’s new doctor friend, Meredith? Murderer, or something more innocent?
- I genuinely feel bad for Tyler. He really doesn’t have a place in this world when Klaus is alive, does he?
- Oh, hey, they still have the school sets up! That’s adorable.
- “I’m stuck in a filler year.”
- “Liz, I’m impressed. You’re all strong and Sherriff-y.”
- “No dead hybrids at the Founders party!”
- “I put a kid on a plane.”
- “To beat the villain, Damon, you’ve got to be the better villain.”