The further I get from my teen years, the easier it is to see how prom’s place as a rite of passage for American high school students is at least partially due to the importance placed on prom in teen-themed pop culture. In movies and television, prom isn’t just a thing; it’s almost its own organism, sustained by the collective hopes and dreams of all the teenagers obsessing about having the perfect night. The Vampire Diaries doesn’t necessarily try to subvert these fairly staid cultural conventions in its own exploration of prom, but there is more threat of murder and general mayhem. It’s just too bad those threats didn’t result in a livelier episode.
In the world of The Vampire Diaries, the character most likely to be sucked into the beast that is prom is Caroline, and the show doesn’t disappoint by presenting her as the prom’s rightful queen bee, happy about trying on dresses and having a “friend date” with Bonnie and Matt. Caroline’s prom happiness doesn’t last for long, though, because things quickly (and predictably) take a turn to make the dance all about Elena and attempting to get her humanity back. Caroline goes as far as setting up a picture memorial of Elena’s past to trigger good memories and turning the other cheek when Elena steals her prom dress, all in service of Stefan and Damon’s grand scheme to get Elena to realize she actually wants to be a human again.
The problem? Humanity-free Elena is turning out to be far more interesting than humanity-filled Elena ever was as a vampire, so it’s hard to care about Stefan and Damon’s grand plans. While Stefan and Damon are having the same conversation they’ve been having since basically the pilot, humanity-free Elena is a mean, nasty, honest-to-goodness breath of fresh air, hanging out with Rebekah, saying whatever strikes her fancy, and not giving one single thought to either Stefan, Damon, and her supposed epic love with them both. This season has pushed the love triangle to its breaking point—to the detriment of the show—and it’s simply nice to have an Elena who doesn’t give a shit for once. While character-wise it makes perfect sense for Stefan and Damon to want to “fix” her in some way, seeing them standing in place throwing a football back and forth while they rehash the same old things over and over again—the football a literal representation of the unending cycle of bullshit they’re mired in—is simply getting old.
Don’t get me wrong: Humanity-free Elena is an awful person. I wouldn’t want to be her friend or even be within 100 square miles of her destruction, but as a viewer, I rejoice that she’s finally fun. After spending most of the season waiting for the enjoyable part of vampire Elena to kick in, it’s nice to see that patience rewarded a bit. Is Elena horrible for wanting to kill Bonnie so Bonnie can’t do the spell for Silas? Sure, but she’s also goddamn practical. It makes sense! There is a seemingly unbeatable evil power lurking around, pretending to be all of their loved ones and infiltrating their minds, and this is a way to stop it. Elena’s only mistake was being totally horrible at murder, allowing Bonnie to use her increasingly scary powers to take her down.
Let’s discuss Silas for a minute, because what started out as a fun way to present a bad guy quickly turned kind of ridiculous in this episode. Silas is the most insidious of villains because he can turn up as literally anyone, and it’s impossible to know he’s impersonating them. Everyone knows this. And yet they haven’t devised some sort of code word system to make sure they’re talking to the right person? Bonnie falling under Silas’ spell when he appeared as Jeremy is a little understandable, considering she’s still deeply mourning Jeremy’s death. But for her to intellectually know it was Silas, fall under his thrall, and then later again realize with disgust was silly. Better executed were the other twists of Silas appearing as Stefan (with Paul Wesley loving every second of playing evil, as per usual) and Rebekah.
The problem with having a bad guy who can be anyone is that once that is revealed to the audience, there’s no real capability for surprise. I actually spent the entire episode so sure everyone was Silas that I didn’t buy any of the scenes Tyler had with Caroline because I just assumed it was Silas. This took any emotional punch out of the proceedings for me, which is unfortunate. TVD is great at pulling tricks on the audience, but when you know exactly what form the tricks are going to take, things inevitably get less interesting.
The best parts of this episode for me were the parts obviously setting up the Originals spinoff episode next week, as Elijah, Klaus, and Rebekah navigated the business of who would take the cure. Elijah, as cure possessor and general badass, sits in judgment over Klaus and Rebekah’s fate like the arbiter of propriety he was meant to be, granting Rebekah the opportunity to take the cure if she can be human for one day and prove her wish is more than a fleeting whim. Klaus takes this like the scorned younger brother he is, doling out threats and generally being himself. Although Rebekah has the most human day she’s ever had (even saving April when it could ruin her chances of getting the cure) Klaus inevitably tricks both her and Elijah, leading Silas right to the cure.
But while Silas has the cure, Bonnie has Silas, and Elena is locked in the Salvatore’s basement until Stefan and Damon can torture the humanity out of her (they're so kind!), Klaus has his own problems: a letter from Katherine, telling him to go to New Orleans and seek out a witch who is plotting against him. Guess what’s in New Orleans, Klaus? Your very own television show!
- Who is voting for Bonnie and Matt as king and queen? Really?
- I really wanted Elena to eat the prom queen.
- Steven R. McQueen’s Silas voice was pretty hilarious. I’m not sure that was on purpose.
- Silas looks monster-y! Bonnie is going to help him or something! Okay. (I think I lost the thread on Silas about three episodes ago.)
- Matt continues to be the best, which is why it’s no surprise that he’s everything Rebekah wants to be. (Rebekah wants to be an orphan busboy? I kid.)
- Stefan: “So what are we going to do, just throw the football around for another 150 years until Elena gets her humanity back? Because I’m cool with that.”
- Elijah: “Your personal discomfort might not be sufficient reason for putting the entire world in jeopardy, Klaus.”
- Caroline: “I know you said to kill her with kindness but can’t I just kill her?”