Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "Heart Of Darkness" Review

There were two references to famous literary works in "Heart of Darkness." Strangely, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness didn't make the cut. Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was referenced in a joking/throwaway gag; Herman Millville's Moby Dick is also referenced, only to suggest how long Stefan waited for Alaric to return to life after being temporarily murdered by Klaus (Moby Dick is thick). Obviously, Louis Stevenson's novella relates to Alaric's duality; and Moby Dick is a novel full of themes about good and evil and the existence of God. But, for whatever reason, I'm not motivated to view this episode through a famous work because I've been there and done that LAST SEASON with "The Sun Also Rises." T.S. Eliot, though, offered worthwhile insight into Heart of Darkness; specifically, he suggested an ambiguity of "both the dark motives of civilization and the freedom of barbarism" and noted that morality is ambiguous.

The Vampire Diaries is a show interested in ambiguity, although it's neither widespread nor dominant. The Original family, with the exception of Elijah and Rebekah, are painted in bad guy colors. The show's worst villains deal in absolutes which means the heroes must counteract with absolutes. Klaus sees a killer, a ripper, in Stefan and compels him to be a pure killer. Klaus sees Elena as a fountain of blood with which to make an entire race of hybrids. Anyone who stands in his way is collateral damage, as he explained to Caroline several episodes ago. The heroes wanted to kill Klaus since the first day he stepped into town and never thought about the consequences of killing him, specifically ending an entire line of vampires that started with him. The white oak stake used to kill Finn revealed that unsettling truth for the more moral and upstanding vampires in existence. No longer can they think in absolutes. No longer is it just about Klaus, but it's about who else will die when Klaus dies. More to the point: it'll be about the decision of who can live with the knowledge of killing an entire line of vampires, a means to a desired end. None of the characters wrestled with that yet (TVD doesn't seem interested in exploring that issue but it's my mind because I recently read the "A Hole in the World" script). Tyler's the lone vampire in danger of being killed regardless whereas the others will be spared because Damon cares more about that vampire than he does about Tyler. Not even Caroline shows much concern for Tyler. She essentially treats the matter like a high school student would treat a looming test or project, and so shrugs and decides she'll handle it when she needs to.

Alaric's double is at the center of "Heart of Darkness." The writers found their title during Stefan's violent interrogation methods on his friend. Alaric said Stefan needed to access his darkest self if he wanted to bring out Alaric's darkest self. Many of the characters have doubles and not all doubles need to be violent. Elena, for example, is torn between two brothers. One side of her longs for Stefan whereas the other cannot resist Damon. The hotel room scene when Damon climbed into bed with her to talk began curiously as a sleeping Elena woke to find Damon walking around the bedroom, looking out windows as a safety measure, pouring himself a drink and then sitting in a chair, contemplating something or someone before taking a drink. Damon looked over and saw Elena. Then Elena closed her eyes but quickly re-opened them to stare him in the eye. Her face was a mixture of curiosity and lust (it was at the very least a significant glance). She resembled Katherine in that intense gaze. When Damon got into bed, she asked him about what he did for Rose (giving her a paradisal dream) because she constantly seeks consistent good in him. Their entire trip to Denver to get Jeremy happened because Elena needed to figure out her feelings for Damon. Damon told her he hides his goodness because he can't let people expect him to be good. That line is a microcosm of Damon's duality.

Stefan beats Alaric's bad side out of him (literally) and quickly finds out where Other Alaric hid the deadly white oak stake. Klaus makes a reference to Stefan the Ripper when he sees Alaric's bloody and bruised face. Earlier, Stefan told Alaric about the effort he put into controlling his blood lust and ripper ways for Elena. He felt the effort would've been wasted if she fell into the arms of his brother; however, his violent interrogation of Alaric produced a moment of clarity for the tortured Stefan Salvatore. The blood that caked his friend's mouth briefly tempted him, briefly brought out the ripper, but he controlled his impulses and realized he could never repress these feelings; but if he could control them he can exist peaceful and live in contentment, with or without the girl (presumably). Stefan leaves Klaus the better man. It's a tremendous scene. Stefan's arc was one of my favorite parts of season three.

The Originals achieve victory in "Heart of Darkness." Rose's successful location of the vampire who sired her leads Damon and Elena to her corpse in Kansas. Kol had been there and killed the vamp. None of the Originals are interested in being obliterated. Klaus sent Rebekah with Alaric to retrieve and destroy the white oak stake. Other Alaric refused to leave the cave though and wanted to negotiate with Rebekah. Rebekah, though, isn't Rebekah. Esther used her body at the point of death to finish off her plan to kill her children who've lived 'unnatural' lives. The reveal wasn't surprising but one can't help but feel sympathy for Rebekah, the Original child whose constantly spit upon or staked and kept in a coffin for centuries. Before her mother robs her body, she says that she's barely lived at all. Claire Holt's gave the saddest reading of the line. If any Original should survive, let it be Elijah and Rebekah. I'm thinking Esther might finish her work and return Rebekah to her body so that she may live; however, Mother Original is a bitch. I don't have a clue about how the Original storyline will be resolved.

Elena and Damon passionately made out outside of their hotel room after her very significant glances at him. They were interrupted by Jeremy and a trip to Kansas. After the Kansas thing was done, they had an opportunity to talk about things. Damon took offense when he heard how Elena essentially waits for him to sabotage his chances with her by doing something wrong; his behavior lets Elena off the hook so to speak. Damon won't let her off so easily this time. This time, he insists, she'll need to look inside herself to decide which brother she wants. Jeremy nervously watched the weird tension between his sister and Jeremy. Rose helpfully outlined the situation for him and any viewer confused. TWoP made the word 'anvilicous' popular in their recaps whenever a show used a character to spell out a theme or an idea. Rose was quite anvilicious tonight. What she said isn't anything different from what I or any other TVD fan has written on the internet about the triangle. If this leads to a Dawson's Creek moment for Jeremy where he platonically makes Elena's choice for her a la Dawson in season three, it will be terrible. The decision needs to be Elena's alone. The character needs to fully take control of something in her life for once. This is it.

Other Thoughts:

-A "Roaring 20s" dance was in the planning stages this week. Next episode is set during this dance. I would've done a spit take if I was drinking water when the episode had a scene in which the characters were actually in school. I felt more sadness for Rebekah when she freaked out at Matt for driving her home because she expected a catch in the friendly gesture. Matt did distract her but he denied doing so. Caroline suspected Rebekah would interfere in her sexy reunion with Tyler.

-I wrote all that I thought about Tyler/Caroline already. Klaus' illustration of Caroline and the horse made Tyler jealous. The life-and-death issue took a back step to teenage romantic melodrama. Also, Tyler wants to test himself against Klaus. Blah.

-Brian Young & Evan Bleiweiss wrote "Heart of Darkness." Chris Grismer directed it.

-I didn't mention it yet so I will now: I really enjoyed the episode.


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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.