Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Home" Review

Death had long ceased as a threatening end to a character in The Vampire Diaries. Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec used surprising deaths to create a spectacular sense of the unexpected in the early seasons of The Vampire Diaries—those days when people swore that “No, no, it’s NOT Twilight on The CW.”  But every character died. Some died multiple times. What does a writer do when the ultimate stake loses meaning and power over the world? Undo it.

Season 5 of The Vampire Diaries marked the gang’s transition from high schoolers to collegians. Amazingly, college barely figured into the season. Professor Max came from the college, and, yes, the college had a long history of vampire experiments, but the Mystic Falls crew continued to not attend classes. Jeremy barely went to classes his senior year, responding to his sister’s and Damon’s concerns about his education that he lives in an insane town. That happened during a rather dreadful episode of The Vampire Diaries when Damon and Elena played house. In “Home,” Elena and Damon part forever, until the writers contrive a way to bring him back in the sixth season. “Home” brings together stuff. Silas returns to teach Bonnie the spell, and then leaves via black hole of oblivion. Liv finds a heart and risks death to help people she spent nearly her entire run trying to harm and/or kill because redemption. There were convenient bits of plotting re: Silas’ kindly return to help Bonnie so that he could return to the physical world and wreak havoc. The Travelers gather in the Grille because the Sheriff invites them where they enjoy free drinks, good times, and then death. Damon’s plan to kill them all with an explosion caused by a gas leak and his car running through the Grille to trigger the explosion seems like a flawless plan. All who die will come back. Not all can come back. There’s no narrative juice to all the favorite characters re-joining the physical world to smile, laugh, and enjoy life without any threats or heartache or loss. Damon can’t return; he misses the window. Sheriff Forbes didn’t seem to make it back. Bonnie’s Grams told her she ensured her daughter peace after she helps her friend. Peace takes the form of an enveloping light, descending from above to embrace her and Damon, Bonnie wants to know whether or not it’ll hurt. The blinding light, and the end of season five, interrupts Damon’s response. It goes: “I don’t—“

Elena sobs and clutches a wall to keep from falling to the ground in a heap. Damon says really sweet things to her, about what she means to him, and what he feels knowing she loved him when he died. Damon’s selfless act serves as atonement and redemption for what he’s done in his 100+ years on the earth, and his actions through season five. Season five was probably the worst season for the character, regressing to the worst iteration of the character. He responded to the break-up, done by Katherine, by killing Aaron. He killed Whitmores from the 50s onwards. One heroic act in television makes up for a string of bad, murderous decisions on The Vampire Diaries. All it took for Klaus to experience redemption and a love was his drawing of Caroline and a horse. So, yeah. The more frustrating aspect of their renewed separation, which follows several separations. There was the sire stuff in season 4 and then Elena’s ‘switch-off’ arc followed by the fustercluck of season five. Elena and Damon committed to each other in the last episodes of season five. The other side explodes, or whatever, after Damon can’t cross back over to the side. Forced separation. Heartbreak. Fans will cry, “What if?” Maybe Elena and Damon aren’t interesting together. Keeping them apart increases anticipation from the audience. The smart move would probably be to grant the characters happiness in the series finale. It’s way easier to keep characters apart together. TVD enjoyed a creative high during the heights of Stefan-and-Elena together. Perhaps there’s a reluctance to do the same with Elena and Damon. There’s also the post-modern awareness of Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder having broken up, but professional writers won’t sacrifice storytelling because of the personal lives of two cast members.

The strongest material in “Home” focused on the Salvatore brothers and their twinning reactions to each other’s death. Damon freaked out and made a plan. Ian played Damon’s reaction with a mixture of shock, panic, and determination—determination to get him back. Damon conveyed with a look what Stefan tells Caroline near the end of the episode after he returns and his brother does not. Silas made a crack about Stefan’s perpetual sadness. Stefan’s experienced a sad life. His Lexi sacrificed her future to stop Markos from returning, and his brother gave his life to get his back. The strongest relationship was never between Elena and Stefan or Elena and Damon; it’s Stefan and Damon. Stefan’s inaction showed his deep feeling for his brother. The scene contrasts the histrionics of Elena’s. It shows that the saddest things are sometimes felt without tears but with a quiet anguish too deep to articulate, to heartbreaking to rend in any way audible. Jeremy, unlike quiet, reflective Stefan, tries to raise the gods with his cries for Bonnie during his run through the woods to save her from death.

Ideally, the deaths of Bonnie and Damon would remain permanent, considering the purpose of “Home,” beyond the various finale things, was to make death matter again. Death won’t matter once they return from the infinite white beyond. “Home” wasn’t a bad season finale. It brought together some loose threads of the season. The writers broke up the season into three distinct acts, with bits of influencing the endgame. The writers never lack for plot. TVD proved in past seasons its strongest when the characters remain consistent. If the character work excels, all the other parts of the episode improve.

Other Thoughts:

-Enzo and Liv were great additions to the show this season. I liked Enzo’s friendship with Damon whenever the writers didn’t push the idea that Damon’s friendship with Enzo was the most important relationship in his life.

-I look forward to season six, especially with Matt Davis back as a series regular. Alaric is the greatest. You’ll find season six reviews right here in The Foot.

-Stefan and Caroline—together—will happen next season. Lexi couldn’t believe Stefan missed his dear connection with Caroline. Oh, TVD and its courtships.

-Matt Donovan had the greatest lines this season. Tonight’s one about blowing up the only place dumb enough to hire him and Jeremy was magnificent. Poor Matt Donovan wondered about the bliss of normality if he and Jeremy moved back to Mystic Falls with Travelers as the new neighbors. His sister had a most shitty end, too, awhile. That damn void will be revisited in season six. Too many worthwhile characters were sucked into it.

-Caroline Dries & Bryan Young wrote the episode. I missed the name of the director. Apologies.

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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.