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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Vampire Diaries: “All My Children”

Illustration for article titled The Vampire Diaries: “All My Children”

This was an episode all about moments, mostly because when you look beyond the moments, everything else kind of falls apart. Last week showed the tremendous potential of the Original family, showcasing the family members' entertaining dysfunction in all its glory and then immediately giving them a central conflict in their mother’s plan to kill them all. It was intriguing, smart, fun, and very well-executed. All of this great build-up ultimately just made tonight’s easy resolution and scattering of the Originals like leaves to the wind without any sort of resolution that much more disappointing.

Despite these complaints, though, there were definitely some great moments. Elijah is simply a wonderful character who elevates everything he’s involved in, and his heavy presence here was very welcome. There’s something about his quiet dignity, his ever-composed demeanor, and especially his sense of fairness even when plotting to kill you that makes him a standout. He’s not ruled by emotion, but he does let it affect him, which comes across plainest in his strangely touching friendship with Elena. Their friendship is what made it so easy to get upset with Elena last week for not warning him about the blood-spiked champagne, and what made his angry confrontation with her this week for lying to him that much more effective. Yes, Elijah is a killer who wouldn’t necessarily think twice about murdering someone who crossed him, but he doesn’t revel in his betrayal and anger. He simply uses it to do what he needs to do to get things done. This emotional removal—highly uncommon in most vampires and supernatural creatures, despite what their natures might suggest—is what makes him fascinating to watch.

It’s a good thing Elijah was involved in the “stop Mommy from killing us” plan, because otherwise it might have driven me crazy. Esther and Finn’s plan was to channel the power of the entire Bennett witch bloodline—with the help of Bonnie and Abby, of course—and have Finn kill himself at the climax, effectively killing the rest of the family. Elijah’s counter-plan was to hold Elena hostage and threaten the Salvatore brothers into killing Bonnie and Abby so the spell cannot be completed. The trouble wasn’t with the plan, which seems like as straightforward a plan as any, but with the way Bonnie and Abby were so easily shoehorned in. Bonnie is such a troublesome character in general, often pilloried by the audience because the writers seem to have no idea how to make her character work. Inserting her into a plan that might kill several very well-liked Originals could be a really interesting idea, but inserting her into this plan without giving her any kind of recognizable motivation (she basically just did it with a shrug of her shoulders, like “why not?”) is a terrible, terrible idea. When Stefan and Damon showed up to take out the Bennett witches, having most of the audience rooting for them to kill the main character rather than her just-introduced mother is a disaster. But kill Bonnie’s mother they did, except instead of killing her, Damon turned her into a vampire.

So now Esther’s spell didn’t work, she and Finn are in the wind, Elijah is eloquently self-loathing enough to want to leave town as well, Kol took off, and all we’re left with is a Caroline-smitten Klaus and petulant, lost Rebekah who will soon be looking for a tree that could kill them all, or some such. There were some truly great beats in the story (Klaus’ scenes with Caroline and Elena’s with Rebekah come to mind) but dispatching all of that lovely potential so quickly is a bit sad. The Vampire Diaries thrives on momentum, but at times, its desire to move on to the next great thing throttles something that could have been great if given a bit more room to breathe. Still, with all of the Originals still alive (if scattered) all we can do is simply look forward to their return.

Although I have major quibbles about how it all went down, having Damon and Stefan work together again was fairly satisfying. Their brother relationship is the rock of the show, so having them together again after being apart for so long was a really welcome thing. What’s less thrilling is how all of their interactions are now thrusting the love triangle to the forefront in a way that feels a bit tired. The emotions of the triangle are all out of whack, with the brothers’ characterizations in a state of flux, landing Elena right in the middle of a pissing match where she feels more like a pinball than a human being.

Stefan had a tremendously interesting arc this season that was all but abandoned in the last few episodes, his apparent self-rehabilitation thrown to the back burner and having him return as a player for Elena’s affections not much different than the man he was at this time last season. As a fan of Stefan, and especially as a fan of his arc this season, this is a complete disservice to the character. Just as Stefan is becoming “good” again, Damon has reverted to his “bad” brother status, making the whole last year feel like it was for naught. Not to mention, all elements of the triangle were more interesting when the writers and characters weren’t constantly addressing the triangle-ness of it all. Evolving characterization is a wonderful thing, the kind of thing television can do like no other medium. But this evolution must contain elements of all of the things the character has been along the way, which didn’t feel like the case tonight. Both brothers are different people than they were before the events of the last few months happened. I just hope the show remembers this.


So now we go into a month-long hiatus as the show hit a sort of reset button: The triangle is coming back into focus, the Originals are mostly gone, Bonnie is adjusting to new life with a vampire mother, and everyone’s next big challenge looks to be maybe-dead Alaric and Meredith the maybe-serial killer. If the next episode’s flashbacks didn’t look so darn fun, I might be worried.

Stray observations:

  • So, is Alaric dead? I’m going to go with no.
  • Klaus and Caroline continue to enchant. TVD is very good at making you root for horrible murderers to be happy.
  • The cold open was hilarious, mostly because neither Salvatore wanted anything to do with Elena. It’s not always about you, girl.
  • “Oh, I’m over it.”
  • “Well, maybe for once, something I did had nothing to do with you.”
  • “Just to be clear: I’m too smart to be seduced by you.”
  • “I’m better at being the bad guy anyway.”