Liam returned, that multi-use plot device; Caroline didn’t remember he existed before he, buzzed, hit on her at the bar, hours after her mother’s funeral. Switch off Caroline felt more hurt in her feet in her heart. I didn’t remember Liam. Oh, he’s put to use. First, he serves as Caroline’s personal blood bag. Second, she uses him to brutally torture Sarah Salvatore. Caroline’s use of Liam allows one to see her descent into inhumanity in a different way. Liam fights against the compulsion, but the compulsion is stronger than whatever mental fight he has. He won’t act unless Caroline forces him to act. Caroline’s a bad, bad girl. The sexy hairstyle, low-top, suggestive conversations with men, or grinding dances with those men, showed that Caroline had embraced her humanity-free existence, but when Liam took out a drill for the heart extraction surgery, one knew for sure. Caroline’s a bad, bad girl. Stefan switched his humanity off to save his niece, seconds before Elena saved the day.
Stefan switched his humanity off to save two women: Sarah and Caroline. Stefan, The Vampire Diaries’ perpetual martyr, blamed himself for Caroline’s switch. He withheld love from her in her darkest moment. Liz asked him to take care of her, but he felt afraid of the love he felt for her, and waited until she had already snapped Elena’s neck to tell her. Throughout “The Downward Spiral” he observes unhinged Caroline. She uses Liam for blood and potential murder. She dances wildly and drinks at the Whitemore Warehouse Rave. Elena and Stefan strategize a way to get her back. Stefan’s plan is refreshingly simple: he tries honesty with her. By the bar, he steals a moment. He smiles, she smiles, and then he confronts her with truth (Tolstoy’s favorite character). For a brief instant she closes her eyes, lets him caress her cheek, as he tells her he’s sorry for not telling her he loves her and that he’ll help her through her personal hell. “Come back,” he pleads; however, it’s episode sixteen, and she’s not coming back.
The resolution to the A story is not great. Stefan without humanity’s appeal is Stefan without humanity. He’s Angelus-lite, brutal, and a wildcard. The last two acts improved the dreadful Enzo/Sarah plot. Caroline outs the whole Sarah thing. Enzo sort of gave up after she reacted to his vampire admission with disinterest. Humanity-free Stefan and Caroline seems like a potential Spike/Harmony dynamic. Angelus and Drusilla don’t work as parallels, because Dru was mad and insane. Caroline hurts badly, made a bad choice, and will come back from that feeling terrible. Spike and Harmony, though, was a sad, messed up thing. Switch off Stefan could ruin Caroline. Their dynamic will be dramatic, murderous, sexy, a temporary detour from whatever the hell the endgame of season six is, and an opportunity for Elena and Damon to grow closer because two close people to them will act horribly and murder and all that.
Of course, Damon’s and Stefan’s mother is a ripper, trapped in a 1903 prison dimension for murdering over 3,000 people-according to the unreliable narrator, Kai. He feels pangs of guilt, but he’s still a psych-and-sociopath. Damon is preoccupied with the truth about his mother. His day involved breaking Bonnie’s trust, working again with Kai, and then collapsing after Kai told him the truth about his not so dearly departed mother. Damon’s choice not to tell Stefan about his mother is an instance of the twenty two episode beast. The writers need drama coming later between the brothers. Well, Stefan might learn during his switch off fun because of the hysterics and heightened emotion of that particular dramatic choice.
The best scene of the episode was, and is, Bonnie and Damon in her living room. Kai demanded an opportunity to apologize to Bonnie for attempting to murder her multiple times in 1994 in exchange for using magic to transport Damon to 1903 for a meeting with Mommy. Bonnie expressed her rage, feelings of violence, and sense of isolation within a minute. Damon surprised her with Kai at the stupid rave. Bonnie left after threatening to melt Kai’s face. Damon went to Bonnie, and she made him suffer through what Kai did. She couldn’t recreate the loneliness. The intense, violent reaction she had and what she inflicted on Damon showed how the loneliness affected. Later, she called Jeremy to tell him she returned but that she’s not the same person anymore. It happens when growing up and in college. Someone disappears for awhile and he or she changes. “The Downward Spiral” anticipates Caroline’s human downward spiral, but we see Bonnie’s spiral. It’s not different from Caroline. Bonnie was left alone, without friends, without a sense of anyone coming to get her, crawling to get out. Two things, besides the Damon scene, stand out as a portent for things to come: she burned the arm of the pushy dude in the warehouse, and she immediately lit a roaring fire in her house. The fire’s as intense within her.
I didn’t like “The Downward Spiral” much. I’m fatigued by the humanity-switch-is-off storyline. It’s an easy place for writers to go for drama, conflicts, and future drama. I think it’s less risky after every character’s done it besides Caroline. Caroline notes what’s different about her. Switch on Caroline would feel morally responsible for her actions; humanity free Caroline doesn’t. Stefan babbled about Caroline feeling guilt. Elena did, too, and compared Caroline with her. Elena does not want her to friend to feel the pain and guilt and blah blah. She will for one or two episodes, but she’ll move on. The Vampire Diaries moves. It’s an unsubtle show. The most time the characters spent mourning was at the end of “Memorial” in season four. Caroline will hurt. Plec and Dries will throw in an mushy, melodramatic, sappy, saccharine contemporary pop-rock track over Caroline’s grief and pain; teenagers will feel the feels, and they’ll move on. That’s what television writers get wrong about what happens after the death of a parent: there is no moving on.
-That son of a bitch Liam.
-I liked the 8PM family-friendly rave. I was reminded of Dawson’s Creek rave episode, which ended with Andie overdosing on ecstasy. The Whitmore Warehouse rave was tame, quiet, but with distracting lights. I wonder how Somerhalder liked directing that. First time directors usually have a sprawling set piece.
-Enzo’s hair, you guys. Goddamn majestic.
-Brian Young & Caroline Dries wrote the episode. Ian Somerhalder directed.