Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Case of the.... The Vampire Diaries - Episodes 4-4 & 4-5

I know I promised in my last review that I’d have these reviews up faster now that the CW is once again being carried by my cable provider, but the infamous Hurricane Sandy got in the way of that.  I was without television and Internet from early Tuesday morning until late Saturday night, and then from there was the task of playing catch up with all the shows I’ve missed.  Hopefully, going forward there won’t be any more delays.  But with the weather the way it has been in New Jersey lately (in the past week we’ve had a hurricane, a mini earthquake, and a Nor’easter), who the heck knows.  Nonetheless, due to my recent weather misfortunes, you’re getting two for the price of one here.  So on with this double review!

Episode 4-4 Review:

While I may have indicated the contrary at the way beginning of the season, but I am enjoying the complexity of which is superior philosophy regarding Elena’s transition into vampirism.  It seems to be an accepted notion that anybody that feeds will eventually kill a human, intentionally or not.  Stefan would like to avoid this possibility altogether by keeping her from feeding, fearing that she won’t be able to come to terms with taking another life and will “turn off” her humanity as a result.  Damon, meanwhile, believes that she can avert taking a life if she embraces the act of feeding.  By depriving herself of the process, she’s only increasing the possibility of hurting somebody (or worse).  Thus far, the show has done a good job of showing both sides of the argument.  The first few episodes seemed to favor Damon’s method – Stefan’s proposal simply wasn’t working and Elena was getting sick.  Damon’s assistance was allowing her to survive.  This past episode, however, showed that Damon’s “embrace the act” philosophy is risking her humanity just as much as it’s saving it.

I will ask this, though:  Did anybody else find it odd that Elena just left that girl to drink the roofied drink given to her by that frat guy?  And speaking of the frat party, nobody found it odd that a teacher was there?

I continue to be perplexed by Conner and his shaky portrayal.  He’s fully aware of his tattoos and their invisibility (as well as the fact that anybody who can see them is a vampire hunter), yet seems to know nothing of their history.  One second he’s a bad ass vampire killer who comes up with complex traps, the next second he’s getting duped by a high schooler.  This week, he’s beheading hybrids while chained up.

I’m quite pleased that the writers didn’t drag out this mystery behind “The Five.”  Some stories are best completed as quickly as possible and you have to be careful about which ones you stretch.  In this particular case, it was wise to let us know who the Five are and what they are protecting, so that we can continue on with the more interesting story of finding the cure.  The stuff with Rebekah was interesting as well, although I STILL don’t know how she was cured from the wolf bane.  I mean, it was pretty much explicitly stated in her interaction with Klaus that he didn’t help her.  So how did she go from having hallucinations to becoming BFF’s with the new girl?

I’m wondering how long Rebekah will be sleeping for, as well.  Her attempted redemption was laid on pretty thick, and I’m curious if that was all for the sake of showing how far Stefan would go in his alliance with Klaus.  After all, his assistance in her downfall wouldn’t have been that dramatic if we still remembered her as the person who tormented Elena and was complicit in her death.  As far as why they took her out, from a writing perspective, I’m wondering if it wasn’t because they had painted themselves in a corner.  They’ve already got a reluctant partnership between Klaus and Stefan, and they might be spreading themselves too thin if they add Rebekah to the mix, as she’s got tension with both sides.  Random observation, though:  Do the showrunners even remember that Stefan and Rebekah had a relationship in the past?  Because they never allude to it in any way in their various interactions.

