Friday, February 19, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "This Woman's Work" Review

Rayna Cruz possesses the Slayer look and the Slayer back story, but also another kind of vampire hunter from Buffy’s sister show, ANGEL. Rayna Cruz’s backstory called to mind the tragic history of Holtz. Rayna lived with her hunter father. Her father taught her about the history of the brotherhood. Rayna wanted to become a hunter, but she couldn’t until a hunter died. Julian came to her village fifteen years later. Fifteen years meant her father could train her and teach her how to fight. A vampire hunter, though, needs more than physical strength in a fight. Rayna tried to bargain for her father’s life by warning Julian what would happen if he killed him. He’d go mad, and he’d try to kill himself. Julian compelled Rayna to do it. Her father understood. He shared parting words with her: “Don’t forget.” Rayna would not forget what she learned from him or what Julian made her do to him.

Over a century later she couldn’t kill Julian herself, but she could kill Beau. Low hanging fruit, yes, but killing him effectively terrified the other vampires. Showing what she did to vampires she marked increased the stakes when Stefan took a knife to the heart for Damon. How will Stefan survive Rayna when no one survives Rayna? Shamans gifted her with a long, long life. Her father gifted her with courage, resolve, and a fighting spirit. Damon promised Stefan, after he told him that Elena still lived, he’d kill Rayna with her bare hands to make it right and to bring Stefan back to Caroline.

Presumably, Stefan and Caroline won’t see each other until three years after the birth of Alaric’s children. “This Woman’s Work” seems so near to the narrative time-jump, but Damon hasn’t decided to sleep alongside Elena yet. What’ll compel him to choose the coffin over doing whatever it takes to help Stefan survive Rayna?

Ostensibly, Rayna’s the heroine of any other story, but The Vampire Diaries has been the reverse of Joss Whedon’s Buffy. The vamps Buffy wouldn’t hesitate to slay have become the characters the audience roots for to defeat the slayer. Rayna slightly reminded me of Dana from ANGEL’s “Damage”—a season five episode about the downside of Buffy’s ‘Everyone Becomes a Slayer’ solution in the Buffy series finale. No, Rayna didn’t possess the madness of Dana, caused by childhood trauma related to a sexual predator, but “Damage” and “This Woman’s Work” shared a central theme about coming after people who treated them awfully. The writing in TVD lacks the deep perspective of ANGEL’s last season. TVD portrayed Rayna as sympathetic, strong, fierce, a girl motivated by tragedy, but she’s the Big Bad because she wants the Salvatores. Dana tried and tried to kill Spike. She took his hands. Dana confused Spike for the man that traumatized and hurt her. Spike understood Dana. Angel, too. No, Spike did not hurt Dana, but her hurt many girls and families like the man hurt Dana. Spike accepts that he deserved it. He was a monster. Dana was an innocent victim. Rayna’s an innocent victim. Angel added near the end, “So were we once upon a time.” TVD will never explore that story. Ultimately, the audience will want the gang to stop Rayna because she wants to hurt the gang.

The fight between Rayna and Damon highlights the non-ambivalent writing. Rayna beat Damon. Standing above him ready to send him back to hell, Damon tells her sending him to hell would be redundant as he’s already in hell for killing Elena. Damon doesn’t tell Bonnie what he did to Elena. Enzo threatened to. Stefan didn’t have a chance to tell Alaric or Caroline on account of difficult magic related c-section surgey. Damon could not tell his best friend because nuance has been obliterated in Whitmore/Mystic Falls. Damon, like Dana, was mad, confusing hallucinations for reality. Had Stefan revealed what Damon did to Elena before he saved his brother from being marked, Bonnie and Alaric may’ve decided to let Damon fight his own battle. Stefan will never stop loving his bro, though, so he would’ve done it no matter what. Feeling pain redeems whatever past atrocity either brother or any character committed against someone.

Rayna started the episode as the focal point; however, she gradually became less of an active presence in the show and more of a specter of doom. She spoke less. Damon mentioned his pain, but she didn’t mention that her life and her mission came from pain and is pain. A terse, badass hunter rocks. Rayna’s like a combined Dana, Faith, and Elena. Damon mentioned the resemblance, which then seemed to motivate him more. Perhaps the thought of a doppelganger-like Elena existing hurt too much. Rayna could be an amazing character.

Stefan and Caroline exchanged emotional goodbyes after Rayna marked him. A quick montage of Stefan’s memories with Caroline followed the marking. He promised to keep her company through the pregnancy and after when Alaric took the girls south. The marking changed many things. Caroline followed Alaric to Dallas. In the flash forward, she needs Klaus for a specific reason. Alaric encouraged it, even with his girls in the car. Klaus shouldn’t meet children. Anyway, the first nine of season seven barely featured Stefan and Caroline together. The post-hiatus episodes featured a small improvement in their on-screen togetherness. Evidently, the writers were more interested in the other pairings: Stefan/Valerie and Caroline/Alaric. Their forced parting lacked the emotional punch of Alaric telling her he named one of his daughters after her mother.

All in all, though, “This Woman’s Work” brought the season closer to the good stuff in the flash forwards. Nora and Mary Louise ran away from town. Julian’s done for in flashbacks now. Beau’s gone. Rayna’s a cool character. Enzo revealed he’s working with Matt and Tyler’s secret super group. Not bad.

Other Thoughts:

-Of course, the writers had to concoct a convoluted magic plot for the birth of the twins. I didn’t like that B story. What a tough filming schedule for Matt Davis. He spent ¾ of his part in the episode in a car.

-I badly confused Krystal and Rayna last week, leading to a special kind of bad review. One may not write as badly as I did last week ever again.

-Damon hallucinated Elena in an otherwise empty coffin. I assumed as much. Enzo told him he saw what he wanted. Does this mean more Damon’s not free until he’s free of Elena nonsense?

-Chad Fiveash & James Stoteraux wrote the episode. I missed the director’s name.

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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.