Friday, March 10, 2017

The Vampire Diaries "I Was Feeling Epic" Review

In 2009, The Vampire Diaries premiered with an episode about death and loss. Elena Gilbert, our heroine, lost her foundation when her mother and her father died a car crash. How else to end a series about death and loss than with a reunion between you and the people you loved the most but lost too soon in your life?

So much of The Vampire Diaries revolved around the love triangle between Stefan, Elena, and Damon. The marketing revolved around it. Fans united and divided over it. Of course, I always thought the love triangle was beside the point of the series. Sure, that love triangle was and is a large part of the show’s identity. A supernatural soap needs the melodrama only a love triangle can provide. Aside from the triangle, I focused on the relationship between the two brothers, Stefan and Damon. They were the show’s truest love story for me. Love means more than romantic. Brotherly, familial, and filial love were also cornerstones of the series. If you want to call it a love story, don’t limit it to the love story of Stefan, Elena, and Damon.

The one thing TVD consistently excelled at throughout the series was the experience of saying goodbye to someone you loved. Remember the end of “Memorial” or when Caroline experiences the death of her mother and father or Stefan losing his best friend or Elena losing her aunt? Somehow, this show with an awful title could understand death, saying goodbye, and the precariousness of the phrase ‘moving on’. Yes, while people continue with their lives after someone they love dies, no one ever moves on. Moving on is impossible. We silently carry our losses with us throughout our lives. You may never know it, but we do. And the final act of this crazy show got that. Elena and Damon live their natural human lives together, carrying with them all the while the people they lost along their hopes that they’ll see them again.

So, what happens? Elena sees her mother and father again, her Aunt Jenna, and her Uncle John when she dies, at the home she burned down once in one of her worst moment when she couldn’t bear to feel the loss of her brother because once he’s gone they’re all gone and that’s unbearable for her, a living hell. And Damon returned to the Salvatore mansion to see his brother again, and they embraced for the first time in a long time as the show went white, the symbol of peaceful afterlife. Isn’t that the best we can hope for when our own respective lives die? I thought it was lovely and a flawless way to end the stories of Elena, Stefan, and Damon.

The rest of “I Was Feeling Epic” had the same problems that the past seasons had. Plec and Williamson repeated a lot of the beats in “It’s Been a Hell of a Ride”. The brothers fought over who will do the martyr job, the gang had to destroy the devil and hell, except this time Bonnie used her psychic mojo combined with the massive energy of hellfire to destroy hell and Katherine forever. That was disappointing, especially when it seemed that “It’s Been a Hell of a Ride” concluded the season eight nonsense. Of course, Katherine clarified that she had controlled Cade throughout the season. She made Cade bother with the brothers through the Sirens. So, Katherine’s last evil act wasn’t the hellfire stuff; it was inflicting the Sirens on us.

For all the end-of-the-world stakes, it was surprisingly minimalist. Much of the episode takes place over a period of forty-five minutes until the epilogue. Plec and Williamson pick and chose their moments, so there’s a great Bennett gathering to destroy hell, the reconciliation of the Maxwell/Donovan family, and the Elena/Stefan scene in the school, but “I Was Feeling Epic” didn’t have Alaric and Damon interact at all or a final scene for Damon and Bonnie. Alaric only says that he cares about Elena and Damon, but, come on, Damon and Alaric were bros for so much of the series until the writers chose to disrupt it in season seven because they were creatively spent and needed new avenues for drama. In sum, the finale had some curious creative choices.

The last act of the series combined Six Feet Under, Titanic, and The Return of the King, didn’t it? Elena’s awakening, with Bonnie by her side, reminded me of Frodo waking up as Gandalf stands there, a miraculous sight for Frodo because he didn’t know that Gandalf had been restored to life. They start laughing. Sam comes in. Merry and Pippin enter. Soon, everyone’s laughing, and then Frodo’s off to the eternal Grey Havens. It all feels a little rushed, especially when you remember how the writers misused a lot of their time this season, but I really liked the way old characters, in a slight Titanic homage, appeared in cameo: Jeremy helping Alaric and Caroline with the school; Vicky and Tyler together; the aforementioned Gilberts; Jo watching her family; Liz beside her daughter at the school; and, especially, Lexi meeting Stefan after he died.

It is hard to end a series, though. People really count on endings to make it the investment feel worthwhile. It shouldn’t. Endings are important, yes, but so, too, is the experience of watching something week-to-week or reading something, and if you enjoyed most of it, then it was worth it, because it helped you feel happy, but, I repeat, it’s really hard to end a series in a satisfying way for each individual fan, especially The Vampire Diaries. This show should’ve ended years ago. It lasted beyond its natural duration, and it showed. The last two seasons were terrible and removed from what made the show so good in seasons two and three. Some fans won’t like who Elena ended up with or who died or this and that. But even with the numerous problems of the show’s last two seasons and the various creative struggles the writers experienced since the start of season five, Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson wrote a great ending.

Other Thoughts:

-I watched the “Forever Yours” special. Julie Plec essentially gave away the finale. She telegraphed everything.

-Some quibbles with the Stefan and Elena scene: I didn’t like Stefan explaining everything he did to save Damon. Imagine the rush of the fans when they realize that he gave Damon the cure to save him from being damned to an eternity without the two people most important to him. Also, I would’ve liked their one scene together to be about Stefan and Elena. Those two were the best together in the early seasons.

-I understand why Julie and Kevin brought back the diary narration at the end. It served a purpose for quick resolutions to various stories, but I wish they found another way to do it.  A minor quibble.

-I guess we’ll see Caroline in New Orleans to thank Klaus for his generation donation to the school she and Alaric started. Dorian, amazingly, survived the season and the series. Good for Dorian. Poor Georgia.

-Bonnie saved the world. She rewarded herself with a trip around the world. Not bad.

-I started watching The Vampire Diaries during summer 2010 after reading that, despite the title, it was a good, fun genre show. Seven years later, here I am. When TVD was good, it was great fun; when it wasn't good, it was bad and like a slog. Writing about a show weekly for seven years was an interesting experience, one I likely will not repeat. I'm not sure whether I sort of regret writing over 140 posts about this show or not. I did bond with love interests over this show years ago. I don't know whether that counts for much now. Probably not. Those didn't go anywhere. It'd be a better story if I could write, "This show brought me and my wife together", wouldn't it? Okay, maybe it wouldn't be a good story, but it'd be a story. But it didn't. It's only me and these...reviews. (I'm writing this with my comedy in my heart and in the spirit of light-hearted self-deprecation.) They're off and married now, I think, or I know. I wonder if they watched the finale.

-Anyway, I'm grateful to Julie Plec, Caroline Dries, Bryan Young, Kevin Williamson, and all the other writers throughout the years who wrote for this show for giving me something to write about every week. I started this blog in 2010 (well, really, in 2009 on a different site with a different name) primarily as a way for me to continue writing consistently. Writing this blog helped me do that. There's nearly 1300 posts in the archive about all sorts of TV.

-Thank you to anyone who ever read any of my TVD posts in the past. There were some great times when hundreds of people read my posts, and there were some lean times when not a lot of people read my posts. Thank you to one of my friends for retweeting my posts over the years despite never watching a single episode. I appreciated every little thing that came this blog’s way.


-Finally, as always, I end with the credits. Julie Plec & Kevin Williamson wrote the episode. Julie Plec, of course, directed it.

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About The Foot

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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. I write regular posts about Grimm & The Vampire Diaries.