The post-hell world hurts the brothers more than the hell world. Henry continued to haunt Damon because of his duty to liberate him. Damon continued to haunt Stefan. Stefan, before his friends brought his soul out of the phoenix stone, experienced a watery loop in which he’d save his brother every time, but he didn’t find release until he let him drown. Exploring the true selves of the brothers is old hat for The Vampire Diaries. Every season explores the depths of the brothers, their dark sides, and their light sides. Damon concluded that his light parts may temporarily outshine his darkness, but he’s dark. Stefan concluded that he’d never give up on or abandon his brother. Both don’t find a secondary catharsis in their post-hell epiphanies. Stefan doesn’t know Damon burned Elena’s body, and Damon’s not feeling that nice catharsis after burning the love of his life’s body.
Re-exploring the psychology of the brothers is fine, but their respective psychologies have little surprises left for the viewer. The writers, then, must up the stakes. The longer a show continues, the bigger the stakes become when so much of the thematic ground has been traversed in previous seasons. The Elena burning was nifty, as was the fake Damon reveal. Stefan couldn’t trust Damon alone because of post-hell trauma. Indeed, Damon immediately saw Henry peering down at him from the second floor of the Lockwood residence. Stefan cannot disrupt the new violent community Julian started in Mystic Falls, because the good guys always make regrettable deals with the bad guys. Damon and Stefan toured the new Mystic Falls together while working through their respective hell experiences. Stefan felt less sharing. His experiences come in different flashbacks. His anchor is Caroline. Neither brother helps the other at all. Stefan eventually sees a false Damon. Damon, free from Stefan for a moment, kills Julian’s favorite goon after seeing Henry’s form instead of the goon.
Damon saw Henry in the coffin. Tyler brought Damon to the coffin after being threatened. Elena kept Damon sane. Being with her made Damon a being of light, the closest he’s been to emulating his heroic brother, and so in his moment of need, desperation, and emotional distress, he wanted to see the woman that changed his life. Of course, he saw Henry, the visible reminder of the worst day of his life in which he committed the worst atrocity of his life (soon followed by thousands and thousands of atrocities). Damon tried to destroy Henry in the coffin by doing what Stefan couldn’t do. Stefan had Caroline to keep him balanced. She’s his light. Elena’s Damon’s light, but Kai and his mother put her in the sleeping beauty coma. Elena can’t stop him from burning Henry (which is her). Henry caused the two worst atrocities of Damon’s life. His ghostly soldier reminded Damon that without Elena—or the promise of Elena—he’d be free to be himself.
Aside from the hell is other people concept, hell’s also heavy into solipsism. Caroline emphasized the falsity of the hell world to Stefan. She called it false, fake, and alternate. “Hell is other people” represents one perspective. Another perspective is “hell is a life without other people.” Stefan would be a lesser Stefan without Damon, as Damon would be a lesser Damon without Stefan and Elena. They need each other. Breaking solipsism breaks the loop in hell and post-hell. It’s old thematic ground. Maybe TVD crafted the hell loop within the narrative to create a secondary meta loop for the viewer around the idea of the brother’s true selves.
3/4s of the way through “Things We Lost in the Fire” Nora revealed to Bonnie the cryptic note sent to her by The Huntress, the true big bad of season seven. Evidently, Nora escaped ill feelings after sending the Salvatores’ souls into the stone. TVD episodes need a party. Caroline’s baby shower brought the party. Caroline’s baby shower largely dwelt with her growing attachment to the babies growing inside her and her mixed feelings about detaching from them after their born and in Alaric’s care. Nora showed at the party after Bonnie invited her because she, Bonnie, felt bad that Nora had no friends. Matt didn’t like it owning to the body count created by Nora. Bonnie’s indifferent about Matt’s feelings, which leads to Matt drinking (off-screen), being pulled over by a cute cop, and setting in motion events that’ll lead to him, three years from the present, using Caroline to find Stefan for The Huntress. (One may see Matt turned heel by the slight difference in his hair style; he let the bangs hang). Nora revealed The Huntress wipes out every vampire she wants to. No one can stop her. She’s the wind of their supernatural world. Melinda Hsu Taylor weaved a nifty web of stories present and future, B and C stories.
Caroline and Stefan had a substantial amount of scenes this season. The characters worked better as friends with possible romantic feelings for each other last season. Something’s not working this season for them as a couple. The Valerie of the front nine hurt the dynamic. Perhaps the flash forwards affected it. It’s clear Caroline chooses to move with Alaric and the twins to Southern. Stefan and Valerie rekindle their romance sometime between the present day narrative and three years in the future. I dug the thematic idea of Caroline as his light and Damon as his darkness; however, Elena’s always going to be the light for Stefan in my mind, because I have a memory, and I haven’t yet retconned my memory.
“Things We Lost in the Fire” maintains the solidness of “Hell Is Other People”. I liked tonight’s episode, though ending with the flash-forward continues the speculation about all the great stuff happening then, in three years. Now, it’s Julian and the biker gang? Terrible.
-Yes, Julian found himself a motorcycle gang. The last motorcycle gang I saw in a vampire show was Buffy’s two-part season six premiere. No, it wasn’t good. Season 6 is the nadir of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Julian already lacked any compelling characteristics; he’s a lame-duck Big Bad; and he has a biker gang. A stupid biker gang.
-I should've assumed the twist ending from "Hell Is Other People" would be easily resolved within seconds. Death's so easy to correct in this show.
-Tyler returned for the baby shower. He loves his post-Mystic Falls life. Damon bashed his skull into the ground.
-I would have invited Nora to the baby shower as well.
-Enzo seems to have disappeared from the series. I hope Matt’s first date with the Whitmore cop ends with him taking her to Enzo’s cell. She asked after his weapons collection. Also, Matt mentioned he lost his entire life, including his girlfriend, when he tells Caroline to get the hell out of his sight. Whatever happiness Matt experiences will not last.
-Melinda Hsu Taylor wrote the episode. Paul Wesley directed.