“I Carry Your Heart With Me” is an episode of full of almost. It almost finds the right balance between the new characters and old favorites. It almost overcomes some of the narrative obstacles the show set for itself in the previous episode. Most importantly, it’s almost a lot of fun. But these moments of almost are just that: Almost enough to get The Vampire Diaries on track for an interesting season, but it’s still not quite there yet.
The thing is, the episode starts out great. It’s the first time this season the show feels like its normal self, with snappy pacing, intercutting scenes of characters working at cross-purposes and spitting snarky dialogue at each other. However, the longer the episode goes on the less interesting it gets. Most of this is because, yet again, it tries so hard to focus on the weaker stories that it forgets the more interesting ones. The biggest misstep yet again has to do with the Heretics, as the episode puts the spotlight on the relationship between Mary Louise and Nora, and every single bit of it is mind-numbing. There are ways to get an audience to care about new characters, but what the writers are doing with Mary Louise and Nora is not the right way. Why should we care about a couple’s relationship when that couple has done nothing but cause misery to the characters we actually care about, and haven’t even bothered to be fun or interesting while causing that misery? It’s basically a disaster all around.
The Heretics aren’t all a bust here, thankfully. After a horrible introduction last week, Valerie is actually tolerable, perhaps mostly because she doesn’t spend her time talking about her ridiculous love story with Stefan. Her uneasy alliance with Enzo to keep Julian away feels like a good use of both characters, even if it is in service of Enzo helpig her just so he can have Lily to himself. (Enzo’s sudden love of Lily is most definitely the worst and weirdest thing about this season, hands down.)
Valerie’s presence reverberates in other, less palatable ways, as Stefan and Caroline continue to navigate their relationship in the wake of her return. Valerie putting a dumb spell on Caroline so she can’t touch Stefan is one thing. Stefan and Caroline can get rid of that, as we see them do in fine fashion here, with Stefan tricking Nora into removing the spell. The less palatable part comes in when Caroline is still neurotically obsessed with the fact that Stefan is still in love with Valerie, somehow. There are ways to look at this as romantic, as Stefan proving his love to Caroline by choosing her over his long-lost love, but in execution it just feels childish and makes Caroline look horribly insecure. Stefan and Caroline have had enough obstacles in the way of their relationship that this feels clumsy and cheap in comparison.
Which brings me to this season’s common refrain: Thank goodness for Damon, Bonnie, and Alaric. They don’t get a lot of time as a threesome this week, but when they do it seems so obvious that whatever is going on with them should be far more prominent than it has been so far. Damon bringing dead Oscar to Bonnie to bring back to life is by far the comedy highlight of the episode, and his subsequent struggle with ravenous now-alive Oscar feels like a TVD plot that could have come from any season, in a good way. But it’s Bonnie and Alaric and their decision to use the stone to bring back Jo which will obviously have the most impact on episodes to come. Doing this is insanely reckless, especially doing it without testing it on another human first to see how they would react. Either way, zombie/Frankenstein/undead Jo should be an entertaining thing to behold. Have fun with your messed up wife, Alaric!
The strangest thing about this episode is that it actually has an important theme, but that theme is so tacked onto the end that it doesn’t really resonate throughout the episode like it should. This is a shame, because Damon’s decision to send Elena’s coffin away so he can move on from her is actually a significant moment not only for his character but for the show as a whole, as it attempts to do the same and move on from the shadow of Elena’s presence. When Damon asks “Who is Damon Salvatore without Elena Gilbert?” he could very well be talking about The Vampire Diaries as a whole. Although this episode was a bit of a step up, it is still a question both Damon and the show will need to figure out how to answer, or else they both may never recover.
- Grade talk: I never talk about grading because it’s such a nebulous thing, but it feels necessary to explain something here. I way over-graded last week’s episode. That’s why last week’s mostly terrible episode and this week’s almost okay episode have the same grade. Now let us never speak of grades again.
- The future teaser this week features Daddy Alaric, who has twins (one of whom is named Josie, which, hmm) and apparently he has a very strained relationship with Damon. Once again, I’m way more intrigued by the future bits than anything in the present.
- Why the heck would Matt agree to help Enzo do anything? Does the show forget how Enzo basically tortured him last season and Matt tried to kill him?
- Haunted Mystic Falls tours are the most realistic thing to ever happen in Mystic Falls.
- This Week, In Matt Donovan Is The Best: What do we think Matt does all day? Sing along to Journey in his cruiser? Set up cardboard cutouts of vampires he hates in the town square and run them over for sport? Stare at pictures of long-lost bro Jeremy and cry a little? Drink and curse his sad life? Because he certainly has very little to do on the actual show. Despite being an original cast member he has barely any screen time. (Poor Matt Donovan.)
- “It’s not my first hostage swap.” Of course it’s not, Damon.
- “Bonnie. You are officially the most terrifying person I know.” That’s “I love you” in Damon Salvatore-speak.