Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "Age of Innocence" Review

Most of “Age of Innocence” concerned the back-story of Valerie, Lily, Damon, Stefan, and Oscar—the sixth Heretic, and the lost Heretic (and Damon’s leverage to get Elena’s coffin back). The other parts of the episode concerned Caroline’s dismay over the revelations about Stefan’s first love, the flash-forward to Stefan burning his precious car after reaching out to Tyler, and Alaric’s consistent goal to bring Jo back via necromancy. Obviously, the attempt will prove disastrous.

The third episode of every Vampire Diaries season involves flashbacks to define the villains of the first act of the season and to reveal hidden depths to defined characters. TVD flashbacks never hit for me. They’re good fun for the writers, the crew, and the cast. Everyone dresses up. The production crew dresses up shooting locations in Atlanta. The flashback revealed two essential things: Lily loved a bad dude named Julian, who terrorized Valerie, used her feelings for Stefan to control her, and who Valerie hates so much she killed her Heretic brother to prevent him from using Julian to leverage his, Oscar’s, freedom; and Stefan and Valerie shared a romance because Lily asked her to check on Stefan.

The essential story revelations come about because of the Salvatore brothers’ plans to feign a fracture. Of course the plan blows up by the end of the episode. Nostalgia softens the souls of Lily, Valerie, and Stefan. Lily’s so touched by Stefan’s honesty during the day as well as his journal entries about her after he thought she died that she freed Caroline. Valerie, who in 1863 used her amulet to hide from Julian as she walked with Stefan through the Mystic Fall fairgrounds, used the same amulet for an apology to Stefan while he sat on the bench he sat on 150 years earlier while he waited her to return—as her telegraph promised. Stefan’s pensive and reflective by the end of “Age of Innocence,” evidently reconsidering his feelings for Valerie because what he thought wasn’t true, and because his mother loved him enough to keep him close, even if she couldn’t come close to him.

Unfortunately, the progression to those softened souls, the tearful expressions from the remotest parts of Heretic souls, is a drag. I particularly disliked Caroline’s horrified reactions to each turn of the Valerie-Stefan romance, as if the idea Stefan loved someone prior jeopardized her connection with him. Caroline dismissed it, citing Katherine earlier, though curiously omitting Elena (the girl that Stefan loved more than anyone else in his life), until Valerie revealed Stefan lost his virginity to her. What? I know. It’s The CW melodramatic way. Young girls that watch the show probably already took to Twitter to demonize Valerie. The Stefan-Valerie connection aims for heartbreaking passion, but every story turn is banal, trite, clichéd, and a thousand times a trope, made worse by the Julian of it all. He’s a cardboard monster. Is Valerie more sympathetic, more relatable because of this episode? Well, to some, because individuals have different perspectives of the episode, but I think the writers want a complex character that fans like, relate to, sympathize with, while keeping her edge as a volatile Heretic, a threat to what the fans really want: Stefan and Caroline.

The Heretics, except for Oscar, are bland villains. Oscar’s by far the most lively character while the other characters are variations of each other. Julian’s one of those blandly attractive Lifetime villains. Stefan predicted he’d be a bad person because his father murdered him and Damon. Lily said no. She said she loved Julian, and then added he’s the type no woman should fall for. What? A lot of the villains in The Vampire Diaries come from the 19th century. They’re all written with stuffy Victorian characteristics. In other plainer words, they’re all uninteresting, especially the Heretics.

Oscar’s introduction involves the Phoenix stone—that nasty magic stone which will doom the future for the Mystic Falls crew. Three years from now, Stefan’s scar will open, to which Tyler will tell him something along the lines of “You know what’s coming” though Tyler seems amazingly undisturbed. Anyway, the best part of the Damon-led road trip to Myrtle Beach is his backstory with Oscar. Oscar told him to follow his heart by leaving the South. Damon listened, and listening saved his life. The story turns toward the Phoenix stone. Oscar freaked about it. Bonnie scolded Alaric for keeping it. The two then decided to work together to bring Jo back to life. And Damon gave his mom his turns for handing Oscar to her. Valerie ripping Oscar’s heart out will complicate things between Damon and Lily. Stefan may, because of the demands of the plot, begin siding with his mother. It’s season seven, episode three of a twenty-two or twenty-three episode season, so, yeah, this kind of contrivance is expected.

Julie Plec told an interview during the summer that she had enough stories for an eighth season of the series, but I don’t know after these three episodes. The absence of Nina Dobrev doesn’t hurt the show. The Heretics would not improve with or without Elena. Kai revitalized TVD last season, but only a part of it. That season had slog. Season seven’s primarily slog. Now that the info dump is done for another season, the season may improve. I don’t know, though.

Other Thoughts:

-Edith Wharton’s early 20th century novel most likely inspired the episode title. Wharton’s Age of Innocence tells the story of a forthcoming society wedding and the threat of an “exotic and beautiful” femme fatale. TVD has a history of naming episodes after early 20th century novels. I paralleled a late season two episode with Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises because I’m insane.

-I’m into Alaric’s slightly Victorianish gothic necromancy plot. Arrow resurrected a character this week. I don’t know how many resurrections the network allows per season.

-Michael A. Allowitz directed the episode. Melinda Hsu Taylor co-wrote the episode with someone. I missed that someone’s name. My apologies. I know TVD’s writers love reading my reviews. (I jest; they don’t.)

-During the love scene undressing, I laughed because I only thought about the Another Period love scene undressing.

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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.