Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "500 Years of Solitude" Review

If I drank alcohol, I’d toast to 100 episodes for The Vampire Diaries. 100 episodes is a tremendous accomplishment for any show (except for According to Jim). I remember a few notable 100th episodes for shows I love. Immediately, the terrible 100th episode of Dawson’s Creek comes to mind. Kevin Williamson also created Dawson’s Creek but left three years before number one hundred aired. Dawson’s Creek took the gang to a beach for a MTV party, and Dawson remembered he loves Joey. Buffy saved the world again in Buffy’s 100th episode and died. ANGEL bid farewell to Cordelia in its 100th episode, “You’re Welcome.” Dawson’s Creek catered to fan want. Joss Whedon and his writers stayed true to the narrative while honoring what the show is and was. “You’re Welcome” is one of my all-time favorite episodes of television, along with “The Gift.” Dawson’s 100th episode? No.

“500 Years of Solitude” caters to fan want. Every notable character, dead or alive, appears in the episode. The Originals return from New Orleans for one week. Tyler returns to Mystic Falls in time for Caroline to regret her scandalous sex with Klaus. Julie Plec and Caroline Dries didn’t bring fans’ favorite characters back because of the 100th episode celebration. No character behaved like Dawson’s film buddy, Oliver, by asking for the complete history of Dawson/Joey, allowing the writers to take it easy and rely on flashbacks. Katherine unites every character through the hell and torture she put everyone through. The best scene of season five was the gang hanging out in the Salvatore living room, taking shots after each horrible Katherine memory. Stefan kills the party by acknowledging the good parts of Katherine, and then Nadia really kills the party by sort of killing Matt in an effort to save her mother’s life.

Katherine’s on her deathbed for the entirety of the episode until the twist after she cons Elena with sentimentality. Damon wants to watch her die and torture her until death. Klaus returned to Mystic Falls to also take pleasure in watching Katherine die. All other characters, except for Nadia, toast to themselves because they’ll no longer have their lives ruined by Katherine. While Katherine drifts between consciousness and unconsciousness, Damon enters her head to help her suffer. Katherine’s memory takes her to the worst times in her life—1490 and 1492 in Bulgaria when her father took Nadia from her and when Klaus slaughtered her family. A happy memory creeps in when she remembers traveling with Emily Bennett in Virginia and looking upon Stefan for the first time. Besides that, Damon enables her inner torment. Phantom Jenna stabs Katherine. Phantom John Gilbert slices Katherine’s fingers off. Elijah rushes into comfort her, but he’s a phantom, planted in her mind by the great Prospero Damon Salvatore. Murderous, sadistic glee lights his eyes up. Katherine whimpers, coughs and cries. Nadia snaps Damon’s neck and teaches her mom the traveler’s spell, which Katherine denies. Katherine chooses death.

Katherine doesn’t choose death. She plays her games. She manipulates to survive. Katherine hates Elena and wants to take her life. Throughout “500 Years of Solitude,” Stefan offers an alternative reading of her life. He casts Katherine as a reluctant villain, a victim deserving of pity, forgiveness and peace. Stefan’s the epiphany Prospero experiences in the later stages of The Tempest. Elena forgives Katherine as Katherine clings to life, not Katherine but for herself so that she won’t lose the ability to forgive, to feel enough to forgive. Elena’s humanity bit her in the ass, of course, as always. Vulnerability became opportunity for Katherine. Katherine pulled Elena in and took her body. Before Katherine’s deceptive move, Stefan brought her peace. Overwrought modern pop-rock droned as Stefan removed the bad parts of Katherine’s slaughtered family memory and placed her baby. Katherine moved towards the enveloping white light and, uh, that didn’t stick.

Julie Plec and Caroline Dries wrote the A story really well, covering the wide-ranging emotions, hitting every wildly different beat. Katherine’s been the best character of season five. Nina Dobrev completely separated Katherine from Elena. I would’ve missed Katherine if indeed the writers killed the character off. Nina Dobrev can’t play two characters in every episode for the entire season. Production can’t keep that up too long-term. Plec said to do so is ‘taxing’ on everybody. Putting Katherine in Elena’s body solves that problem. What follows should be like “Who Are You?” in Buffy (for two scenes, maybe, because these characters catch on quick to nefarious plans).

The other parts of the episode are like looking through old photographs and charting how much one grew and changed through the years up to the very present moment one is using to look through photographs. I’m thinking of these scenes in particular: Caroline learning about Jeremy’s intimate relationship with Bonnie; Caroline’s scandalous sex with Klaus in the woods; Stefan’s softness for Katherine; Matt’s face when he sees Rebekah rescued him from another tomb (this time an actual tomb). The many memories shared by the gang of Katherine was like a quick montage, drawing smiles and gasps, and ‘Oh, do you remember?” Vicki stood totally cool on The Other Side, talking with Bonnie and Jeremy, despite her last romance alive involving Jeremy. Maybe those three talked it out while Wes tortured Damon and Elena. Alaric showed up to announce he’ll keep an eye on everyone—that was pretty great. Alaric’s the one character I wish the writers didn’t kill off. Cult wasn’t worth leaving for, Matt Davis.

Caroline’s hook-up with Klaus in the woods involved the same problems of the Damon-Elena coupling. Klaus never bothered to do good like Damon. Damon made an effort to redeem for Elena. Klaus sought power, control and domination. He drew an illustration for Caroline once and delivered a speech to her that was designed to manipulate fans into creating a ship that must’ve set sail from the writers’ room. Their connection moved to a physical connection when it mattered most—Tyler’s back and conflict drives drama.

“500 Years of Solitude” is the best episode of the season. It celebrated what fans love most about the series. Despite recent missteps and a general sense of no direction, The Vampirie Diaries has been great fun to watch over the last five years. Plec and Dries told an awesome Katherine story and utilized every character worth a darn.

Other Thoughts:

-Paul Wesley continued his excellent work this season. His highlight in this episode was his last with Katherine in her head. He told Damon she pulled him from a dark place. The brothers shared a drink together under the stars. Stefan told Damon to go back to Elena. Damon doesn’t want blame when the universe revolts.

-One of the characters should’ve commented on Jeremy’s transformation from scrawny-ish kid in season one to body-builder in season five. His shoulders could cover the width of the United States.

-Biana Lawson hasn’t aged since the “What’s My Line?” two-parter in 1998.

-Caroline Dries & Julie Plec wrote the episode. Chris Grismer directed it.

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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.