After the emotional wallop of last week’s episode, The Vampire Diaries is back on a bit more psychologically stable ground in “The Ties That Bind,” a return of focus on the more typical TVD twists and turns. Last week was truly stunning stuff; after ruminating on it all week and rewatching I reluctantly must admit I probably sold it a bit short in my review. It was sensational. As a result, there really was no way this episode could possibly compare – and, let’s face it – it didn’t.
If last week was more about the evolution of character with a little plot momentum thrown in, tonight was just the opposite. Ticking off plot boxes was more the focus; Bonnie and Stefan’s quest to open Klaus’ coffin, Tyler’s need to get out from under Klaus’ control, and Alaric’s developing relationship with Meredith were all in the spotlight here, and most to pleasing effect. The reason these plot grinding episodes don’t feel like complete drags is they are all cleverly rooted in character motivations, which keeps the entire affair from careening off into the deep end of the plot churning pool.
Some of these plots were less successful than others, though. Bonnie has always been a serious trouble spot for the show, and while I appreciate the efforts to finally make her a more fully realized character, man was most of it kind of a chore. Bonnie has always been stuck in the position of being both the voice of reason amidst the madness and the magical supernatural fix often needed for plot advancement, which is a fairly thankless task for any character, let alone one who isn’t given anything else to make the audience connect with them. Bonnie is often right in her views, but is forced to present them in a way that actively pisses us off. Introducing a family member, especially one that has mysteriously abandoned her like her mother Abby, is a great way to not only give Bonnie depth but give her someone with an equal perspective, which has been sorely lacking.
This is why the way they introduced Abby is really rubbing me the wrong way. TVD loves to pull a fast one, but making Bonnie’s mother unlikable by having her have raised someone else’s kid when she couldn’t be bothered to raise her own and then immediately having her trick and drug Bonnie in order to save that kid is simply kind of shitty. Not only that, but the twist itself was pretty heavily telegraphed and surprisingly unsurprising. The final strike has to be the actress playing Abby. This may just be a little genre show on The CW but the ensemble here is consistently solid, and she just doesn’t seem up to the task yet. This obviously isn’t the last of Bonnie’s story with her mother – and knowing this show, it could go anywhere from here – I just hope it gets a bit more interesting.
Better was Tyler and his new plan for getting out from under Klaus’ thumb by bringing back Caroline’s father to teach him some of that fancy mind control. Bill Forbes left on shaky ground earlier in the season (after torturing his own daughter, thanks, daddy!) and Tyler bringing him back is definitely a high risk/high reward situation. What Tyler doesn’t realize, though, is that this anti-siring conditioning is going to require a lot more than a little voodoo if he wants it to work; it’s going to require serious pain from him on a regular basis. Tyler as a hybrid is a remarkably cocky and upbeat presence, like a cross between a muscled personal trainer and cheesy self-help guru hopped up on St. John’s Wort and protein shakes. What he hasn't been since his change, though, is patient. The question is if he will be able to break the bond, and more importantly, if Caroline will still be waiting around for him once he finally does. I can't wait to see what good old Bill thinks of Klaus, though!
The vote for most frustrating Mystic Falls resident of the week, however, has to go to Ms. Elena Gilbert. Elena has evolved into a really strong person, which was evident in how she slyly used both her brains and her newfound brawn to take down the hybrid-compelled Jamie. What she hasn’t mastered, though, is the art of proper timing. I’m sure having your fingers literally next to Stefan’s heart was confusing for you, Elena, but telling your somewhat psychotic ex his also somewhat psychotic brother recently explored your tonsils with his tongue might be better left for a time when you aren’t desperately trying to rescue your best friend from the clutches of the most evil supernatural being in Virginia. Just a thought. More importantly, why did Elena need to tell him at all? Last week he broke her heart in a million pieces and almost killed her. What does Elena even owe Stefan at this point? If anything, Damon should be the one who does the confessing.
The compelling part of this wasn’t Elena’s ridiculous confession, though, but Stefan’s reaction. We saw last week that everything he’s done to Elena was really to push her away, and that he doesn’t feel worthy of her love. Tonight this subtext became text, as he apologized for kidnapping her and told Elena both he and Damon aren’t good enough for her. The stoic hurt in his eyes and the way he clocked Damon right in the face, however, are the most telling signs that the Stefan Elena knows, and we know, is right there underneath the swagger and bravado of his evil façade. This evil façade is kind of a scream, though, so I do hope it sticks around for a while.
So, that was pretty much everything that happened in this episode, right? Nothing else? Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention that Damon is my favorite vampire of all time now that he FINALLY PULLED THE MOTHEREFFING DAGGER OUT OF ELIJAH?! Not only that, but Elijah made his triumphant return doing what he does best: ripping out some hearts. The collective scream in the eastern and central time zones must have been deafening. Seriously, though, even though my love of Elijah is well-documented around these parts, I think this is a fantastic development for the show. Klaus is in a strange place as a character; still a villain, but not feeling super villainy at the moment. Having Elijah there to question him, to give him purpose, and to challenge him can only be a good thing. That this good thing comes with such fantastic hair is just a bonus.
- The last 30 seconds elevated this episode half a letter grade. Never leave again, my dearest Elijah, even for some Canadian show about doctors.
- Klaus’ hybrids are gone and he has his siblings back. Is the driving force for the rest of the season really “what’s in the box”? Because that seems kind of lame.
- Alaric and Damon’s relationship continues to be nothing short of adorable. Is Damon going to vet all of Alaric’s potential lovers? I hope he makes pro and con lists. "Pro: Very lovely eyes. Con: Might be a murderer."
- So Meredith is using vampire blood to save her patients. I’m sure nothing will go wrong with this plan.
- The reveal that Bonnie’s mom was the one who put Mikael in that tomb in order to save Elena was a nice little use of the show’s history.
- “We kissed, now it’s weird.”
- “What are you doing here?” “Oh, looking for a bunny.”
- “What did I miss?”