Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "The Departed" Review

"The Departed" takes the story back to the beginning of the series when Elena lived a normal life in the safest place on earth, Mystic Falls. The biggest problem for Elena was her relationship with Matt. Besides that, life was great. Her parents were alive and her aunt and all of her friends were normal. Bonnie had psychic premonitions; in fact, she warned Elena against going to bonfire. If Elena stayed home, her parents wouldn't have picked her up, and so on and so on. Elena remembers her old life, the life she misses so much, as she slept. The core characters took Elena from the hospital because the Salvatores worried that she'd be vulnerable in such a public place. Elena didn't take part in the action tonight. She sat home with Matt and rested. She drifted off to sleep and awoke in a different place each time.

The Elena story is wonderfully written, even beautifully so. The purpose of the structure for the story crystallized the second after the episode cut to black. Elena felt a sense of displacement each time she woke up. The viewers felt a sense of displacement too. The camera was tight on her whenever she woke up. The episode didn't cut to a wide shot until she looked around. The last thing we see in season three is Elena waking from a different kind of sleep for she died in Matt's car. The head injury she suffered was worse than Dr. Fell let on so she gave Elena the last vampire blood she had before Other Alaric disposed of the rest. Elena died with vampire blood in her. This final 'waking,' as it were,' is the ultimate displacement. I really admired structured her eventual passing and re-awakening.

The story isn't beautiful because of the top-notch plotting; rather, the story is beautiful for what it communicated to the audience about Elena, our heroine, and the sadness she carries inside. She's sad because she doesn't have her parents or her aunt in her life. The girl constantly loses people she cares about. Elena will lose someone she cares about by choosing between the Salvatore brothers, the two boys she cares most about. The beauty of the story doesn't really involve the Salvatore brothers. I was struck by the sequence of the dreams, how the sequence led to her death, and how she died where her parents died two years earlier; but I was struck because her dreams were goodbyes--not to anyone in particular but from Elena to herself, if that makes any sense. Of course, I might be reading too much into it. One might argue (and that's me) that I'm trying to inject a LOSTian profundity to Elena's arc in "The Departed."

The center of The Vampire Diaries is the love triangle. I'll make that clear: the center of this show is the triangle. It's not about a bunch of broken souls who needed to heal themselves. Elena's dreams are about the decision she needs to make about Stefan and Damon. Mrs. Gilbert was the person Elena went to for advice. Elena didn't want to be with Matt anymore and her mom told her the best thing she could do for him was to set him free, to let him go. Elena remembered those words and used them in conversation with Damon. Other Alaric put a stake in Klaus, so the brothers thought they were done for. Damon was trapped 100 miles from Mystic Falls. Elena said goodbye and told him she chose Stefan because Stefan came into her life to save her and then he restored her life when she didn't want to live anymore. Yes, Elena wanted to be with Stefan before he died.

Damon displayed exemplary behavior despite a truly lousy night. Other Alaric killed Klaus. Damon couldn't stop him. The girl he loves rejected him for all of time. Damon weakly fought Alaric for awhile but then a memory of Elena jarred him back to life. Damon met her minutes before his brother saved her life after the Wickery Bridge crash. Elena looked so much like Katherine. Damon was drawn to her and then proceeded to tell her what kind of love she wanted. The love he described is the love she rejected moments before. Damon compelled her to forget the meeting, but he planted that idea of love in her. She just found his brother before him.

I've written many, many words about the triangle in the last two years. Season finales aren't worth anything if they fail to change the show in some way. The triangle is ultimately changed because of Elena's new vampiric nature, which is good, because it was at a point of stagnation. Elena's choice for Stefan is what I wanted, and I looked forward to another season of the two as couple, fighting evil and stuff. It would've been difficult to pull off though, especially with Damon's agreement to leave town. We'll always know who human Elena wanted, which is terrific, but it doesn't matter anymore. Everything is different now.

Indeed, Klaus isn't dead, though his body is just ash in an expensive coffin. The air of expectation and excitement caused by Other Alaric's insane dominance in killing Klaus caused me to cheer. I even remarked aloud, "Other Alaric is awesome" even though I still dislike the clunky, clumsy way Other Klaus happened. Klaus exists inside the body of his hybrid, Tyler Lockwood. The 'twist' was like a punch to the stomach. I really thought the writers killed him off for good. Now, Michael Trevino needs to be as good as Joseph Morgan. Trevino is a good actor every now and again; however, he isn't great. I don't trust him to handle such an important role. The magical mechanics of the body switch seems problematic too. Klaus' death will cause the death of the Important vampires. I'll just accept the body switch. It works. Fans will get a weird romance between Caroline and Klaus. It's a shame Joseph Morgan couldn't stick around though.

