Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "Before Sunset" Review

Urban Legends: Final Cut is a horrible sequel to a mediocre movie about a killer who uses urban legends to kill folk. I watched a few minutes of the sequel randomly today. Jennifer Morrison and Matt Davis decided to get sexy with each other when I put the movie on. In the next scene, Eva Mendes looked mysteriously at Morrison, and I forgot that she began her career in this movie (I actually OWN this movie). A mannequin dropped through the floor and onto the table. I switched the movie off at this point for some reason, although I always enjoyed the ending. Urban Legends: Final Cut is entirely a product of its slayer-driven era. The killer is costumed, the victims are killed in creative ways, and the denouement always has the killer reveal every last detail of his or her plan in minute fashion. The killer in Urban Legends is a jealous film professor. The killer in the original is pissed at Alicia Witt for killing her boyfriend during an Urban Legends prank gone wrong.

Matt Davis is the loose connection between Urban Legends and The Vampire Diaries. It is, perhaps, odd to begin a review about the penultimate episode of season three on Urban Legends: Final Cut nostalgia. Matt Davis portrays two characters in the forgotten 2000 horror flick. His first character kills himself, though circumstances are suspicious; his second character is the first character's brother. Suspicion gradually builds around his character, but he's just a red herring. TVD sometimes reminds me of those late 90s slasher trends. Kevin Williamson is co-developer and co-show runner. Williamson defined late 90s horror with his satirical style, slick writing and deconstruction of the genre. The Vampire Diaries premiered on the heels of Twilight, so every review compared The CW's new show about vampires starring hot people, which kept me away, until TWoP swore it was the best show on TV in 2010. I watched the first three episodes and responded to its late-90s atmosphere. The characters were pretty but unique. They weren't archetypes; and if they were in the beginning, they weren't an episode or two or thee later. Furthermore, the villains were defined by their motivations. Their motivations were clear. Things get messy, very messy, during a season of The Vampire Diaries. The resolution is usually smooth though.

Klaus is a villain from the late 90s. The hybrid committed atrocities during the season, manipulated every character the fans hold dear, and the writers managed to make his death effective and moving. Klaus was driven by his desire to not be alone. Loneliness was worse than death for him. Klaus used Damon's life to get Stefan to join him; Klaus wanted to create a hybrid army because they'd never leave his side; his siblings returned and he realized he didn't need an army as much as he needed family. Billy Loomis became surprisingly lucid in Scream when he opened up to Sidney about how his decision to murder people stemmed from abandonment issues caused by his mother's infidelity with Sid's father. Stu stared at him in amazement. The moment stops the action for a brief second. Fiction is tricky; audiences will sympathize with the strangest sorts of characters because movies and televisions are mirrors and people look for themselves in the reflection, for good or ill. People identify with Klaus' fear of loneliness. Fans felt sorrow for Klaus tonight. It's a hell of an accomplishment as a writer to induce sympathy in a character who has been a piece of shit during his run.

The death of Klaus is met with celebration by the Mystic Falls teens. Indeed, like a late-90s horror film, the end of Klaus is smooth and the good guys party. Damon wants to 'WOO!' during the car ride to the Atlantic, where Klaus' body will be dumped, far from Alaric's fatal dagger (and this is where my weird parallel between TVD and slasher films ends). The celebration can only last for a couple of hours in the night. Danger still exists in Mystic Falls. Alaric, namely, still exists. His Other self resembles Angelus. Other Alaric uses Alaric's knowledge of everyone against them. Virtues devolve into baseness. Other Alaric is a judgmental dick.

I loved the structure of "Before Sunset." My favorite episodes of TVD take insane right turns when one thinks the episode will continue on a straight path. Alaric is the threat of the first half; Klaus is the threat of the second half. Alaric uses Caroline and Elena to capture and kill Klaus. The plan goes to hell when Elena threatens to kill herself, which will sever Alaric's link to life because he's linked to Elena's life, and Klaus quickly takes Elena away to drain her to death. While Alaric tortured Caroline in his classroom, complete with textbooks and writings on the board referring to the Civil War, Klaus tried to break into the Gilbert home. Before he could burn the home down, Stefan told him they needed to save Elena and kill Alaric. To do so, Bonnie needed to do a complicated spell in which a vampire's heart and a human heart are stopped, for the sake of natural balance. Alaric's too strong to be taken down. Klaus becomes the victim of the spell.

Klaus planned to drain Elena of her blood and flee town. Her death would eliminate the Alaric problem. His dream for a hybrid army wasn't important anymore because of the strong bond he has with his siblings. Tyler came through at the last minute and challenged Klaus. The Salvatore brothers arrived just in time to restrain Klaus for the desecation spell. Elena banged her head hard on a stair as she rushed away. Klaus looked Stefan in the eye as his heart slowly came to a stop. The music swelled, and I thought of much more effective the scene would've been without music, with just the silence of the moment. Of course, Klaus was an operatic character, large and dramatic, and his death needed to possess the qualities of his character.

The dire stakes of the episode fell away in the final act. The brothers Salvatore drove Klaus' body to the ocean. Elena and her friends celebrated a Klaus-free world. Also, the triangle came into focus. Elena was honest with both brothers about her reluctance to choose because she knows a choice will mean she loses one of them, and she can't handle losing important people in her life anymore. Klaus said her death would heal the rift between the brothers, and Elena feared being the reason the brothers might hate one another. The brothers honestly talked to one another during their car drive about what'll happen when Elena chooses. The brother not chosen will respectfully disappear from Mystic Falls as not to interfere. Caroline told Elena that she needed to choose. Indeed, she does, and she will.

The action and the stakes were fantastic in "Before Sunset." These things are what made people fans of the show. The characters and their relationships are the reason people love the show. This episode dealt with the usual issues of the show: family, loss, recovery, etc. Other Alaric is a representation of family and loss. Jeremy swore to protect his sister if Other Alaric tried to kill her to end his life. The show's greatest ability is evoking emotion in its audience, in making them feel something. It's not as easy as it sounds. TVD's its best when it's about making people feel, and I felt a whole lot during "Before Sunset." Let's hope it continues in the finale.

Other Thoughts:

-Rebekah left town after her terrifying encounter with Other Alaric. Something tells me she'll be back in the finale. Claire Holt's too good just to disappear until season four.

-Speaking of season four, The CW renewed TVD for a fourth season. I'll, of course, write about that season.

-Elena hit her head on a stair. I wrote that already; however, I failed to follow up on the plot point. Elena collapsed in the final scene and bled from the nose. The lesson is: Don't Paint. No, that's not right.

-The Tyler-Caroline romance still isn't the most captivating fictional romance in the history of fiction. Their relationship became more epic as Tyler told Klaus that he broke every bone in his body 100 times for true love.

-Stefan would've gone with Klaus if he took Elena away with him to ensure her safety. I'm among the minority, but I'm glad the old Stefan is back in full form. Damon didn't have as much time with Elena tonight. I have a feeling about which vampire the girl will choose. I'll save my thoughts on it until next week.

-Other Alaric went to the Founder's Council to expose Mayor Lockwood and the Sheriff for keeping their supernatural children a secret. Alaric's like a nineteenth century Russian nihilist.

-Last but not least: Joseph Morgan was terrific throughout his run as Klaus. Brilliant work tonight.

-Unless my eyes deceived me, I only saw a story by credit tonight. Chris Grismer directed "Before Sunset."

-Next week is the season finale of TVD. It's going to be wild.


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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 in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.