'The Vampire Diaries': 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'
A 2,000 year old witch and an amnesia curse may be a long way to go to make Elena and Stefan fall in love again, but really, who cares? The scenes in which Elena tries to jog Stefan's memory as to who he (and the two of them together) used to be are sweet, sad and capture the best and worst of their relationship more effectively than the old movie montages people slap together for their wedding receptions. Of course, all the sweet stuff between them kinda goes to hell pretty quick, but whatever. At least we had Paris.
Overall, though, this was one of the most emotionally wrenching episodes of "The Vampire Diaries" I can remember seeing in quite a while. Though plenty of characters have died (and been brought back), sometimes I feel a little bit like Elena watching the show -- battered and worn down by the crushing weight of so many losses. If this series has any overarching flaw, it's that it chews through plot like a Great White in "Sharknado" -- ruthlessly, and with little time to digest. Tonight, though, I felt as if the show actually touched on a few of the stages of grief beyond intense sorrow. There was laughter with the tears, and by golly, I think we needed it.
Last week, we found ourselves with a nifty new Stefan -- with his memory wiped as clean as a baby's butt, this plot twist opened the door to possibilities I'd tabled seasons ago. No one knows how to reboot better than "The Vampire Diaries," and suddenly we found ourselves with a Stefan who doesn't know how he really feels about his brother -- and more importantly, we see how organic and hard-wired his love for Elena really is. Watching her drag him around Mystic Falls, smiling girlishly, we can tell that his amnesia has also freed her to remember what had become painful to recall -- the innocence of how they met, their puppy dog romance that became something far deeper, and finally the memory that, oh yeah, she's with Damon now.
I will say I think Elena may have oversold Stefan on how fabulous he was and how their break-up was entirely her fault. I mean, Elena put up with a lot for a very, very long time. Yes, she chose Damon, but what her simple explanation succeeded in doing was making her seem like a jerk, which she wasn't. When Stefan stomps around, burns his journals, then tells Damon and Elena he's essentially breaking up with them, I wished some impartial observer would pop in and come to Elena's (and perhaps Damon's) defense.
But Stefan and Elena weren't the only ones to have a Big Emotional Moment. At long last, Jeremy decides to ignore Bonnie's increasingly ridiculous requests that he keep mum about the whole dead thing The fact that Elena and the rest of the gang are willing to believe it at this point just speaks to how much denial they're in, since anyone else would have called the cops and put out an APB on the girl. When he finally spits it out to Damon, it seems like he's going to haul off and slug him. Now that it's out, he can't keep it a secret from Elena (we've all learned keeping secrets from her tends to end badly). But then, he storms toward Jeremy and pulls him into an intense, compassionate hug that puts the lie to all the times Damon glibly said he had no problem offing Bonnie if it meant saving Elena or whoever he liked better at that moment. More than ever, Damon is exposing his soft, mushy, marshmallow center to everyone. He may be the fun brother, but we all know he's the sensitive one, too.
As Jeremy runs around, spreading the bad news, Stefan is bonding with… Caroline! Yes, yes, Stefan and Caroline have forged a solid friendship, and I suspect this will be more of the same. At first, though, I thought this might lead to sparks. After all, Stefan has no lingering feeling that it would be weird to date his ex-girlfriend's best friend, and God knows Caroline is lonely right now. Of course, that was all shoved aside soon enough. Caroline is back in play, and Stefan isn't even part of the game.
Caroline seems thisclose to getting her romance on with Jesse while they're studying in the graveyard (while we do get hammered over the head with this cholera-induced tradition, it pays off beautifully at the end of the show). Alas, she leans in for one kiss, then pulls back. She really can't get over Tyler? But this guy's so cute! It doesn't matter anyway, as Jesse is working with Professor Maxfield on some creepy experiment -- and, when Professor Maxfield learns more Jesse (who has been chewed on like a cocktail weenie by Stefan, then saved by Caroline) has vampire blood in his system, Maxfield decides to finish the job. It's interesting to me that so many of the bad guys on this show are adults in positions of authority. Stick it to the man, vampires!
While other things happen in this episode (Matt realizes he has a "passenger" inside of him, for example), it hardly matters because the ending is so beautifully wrought it sets a bar for all future funeral ceremonies we see on this show. I'm glad for that creepy cemetery theme, as it makes the gang's decision to gather around a stump in the woods somehow more beautiful and, well, less weird (I guess you don't have a lot of choices as to where to go for a memorial for a witch when you don't have a body and ballrooms seem too formal). While it all becomes a tad "Ghost Whisperer" as Bonnie drifts through the scene, telling her friends exactly what they need to hear, it's fine by me. I liked "Ghost Whisperer," dammit, and I'm reassured to think that, even though this is technically a ceremony to say "goodbye," she means it when she says she's not going anywhere. Bonnie was often sidelined (witches don't get no stinkin' respect), but she was the calm center in Elena's chaotic life. No wonder Elena freaks out about her lack of clothing choices and falls into Damon's arms after he breaks the news. Yes, Elena needs to grow up and won't ever do it, not completely, as long as she has someone like Bonnie in her life. But that doesn't make Bonnie's voice on the show any less significant.
As Jeremy talks about ringing a bell for Bonnie, then repeats her words to her friends, Matt, Elena and Caroline laugh through their tears. And, just as she's assuring Caroline that she's going to be okay… Tyler walks up. Yes, Tyler. Tyler, who doesn't return phone calls, somehow knows where this ceremony is being held. Maybe he can smell it with his super hybrid senses or something, I dunno. But hey, Tyler is here!
And Jesse is a vampire. Under Professor Maxfield's power. I know who I'm rooting for, but that's next week. This week, I just want to appreciate the fact that the show took a breath, let everyone feel their feelings, and allowed the audience a moment of peace as well. Well played, "The Vampire Diaries." Well played.
What do you think Tyler will have to say? What do you think Matt will do about his "passenger" now that Bonnie can't help him? Do you really think Stefan is done with Delena?
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