Because The Vampire Diaries churns through so much plot, it inevitably has to spend a lot of time getting from point A to point B. This creates a situation where certain episodes are all about moving pieces and shifting alliances so the writers can arrange the pieces for the next big jaw-dropping shock.
The thing the show figured out a long time ago is precisely how to make a blatant “shifting puzzle pieces” episode fully entertaining as its own, independent episode of television. “True Lies” is an excellent example of exactly this: a mostly inconsequential episode focused on moving a bunch of plots ever-so-slightly forward, while having a hell of a good time doing it.
This is basically an episode of people running and searching and ultimately not finding much of anything except a heightened sense of snark. Leading the search is Silas, who is still looking for his precious Katherine with the help of several hundred mind-controlled minions. And oh, how Paul Wesley owns this season so far as the darkly droll Silas. Silas’ search for Katherine is the classic run-chase-find-chase-more thing The Vampire Diaries does more often than it probably should, but it does it so well the overuse almost doesn’t even matter. What the show understands is a chase is almost always fun when it features a hefty serving of character-specific moments delivered with a great dose of snappy humor, and that was exactly what we got here. Jeremy and Silas fighting was great. Jeremy quipping to Silas how he’s going to win because he’s a hunter and “plus, I work out” is just delightful.
It helps that much of this chase featured a truly miserable (and hilarious) Katherine, whom Jeremy and Matt were futilely attempting to hide from Silas. Katherine dealing with life as a human has reaped enormous rewards already, and that continues here when she gets sick with a sinus infection for the first time. She’s miserable and sad and still so wonderfully Katherine throughout it all, which is why the whole thing works. When Jeremy calls Katherine out for her loneliness being due to her complete selfishness and she ends up returning to save Jeremy and Matt instead of running away and saving herself, the show fully earned that moment by making everything about Katherine’s human transformation a character arc instead of just a plot point. Is Katherine transformed forever by this one moment? Not even a little bit. But it certainly adds an interesting wrinkle to the beginning of her life as a human.
Also getting a chance to shine this season is Matt Donovan, which is definitely the most unexpected development. Matt often was shuttled to the background in recent seasons, a casualty of adding more and more time with new characters like the Originals. With the Mikaelsons off in their own show, there’s suddenly room for Matt again, and Zach Roerig is making the most of it. A highlight of the episode was his time on the Other Side with Bonnie, serving as a much more interesting foil to Bonnie’s plight as a dead person fighting to still be a part of the living world than Jeremy has so far. Matt has always been great at being the supportive-yet-firm friend, and his tender moment where he helps Bonnie mourn her own death and the death of her father was much needed. I don’t necessarily want Matt to get his neck snapped every week so he can see Bonnie again, but it certainly wouldn’t be horrible if they had one final moment together.
As for Bonnie, her story is the one I’m still struggling to connect to in any meaningful way. It makes sense that she wouldn’t be ready to move on from all her friends quite yet, but the longer she forces Jeremy to live in this weird in-between state, the less tolerable this whole endeavor is going to become.
The least interesting part of the episode, however, was Elena and Damon’s Couple Drama Theater. Giving Elena and Damon reasons to test their relationship is fine. Making that reason all about Stefan feels like such well-trod territory that it makes me almost physically recoil thinking about going through it all again. The premiere felt like a breath of fresh air because there was really no triangle drama; Elena made her choice, and she was happy. Here—even though it was Silas manipulating Elena to make it happen—Elena’s doubting of Damon and connection to Stefan felt like everything we experienced ad nauseum in season four. Even if the outcome was Elena and Damon maturely declaring that Elena’s concern for Stefan is fully divorced from her love to Damon, did the show really need to spend so much time acting like it was still an issue?
The interesting thing is, Elena and Damon have gone down this road together before. Last time, it was a lovesick Elena searching for Stefan after he took off with Klaus. This time, Elena is in love with Damon, but the show is playing far too coy about how quickly that could change. Now with Stefan mysteriously out of the quarry and roaming around thirsty for blood, the echoes to season three’s Ripper Stefan are even stronger. I’m just really, really hoping that the love triangle drama takes a backseat to the gruesome Ripper drama that is sure to come.
- What does Nadia want with Silas? And seriously, why did she go through so much trouble to spy on him when she could have just come up to him and tapped him on the shoulder or something? Work smarter, not harder, Nadia.
- Should Bonnie even be seeing Matt? Doesn’t everyone have their own Other Side? I can’t keep all of this stuff straight.
- I didn’t love the return of Stefan’s hallucinations here, even if the transition from Elena choking on the water to Stefan choking in the coffin was yet another neat editing trick. They feel too much like the writers straddling the fence with Elena’s affections for the brothers (even if they are ultimately Stefan’s thoughts, not Elena’s).
- Jesse is nice and cute, and he likes Caroline, so he is either totally evil or nice and totally doomed.
- Dr. Wesley Maxfield, I do not trust you. This show doesn’t have a great record with professors.
- Katherine: “I’m the freaking moonstone.”
- Katherine: “I survived childbirth, the death of my entire family, and 500 years of running from an immortal hybrid. You can understand why I’m a little upset that I’m on the verge of being defeated by a sinus infection.”
- “What I don’t get is why she likes you.” “That’s because you haven’t had sex with me.” Boys, boys, boys. That was hilarious.