Episode 4-5 Review:

This past week’s episode furthered the allegiance between Stefan and Klaus.  From those of you that read my Prison Break reviews, you’ll remember how annoyed I got that the writers kept coming up with scenarios to get the brothers to team with T-Bagg, who was the one convict who truly was a bad, bad person.  I argued that it was not only contrived, but that it also made the brothers (who were supposed to be your “heroes”) look bad for repeatedly assisting a man who has raped and murdered people from returning to prison.  Thus far, I’m not there yet with this alliance.  For one, I’m not convinced that they’ve presented Klaus as an explicably evil person.  He doesn’t necessarily kill for sport.  More times than not, it’s to protect somebody he loves, or to bring him one step closer to achieving something grander.  He’s also a survivalist – many of the times, he’s simply eliminating somebody who’s treatening his existence.  Don’t get me wrong – he’s not a good guy, not by any stretch of the imagination.  But characters such as Stefan and Damon have done many of the same things (remember when Stefan murdered Damon’s girlfriend – before he had turned off his emotions – just to keep Damon and Elena from following him?)  Also, thus far, I’ve found many of their reasons for teaming together to be clever.  It hasn’t felt forced.

I did appreciate the fact that Damon brought up Jeremy as a pawn in getting Bonnie to do what he wants.  While the relationship was relatively short lived and occurred a while ago, I actually felt like it was one of the stronger built bonds of the show, and I’m glad some attention was brought to it.  Outside of the Stefan/Elena/Damon triangle, it feels like these characters are moving through each other at a pace that rivals 90210.  In four seasons, Caroline has been attached to Damon, Matt, and Tyler.  Matt has hooked up with Elena and Caroline.  Tyler has gone through Vicki, her mom (creepy), and Caroline.  It’s affirming to see a relationship – any one, I suppose – that transcends even after the break up.  Perhaps what I appreciated about it most of all is that the two characters, for the most part, are kept at a distance and very rarely is their past explicitly brought up.  I like that it’s a silent bond that everybody recognizes.

Of course, it ended up being a bit of a moot point, as Bonnie was once again cozying up to a man-witch who is secretly in bed with the enemy (metaphorically speaking, of course).  Didn’t this already happen a couple of seasons ago when Klaus was first introduced?  I also have trouble getting invested in this storyline where Bonnie has to re-earn her abilities.  She’s only been without them for a few weeks, and so far nothing has really happened that put them in a particularly dire situation because she wasn’t able to assist them.  It feels like the writers are TELLING us this story is important, instead of SHOWING us that it is.

One consistent criticism I’ve had is when this show treats real-life significant things – like, ya’ know, teenagers dying and being turned into a vampire – into inconsequential matters.  Consequently, I really liked how betrayed and, well, annoyed Jeremy felt when he discovered that he had been compelled.  The fact of the matter is, being compelled (particularly by people you are close with) is a violation of trust.  Something very personal was literally taken from you – and I can see why one would not only be upset, but would also wonder “what else have I been forced to forget?”  These characters are now abundantly aware of the fact that they have been deprived of their own memories.

This does, of course, add an interesting layer to Jeremy becoming a vampire hunter.  On a philosophical level, he now has a severe issue with his vampire friends, despite the fact that he has defended them in the past.  Additionally, Klaus (and to a lesser extent Stefan, and an even lesser extent than that Damon) have an investment in uncovering the map for a cure.  In order to achieve that, Jeremy is going to have to kill a lot of vampires.  I could easily see Jeremy put in a position where he’s forced to kill – something I’m sure he’s not comfortable doing – in order to expand his tattoo to reveal more and more of the map.  Prediction:  This will all culminate with him being put in a position where he would have to kill one of his friends (Stefan, Damon, Tyler, Caroline, or Elena) in order to reveal the final piece of the map.  I don’t think he’ll do it, but that’s where I think it’s leading to.

Conner’s bipolar hunting skills reached a rather shocking end this episode.  His inconsistent abilities were perfectly exemplified in this particular episode.  One moment he’s building booby traps and creating complex explosives, and the next he ONCE AGAIN hasn’t pieced together that Elena is a vampire.  I’m truly baffled by this.  This is the guy that is smart enough to wear vervain soaked gloves and thinks to use blood as a way to weed out vampires in public, but he can’t come to the conclusion that Elena is a vampire?  Having said that, I was pretty surprised that he was killed – but he is a great candidate for Elena’s first human kill.

And hey, next week we have the return of Katherine!  Vampire Elena and Katherine together could be a lot of fun.

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