Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Yellow Ledbetter" Review

I read, or rather glanced at, something regarding The Vampire Diaries’ sixth season and the writers’ plans not to pack in as many plot twists. The Vampire Diaries’ writers have not put in jawdropping plot twists for over two seasons. Instead, the writers’ seem to aim for a less chaotic and less frantic style of storytelling. The A story involves Elena trying to remember the point at which she loved Damon so that Alaric can wipe it from her memory and make Damon nothing more than a monstrous memory. The B story’s central piece is the impromptu dinner with Caroline and Enzo at Stefan’s house, where he planned to cook only for Ivy. And Jeremy continued to drink and frolic. One might describe the first two episodes of season six as ‘grounded.’ I wouldn’t. The Vampire Diaries is The Vampire Diaries.

The title comes from Bonnie’s mysterious #27 crossword puzzle answer, which comes from a Pearl Jam B-side—“Yellow Ledbetter.” A website theorized that Damon and Bonnie were transported to the 1990s. Indeed, Damon and Bonnie were transported to the 1990s. May 10, 1994. They’re in an empty Mystic Falls, eating breakfast each day for all three meals. Pancakes seem to dominate the house menu with cereal mixed in for dinner and dessert. Damon and Bonnie repeat the same day for months. Why? I’m sure it’s a mystery like the mystery of the crossword puzzle. There’s a significance to the May 10, 1994 date. Near the end Bonnie and Damon agree that a third person resides in the house. The third person finishes crossword puzzles; the third person probably buys the 90s cds; the third person may’ve even supplied the nauseous amounts of pancake mix boxes. Who is the third person? Does “Yellow Ledbetter” provide a clue? Vedder said the song was patriotic, written for friend who died during the Gulf War. But why the 90s? I wondered, did Julie Plec and Caroline Dries choose the mid-90s so that Damon would dance to TLC, and Bonnie would come home like a bonafide 90s girls? The setting for their temporary hellscape seems inspired by nostalgia rather than story. The setting should serve story, and the story should serve the setting. Bonnie finds the book she learned magic from, and Damon found his favorite whiskey. Damon mentions existentialist despair, which should bring to mind Sarte’s play “No Exit” about four people, all dead, stuck in a room together. “Hell is other people.”

Damon and Bonnie aren’t stuck in a hellscape, though. Hellscapes don’t have whipped cream pancakes and sweet 90s grunge/alt-rock. No one besides Caroline, Alaric, and Enzo, think they’re anywhere. Stefan and Elena, the champions of everyone, gave up. Stefan contented himself with a simple domestic existence; and Elena wants to enjoy typical college life portrayed in TV: classes the student immediately forgets, and PARTIES. The Elena/Alaric scenes accomplish nothing until she’s honest about when she first loved Damon. The previous scenes re-imagine Elena’s longing for Damon. Later, though, she refuse to admit she’d love someone else while she loved Stefan. The audience learns nothing from the flashbacks. Elena first loved Damon during Stefan’s ripper summer with Klaus. The night of her birthday party Damon gave her the hope necklace, and she felt all a-flutter for him. Alaric erases it from her memory. Elena moves on. The best scene of the story involved Caroline as the audience proxy. Damon will return. Elena won’t like or love him. Elena thinks Alaric will return her memories, but it won’t happen that way. Caroline should’ve added that last part.

There’s a divide between the girls. Post-Damon memory Elena gleefully plans a night out while Caroline cries in a car. Stefan made it clear he intended to move on from all he left in Mystic Falls. The best scene of the episode happened at Stefan’s house when Caroline made it clear that Stefan never gave up. His one consistent character trait that didn’t involve his devotion to Elena and fraternal love for Damon was that he did not give up. He worked and he tried to find what was lost. I think Caroline cried because Stefan hurt her feelings but also because he gave up. Giving up is bleak. Enzo stands up for Caroline by murdering Ivy, which will act as a catalyst for Stefan. He’ll want to kill Enzo and wind up back with the gang he tried to move away from. His pursuit will inevitably lead him to assisting the magical transport of his brother and Bonnie from the 1990s into the present day where a new menace drives a van full of vampires into Mystic Falls for the sake of burning them into oblivion. Another potential endgame for the series: every character goes to different parts of the world to never see each other again. Everyone’s worse when together.

“Yellow Ledbetter” is more of an extension of “I’ll Remember” than its own stand-alone story. I love second episodes of a new season more than premieres. Season premieres have a pilot structure and formula. Writers structure second episodes more familiarly, less broad, way less as a ‘please consider watching this show if you haven’t yet-you didn’t need to see the previous x amount of seasons.’ It didn’t deepen the audience’s understanding of the characters. It underlined what hurt the characters most. I think a LOST-style episode about only Bonnie and Damon would’ve been a nifty departure from the norm. Maybe not, though.

Other Thoughts:

-I thought maybe Julie Plec planned to do a Charlie Kaufman homage with Elena’s story, but no. I’m convinced she wrote the story only for the melodramatic sad songs that the youths hear on the YouTube and the Pandora and the Spotify.

-Steven R. McQueen struggles when asked to portray despondent drunken slovenliness and abhorrer of purpose. Prediction for his lady friend: Bonnie’s long lost sister and key to magic’s return to Mystic Falls.

-Ivy’s breakfast for Stefan looked delicious. The breakfast scenes this season have been top notch. Of particular attraction: the orange juice.


-Julie Plec wrote the episode. Pascal Verschooris directed.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.