You know the old adage about life being about the journey, not the destination? Well, what’s true in life isn’t necessarily true in season four of The Vampire Diaries, because while the journey of Silas was often a maddening, confusing, nonsensical slog, the destination is turning out to be kind of fantastic.
I think much of my frustration with the Silas storyline ultimately has to do with pacing. This is the first time the show has done a proper, season-long Big Bad, and the strain of figuring out how to pace the mini-reveals within the season definitely showed. The beginning of the arc was surprisingly strong, establishing Silas not as an obvious larger threat but introducing his story as a series of strange, unconnected events—like Pastor Young blowing up the Council and Professor Shane befriending Bonnie in order to surreptitiously steer her toward expressionism—events that slowly revealed a much larger, more dangerous whole.
The problem was the messy middle. Somewhere between Silas’ magical Canadian island and Bonnie attempting to team up with Katherine last week, the Silas arc got very, very convoluted, to the point where I wasn’t sure if I would ever understand it again. Luckily, Bonnie’s partnership with Katherine suddenly snapped everything into place in “The Walking Dead.” Where last week I was unsure if Bonnie was working for Silas or against him, here her whole plan was finally clear: Drop the veil long enough to talk to Qetsiyah and find out how to defeat Silas for good, then close things up all tight again before anything horrible happens.
So finally Bonnie’s plan is easy to track, and even though that plan inevitably goes horribly awry, being able to follow it makes all the difference. The most important part of her plan—the part the show has been building toward since Professor Shane first mentioned bringing dead loved ones back from the other side—is the dropping of the veil. Even though it was obvious many fan favorites would be returning tonight, their identities were just uncertain enough that most elicited very joyful reactions. The most important was probably Alaric, whose presence immediately settled the show into a more comfortable place the second he offered Damon a hand. Bringing back dead characters isn’t my favorite trope (especially when a show does it as often as TVD), but here, Alaric, Jeremy, Lexi, and even Kol were used in exactly the right way for maximum impact not only on the episode’s plot but, more importantly, on the characters.
While Alaric’s presence was likely most important for the tone of the episode, Jeremy’s was most important for Elena and her character’s journey this entire back half of the season. Elena lost her humanity in response to his unexpected death, and while she turned it back on in the last episode, she’s still not on an even emotional keel—as witnessed by her channeling all of her emotions into her obsession with killing Katherine. Right when Elena finally lets go and gives in to her pain again, Jeremy appears, and giving her a chance to say a proper goodbye to him was essential in her regaining her true humanity. It was a touching, tender moment and definitely the right way to use a returning character.
But of course, in the midst of all of these lovely character reunions, Bonnie’s plan to drop the veil and then put it back up quickly ends up going completely wrong due to the next big twist: Silas wasn’t blocked from Bonnie’s thoughts, and could influence them the whole time. In fact, his true face isn’t even the face he’s been showing to Bonnie at all. Then he proceeds to put on a fun show, switching between impersonating Caroline, Stefan, and Alaric, and doing such a fun job of it that it almost completely alleviated my concerns from last week about overusing the body-switching device. What Silas doesn’t know is that Bonnie has her Grams in her corner, and Grams convinces Bonnie she has all the magic she needs to take down Silas for good if she tries hard enough. Bonnie ends up turning Silas to stone, and the plan is to drop him at the bottom of the ocean.
Bonnie’s ability to dispatch Silas raises her confidence just enough to make her think she can bring Jeremy back from the other side for good, and this confidence is ultimately her downfall. When she attempts it, the magic is just too strong for her, and the episode ends with her looking over her own body and contemplating her own death. Is Bonnie dead for good? On this show, you never know, but if she is dead the one small comfort is that it came at the end of a story that she was very much involved in. (It’s less comforting that she died in an attempt to save the littlest Gilbert, though.)
Going into the season finale, Bonnie’s death isn’t the only big surprise: The veil is still down and now all of the dead hunters—Rebekah’s old boyfriend Alexander, the awesome Connor, and the less awesome Vaughn—are back, too, and they seem very interested in giving Silas that cure. I’m sure this won’t interfere with graduation at all!
- Huge respect goes out to Kat Graham, who knocked everything out of the park tonight, especially nailing the final “Oh my God. I’m dead!”
- The only Alaric scene that didn’t work for me was when he was asking Damon about Elena being his girlfriend. Damon and Alaric might have talked of such things in the past, but they certainly wouldn’t have talked about them so openly and freely as portrayed here.
- Alaric telling Damon to go get the girl at the end, however? That felt spot on.
- Stefan snapping Kol’s neck was pretty darn hilarious. Nice try, Kol.
- Lexi is pushing a Stefan and Caroline hookup? I’m conflicted. Friendships are nice!
- Was it just me or did certain characters just sort of take a walk to nowhere in the middle of the episode and disappear? Where exactly was Alaric when Silas was impersonating him?
- Everyone’s attitudes about impending graduation basically boil down to this: Matt: “My whole family sucks.” Elena: “My whole family is dead.” Caroline: “Look how many graduation announcements I’m sending!”
- Matt: “People in this town have a bad habit of turning into vampires, and I’d like to graduate high school as a human.”
- Damon: “So this is either really good or really bad.”
- Katherine: “Really? I’m your biggest problem right now?”
- Elena: “Brother and Friend? What genius came up with that one?”