Other Alaric loosed the Founder's Council on Mystic Falls. Mayor Lockwood and Sheriff Forbes lost their jobs. The council wants to murder every single vampire in Mystic Falls. The episode didn't dwell on this. The storyline will be a focal point in season four. Other Alaric died when Elena died. He wanted to break Damon but died before any breakage could happen. The celebration of Alaric as a character happened two weeks ago. I still felt emotion when he appeared to Jeremy after death to tell him he'd always look after him. Alaric Saltzman was a terrific character; in fact, his introduction into the series is what I really liked about the show early on. I'm still disappointed in how the writers handled the character. Oh well. It is the past. I hope Matt Davis is successful in his next series (I forget its name).

Julie Plec said she cried while writing the script. I liked the sense of circularity the finale had. The finale minutes are among the show's best. We watched Mr. Gilbert tell Stefan to save his daughter as we watched Elena tell Stefan to save Matt. Matt and Elena crashed into the river trying to avoid Rebekah. The Originals wanted Alaric dead so they killed Elena. Aside from the final sequence, the small Bonnie scene, in which she needed time to contemplate protecting the man who destroyed so many lives, was the best Bonnie scene in a long time.

Finally, the episode got me thinking about the name of the series. Regardless of how terrible the name 'The Vampire Diaries' is for a TV show, I like how the title is more significant now. TVD is Elena's story. The brothers are important parts of her story, but this is her story. And, really, I suppose, it was only a matter of time before she became a vampire then: this is her story.

Other Thoughts:

-The third season began with a bang and then tailed off. I boldly claimed they were on pace for a truly terrific season. I'll need to re-watch the entire season before passing final judgment on it. Julie Plec's definitely going to be even more hands-on in season four. Plec seems to think like a fan-fiction writer sometimes, which is worrisome. Season 3 lost focus. Plec's admission that she has the story in her head, that she made up the whole Original story because of Daniel Gillies, is fine; however, there was great evidence of this style of storytelling. I wrote, two weeks ago, about the nature of network television production, and how it's a 'making it up as you go along' business. The show didn't feel purposeful mid-season. The Original storyline went nowhere; the Stefan struggle against darkness felt directionless; and so on and so on. Maybe the writers had too many balls in the air and couldn't catch them all. Heck, that's what it seemed like as a viewer of the show.

Of course, the third season produced a number of great-to-terrific episodes. "The Reckoning" and "Bringing Out the Dead" immediately come to mind. "Bringing Out the Dead" featured one of the saddest scenes I've watched on TV. I loved "The End of the Affair" and "Disturbing Behavior." The season didn't come together the way I thought it would. The thematics of starting the season with an episode titled "The Birthday" and ending it with Elena's death isn't lost on me. I would love to compliment the show on bringing every thread together seamlessly, but it didn't happen. Season 3 is very good though.

-Cindy McLennan of Television Without Pity, my hat is off to you, for successfully calling the endgame for Other Alaric. Also, If I were drinking water just now, I would've done a massive spit-take after reading Daniel the TV Addict's tweet about the third season finale of The Vampire Diaries. The dude compared it to the game-changing finale of LOST's third season. Hold the phone! HOLD THE PHONE! I'm going to give due praise to The Vampire Diaries for delivering a fantastic finale. Let's not throw around comparisons to the greatest season finale in TV history willy-nilly. If we want to compare this season finale to another, consider BtVS' "The Gift" in which Joss killed Buffy. Heck, I'm not willing to actually compare the two because "The Gift" is in LOST S3 Finale territory. "The Departed" is a moving, climatic, and epic conclusion to a very good season of television. The game is changed. But we cannot throw careless comparisons around. I mean, come on, TVD can't even touch LOST on its best day.

-Paul Wesley was the best actor this season. Wesley played different shades of Stefan to great effect. Nina Dobrev improves each season. Dobrev and Candice Accola stabbed my heart several times this season, especially during their conversation as Bill Forbes died. Ian Somerhalder's the most consistent actor on the show. His razor-sharp delivery is a highlight of every episode.

-McQueen nailed Jeremy's reaction to Ghost Alaric. The writers can't seem to figure out the character. The reason he's able to dart between hating vampires and not hating them and possibly betraying everyone and then not betraying everyone is due to a lack of definition. He disappeared for a few weeks. I didn't notice his absence.

-Rebekah and Elijah didn't die! Hopefully Rebekah's able to have some fun next season. Yeah, she killed Elena and might've killed Matt, but I feel bad she missed two dances she planned.

-The fourth season should premiere in early September. I'll be back writing about it. Please consider returning to the blog throughout the summer for my summer re-watch.

-Julie Plec wrote the teleplay. Elisabeth R. Finch & Brett Matthews were credited with the story. John Behring, who directed great episodes this season, helmed "The Departed."

-I'd like to thank all of the writers, the cast and the crew, for a very good season of television. I had fun writing about the insanity of Mystic Falls.


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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.