The departure of Katherine Pierce leaves The Vampire Diaries with some seriously huge stilettos to fill. She basically singlehandedly saved season five, ripping it out of the narrative doldrums it threatened to sink into before she arrived on the scene. But now that she’s gone—taking her infectious turn as an Elena impersonator with her—will the show be able to keep the momentum her story arc started alive?
The answer to this question so far is: Maybe? “While You Were Sleeping” is certainly an entertaining episode, following Elena’s struggle to return to her life in the wake of being taken over by Katherine, especially in light of the fact that Katherine poisoned Elena’s body on her way out to boot. Every moment of this episode is stuffed to the brim with the memories of Katherine’s time in Mystic Falls, from Elena and Damon’s fight to overcome the serum that compels them to drink vampire blood to Elena’s hilarious hallucinations of what might have happened between Katherine and Stefan in that hotel room. Katherine has always been a constant thorn in Elena’s side, sharing her face and seeming to only want to ruin her life, so to watch Katherine literally reach from beyond the grave to continue her torment is pretty much perfect.
As much as Elena’s slow descent into madness is about Katherine—the serum Wes created contained werewolf venom, and it’s driving Elena insane—it’s also about Elena’s inevitable reunion with Damon. Although Damon spent the last three weeks wallowing in grief following Katherine’s rejection, the last thing Elena remembers is running into Damon’s arms, happy as a clam. As the audience, we’re just waiting for the shoe to drop; for Elena to find out Damon went on a crazy murdering spree and killed Aaron in the process. Unfortunately the writers don’t quite trust us enough to get the idea on our own, and Elena and Damon’s entire arc in the episode is like a sledgehammer march until the truth is revealed, with Aaron coming up multiple times in conversation and then even appearing in a few of Elena’s hallucinations. (Was Aaron really ever that important to Elena when he was alive? They were friends for like three minutes.)
At least the secret doesn’t last longer than one episode, coming out in a messy confession from Damon at the end and leading to a scene that is interesting enough to potentially justify the ham-handedness of the setup. Elena and Damon’s relationship imploded in the fall when Damon declared that he was no good for her and preemptively broke up with her as some kind of twisted, obnoxious noble gesture. Here, Elena gives his argument right back to him but points out that she kind of doesn’t give a damn that he’s a mess: She loves him anyway. Elena and Damon coming to the mutual agreement that they’re toxic for each other and then mutually deciding it kind of doesn’t matter, falling into bed together, is a much more interesting place for this relationship to be than stuck in the true love sappy nonsense it was at the beginning of the season. Elena and Damon’s relationship should be categorically different than Elena and Stefan’s relationship, otherwise what’s the point?
Other than Elena’s arc, most of the episode is devoted to giving more insight about the Travelers and what they want. The Travelers have been lurking around the edges of the season since the beginning, first with Nadia and Gregor, and then the big pack of chanting bros who show up and stand around in perfect dance number formation and periodically chant. We finally meet a leader—Sloan—and find out they need the blood of the last two doppelgangers, Stefan and Elena. Except there’s a hitch: There’s another doppelganger version of Stefan hanging around, and apparently he’s a paramedic in Atlanta? This is beyond random and strange, even for this show, so it will be interesting to see where this goes from here. All we know is that Caroline and Enzo are on their way to kill this poor innocent Stefan-ganger. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be not as much of a patsy as he seems.
- Desperate, crazy Elena is kind of great. It’s fun to watch her scheme and hurt people and just be a damn vampire for once.
- Also, Elena reading Katherine’s diary and then creating elaborate fan fiction hallucinations about it in her mind was fantastic.
- Stefan says he figured out about Katherine after they kissed because “she wasn’t you.” This is a very loose interpretation of what actually happened, Stefan.
- So Liv the witch isn’t everything that he seems, and she had her brother Luke are working together, somehow, against Bonnie and Elena, for some reason. Interesting.
- This week in Matt Donovan Is The Best: Dream Matt urges Elena to doff her blouse; Matt assists Jeremy in taunting Damon; Matt gets too comfy around Damon and almost loses his head for it. Careful, Matt Donovan.
- “Is it such an anomaly for Damon to have a friend?” RIP, Alaric.