Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "Bringing Out the Dead" Review

"Bringing Out the Dead" had two or three profoundly moving moments. Whenever I'm profoundly moved by a book, a piece of music, or scenes in television and film, I usually try to evoke the same feelings from my readers in the review, and I never succeed. I'll resist the strong temptation to write a detailed recap of the B story which moved me so and, instead, focus on the bigger picture. The episode successfully married two different tones; an episode titled "Bringing Out the Dead" is going to be about death, especially in a series full of supernaturally dead characters. Every character but the Bennett women, and Sheriff Forbes, died at some point in the series. The title referred to the antagonistic Original family, but death was everywhere tonight.

The Vampire Diaries is the most ambitious network drama currently airing. The storytelling choices are bold. I've written similar compliments several times before, and I swear I'm not going to repeat myself. In this instance, their ability to marry tones, as well as wildly different stories, in a single episode, and not make the totality of the episode feel disjointed, is what I admire about "Bringing Out the Dead." In the A story, the Salvatore brothers and Klaus/Elijah dined together to work out a truce, which became a cat-and-mouse game, a what-are-the-true-motivations-of-the-wildcard-Elijah sense of suspense. In the B story, a murder mystery went to another level when Caroline found her dad murdered in a medical supply closet and, later, when Elena found Alaric dead upstairs. All of the weapons used were Gilbert property. In the C story, Abby and Bonnie worked out their issues through magic and actually opened the mysterious fourth coffin.

The murder mystery plot worked exceptionally well. If the episode consisted of the murder mystery, and small stories for Damon/Stefan and the Bennet women, I would've praised the episode just the same. Perhaps I'm a sucker for the age-old murder mystery plot, or maybe I just haven't enjoyed a murder mystery in some time. Yes, procedurals are essentially mysteries every week, but procedurals are BORING. I want the excitement of an Agatha Christie novel, or even the feverish intensity of a Dostoevsky novel (I'm reading Demons and the narrator KEEPS referencing a cataclysmic event; the characters act so strangely in chapters; and goshdarnit, I just want to KNOW shit). The signs point towards Meredith Fell as the culprit, even though she has an airtight alibi. The assailant's targeted members of the Founder's Council. The manner of the murders suggest the culprit's strong and forceful, because there are handprints of blood everywhere, puddles and trails of blood on the floors and the staircase and whatnot. But I hope the culprit isn't Meredith because it's predictable and I want surprise.

The mysterious murderer killed Bill and Alaric, but both were restored to life through supernatural rings; Alaric always wears his ring; Bill died with vampire blood in his system. Bill's restoration brought profound depth to the episode, a depth I wasn't prepared for. Bill's a strong man because of his beliefs. Among those beliefs is the unnaturalness of vampirism because it unnaturally extends the life of a person. Bill chooses not to drink blood to complete the transformation because he wants to be human, and he doesn't believe he should cheat death. Caroline's suddenly faced with the very real reality of her father's death, a reality so terrifying and paralyzing that she can't properly convey her feelings during those fateful final hours. Bill affirms his love for his daughter, that her vampire nature doesn't make her any less the strong daughter he's proud to have. The writing was elegiac. The most heartbreaking line of the episode and, perhaps the series, is when Bill told Caroline that dying, and losing one's father (or mother), is just part of being human. I'll have more thoughts on this story in other thoughts.

The dinner between the Original brothers and the Salvatore brothers didn't break any new ground. The writers have written a variation of these scenes a bunch of times since the second season. The Salvatores feign interest in making peace with Klaus. Klaus, or Elijah, cannot be trusted because their originals. The last time Damon made a deal with Elijah, he turned on them after his brother made a promise to him about reuniting the whole family. I figured the dinner would fall apart and that Damon would create more problems for everyone, but Elijah did not forgive his brother nor did he forget. Damon and Elijah removed the daggers from Finn, Cole and Rebekah, which resulted in a rather sour sibling reunion for Klaus. The Salvatores thought they brought about the end of Klaus; however, the Bennett women successfully unlocked the coffin. The person inside wasn't Tatia, the original Petrova doppelganger, but, rather, the mother of the originals. And she didn't return to exact vengeance on the son who killed her; instead, she forgave and stated her wishes for them all to be a family again. The Salvatores should expect more stress headaches.

Joseph Morgan was terrific during the final scene between Klaus and the mother. Morgan literally reacted like he'd seen a ghost. I can't quite describe the emotions he conveyed during those seconds, but it was a mixture of oxygen-depleting and a surprise so large that it made him feel like he was dying. Claire Holt didn't lose any of the energy and verve she brought to Rebekah during the initial nine of season three. Rebekah is one pissed off original vampire; remember, all she wanted was a night at the homecoming dance and Elena literally stabbed her in the back. Rebekah wants the blood of the doppelganger on her hands. Things changed, though, when Mother Original returned to unite the family. Any time the Big Bad CREATED the vampire race, it's going to be bad times for those who want to oppose her and her children.

We also learned more about the history of the Petrova bloodline. Once upon a time, Klaus and Elijah loved the same woman, Tatia. The woman tore them apart for a time and they, indeed, came to blows (a line that just delighted me...I was wrong for ranting about Elijah last season...the dude is awesome). The day their mother turned them into vampires, they drank from a cup full of wine mixed with Tatia's blood. I enjoy any new information about the Petrova bloodline.

So there were two major new plot threads introduced tonight, which is great, but the episode really succeeded because of its pathos and melancholic remembrance of what it means to be human, really human, its exploration of the deepest emotions a human can feel, emotions that I cannot really explain to people, and that's when fiction's not just entertainment, but a force on par with the stuff that transcends us like spirituality and the creation of the universe. David Foster Wallace once said, "fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved." Caroline's story was that kind of fiction for me.

Other thoughts:

-Elena sat with Caroline, outside, in the hours before her father passed away. Caroline asked Elena how she felt after her dad died. Elena told her that she thought about everything her dad would miss, as well as the moments in her life when she'd just need her dad. Caroline wept in her friend's arms. I watched the episode on my couch, totally transfixed and engrossed by what Elena said, feeling a well of emotion grip my throat and eyes, identifying, and it got dusty for a moment. I thought about how nice it'd be if I had my own Elena in my life, someone who Knows and Understands and Relates and who'll just hug me when I need a hug. Also, I wanted to hug Caroline because it's so sad. Gosh the whole story was sad. Nina Dobrev and Candice Accola were terrific in the scene. The writing was simply outstanding.

-Bonnie forced Abby into confronting their issues. Bonnie essentially told her, "Stand up and be my mom, or leave if you can't handle it." Abby listened. The two performed some badass magic and opened the coffin for Mama Crazy Original. Kat Graham was great.

-Stefan and Damon talked about the Siberian tiger in the room i.e. their mutual love for Elena Gilbert. Stefan admitted he never stopped loving her; Damon admitted his love for her. Damon implored his brother to be angry at Klaus for screwing him up, breaking Elena's heart, which led to the kiss between her and Damon. It was good and effective scene.

-Matt came through yet again as a beacon of love and support. Matt hurried over to Caroline's when he heard about her dad, walked Elena home, and stayed with her as they waited for Alaric's restoration to life.

-Turi Meyer and Al Septien wrote the episode. Jeffrey Hunt directed it.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


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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.