Friday, May 13, 2011

The Vampire Diaries "As I Lay Dying" Review

Comparatively speaking, Gone With The Wind is far more accessible for The CW's target demographic than the stream-of-consciousness novel, As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner. I planned an elaborate and well-drawn comparison between the season finale as the classic Faulkner novel. Surely the final two episode titles of season two weren't mere coincidence? Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner were contemporaries. The two authors explored similar themes in their novels such as love, death and the study of their generation. Whereas Hemingway was terse and minimalist in his prose, Faulkner wrote highly emotional, cerebral and complex stories. I could've argued that the writers brilliantly reversed their style of storytelling in their final two episodes, or rather combined the philosophies of both writers. "The Sun Also Rises" had the characteristics of Faulkner--highly emotional, intense and relentless in its choices yet its story lived and breathed through action, in silence but the episode dropped the ball on Hemingway's insistence that "very little be told explicity." "As I Lay Dying" had the same heightened emotion and intensity but my argument fell apart once the town of Mystic Falls dressed like characters in Gone With The Wind. Caroline's piece of dialogue in which she clearly drew parallels between Gone With The Wind and the series didn't help either. Oh well.

As a season finale, "As I Lay Dying" had every ingredient right--life and death stakes and springboards for the third season. Stefan raced for a werewolf bite cure while Damon prepared to die. Elena, Jeremy and Caroline tried to return to a life of normalcy before they remembered that it's impossible to be normal now. Some of the episode worked. Some of it didn't. The most glaring problem for TVD used to be the series' strength in the first season. Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec and the rest of the TVD writing staff have no qualms killing off a character mid-act. Heck, they have no qualms killing off a character at all. In the first season, it was risky, exciting and daring storytelling. Any week could mean the end for any character on the show; however, as season two progressed, it became clear that the series only killed off secondary characters with little to zero purpose in the grand narrative of the series. TVD's biggest strength is now their biggest weakness.

The unpredictable nature of TVD has made the show too predictable. The show wisely didn't dwell too much of the episode on Damon's impending death but they dwelled enough on his plight to make the story feel like a waste of time. Damon seemed to experience an epiphany when he laid with Elena on his bed but I'll be surprised if it lasts. He accepted his fate and felt that he deserved such a fate because of his actions throughout his unlife. Near death, Damon told Elena that he loved her in a moving moment in the episode. His love never felt as genuine and pure as in that scene. His memories of Katherine made him realize how false and manipulative his affections for Katherine were. With Elena, it's different. I never believed in Damon's affection for Elena until their scene in the bed. Somerhalder sold it and I bought it. Kudos to the man formerly known as Boone. Still, I had little investment in the story because Damon won't die in the second season finale; however, the story sort of culminated his arc for the season. He wanted his humanity. His memories of Katherine were from a time when he was human, and they ended when he drank her blood. Things came full circle when he bit into Elena then stopped. His genuine "I love you" possibly completed his arc, and maybe he'll be a different vampire in the third season. If that's the case then his story in this episode deserved its time.

As Damon regained his humanity, Stefan gave his up for his brother's life. Klaus' blood was the cure for a werewolf bite (I'll comment on rules in genre shows in the next paragraph). Stefan knew Klaus wanted him for some reason. Turns out, Klaus wants the Angelus side of Stefan so they can create all sorts of chaos. Klaus fed the saintly Salvatore brother with blood until his monstrous vampiric nature emerged. Stefan killed an innocent girl to prove he's a vamp of his word. His sacrifice won't mend things with Damon though. Their dynamic will be reversed now. Elena will probably be with Damon at some point in the third season. Unfortunately, the heart of the show is their complicated brotherhood and their mutual love for Elena.

Sheriff Forbes accidentally murdering Jeremy didn't shock me at all whereas Damon snapping Jeremy's neck in "The Return" absolutely shocked me. Rules in genre television are crucial. HEROES went to hell because Tim Kring never established rules for his universe. TVD has rules but they're routinely broken. Jeremy's ring wouldn't resurrect him because Forbes is human. Of course, Bonnie decided that she'd save his life through her supernatural powers. The resurrection has consequences but, still, Jeremy was brought back to life. I might forgive the writers if Jeremy's consequences reaches the potential that I have built in my mind. In the final scene of the season, Jeremy sees his two former girlfriends--Vicki and Anna. If he's simply haunted by the two girls then I'll be disappointed (well it all depends on the execution) but if it becomes sort of like Bruce Willis' journey in The Sixth Sense then sign me up.

Overall, "As I Lay Dying" successfully concluded the second season while dropping story in for the third season. I think The Vampire Diaries is one of the best series on television. It's always entertaining. The second season surpassed the first season in quality, ambition and consistency. The final episodes weren't as strong as the rest of the season but the writers were masterful in arcing the season--it was Mutant Enemy level of arcing. The cast, writers and the crew deserve good vacation because they did excellent work throughout the entire season. I'm very happy that I spent the time watching and writing about TVD this season.

Turi Meyer, Al Septien & Michael Narducci wrote the episode. John Behring directed it.

Until season three begins in September, Thursdays belong to Everwood for the summer months so please read as I re-watch and write about the first season of Everwood.


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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 in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.