Whoa. WHOA. After two weeks of supernatural crime shenanigans the “drama” side of The Vampire Diaries was back with a vengeance last night, giving nearly every name character a chance to dig deep and emote. From its title on down, “The Murder of One” was fantastically scripted, a perfect balance of mythology and humanity, showing the intimate implications of large-scale decisions. Here’s a hit list of where this game-changer leaves our crew as we drag ourselves through (yet another) excruciating hiatus:
The Gang: The opening stake-making scene was baller, but I highlight the group as a separate entity in order to properly lavish praise on the early scene where Matt, Caroline, Elena, Stefan, and Damon shared the screen, which was glorious for the following reasons:
- It was a pseudo-training session, not a general party scene, so they all gathered there with the intent to interact.
- We finally got to see information transmitted, as opposed to the usual TVD exposition trick of “So-and-so just filled me in, what’s our next step?” With all the switcheroos and secret murderers on this show it’s always been shocking to me that they don’t have daily meetings to catch up on everyone relationship status/info level/emotional state. It seems like information that would come in handy when handpicking participants for their grand plans.
- They used prior knowledge of participants to create a grand plan! I appreciated all the little self-aware references to past character interactions (“Because he’s obsessed with you”, “Beefcake holds Bombshell”, “No last-minute attacks of pity”) because I felt rewarded for paying attention, a feeling that would continue throughout the episode.
Elena: I’ve been low-key hating on Elena over the past couple of weeks while simultaneously congratulating the Brothers Salvatore for leaving her be, but this show is built on triangles for a reason, and that reason is that the three core actors absolutely shine in their shipper scenes no matter what the outcome. Tonight was a welcome return to form: Elena’s big heart was an asset instead of a weakness as she did her best to serve all parties, forcing Caroline to gain perspective on her father’s murder, pushing for Damon’s rescue, and being a (somewhat unwilling) sounding board for Stefan’s mounting angst. Her inability to voice her love for Damon was a bit of a stretch, but is she really going to admit that to his brother, whose declaration of love she just returned?
Caroline (and Alaric): My unabashed favorite was in fine form last night, full of grace in the face of irreconcilable truths about what it means to be a killer. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the whole storyline with her dad (at times it felt like the writers were piling on a character that really had more than enough to deal with) but it dovetailed beautifully with the show’s larger narrative about death and who delivers it, because Damon dismissing ‘Ric’s sense of responsibility (after being forgiven for killing the man’s wife) doesn’t resonate as much as absolution from Caroline, whose father Alaric recently, publicly murdered. They’re’s was hands-down my favorite scene of the episode, because there was no twist, or “part two” – she “has blood on her hands” as well, and mutual understanding of what that means is enough. The final scene of Alaric’s frantic search for the last stake only reinforces how much that reality is getting to him – I don’t know how much longer he’ll stay sane knowing what he’s (unconsciously) capable of.
Caroline (and Elena’s) other banner scene of the evening was, of course, the second part of the bloodline reveal (which will get its own spotlight later). It epitomizes the “political is personal” theme of the night, with the realization of Tyler’s vampire parentage reinforcing the fact that there are no magic bullets/stakes/solutions to these people’s current condition. There will always be big fish existing to influence the actions of littler fish – the ecosystem demands it, and if you upset that hierarchy, you’ll lose something precious before you realize it was even in danger. Sometimes it can seem like Caroline exists to remind us Tyler exists, but considering all he’s come to represent (the normal-turned-supernatural-turned-super-supernatural under the thrall of the enemy) that’s not an unimportant role in the slightest.
Bonnie: Oh my GOD, you guys. This girl doesn’t need a break, she needs the Witness Protection Program. We’re known for our continued defense of Bonnie around here, but that’s because no one else appears particularly concerned. I’m not saying her friends don’t love her – these past few weeks show that they do – but this week highlighted that it’s not always the correct level of attention. In spite of enduring horror after horror there’s just this assumption that they can catch up with her later,that all that power means she can take care of herself. Which she can, but she’s the only female protagonist on this show that is required to do so. Klaus can torture her with images of Jeremy because Elena sent Jeremy away (I don’t care that they broke up. Every Elena and Stefan scene only further proves the irrelevance of break-ups on this show) and can twist the knife with threats to her mother because she’s already insecure about her mother’s love after losing her again so recently. Elena and Caroline’s mothers love them (Elena in fact had three, and all found time to prove that). Elena and Caroline’s boyfriends do not get deported (Sure, they aren’t actually together with any of them at the moment, but let’s be real; Matt’s been a fantastic back-up lately. And they didn’t get cheated on.). As for leaving Damon hanging in the Original Mansion… he’s killed people for a lot less than the hell he’s put her through. And when she curls up outside after untangling the Originals’ lifelines and sobs her heart out, you want to cry too, because Damon has someone planning to save him. Nobody’s coming to rescue Bonnie.
