Three ways to know an already declining series as hit another lowpoint: 1.) repetition of previously uninteresting stories; 2.) a reliance on new and poorly developed characters whose purpose is only tertiary-barely anything more than a plot device created for conflict; 3.) episodes that have the illusion of stuff happening but that have very little happening. For reference, watch any season six episode of Dawson’s Creek. The characters putzed around, engaged in meaningless relationships in meaningless stories, and nothing really came together except for halfassed ‘epiphanies’ in the fourth act. The Vampire Diaries, a usually entertaining series, but less so in the last 2-3 seasons, has hit a significant lull early in the sixth season. The introduction of several new characters has not re-energized the series. Indeed, TVD has become more of a lull-an aging series stumbling along only because the network ordered the episodes.
The major stumbling block of season six, the crux of the season six issue, is the Damon and Elena retread. The dreadful sigh you, the reader, may’ve sighed when you realized Alaric became human only because he cannot compel her to remember her love for Damon was not sighed without reason and good cause. The sigh comes from an intuitive part of you. It may’ve traveled through decades and centuries from your ancestors to you. Think and imagine. A quiet, cool night in the wilderness, a fire burning to warm everyone sitting around it, drinking and dining, telling stories of the day that was, and stories about the things you don’t understand: the silvery still lights above you and what’s beyond it. There’s a wonder about words, of language, of culling images from words that transport you to a time and place you know but don’t, the majesty of blue magic; however, your stomach sinks when Phil tells the same story he told two weeks ago, four months ago, two years ago, but this time he added a skunk to make it somewhat different.
The romance between Damon and Elena has been more of a challenging series of circumstances that kept them apart instead of a “true” romance. The writers think it more worthwhile to keep Damon and Elena separate than together. There’s a long precedent for that in television. Any iconic coupling in the annals of TV history did not stay together for seasons and seasons. Characters would begin relationship in the finale, have blissful months only heard about in the season premiere, and then they would separate by fall sweeps. Damon died for Elena in the season five finale. One may worry the romance peaked when Damon sacrificed his life for her. It probably did. Spike sacrificed his life for Buffy, for Dawn, for Giles, for everyone, for the world, and he never saw Buffy again until the comics, which was set years after the end of Buffy and ANGEL. Neither story peaked in comic form. If anything, it declined. Anyhow, one way to spark Damon and Elena again is through hardship and longing, i.e. contrivance. The writers contrived for Elena to love Damon so much it nearly killed her and then contrived for Alaric to lose vampirism at the worst time.
Elena cannot bear the idea of romantic involvement with Damon, a cruel and sadistic serial killer. Indeed, he’s a horrible romantic partner, but so is she. Every character in The Vampire Diaires should move to a Robinson Crusoe-type island and never interact with anybody. Stefen learns about Elena’s twinge of guilt. She kissed her classmate hours before Damon’s unexpected return, and she doesn’t want him to die because of Damon’s murderous temper; however, that concern of hers disappears. There’s a cutesy college dating thing happening between them in spurts until Tripp takes Damon in his death van. Elena agrees to let Damon come to her dorm. It happens again. Will she open the door after he knocks? A series of shots follow his hand touching the knob, her hand touching the knob, the knob turning, a shot of her inside the room, waiting, and a shot of him outside, opening the door, curious, peering to see if she stayed or if she jumped through the window again. The door opens. Elena looks. Damon stands still.
Tripp interrupted the second of three attempts for Damon and Elena to meet in her dorm room. The Tripp detour is a detour. Caroline and Stefan want to spring Enzo from captivity because he may name them to Tripp. Tripp already knows who the vampires are because of Ivy’s phone. Tripp bundles Damon and Enzo into the death van. Alaric and Stefan initially stop him from driving into Mystic Falls, but he crashes the van into Mystic Falls after Alaric attacks him. Tripp wanders around from the crash holding his head while Jo saves Alaric’s life. Stefan helped Damon and Enzo back to beyond the Mystic Falls border. The detour with Tripp did not enhance him as the villain. Tripp’s one of the weaker TVD villains. I don’t see how the characters will treat him as an eventual monumental threat. He may be a minor threat, a mere distraction. The witches matter more.
Jo informed Elena that she’s a witch during Elena’s sleuthy investigation into why Alaric could not compel her. One immediate theory about her: she’s the remaining living sibling of Kai. Jo seems like the key to bringing Bonnie and her brother back from the 1994 Mystic Falls hell and to returning magic to Mystic Falls. Jo’s benevolence may be a product of her horrific experience with her brother. The way she tenderly yet intensely willed Alaric not to die belied her essence: to nurture and to heal and to do out of love, a rarity in this supernatural world that will possibly mark her for death.
-Matt helped Sarah research her dead father and dead mother, the beginning of a trail that’ll lead her to Damon. I’ll probably rant about the Sarah character in another post.
-Jeremy broke drinking glasses out of frustration and grief over Bonnie’s continued absence. Damon tried to soothe Jeremy’s raw wound by telling him a lie: that Bonnie was not with him in hell, and that she had found peace. My favorite part of Steven R. McQueen’s acting tonight, which was not acting at all, was the way he held his arms out because he’s too muscular to hold them straight. It’s a common thing for male CW actors. Stephen Amell barely moves his arms while walking.
-Caroline told Stefan she doesn’t want to be his friend anymore. The two will probably kiss before the Christmas break. I think the Caroline/Stefan story is the most engaging and most interesting going in season six.
-Chad Fiveash & James Patrick Stoteraux wrote the episode. Garreth Stover directed.