True love is a lie, man. A lie!
All right, maybe not, but the prophecy of true doppelganger love turns out to be as fake as the Sun and Moon curse, a construct created by the Travelers to fool unsuspecting doppelgangers with romantic notions into coming together so the Travelers could then harvest their blood. Considering the Travelers have been attempting to do this for thousands of years and are just now having success, let me just suggest: Perhaps this was a terrible, no good plan?
So let’s compare this bit of trickery with the Sun and Moon curse, as The Vampire Diaries is practically begging us to do since the show is repeating the exact same beat here. Both were central to their season’s long-term arc, introduced early in the season and then dispatched as false at almost the exact same point of the season (episode 19 of the second season for the Sun and Moon, and episode 18 of the fifth season here). Both involve an evil mastermind perpetrating false information to bring together the supernatural forces necessary to complete a long-simmering, nefarious plan. But while the Sun and Moon curse reveal was electrifying and downright brave, the doppelganger prophecy twist just seems limp and sad in comparison.
The Sun and Moon curse was used as a way to introduce Klaus and help turn him into a legendary antagonist in this universe, and by shifting his entire mythological purpose on the show on its ear it vaulted his status as a mastermind and manipulator even further. Here, Traveler leader Markos admits the Travelers made up the doppelganger curse in much the same way Klaus did, but it just doesn’t land with the same punch it did back then. Much of this is due to the weakness of the Travelers as villains as a whole and the shaggy, sort of meandering bad guy parade the entire season turned out to be. Also, it makes the Travelers seem kind of terrible at being bad guys, hinging their entire nefarious schemes on the whims of people searching for true love throughout the millennia. It’s like they are the universe’s first romantic comedy screenwriters, and they’re setting up the most epic meet-cute of all time.
But the main reason the false prophecy grates is that it is yet another thing this season tied to the love triangle, and the love triangle is long past the point of diminishing returns. It would help if there appeared to be a logical way this false curse and all of the doppelganger nonsense was supposed to affect and inform character growth for the three points of the triangle, but instead it ended up feeling like more of a time waster, a way to keep the triangle active without really advancing anything at all. Stefan and Elena’s visions in this episode were little pockets of bliss, so out of place in this universe that they felt downright creepy to watch. (Stefan wore chinos! That is not okay!) They lead to a nice moment between the two after the visions ended, where they finally acknowledged their relationship was real and they were in love and that meant something, even if the relationship is over. It’s also used to show the differences between Stefan and Elena and Damon and Elena, as they can’t manage to be friends in the same way now that their relationship is over. But it all just feels, again, like the triangle is spinning its wheels, and since the plotline of the season is intrinsically intertwined with the triangle, that inevitably feels like it is spinning its wheels as well.
Ultimately, though, now that the Traveler arc has moved beyond the doppelganger prophecy, this storyline’s success or failure is going to hinge upon what happens with the Other Side. The Vampire Diaries has played fairly fast and loose with the rules for the Other Side throughout its run, shifting things as the story necessitated, but this is the first time it feels like all the work the writers put into building this part of their mythology is going to be put to the test. Whatever the Travelers are doing, it is breaking down the Other Side and sending everyone over there—including many of the beloved departed who were friends with the show’s characters—somewhere nebulous and scary. The gang fighting to save their loved ones on the Other Side is far more interesting than any doppelganger prophecy, false or no. And the best part? It looks like Matt, who can suddenly remember his time on the Other Side for the first time, might be the key to the whole thing. Go Matt!
- Paul Wesley made his directorial debut here, doing a fine job with a tricky episode that had not only regular action, but also visions and a significant look at the Other Side as well. His transitions from the regular action to the visions were especially impressive.
- Tyler sure likes to get possessed by evil beings, huh? At least it gives him something to do.
- Basically everything about Enzo here was wonderful, especially his reaction shots. Please let Enzo stick around, show.
- This week, in Matt Donovan Is The Best: “You want us to stab ourselves?”, Matt stabbing himself, Matt getting stabbed, Matt searching for Vicki on the Other Side, Matt crying.
- “Perfect. A dead old guy with a mysterious evil plan.” Elena’s got jokes.
- “I think you can either be friends with someone, or be in love with them. I don’t think you can be both.” Bullshit, Stefan.