Well, now that’s more like it. The Vampire Diaries ended a what had been a fantastic 2011 with an episode that was decidedly less than fantastic, making me feel something about the show I hadn’t in quite a while: doubt. It was only one episode, but it was off in such significant ways that it made me doubt the season’s story progression, doubt the sustainability of the series’ breakneck pacing, and most of all doubt my decision to convince every single person I know that a show about love triangle-happy supernatural teens called The Vampire Diaries isn’t a steaming pile of crap. Thankfully, “The New Deal” easily calmed any fears the fall season finale instilled; in a word, it was fantastic.
One of my main issues with the fall finale was the reveal that Stefan and Katherine plotted to save Klaus, only to then begin torturing him by stealing his family coffins. It seemed unnecessarily convoluted and, in the case of Katherine, more than a little bit out of character. While I still have reservations about the origin of the story, the way it is playing out in regards to Stefan’s character and his new place in this world is intriguing. He rescued Klaus in order to save Damon from being killed by the hybrids (and although we know Damon would have done the same thing for Stefan, it’s still amusing to hear Damon beg him to just let him die already), but now? Now Stefan just seems to be having a little fun with Klaus until he figures out a new way to kill him.
This new quest puts him in a bit of an awkward position on the show. He’s no longer the hero, or the love interest, or even the poor tortured soul being used by the big bad villain as his little plaything. No, I think he might actually be the bad guy now, in a way, and it is absolutely fascinating. Now, Stefan’s “bad guy” status does have caveats. He is actively trying to kill the actual bad guy, after all, with the help of Damon, Bonnie, and a very important magically sealed coffin. Still, the entire time Klaus was torturing Elena’s friends and family in order to track down Stefan and get his family back all I kept thinking was how Stefan was indirectly causing the entire situation by simply being stubborn and vindictive. Klaus is always going to be the true bad guy – no matter what Stefan does to provoke him, it’s still Klaus who tries to solve every problem with attempted murder – but Stefan’s indifference towards the danger he was causing by continuing to antagonize Klaus puts him squarely in “yeah, he’s kinda bad” territory.
Luckily, both the writers and Paul Wesley are absolutely reveling in the chance to play Stefan a little bit bad. I was always a fan of good Stefan, but bad Stefan is on a whole other level of fun entirely. In addition to the sheer enjoyment of Stefan going bad, his changes are also shifting dynamics for other characters in meaningful ways, most significantly Elena and Damon. The love triangle aspect of the show has been around since the very beginning, but now that Stefan is so thoroughly out of the picture and Damon is there in constant support of Elena, the triangle truly almost feels like a thing of the past. The show has done an excellent job of slowly building the trust between these two until that trust and mutual attraction could only logically be dealt with in a kiss, as it finally was in the end of this episode. No matter where their relationship goes from here, the kiss was a good one, and it felt earned. I’m sure the triangle will resurface once bad Stefan becomes good again, but for now it will be interesting to see how Elena deals with falling for her first love’s brother. Ah, vampire/human love is a tricky bitch.
Stefan’s descent into villainy and Damon and Elena’s newfound connection weren’t the only things happening in the episode. There was also the case of one Jeremy Gilbert, who went from ghost seeing mope to rebellious teen to straight-shooting badass in the span of one episode. Jeremy’s story this season has been a tricky one; his ghost-seeing abilities made a great season two cliffhanger and allowed for some lovely moments in “Ghost World,” but beyond that he’s felt like a character without a purpose for a very long time. Tonight, in what ended up being a fine farewell episode for the character (at least for now) Jeremy finally got to truly do something awesomely useful by taking down one of Klaus’ hybrid minions – and then chopping off his head for good measure. It’s just that extreme measure – combined with Jeremy’s own insistence they all should just leave Mystic Falls for their own safety – that caused Elena to finally realize she couldn’t abide Jeremy being in danger any longer. Damon compelling Jeremy to leave town was sad, as it basically means Elena’s only remaining family is leaving her, but it’s really smart for the show to give the character a break for a while. Sending him out on such a strong note will only ensure we’ll be happy to see him again when he returns.
Although this episode was filled with wonderful things, it also featured perhaps the only thing The Vampire Diaries has ever done that made me truly angry: the staking of Rebekah. (Note: It's come to my attention that I am, in fact, a bit slow, and Klaus didn't kill Rebekah, he just daggered her. I'm much less angry now.) One of the things this show is so consistently good at is introducing new characters and immediately making the audience care about them. The problem is, sometimes these characters end up dead. They’ve come up with quite the clever “almost dead” scenario in daggering the originals (I’m still waiting for someone to pull that dagger out of Elijah, dammit) so they can effectively put a character on a shelf until they want to bring them back out again. The decision to have Klaus stake Rebekah and kill her for good might make sense for Klaus’ character, but it certainly drives me up a wall as a viewer. Rebekah may have only been in a few episodes but she was an immediate onscreen presence, and Claire Holt really made the character her own. To know there isn’t a possibility for Rebekah to return in a significant manner is nothing short of heartbreaking. The Vampire Diaries still has plenty of interesting characters. That doesn’t mean this particular character, and actress, won’t be dearly missed.
- Damon and Stefan scenes are always the highlight of the show. Their dynamic is just perfect.
- Oh, hey, Alaric died again! What is happening with Alaric’s ring, by the way? This will obviously be important later.
- Also, I have quibbles about the ring working in a car accident. Is the car considered an extension of the supernatural being, like a weapon? Because I’m calling shenanigans.
- The Tyler/Klaus connection has the potential to be very good, but right now it isn’t nuanced enough. It’s just not all there yet.
- Welcome, Dr. Meredith Fell! I’m sure book readers are happy to see Meredith. I’m just happy for Alaric to have a human adult to talk to.
- “It’s the eve of Klausgeddon. You’re doing homework?”
- “You know me! Never miss a chance to plan an epic failure.”
- “None of us are going to make it out of this town alive.”
- “When are you going to get it through your head? Stop saving me!”
- “I shot a hybrid in the back and then chopped off his head with a meat cleaver. Typical Sunday, no?”