It turns out the call was coming from inside the house the whole time.

The back half of season seven has felt directionless, with no clear threat or villain defining the action leading up to the finale. At first it seemed like Rayna was that threat, but she was quickly neutralized into something more resembling a vague nuisance. Then the Armory appeared, all full of hazy and nebulous nefarious intent, but never rising to more than a weirdly ill-defined runner in the background that played like evil white noise.

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Now the big threat to our main characters has been revealed, and it’s none other than Bonnie Bennett herself. The idea of Bonnie turning evil and getting revenge on everyone for all the crap they’ve put her through over the years was one I always found tantalizing, in previous seasons when both the character and actress were wasted in poor storylines or essentially erased into invisibility. It would have been a nice, cathartic moment. But if the past two seasons have done anything right, it’s that they’ve finally figured out how to write for Bonnie, making her a vital part of the show (and often the very best part of the show). Now, making her the bad guy who is hunting down all of her friends takes on an entirely new meaning.

When Rayna agreed to give up her life for Bonnie’s, it should have played far more suspiciously than it did at the time. Rayna was introduced as a bad guy, and despite getting the typical The Vampire Diaries tragic backstory in order to humanize her a bit, never really evolved past her bad guy introduction. Bonnie even starts to wonder in this episode, asking exactly why Rayna would be willing to die for someone she doesn’t even know. We should have suspected Rayna had an ulterior motive all along, but the problem with that is that Rayna is such an underdeveloped character that it’s impossible to think about anything motivating her, other than the writers’ need to move the plot forward. In a way, this actually ends up working for the big reveal at the end of the episode: Rayna agreed to transfer her life force into Bonnie not to save Bonnie’s life and finally get peace, but to make Bonnie into the new version of herself as she’s forced to hate and hunt the very people she loves.

The good thing about this is that it gives the final two episodes a clear, definable threat, one with a personal connection to every other character. Watching Bonnie lose her connections to her friends and boyfriend, watching her hunt them and try to kill them, will automatically have emotional weight. The bad thing is that it takes all the actual tension of the ending away. No one is going to kill Bonnie (especially when Kat Graham is signed on for one more season). It’s highly unlikely Bonnie is going to actually kill any of her friends. The result feels like to will be one more thing in this season that happens for the sake of happening, rather than having any sort of weight or meaning, like it’s happening only because the writers realized that they didn’t have any actual emotional stakes. At least it’s certain that Kat Graham will nail whatever they give her to do, and make it at least watchable in the moment.

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It’s a good thing that part is watchable, because the rest of the episode is as unbearable as possible. In yet another massive misstep, the show finally decides to reveal exactly why Matt turned against Stefan, and the reveal is exactly as cliché as expected. It turns out Matt thought Stefan killed Penny, because Stefan compelled Matt to believe a cover-up story about her dying in a car crash. The truth of the matter is that Matt actually accidentally killed Penny himself, and Stefan was just sparing him the pain of this memory. It’s not good, and it’s doubly frustrating because the reveal comes far too late in the season for Matt’s betrayal to feel like anything but a light shrug of the shoulders. Penny was barely a character; now we are expected to be emotionally affected because we get 30 seconds of a flashback of Matt and Penny’s happiness before she dies? It’s poorly conceived and executed writing, and not up to the standards of the show at its middling, let alone at its best.

Bonnie isn’t the only nefarious presence waiting to be unleashed in the final two episodes. There’s also the matter of whatever escaped the Armory’s vault when Bonnie opened it. It certainly wasn’t Alex’s sister who came out (and how Alex believed her sister was alive after four years and not just some trick of the evil locked in there is beyond me, as Alex is apparently a giant moron). Instead it’s some sort of primal evil who turns people into empty monsters, which is just what this plot needs with only two episodes to go in the season. The Armory has been nothing but a weird distraction this season. Now we wait and see if the horrific evil they unleashed is nothing more than another weird distraction, or something more.

Stray observations

  • The best part of this episode was Damon calling Rayna “stabbypants.” Which isn’t saying much.
  • You know, Bonnie and Enzo have something. There’s a clear spark and affection there, but the relationship just hasn’t had the time to develop it needed in order to make it feel significant enough yet.
  • The writers spent a lot of time harping on how Damon is the worst in recent episodes, but it was only tonight where he actually felt like the worst. Either the writing or Ian Somerhalder’s performance took his nonchalance about making a deal with the enemy to another level of unpleasantness for once.
  • It’s difficult to even comment on the Caroline and Ric story, it’s so bad. They have intense conversations about their family but talk to each other like they’re strangers. They’re planning on getting married but stand ten feet apart at all times. It’s obvious this is leading toward Caroline and Stefan getting back together, but does it have to be so incredibly awkward? Who could be rooting for this family that’s more like a business arrangement than anything else? At least allow them to be friendly and affectionate, even if it’s not a romantic love.

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