A few things in “Detoured on Some Random Backwoods Path to Hell” stuck out to me, the first being the old saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, becoming a literal plot point for Stefan. Stefan’s tried his hardest to act with good intentions, but, once again, Damon draws him down a hell-ridden path. This time, he’s actually going to hell, or a version of hell, with either the literal devil or an approximation of the devil tasking the brothers with bringing the darkest souls to him, because of a deal Damon and Sybil thought up that would save Caroline’s and Alaric’s children. The deal seems to suggest, as did the last episode too, that Damon, even after giving up on feelings, has a modicum of humanity in him—that, maybe, he’s playing a long con. His way of manipulating the Sirens was consistent with good guy Damon. Yes, the writing for Damon could be inconsistent, or there’s a pattern (yes, perhaps a pattern of inconsistent writing). So, Stefan’s good intentions landed him in hell. The irony may be his selfless sacrifice for the sake of children makes him akin with Christ.
The second thing that stuck out to me was the last scene between Bonnie and Enzo, post-near death for Enzo. Bonnie wondered why Enzo beat mind control and Damon didn’t. He explained why, and Bonnie said, “You make me sound like an angel.” Enzo said, “No, you’re the world.” Damon’s world is Elena. Sybil removed his world, even though she sort of didn’t. (Damon remembered Elena well in the last episode.) That’s unfair to Damon. Aside from the library voices Kat Graham and Michael Malarkey used in that scene and every scene they have together (is that what Plec and Williamson want?), it was a touch poetic.
Also, their story has the recurring theme of CW shows, but, specifically, TVD, and the narrative world of Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, which is the redemptive power of love, albeit a power that ignores the unhealthy parts of it. Burning your own cabin down in hopes the love of your life will remember his or her love for you is no way to save a relationship. There’s a cut scene from Dawson’s Creek laying somewhere in Williamson’s house in which Dawson burns down the Potter residence for Joey’s love.
The third thing that stuck out to me was Sybil’s lines about what people will do to avoid dying because it continued The Vampire Diaries’ impressive to express unexpected but effective sentiments about death, whether it’s dying or the death of a loved one. There are critically acclaimed dramas past and present that haven’t had a character say so simply that people would do anything not to die because it’s scary and unknown. Maybe David Chase would have Tony Soprano feed a horse and tend a farm for an episode in an elaborate metaphor about death.
Sometimes, in writing, the clearest, simplest expression of thought will hit the viewer or the reader with more force than the most ornate metaphor. There’s a part in a Chekhov story—“My Life”—that staggers me whenever I read it because of the clarity and directness of the language Misail uses when he writes about taking his niece to his mother’s grave. Of course, a Sopranos episode in which Tony tends a farm and feeds a horse that’s dense with meaning, allusions, and suggestions can hit the viewer harder once he or she has thought it over, researched references and allusions, and etc, as in the end of chapter nine in Ulysses, and, really, all of Ulysses, when Stephen thinks of the birds of augury outside the National Library.
Anyway, those three parts stood out to me because the rest of the episode was beige. Alaric and Caroline searched for their children. Alaric decided to leave Mystic Falls with his children, forgetting that leaving didn’t help him escape the ‘darkness’ the last time he left, but I liked the scene when Matt and Alaric ‘killed’ Damon. It broke the monotony of this season. Elsewhere, Enzo tried not to die, and Stefan chose more of the aforementioned selfless sacrifice for his brother’s sake.
This episode emphasized the darkness of everything. Of course, in an episode that made real such clichés as angels on one’s shoulder and the road to hell is paved with good intentions, you know what they’ll find as they near the end of their dark tunnel.
-Next week’s episode will be Stefan’s last as a free vampire. The previews show that TVD has continued its tradition of our heroes dining with the villains.
-Enzo’s story was the worst in the episode. I didn’t like the editing of his brainhack, but I thought parts of Enzo’s story had the best videography of the episode, namely the series of shots beginning with the slow zoom off of Enzo’s face from overhead and concluding with the slow zoom in on his face. I wonder what lenses Paul Wesley and Darren Genet used.
-Remember when Enzo made it his life’s purpose to ruin Matt Donovan’s life? Matt didn’t. He sounded like Mitt Romney when he praised Enzo to Bonnie.
-All season I'm looking out for "Which cast member has clearly checked out?" This week's winner is Kat Graham.
-Kyle McElroy directed the episode. Paul Wesley directed it.