The thing about revealing key information in flash forwards is that eventually you have to fill in the blanks. Throughout season seven, The Vampire Diaries teased a future where relationships shifted dramatically, alliances were made and broken, and unexpected resentments between characters abound. Now, the show is forced to attempt to make all these grand declarations of change make sense, resorting to flashbacks to fill in the blanks. “Somebody That I Used To Know” is all about filling in these blanks, and the result isn’t great.
The biggest blank to fill is the relationship between Bonnie and Enzo. When it was revealed that three years in the future saw them in a serious, committed relationship, it was an odd, exciting moment that honestly didn’t make much sense. Now that those three years have elapsed offscreen, the writers are in the position of having to make this feel like a lived-in, satisfying relationship that the audience can get sufficiently invested in. The obvious route to do this is by showing flashbacks of the couple during those three years, and that’s exactly what they do here, interspersing scenes from three years ago, one and a half years ago, and one year ago with the present day. The flashbacks themselves are basically fine—pleasant enough, with an agreeable chemistry between Bonnie and Enzo that at least feels affectionate. The problem is that they never really rise above pleasant enough, and they certainly never reach the point where learning about how the relationship developed feels revelatory or enlightening. It’s all fine, just fine, and as the episode progresses it’s easy to see that fine is not nearly enough.
The present day Bonnie and Enzo scenes are wrapped around everyone’s continued distaste for Damon and all of his Damon-y ways, and those scenes at least feel like they have some life. Putting Bonnie’s life on a time clock is a quick grab at giving this final stretch of episodes any kind of urgency, but that urgency is so wrapped up in ill-defined things like the Armory and Rayna that it never quite fully connects. The gang getting back together to go on a brutal-yet-jaunty vampire hunt in order to get Rayna to help save Bonnie’s life is weirdly paced, but at least diverting. The main emotional story is what works best because it’s at least tied to Bonnie’s feelings of betrayal, which is a tangible thing that makes sense. Bonnie should be mad, and Damon should apologize, and the moment he finally does apologize it works. The weird thing about the story is how it’s basically a circle of logic: Damon desiccated himself for three years to save his friends from him hurting them, now they’re all mad he desiccated himself for three years and blame all their hurt during that time on him. How long until this circle of blame finally gets broken?
For as much as the Bonnie, Enzo, and Damon story disappoints at times, the Alaric and Stefan half of the episode is basically an unmitigated disaster. Where Bonnie and Enzo at least got an episode together to establish the facets and terms of their relationship, Ric and Caroline essentially get one where Ric speaks for Caroline while she’s offscreen, doing something else. Ric was once a great character on this show and his motivations for standing up to Stefan and questioning him about why he abandoned Caroline are good, but under no circumstances should this be the introduction to the great Ric/Caroline/Stefan triangle of doom. It’s obvious this story was crafted because of Candice Accola’s pregnancy, but that doesn’t excuse how frustrating it is to watch two guys argue over the emotional state of a female character who isn’t allowed to speak for herself, especially one who was once one of the very best characters on the show.
The twinge of tragedy surrounding Ric and Caroline’s relationship could be achingly sad. He loves her, she loves stability and the kids, and he’s willing to accept that to be with her. But as it’s presented in this season, it’s all felt like something that’s happening to Caroline instead of something she’s choosing, and it’s frankly kind of gross. Seeing Caroline at the end ensures we’re going to finally get her input into what she’s actually feeling, which is a good thing. I just wish her feelings would have been the first thing we found out, instead of the feelings of all the men in her orbit instead.
- So Alex’s sister is what is locked in the vault, which piles up another nebulous thing on top of this pile of nebulous Armory and Rayna nonsense. Who are the bad guys? What is the threat? Why is everything so undefined, only a few episodes from the season finale?
- Stefan is an unrelenting dick in this episode. Not a good look for him.
- Just to note: I am disappointed the thing in the vault isn’t a dragon.