Three of the things in The Vampire Diaries’ arsenal that I love the most are evil Damon, flashbacks, and Lexi, so it was basically a given I was going to be in the bag for this one. It helps that although all of elements are delightful, the show doesn’t overuse them just because it can: It bides its time, knowing exactly when to pull out its bag of tricks to provide maximum story impact. Boy, was that impact pleasantly felt here.
The flashbacks in question are inspired by Damon and Elena’s impulsive trip to New York City. Damon tells Elena he’s doing it to help her have some fun and get out of Mystic Falls before she does something to expose herself, but he’s really there to track down his old pal Billy's belongings and find out a clue to Katherine’s whereabouts (and therefore the cure). To my great delight, the trip inspires Damon to reminisce about his last sojourn in the big city in 1977, when he spent his time dining and cavorting at Billy’s underground punk club. That is, until Lexi showed up to attempt to get him to turn his emotions back on.
The combination of humanity-free Damon, ’77 punk aesthetic, and the always-pleasant Lexi make the flashbacks a ton of fun, especially when Damon tricks her into thinking he turned his emotions back on because he was falling for her. It’s an evil, cruel trick, especially in light of the fact Damon ended up killing Lexi back in season one. The great thing about this revelation, though, is how Damon uses it to explain to Elena exactly how awful she’s going to feel about hurting the people she cares about once she decides to turn her emotions back on. Damon regretted hurting Lexi, and that regret turned into the sort of seething rot that ended with him killing her. Is this a retcon? Maybe, but it’s a retcon that really works.
As for Elena, she isn’t just sitting around listening to Damon’s flashbacks and waiting for him to attempt to impose the cure on her again. She’s adamant she isn’t taking it—just as adamant as Damon is that she is—and she cooks up a plan to do something about it. Unfortunately for her, Damon is the master of manipulation and sees her scheme coming a mile away. What Damon doesn’t suspect is that Elena and Rebekah now have a common cause (as Rebekah wants the cure for herself), so when they team up to take him down, he’s completely caught off guard. The initial friendship between Elena and Rebekah in season three was interesting, as was Rebekah’s animosity toward Elena post-daggering, but I think I might enjoy the current reluctant-partners-in-crime Elena and Rebekah the most. There’s a commonality between humanity-free vampire Elena and Rebekah that makes their pairing a lot of fun.
While things are a mess for Damon in New York, everything is a mess back in Mystic Falls with Bonnie and Silas. Turns out Bonnie knows Shane is actually Silas and knows they’re going to have to kill more people in order for Silas’ plan to work, and yet she’s still completely on board if it means Jeremy and all their dead loved ones will come back, even when Bonnie learns the next sacrifice of 12 has to be witches. Bonnie sends for the witches, who attempt to expel the expressionism out of her, but during the ceremony, expelling turns to them trying to kill Bonnie, and Caroline kills the head witch first before she can kill Bonnie. The problem is that when Caroline killed the head witch, the 11 other witches that were linked to her in the spell died as well, inadvertently completing what Silas needs for his plan. All that’s left for him to track down is the cure, and he tasks the most hilarious person of all to do it: Klaus. Oh, and Bonnie? She wakes up having no memory of anything about Silas, Shane, Jeremy, or the impending apocalypse. That’s some convenient amnesia right there.
Look, I am really enjoying the Silas plot. I’ve been enjoying it all season, and I think an apocalypse-level event was the logical next step for the show to take with its bad guys. What I haven’t enjoyed, especially lately, is how Bonnie fits into all of this. If the show was trying to justify her actions by using her love for Jeremy, that doesn’t work for me, since she basically hasn’t talked to Jeremy since last season. If the show was trying to say she was under some sort of spell or compulsion from Silas and Shane tied in with the expression magic, it was never adequately explained enough to make it track. Now, basically she was a part of this horrible thing, and she doesn’t even remember anything that happened? That this powerful witch was just used as some sort of vessel? That just makes me angry. None of this comes together for me in a satisfying way, which is a shame because the rest of the story is very enjoyable.
That brings me to Caroline, who had probably one of the more quietly interesting moments of the entire series tonight. The Vampire Diaries has always had issues with how it treats morality in the world of the show and its characters, issues I’ve heavily debated here in these reviews (and you in the comments). This episode might be the first one that addresses some of these issues head on by forcing Caroline to see that saving one person that’s her friend might not be a valid moral choice if it means killing 12 strangers (and, you know, accidentally bringing about the apocalypse). It’s fascinating to watch the horror play over Caroline’s face as she realizes what she’s done—but how is this any different from when she helped kill Tyler’s hybrid friend early in the season? Or the hundreds of other times Caroline and her friends have done things exactly like this in order to save each other? It’s not, and I hope the show will let Caroline have some time to truly absorb the ramifications of her realization tonight.
The only troubling thing about Caroline’s epiphany was that it came directly from Klaus’ coaching, couched in a bit of uncomfortable rhetoric about her being attracted to darkness. Caroline and Klaus have great chemistry, and their interactions are fun to watch, but having Caroline learn she’s bad because of something Klaus says feels like a cop-out to me, a way to make that attraction seem more valid by making them "even" somehow. Caroline stresses early in the episode how “people who do terrible things are just terrible people,” and this event cures her of that absolutism. That on its face is fine—people who do terrible things aren’t necessarily terrible people all the time, especially on this show—but wrapping an interesting moral evolution up in Caroline/Klaus flirtation just rubs me the wrong way a bit.
Still, these are very small quibbles in what was a hugely entertaining episode overall. Any time you have Damon playing a ‘70s punk, I’m all in.
- Damon’s 1977 hair is the Damon hair of my dreams.
- For a vampire show, TVD doesn’t do many feeding scenes. The threesome feeding scene with Elena, Rebekah, and Damon at the club was one of the more overtly sexy ones the show has done in a long while.
- Laugh out loud moment: Rebekah throwing that random punk club guy to the ground in disgust.
- Perfect musical moment: Setting the opening flashback scene to “Psycho Killer,” then having it transition to a cover when the narrative switched to current day.
- Elena: “You got Lexied?”
- “You’re in my car?” “We weren’t going to take the bus.”