Perhaps the worst thing about these past couple of Vampire Diaries seasons is that they’ve almost turned the show into what most of us feared it would be in the first place, the show we swore to our friends, acquaintances, and even strangers it was nothing like. Constant relationship drama, love triangles, and even love rhombuses have come to the forefront of the show, instead of just being fodder for promotional materials. The rich, complex stories of the first two or three seasons (depending on whom you ask) are now oftentimes exchanged for meandering, forgettable plots.
Still, there are a couple of things TVD can do that will make me forget all of my worries about the show. When the show goes back to its horror roots, it’s easy to momentarily forget all the bad that has been going on. Also, put any of these characters in cabin, and I’m predisposed to not hate the episode. Luckily, “What Lies Beneath” does both these things and is a better episode for it.
This episode is a return to form for TVD as a horror show, from the opening scene with a transforming werewolf Tyler to classic cabin in the woods shenanigans to Enzo the unfriendly ghost. It’s not coincidence that the episode title is named after the 2000 film, and it just might actually be the most fitting episode title of the season, streets ahead of “Fifty Shades Of Grayson.”
Tyler hasn’t actually transformed into a wolf since Rebekah compelled him to last season, so the image of his transforming shadow behind the curtain as the Travelers watch in frozen terror makes it all the more exciting. The wolf lunges, the title card appears, and we’re off. I’m not doing it the justice it deserves, but it reminded me of an early TVD opening, the type we’d get back in season one.
The A-story takes place at the late Bill Forbes’ cabin in the woods, which unfortunately doesn’t have Damon regressing into a stereotypical jock and Stefan becoming a stoner but does feature a bathtub drowning scene and Enzo’s spirit menacing the crew thanks to the collapsing Other Side.
However, “What Lies Beneath” isn’t just about the things that go bump in the night bumping in the night. It’s about what they’re hiding and whom they’re hiding them from. In fact, the episode spends some time revealing the lies told and secrets kept by our protagonists but spends even more sweeping some under the rug until they presumably come out in the final two episodes.
Stefan hiding the “truth” about Enzo from Damon because he doesn’t want his brother to hate him rings true while simultaneously coming across as a head-scratcher. The Salvatore brothers’ relationship has always been a complicated one, but when all is said and done, they both still love each other, even if they show it in the most dysfunctional, emotionally and physically abusive ways possible. What makes Stefan’s reasoning about his secrecy so strange is that the show still isn’t addressing the fact that Stefan didn’t kill Enzo; he was an unwilling party to assisted suicide. The fact that Stefan hasn’t explained what Enzo did may speak to Stefan not wanting to sully Damon’s image of his fallen friend, but since there hasn’t yet been any indication of that being the case, it seems very much like revisionist history of something that happened only a day ago.
Maybe the biggest problem with Stefan’s claims of killing Enzo is that there is no ambiguity as to whether or not he actually did kill him—we saw exactly what happened. There was never a moment where we were to question if Stefan had done the pulling, instead of Enzo. So for Damon to be as upset about it as Stefan assumed he would be, TVD would have to still be depicting their relationship as a game of one-upsmanship between, which it no longer does.
Speaking of games, how has it taken five years for these alcoholics to play Never Have I Ever? We’ve gotten Pictionary and The Katherine Ruined Our Lives (But Actually Made Us Awesome) Game, but it’s Damon who finally gets the ultimate teen drama drinking game going. You had one job, Tyler.
The fact that Damon and Caroline even have to con Stefan and Elena into a drinking game in order to get them to fess up about whatever secret they’re keeping is absurd, but at least it gets results. It also displays how the former two characters see the latter now: Damon never once considers that Stefan and Elena are hiding a relationship—only Enzo’s whereabouts—while Caroline can only even consider that Stefan and Elena are getting back together and intentionally keeping it from her. In fact, Damon shows a surprising amount of maturity this episode, along with a much needed sense of purpose in his decision to try and bring Enzo back.
Then there are Bonnie and Jeremy. It’s never been more apparent how strange their relationship is on this show until now, with all the torture and haunting going on, because as it stands, they are the most normal relationship this show has. They have date weekends. They discuss day plans. They get it on in the dorm Bonnie shares with Jeremy’s sister-cousin. They constantly get disrupted by their friends when they try to have alone time. They partake in public displays of affection. They don’t go to murder cabins. This normalcy is why it’s never really made sense why either one of them would ever continue to lie to each other about anything, especially something as major as Bonnie’s impending death. Unlike the other couplings on TVD, we’ve rarely ever had to consider the two of them to be some epic romance, and they’ve probably ended up the better for it; if you don’t count all the times they’ve died, that is.
There’s the old adage that happy couples are boring couples (and happy characters are boring characters), but seriously: Would it kill any of these characters to tell the truth for once?
- I’d like to thank Carrie for allowing me to fill-in for her this week. I’m filling in for everyone! Watch out, I might be filling in for you next.
- This week, in Matt Donovan Is The Best: Matty Blue has no problem torturing his best friend’s body for answers. That’s what you get for leaving your boxers under the sofa, Tyler! That’s just the way it goes in Orphan Boy Mansion.
- These past two episodes have really helped to make Damon and Elena’s relationship actually seem like it’s part of this show and not some separate supernatural soap opera that airs concurrently. Hopefully the show keeps it up.
- So many characters are killed on this show without anyone blinking an eye, and yet wolf Tyler doesn’t kill Maria and a bunch of other Travelers in the beginning of the episode. You had one job, Tyler.
- “No more secrets, remember?” Is there a way that Jeremy Gilbert can go up to every character and keep saying this until they stop lying to each other?
- Luke replaces Liv this week as go-to witch because “she’s tired of getting almost murdered.” If Bonnie had used that excuse ages ago, she probably wouldn’t be in her current predicament.
- Who wants to be the first one to discuss the Caroline stuff?