Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Requiem for a Dream" Review

This seventh season has been a loose, baggy mess held slightly together by loose themes, namely the Damon/Bonnie bond, the Stefan/Caroline bond, and Damon’s bad behavior. Julie Plec and Caroline Dries discussed returning Damon to his season one bad boy ways, adding a little twist that he wants to make up for his previous poor choices. But Damon the Character has never been a choice between being bad and good. He is who he is, a selfish, violent, brutal person without remorse for what he’s done. Stefan told his brother he thought his advice, which was choosing the extreme option for saving the one you love, was terrible advice. It is. Damon’s choices are mostly terrible. His myopia limits him and leads to pain for the people he cares about most.  

The story of Damon Salvatore in season seven has been a growing self-awareness, beginning in his personal phoenix stone hell in which he admitted he missed his mother. Damon, though, was unused to a self-aware life. When Stefan and the other people in his life blamed him for each and every bad thing in their lives, Damon retreated to a coffin next to Elena’s. His choice caused more pain than not, particularly for Bonnie who felt bonded and tethered to him in a special way after their time in a hell-loop together. The final act of the season concerned the fraught relationship between Damon and Bonnie. How would they reconcile after he broke her trust by abandoning her and leaving only a letter behind to explain himself? Obviously, the letter’s the key to their reconciliation.

The only way for the writers to escalate the drama is through a narrative device. The Heretics storyline existed for the sake of taking the brothers through their complicated relationship with their mother. The hell world’s allowed the writers to explore the fundamental psychology of both brothers to find what they needed and didn’t need from each other. Bonnie as the huntress lets the character work through her aggressively angry and violent feelings about Damon without sacrificing the character—like the ‘switch off’ storylines. Damon and Bonnie haven’t meaningfully untangled their twisted relationship until the shaman imbued her with the huntress’ hatred of vampires; then, they got deep into the past: how Damon only saved Bonnie early in the seasons because Elena wouldn’t forgive him if he didn’t, to name one of things they worked through late in “Requiem for a Dream.” This experience will bring them closer together.

Bonnie didn’t immediately wake after Rayna died. She wanted to die rather than hurt her friends. Stefan pitched an idea to help her fight the demons of the curse by her friends entering her mind to remind her not all vampires deserve death. Caroline volunteered first, and she quickly failed. Enzo did a little better, but Bonnie marked him with a broken guitar. Damon tried next. The conceit of the episode probably came out of the writers discussing Damon getting through to her. He got two shots: one to convince her to wake up by making her hate him more and desiring his death (where they worked through the unpleasant muck of their past).

His second happened during their climactic fight scene. A caveat of Matt helping her hold onto her humanity was him helping her kill Damon. Again, they worked through their issues, physically this time. Bonnie bloodied her boy up, and Damon took every shot. As she prepared to kill him, he asked her to forgive him for hurting her before he died, and he took responsibility for his own death. Bonnie cried, paused, and then acted to drive the stake through his heart, but Matt saved the day. He stopped her from making a grave mistake she’d hate herself for all her life. Damon getting through to her was the emotional crux of the episode. Now, the gang will fix her. Unfortunately, they’ll release the next Big Bad from the vault.

For Caroline and Stefan to work through their issues, Caroline needed to experience Stefan’s experienced as a marked vampire. Experiencing it for herself didn’t put her in a forgiving mood. Why would someone who loved her abandon her? Her on the run with Stefan seems to be a slight detour. Stefan’s questions about her feelings for Alaric went unanswered. The triangle has the dramatic juice of a block of wood, so it won’t linger through the summer. She’ll have to make a choice between her domestic life and her love for Stefan.  The former couple failed to make progressive strides, but it was nice to see Candice King and Paul Wesley share an episode together.

The Bonnie and Damon story strengthened “Requiem for a Dream.” The audience feels invested in the relationship, so it matters to them. So much in this wayward season hasn’t meant much to the audience, or meant much to the narrative, but they matter, their history matters, and their catharsis matters. Likewise, Caroline and Stefan’s a dynamic that has infinitely more to it than Stefan and Valerie. The characters have come together at the end, which might promise a less confused, more stable season. Shows don’t need shallow hooks such as a time-jump if they’re hitting the right beats. Finally, late in the season, the show is hitting the right emotional beats.

Other Thoughts:

-Enzo saw Bonnie in her season one style. The song that played in the beginning of the scene was The Starting Line’s “Anyway”. I rarely know any songs in an episode, but I know The Starting Line. I’ve been a fan of the band since 2001. I interviewed them in 2003. I created a fanzine for the purpose of interviewing them. “Anyway” is a wonderful song with a parallel theme to the heart of the Bonnie/Damon conflict. Kenny sings about the past, his life, and making up for past mistakes. My favorite line is, “I know we’ve undergone a lot of pain, because it’s so hard to be human in so many ways.”

-Jeremy couldn’t help his ex-girlfriend with her huntress cruse? Young bull’s a hunter.

-Matt’s scene with Bonnie prior to the Damon fight scene was great, a little narrative flashback to the days he was close to her, Caroline, and Elena.

-Brett Matthews & Neil Reynolds wrote the episode. Paul Wesley directed.

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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.