If you divorce this episode from the rest of season seven and pretend everything that led the characters to this point makes logical sense, then “Moonlight On The Bayou” is a pretty darn satisfying episode of The Vampire Diaries. The episode is part chase sequence, part crazy science fiction-esque conspiracy, part welcome crossover with The Originals, and all of these things weirdly work—and what holds them all together is a sense of the show’s own history that felt oddly lacking for much of the seasons leading up to this. It’s not a perfect episode, sure, but it’s an entertaining one, even if part of the entertainment is scoffing at what insane jumps in plotting the show took to get the season to this point.
Chief insane thing is the sudden prominence of what is dubbed “The Armory,” a part-science fiction, part-supernatural, all-secretive shadowy society whose sole purpose seems to be the collection and control of rare supernatural people and artifacts. This Armory is so famous that Valerie has heard of them, even though they’ve never been mentioned previously on this show or seemed to care much about the many, many, many supernatural artifacts and beings that have been featured in the past. In retrospect, it’s almost impressive that it took until season seven for one of these types of organizations to show up, considering they’re a fairly standard supernatural fiction trope. But while their presence was set up earlier in the season with Enzo’s mysterious abduction, TVD takes it way too far too fast, having both Matt and Tyler all tied up with them despite this being really their introduction to the show.
Even more insane is the revelation that this Armory has deep ties to Enzo, in that his long-lost father founded the group (and whether this was before or after he abandoned Enzo to live a miserable, sad life as a poor orphan is yet to be determined). Enzo is a character this show obviously loves, yet has had a hell of a time working into its universe after his interesting introduction, and shoving this backstory in all at once tied to a wholly new element seems like another dicey bet to get the audience truly invested in him. Still, due to some great direction and the smart decision to have the Armory sequence play partly like a classic TVD escape plot make most of this craziness work. Enzo’s motivation to do whatever it takes to help the Armory so they will tell him about his family is incredibly weak—especially because this requires him to sell out Damon, the very person he spent an entire previous season punishing Stefan for hurting—but the scenes themselves of him locking Damon up and then sparring with Bonnie are fun and tight.
Beyond the great direction and interesting location (which is a constant throughout the episode, really), most of the success of the Armory sequences here are due to the fact that putting Bonnie and Damon together in a plot that requires them to work together on a common goal and then save each other is this show’s bread and butter right now. Other than Stefan and Damon, it’s the most developed relationship on the show and the one that consistently works, no matter how feeble the trappings around the situations they get put in are. When Enzo locks Damon in a room with Tyler right before Tyler is about to change for the full moon, Bonnie’s desperation and determination to get him out renders any silly thing about the plot that got them there basically irrelevant. What matters in that moment are the lengths she will go to for her friend, and this time those lengths lead her to be a total badass and chop Enzo’s hand off to disable the door locking Damon in, even though when she does it she knows she could end up getting hurt by Tyler herself.
For much of Bonnie’s tenure on TVD, a big and valid complaint was how her character’s personal development was constantly being sidelined so she could go off and save Elena and her friends yet again, even though at times those friends never seemed to care as much about her as she did them. What I like most about Bonnie’s evolution in these past two seasons—in particular her friendship with Damon—is how the show has used Bonnie’s history here to code into her characterization how essential helping her friends is, and then in turn giving her a friend that overtly recognizes this quality. Damon knows Bonnie will always save him no matter the cost to her, and that makes her repeated sacrifices feel far less frustrating, especially when he uses that knowledge to say that he’ll sacrifice something himself in order to keep her from continuing to do this, like he does at her bedside here.
The big, promotable draw of this episode is not Bonnie and Damon’s friendship but the crossover with The Originals, which the show honestly hasn’t done nearly enough since the spinoff three years ago. Stefan on the run from Huntress Rayna is a great excuse to get him to New Orleans and the safety of Klaus’ magically protected bar, especially because Stefan getting there turns out to be almost as much fun as it is once he arrives. I mentioned the directing previously, but show veteran Jeffrey Hunt really does a great job giving Stefan’s journey some visual pizazz, shown off best in the tense sequence at the convenience store and then again when he gives Rayna an over-the-shoulder POV shot on her motorcycle that wouldn’t feel out of place in a big action movie chase sequence. Rayna’s backstory was boring; her as some sort of unstoppable, faster It Follows villain is much, much more compelling.
Once Stefan does arrive it immediately becomes clear how much Klaus and his long history with Stefan brings to the table. Stefan as a character has been floundering a bit this season, but seeing him talk to Klaus immediately feels grounded in a way a lot of what has happened this season did not. It also helps sell the Huntress mythology, as Klaus’ extreme reaction to the mark on Stefan’s chest hammers home the danger he has put himself in. Most of all, it’s just nice to see something that feels familiar and rooted in the mythology of the show, after a season where so many new things were introduced so poorly all at once. Klaus and his family are an example of an evolution of the TVD mythology that really worked. Even if he’s only here for one episode, it’s nice to have a textual reminder of how great the show can still be.
- Thanks to LaToya for filling in last week on what was maybe the worst episode of the entire season. I mean, it was really terrible.
- Three years from now, Klaus is apparently completely gone from New Orleans. I guess they’re not expecting The Originals to last three more years, huh? The Originals portion of this crossover might answer this, I suppose.
- Caroline’s story remains one of the weaker things of the season, but her call with Klaus is honestly one of the best things she’s gotten to do in ages. It’s probably not great for the show that Candice Accola and Joseph Morgan showed more chemistry over the phone than Accola does with Paul Wesley this season in person.
- Tyler is alive after all, even though for all Damon knew (or cared) he was dead. Tyler is so tangential to the show now I had honestly forgotten he triggered his werewolf curse again at the end of last season.
- The Armory captured Nora and Mary Louise. OK, sure. I’m much more interested in their technology than their kidnapping skills, such as the anti-magic serum Enzo gave Bonnie.
- “It looks like you could use a hand.” You earned that line, Bonnie.
- “It’s not a crime to love what you cannot explain.”