Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Total Eclipse of the Heart" Review

So, Dr. Wes stumbled into a legion of travelers to protect him. Great. It was a sparkling start after last week’s bummer of an episode. The introduction of Dr. Wes and the travelers are among my least favorite things about season five. The Damon torture episode before the winter hiatus was the nadir of TVD. Last week’s episode suggested a change for the rest of the season. I wrote about this whole three acts to a season thing that doesn’t work now. Oh well. Dr. Wes and the travelers act as catalysts for Damon’s further descent into regrettable life choices and then mosey off. They’ll be back, though. Alas, they’ll be back.

Damon’s already committed many bad acts during his life so much of what he does in “Total Eclipse of the Heart” reminds one of what he’s done and what he’s capable of when he doesn’t care. The ‘Kidnapped Jeremy’ plotline was a retread of other ‘Kidnap and threaten Jeremy,’ and I expected one of the characters to raise awareness to that in a meta way. Of course, no character calls attention to that. Damon acts out of spite towards Elena, though she never broke up with him because Katherine hijacked her body and used her Elena identity to end things. See, that’s a retread of what happened last week on the show. It’s not very fun to read, right? Damon uses Jeremy to hurt Elena, but Elena’s gone, so Katherine needs to fake emotional investment in Jeremy’s safety. Katherine-as-Elena does add a nifty twist to the Jeremy-in-peril, especially since it leads Tyler and Matt, of all characters, to figure out that something is off in Mystic Falls. Enzo kills Jeremy, but Katherine revives him. Stefan exiles him from Mystic Falls. Damon staggers, as if slightly wounded by his brother’s words, before muttering that he never intended to return. Dr. Wes and the travelers then turn Damon’s instincts around by injecting him with the stuff that makes him hungry for vampire blood.

Damon’s bad life choices actually progress at the end of an episode in which he behaved like an older rock band that only plays colleges. Yes, Damon takes the head off of a vampire in the last scene as Enzo looks on and remarks, ‘This could be trouble.’ Damon remarks to himself and to his victim that what’s happening to him is karma. Decades and centuries of murdering humans led him to the moment when he feeds on his own kind. There’s the rub. Damon’s redemption will happen through his ordeal against his kind. The murder of Aaron, the sort of murder of Jeremy, and all else he’s done will be forgiven because this ordeal. Stefan knows Elena won’t forgive Damon for killing Aaron, but she will because of the emphasis on the love triangle. Sometimes, Damon’s as shallow a character as that idea of changing a bad boy into a good boy, which is the root of Elena/Damon. Stefan admits to Katherine why he didn’t want Damon to be torn from Elena, because Elena brought Damon back from the deep, helped him to resist his worst impulses. Essentially, she changed him for the better.

Katherine likes to see Damon’s self-destruction since he tortured her on her last day and manages to turn what Elena would do to her own advantage without giving herself away. Stefan’s her prize and approaches romance with him two or three times. The first is at the Bitter Ball when they dance, and the second happens in Elena’s dorm room. Katherine manipulates the situation and almost kisses him. Katherine rejects Damon for life for having harmed Jeremy. Stefan still furrows his brow, bothered by his brother’s behavior, reluctant to take from his hope and salvation. The love triangle will end one of two ways: Stefan selflessly lets Damon have Elena or Damon figures himself out and can exist without Elena. All three will be changed by the current story, probably for the better until better is dramatically and narratively uninteresting and the writers decide Stefan needs to take heads off again.

The commitment and dedication of Stefan are what I’d point to when explaining why he’s the best character in the series. The writers continually nail the character’s humanity. Stefan reminds me a lot of Angel, but Angel was never as free as Stefan. Angel was burdened by the past, he committed his life’s work to helping the helpless/hopeless. (I’ll always prefer Angel.) Stefan was really awesome in those two scenes in which he threatened Enzo. He was tender in his scenes with Katherine. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” showed once again how horribly our favorite characters will act; it challenged our idea of morality in our modern world once again; and it, again, got us to root for those characters behaving horribly. Stefan’s the heart of the show—he’s been the worst and he’s been the best. Now, TVD doesn’t actively challenge its viewers to think about what we’re rooting for, but I think Stefan’s there as an active reminder of what living looks like. He is the most human.

None of the major characters have caught onto Katherine. She play-acts Elena adeptly. Tyler, of all characters, hears Nadia compelling Matt. I can’t remember the last significant turning point involving Tyler. Matt also figures out that Nadia and Katherine worked together to take Elena’s body. Matt will eventually forget because that’s how Matt’s written. Tyler may or may not be useful to the others in clueing them in about what’s happened to Elena. Caroline watches Katherine closely, sensing something different, especially when Stefan’s around. I assume the jig will be up for Katherine by early March. I think she’ll have changed somewhat, but however much she changed will be undone by hijacking Elena’s body. That kind of character stuff happens a lot on TV.

Damon feeding on other vampires is the next great crisis for the gang. I don’t know why anyone besides Stefan would want to save him. Season five seems more about telling stories in quick 2-3 episode bursts than that long-form commitment to Klaus and the originals. That works. I’d love to see Dr. Wes written off, but I assume an awesome dream episode awaits us all in early May. (I don’t really assume that).

Other Thoughts:

-I loved Nina Dobrev’s acting when she played Elena’s sadness about Jeremy followed by her playing Katherine’s total apathy about it.

-For a vampire that’s spent a couple decades locked in a cell, Enzo’s possibly the most stylish character.

-Rebecca Sonnenshine and Holly Brix wrote the episode. Darren Genet 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.