Damon: Mostly served as Rebecca’s side of beef for most of the episode (though the dream sequence was another great reminder of that particularly unsettling little trick, and of the times Elena’s gone to save Stefan without Damon’s approval). He wins Most Horrifying Moment of the Night for attempting to pull his hands out of bear traps on command. Am I the only one that recalls him wearing the Saw-style splinter collar last season? The writers really have a thing for messing up the pretty. One wonders if Damon will have any sort of serious reaction to news of Sage’s demise – she was the Lexi to his Stefan, but her recent betrayal for a cause he knew to be pointless may lessen the sting in a way that his direct responsibility for Rose’s death could not.
Stefan: Last night was more Stefan-centric than the show’s been in a while as his hatred of all things Original took center stage – that scene where he and Elena debate Damon’s desires versus their most logical course of action was particularly revealing regarding his continued fixation on Klaus’ destruction – but that was all thrown out the window once the Bloodline mythology was sussed out and he went to parley with Klaus. The Hybrid’s assertion that Stefan should be grateful for a target, a place to channel his self-hatred, was both a masterstroke of deflection and complete truth, a fact that did not go unnoticed. Stefan now wonders what all his anger was for – did he hate Klaus for what he made him do, or what those actions forced him to lose? Some may tire of the unending rounds he and Elena go about their non-relationship, but I’ve asserted before that “ex” looks good on them, because distance seems to have heightened, not lessened, the intensity between them. When he can declare his love and blame himself for allowing Damon to become a rival for Elena’s affection in the same breath we have serious conflict, and him saying it aloud in her hearing means there’s still some angst to be wrung from this triangle, which is totally fine with me.
The Originals (and Sage): So I have this serious problem where I’m deeply in love with Klaus and every line out of his mouth sounds like perfection (but seriously, Joseph Morgan, throw me a bone and deliver an emotionless line reading once in a while, I can’t stomach any more delicious British nuance). The Original Hybrid was in fine bullying form last night, hitting the pressure points of family and foe with equal abandon as he tied up the last of this white-oak stake drama. Mikaelson fraternal madness, however limited, was welcome – I adore Rebecca’s sadistic-princess shtick but her game is always elevated when her brothers come to town. Kol didn’t even have to be in town to be threatening – his stalking of Jeremy in Denver was made creepier by the fact that we never even heard him speak. Finn was as put-upon as reported, though his brief reunion with Sage, where she attempts to introduce him to the world he’s missed while buried undead, was as sweet as could be managed considering how short-lived contentment is on this show. Seems nine hundred years of life experience couldn’t teach her that there’s no permanent happiness to be found in Mystic Falls.
In any case, their chain-reaction deaths introduced one of my favorite entries into the Mystic Falls canon – the “bloodline” concept beats “sun-and-the-moon curse” any day (I know Klaus made it up, but he didn’t make up the weeks I had to endure everyone obsessing about it). Shady and I have had many a conversation over the lack of “maker” importance in this mythology; at first, it was rendered moot by the fact that vampire bites don’t make a vampire, but then this year’s “siring” plot point made us cry “So doesn’t that make Damon Caroline’s vampire dad?!” in near-unison more than once. It’s a neat little corner the writers painted themselves into, simultaneously giving weight to the term “Original” and rendering at least two of them completely off-limits no matter their future wrongdoings (There’s the issue of who made Rose, the blood of Katharine’s blood, coupled with the fact that Klaus literally sired Tyler). As a person that wants the Mikaelsons to keep quipping and killing until the end of time, this is great, but the part of me that worries for the forward momentum of the plot after nearly three seasons of increasingly Bigger Bads wonders how satisfyingly this whole thing will wrap up come episode twenty-two. What’s scarier than an Original Hybrid no longer concerned with his siblings? Especially when the only person he was ever truly scared off was killed before New Year’s?
Next week: Nothing. We have officially entered our Yearly Wait for the Return of Tyler. They could’ve at least scheduled it to coincide with Lent.