The Vampire Diaries excelled in the second half of season one, all of season two, and some of season three because of pacing. The better later season episodes of the show stand out because of that type of pacing. “The Next Time I Hurt Somebody, It Could Be You” reminded me of the pacing of early seasons, though the episode had the defects of this season and last season.
For example, Damon and Sybil crashed the Christmas Eve Party Caroline has planned since forever (though a day ago her kids went missing) to threaten everyone and ruin their evening. Damon rambles, channeling Audrey from Dawson’s Creek’s sixth season Christmas episode ‘Merry Mayhem’, on about why each guest deserves a Christmas trip to hell. He succeeds in alienating father and son—Peter and Matt. He ruined Stefan’s last day by sending him to see Cade. The middle of the episode became a series of scenes in which characters drone on about their motivations.
Seline, from out of nowhere, announces her decision to redeem herself after Sybil screwed her in the deal she made with Cade. For 99 years, though, she had a conscience and didn’t send Cade souls to eat; however, she killed Georgie not long ago, a decision she chooses not to defend. Instead, in a bizarre choice, she declared that Georgie was the last she ever killed. Seline looked darn committed to evil, killing, and sending souls to Cade. Stefan credited her mercy towards him for his epiphany that renewed his conviction for life, but her mercy left her when she killed and then ATE intern Georgie. All of this information was relayed in alternating scenes between Stefan and Seline and dissolved the momentum of the teaser and first act. The writing’s not only slow but inconsistent.
Stefan’s scenes with Cade lead to another sacrifice: he’ll become The Ripper in exchange for his freedom after a year service. Cade countered by betting Stefan would choose to stay after he serves his term. The end of the episode finds Stefan and Damon on the road after Damon ripped Sybil’s heart out for putting on Elena’s necklace. Earlier, Caroline and Bonnie agreed that Elena’s presence would’ve prevented Damon from choosing the path. I realized the true tragedy of Damon Salvatore after their scene: his complete and utter dependence on another person and his sacrifice of his own individuality.
Anyway, the Salvatore brothers will experience one last ride to the ultimate darkness in this final season before they, like Seline, find redemption. Stefan’s arc this episode was, in essence, a summary of his arc throughout the series; however, Cade blamed what happened to Elena on Stefan meeting her. He argued that Stefan’s presence in her life slowly drained the good from her life. Of course, he’s TVD’s interpretation of the devil, and the oldest trick the devil has involves twisting and distorting the past and memory. Stefan will be all right.
The whole episode wasn’t a drag, though. Caroline was great during the Christmas party. The tuning fork of death returned to revive Bonnie’s earliest season one storyline when she thought she was a psychic. Bonnie and Enzo had the first normal conversation of the season when they joked about Enzo buying her a trip to Paris and Bonnie buying him T-shirts.
A timejump seems likely when the season resumes January 13, 2017. We’ve all seen Ripper Stefan for extended periods, right? Sybil is temporarily out of action. Seline is reformed. Alaric could probably keep the girls in Mystic Falls for a little while longer. No danger seems imminent, but we shall see in January.
-This week’s ‘Which cast member has clearly checked out?’ goes to Ian Somerhalder. This is his second time earning that honor.
-I thought that episode eight would air December 16. That would’ve split the episodes in half between 2016 and 2017. What do I know?
- Shukree Hassan Tilghman wrote the episode. Tanya Hamilton directed.