The setting sun’s golden hues overwhelmed the frames in “Stay.” It was the dominant motif-the setting sun and things passing away. “Stay” is a beautiful looking episode. The scenes at the cabin, the memory Caroline and Liz share about Caroline’s bike ride, and the dimly lit office of the Sheriff with a glint of setting sun lighting her and Damon. The Walking Dead received praise for its Terrence Malickian fancy episode last Sunday, but “Stay” looked prettier. The irony of the title “Stay” is that the two characters the other characters wanted to stay do not stay. Jeremy leaves to investigate “animal attacks” in New Mexico. Liz lives on, flies on, in the reflected sky, the reflected sky itself the memories of those who continue to live for but where else will one experience life after death other than the memories of those who loved the deceased. She passes away after one final day in the office in which she tried to solve cold cases, half of which Damon solved because he committed the murder.
Liz fixes on the death of the Gilberts, the inciting incident of the series. The Vampire Diaries’ love several things: love triangles, themed parties, killing characters, setting the characters in a high school none of the characters attend, and retconning. The Gilbert case seems like an unnecessary retcon until Liz reveals to Damon her renewed interest in the case. The accident kicked off a never-ending cycle of pain, death, and loss in Mystic Falls. It ushered in violent supernatural psychopaths. Liz thinks the Gilberts death has an explanation. Humans fear death. It’s the great unspoken fear in western culture. Death is random, unexplainable, and people don’t understand why we die. Why does nature have of cycle of life, death, life death? It consumes itself. When Liz learns that the Gilberts planned a mock arrest thing for Jeremy, because he smoked pot, Liz despairs. The supernatural element in Mystic Falls is violent and insane but explicable. Liz hates that Elena and Jeremy lose their parents because of an accident-that a storm tore the down the power lines, closed the roads, rerouted the Gilberts to the bridge, and made the roads slick, that it killed the parents, and left her children orphans. More so, she hates that she lived a good life, kept law and order in her town, provided for her family, and still her cells went insane in her body. She hates that she’ll die before watching more of her extraordinary daughter’s life.
Liz Forbes died in a hospital room, surrounded by the kids she helped protect, and while sharing an apropos memory with her daughter. Caroline spent the day preparing a cabin room for her complete with classic literature and bottles of alcohol. Stefan helped. They kissed during a beautiful golden sunset after conversing about why he helps her. Does he do it because Liz asked him to? No. He does it because her likes her, and he hated hearing that she hated him. The trip to the cabin evokes Caroline’s nostalgia. She finds her first bike. Her first bike ride without her mother involved another redolent sun set that cast the ground, the trees, the path, the cabin, Liz and her daughter, in gold, but nothing gold can stay. No, the past is irretrievable (that stumped a certain of writer of great fame: we can walk backwards in space, but we can not go backwards in time). Liz let Caroline go though Caroline felt scared. But she had to, she had no choice, and couldn’t do it without her mother slowly, gently, and lovingly letting her hands free from the bike, and watching her daughter pedal into the golden infinity ahead. It’s a heavy-handed metaphor that in a way cheapens the immensity of the loss. Adapting to life after a parent dies isn’t like riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, but TVD wants to convey a specific, complicated emotion to a broad young audience that can easily understand what happened through the image of mother, daughter, bike, and training wheels.
Liz’s last day had great touches. Damon’s presence, especially, was a wonderful touch. Liz was his closest adult friend in Mystic Falls, before Alaric. She brought the decent human side of him before Elena. Elena visited the sheriff’s office to help her put together the day of the accident. They reminisced about the days after when she helped Elena and Jeremy. Damon draws the mother parallel. He remembers his mother’s death because Liz was the mother of Mystic Falls. The other teenager characters didn’t have theirs. She was the constant in an entropic town populated by supernatural variables.
The Jeremy departure took a sixth or seventh act turn (I don’t count, but I assume TVD’s entrenched in the seven act structure) that’s better than the leaving for art school reason. Alaric disappeared for two episodes, during an intense time for his girlfriend, for mysterious reasons. Alaric’s preoccupation with animal attacks in the southwest of America did not cohere with his fervent concern for Jo, but, whatever, sometimes writers need to sacrifice character for plot. Jeremy’s the dude to investigate what’s happening. Before that turn in the story, he reminisced with Elena, smoked a joint with her, Enzo threatened to kill him, Enzo didn’t kill him, and he then took a bus to central New Mexico. Elena, Damon, Alaric, and Matt remembered for him and the audience the number of times he almost died, died, and became a bodybuilder with a chest the width of New Venezuela.
“Stay” dwelled in the iridescent past, the irretrievable and sad past, and it’s sad to say goodbye because a goodbye is an end, but also a golden beginning. Elena tells her brother he needs to leave, for normalcy, for a life without an Enzo to threaten him, and for a chance at happiness. Now, none of that happen will happen for Jeremy. It’s as tenuous and fading a hope of Elena’s as the sun. The sun doesn’t set, see; it’s merely our perception that it does. Make them think a rock’s soaring in the sky when it’s still on the ground.
-The greatest line of the episode was Damon’s about Jeremy’s workout regimen. I’ve watched seven seasons worth, or 3000 plus minutes, of Steven R. McQueen acting. He was as scrawny as me once upon a time. Fare the well, Steven R. McQueen and your muscles.
-Margeurite McIntyre did a great job for nearly six seasons too.
-Caroline Dries & Brian Young wrote the episode. Chris Grismer directed this beautiful looking episode. Marc Pollon edited it.
-Jane Eyre’s not 600 pages. It’s a little over 500. A college course about Victorian literature became a Jane Eyre only class, and I now loathe the novel. Caroline brought 12 volumes of Shakespeare for her mother to read. Caroline would’ve identified with a line from Hamlet, “When sorrows come they come not single spies but battalions” or any of Lear’s after he experienced a tragedy so deep that not even Samuel Johnson could bear reading it again.
-I owe William Gass for the last line of the review (from his conversation with John Gardner).
-Michael Trevino didn’t appear in the episode. Jeremy, Tyler, and Matt used to bro around in seasons past. The budget constraints do not help the storytelling. Early in season 1, Tyler and Jeremy fought over Vicky Donovan.