Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Vampire Diaries "Original Sin" Review

The third episode of every TVD season is the exposition episode that sets the central narrative of the season. I like the exposition episodes. TVD's writers had a knack for delivering overwhelming amounts of exposition without burying the episode. TVD's consistently entertaining and enjoyable nearly every week, even when two out of four stories are duds, or the writers are ret-conning. "Original Sin" is a convoluted mess, though. I don't know where to begin with what went wrong in the episode. I appreciate the attempt to stretch the story about Silas and Quetsya, the way the fates and destiny tie into Stefan and Elena which leaves Damon as the outcast bastard of a Shakespeare play, but I also appreciate the effort that went into LOST's "Stranger in a Strange Land" and it blows. So, yeah, I worried about TVD in the second half of season three, throughout season four, and "Original Sin" is another reason to worry about the quality of the show.

The problems begin in the scene when it's revealed Nadia's man, Gregor, is using Matt's body when activated by Nadia. Paul Wesley and Nina Dobrev have played multiple roles really well, but how many doubles or triples does the show need? How essential is it that shadow selves exist or Travelers possess teenage boys? Do the other actors want to show off their range? The difference between Matt and Gregor is a bad accent. The problems continue with the endless scenes of exposition with Quetsya and Stefan. Quetsya's history with Silas dates back 2,000 years to Greece. They shared an immortal love and longed for their physical forms to be as immortal as their feelings. Silas betrayed her on their wedding day, stole the immortal potion for himself and his Amara. Quetsya murdered her, created the cure, and cursed Silas for his betrayal. Silas' re-emergence in the world caused Quetsya to cross over from the Other Side for vengeance.

Quetsya's story is significant for its implications on the triangle between the brothers and Elena. Quetsya's a major character, a most powerful witch, and probably the key to saving Bonnie from permanent death. She'll be as dangerous as Silas. Quetsya's like a different kind of Glory for Buffy's fifth season. She's not a god, but her power makes her feel like one. She could be the face of the old phrase 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"--just replace woman with Quetsya. A clear parallel is drawn between Quetsya and Damon. Damon warns her, "I have a bad side too" after she warns him not to get on her bad side. The bad side was borne out of her hurt feelings after Silas' betrayal, which drove her to murder her handmaiden, who was close to her as family is to Damon. Damon doesn't turn on his brother or girlfriend, but he will get badder as the season continues. Stefan and Elena, you see, are meant to be--their fate is written in the stars, to use a line from a failed CW drama that involved Kevin Williamson for a time.

Forbidden love is the best kind of conflict on network television, in the hearts and minds of wealthy TV executives paid to pay the best writers to give the audience what they think the audience wants. Silas and Quetsya seem so inconsequential. Those characters will be a pain to for the core characters to deal with, and those characters will stick around for quite awhile, but Stefan, Damon, and Elena will always remain as well as their tangled, messy, complicated feelings and histories. Amara, Silas' love, was the first Elena. Elena's her shadow self. Quetsya explains destiny will try to put together the shadow selves of Silas and Amara together until they are together. Silas messed up the natural cycle of life by drinking the immortal drink. Quetsya messed up their fated union when she killed Amara. I can't keep straight who created the shadow selves, but I think she did so that she could watch Silas and Amara die. Or something like that.

Quetsya planted the dreams Elena had about Stefan in an effort to create discord between her and Damon. Is Quetsya Julie Plec? Nevermind that. The idea of the eternal love of Stefan and Elena is sweet, nice, but uninteresting. That idea is more of an ideal for people that's probably doomed us all to perpetual unhappiness because we're chasing the dragon of what movies and TV showed us regarding what love is and what it means and what it's worth to get. Anyway, it seems clearer that the roles the core characters must assume, including main and secondary characters, will be to break the chain of fate and history. The characters don't have the freedom of choice. So much is determined by someone more powerful than the vampires in Mystic Falls. Watching Elena, Stefan, Damon, Caroline, Matt, Jeremy, et al, get jerked around by folk more powerful is tiresome to watch, and even rote now.

How deep does the TVD mythology go? The originals took the story deep, but Silas and Quetsya go deeper. Quetsya's story seems to contradict parts of the Originals story, but I'm open to the possibility that TVD's conflicting mythologies are intentionally conflicting. The writers played around with the mythology before and even deceived fans for a season in season two, with the sun and the moon curse. Getting deep into the mythology helps the story feel richer and more meaningful. In LOST's final season, Damon and Carlton dug deep into the history of the island. Anyway, it's not so different from actual lived life. Our roots go deep, mythologies have formed our societies, cultures, religions, families, values, why we love.

Finally, the problem is that it's not interesting. After an entire episode of exposition, Silas and Quetsya aren't interesting. Well-acted, yes; interesting, no; necessary? debatable. I rolled with the reveal of Amara, the ret-con of Stefan and Elena's connection, but the amnesia storyline that ends the episode made me throw my hands up in exasperation. Amnesia? Quetsya used Stefan to stop Silas' mind control. The effect on Stefan is amnesia. Stefan not remembering his brother or the love of all his life, mortal and immortal, isn't the worst idea. Any amnesia storyline reeks of laziness or creative bankruptcy, though. Paul Wesley's playing dark and moody as Silas, so amnesia Stefan is a different note for the character at which he'll excel in playing.

I sort of wish this episode never happened, but it's early in the season. The writers failed to pull together the different parts of last year's central narrative together and far from resolving it this season. Hopefully, something was learned from that failure last season, and this ends by episode ten.

Other Thoughts:

-Katherine's carrying the cure, which is why she's wanted by Quetsya and Stefan. Post-production didn't do many tricks to show Katherine and Elena in the same scene. Katherine slept during the bar scene, which removed having to show Nina Dobrev walk next to herself into the bar.

-Nadia's a gypsy vampire, right? I'm not clear on where she falls into things.

-No Jeremy or Caroline or Bonnie.

-I didn't catch the name of the actress portraying Quetsya, but she was on Arrow last season. Oliver broke her character's heart, or she broke his. I can't remember at this mature hour in the night.

-Melinda Hsu-Taylor & Rebecca Sonnenshine wrote the episode. Melinda Hsu-Taylor wrote for my favorite show of all-time, LOST. I can't remember the name of the director.

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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.