Friday, October 21, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Hello, Brother" Review

We’ve reached the last TVD season premiere ever, and it’s a lackluster episode, as dull as the season finale. Stefan, Bonnie, Caroline, and Alaric searched for answers about what they freed from the vault, and for Damon and Enzo. Of course, Damon’s evil and his switch is off, but Enzo didn’t flip the switch, and his humanity’s the difference between the two. He leaves little clues about what was released from the vault—it’s a siren from Greek mythology—from one paragraph in Homer’s The Odyssey. Bonnie picks it up. By the end, accompanied by song, the siren rises from her bloody water.

The Odyssey’s the origin story for all literature. Homer chronicled Odysseus’ journey home from the Trojan war to his wife, Penelope, through his various trials. Billions of words have been written about the story. William Gass referenced The Odyssey in his essay on evil; Gass underlined the delightful vengeful violence Homer and the Greeks took in depicting the massacre of the suitors. The Odyssey has resonance for TVD in one aspect. It’s the final season of a journey for their characters who have faced similar trials against foes like the sirens and the Cyclops and Scylla and Charybdis but with different names: Klaus, Kai, the council, Rayna, Katherine, and even themselves. Whereas TVD’s writers always depicted the evil parts of people as a switch, Homer showed evil, violence, brutality, revenge, and the worst parts of human nature as that: an intrinsic part of human nature.

Damon is past the point of hope in his 47th turn as an evil, murderous vampire. I thought Plec and Williamson would used the possession as their ‘out’ for whatever horrible violence Damon and Enzo commit, but they’re committed to redeeming Damon through his faithlessness in himself. He can’t be saved, he thinks, but a corner of his brain remains lighted by Elena, and she’ll be his redemption and a reward, as Penelope is for Ulysses, at the end of this story.

Until then, we go through the motions with the brothers. Stefan hated saving Damon last season, but he’s utterly destroyed by Damon blaming him for ruining him over a century ago. He loses hope as Bonnie restores hers. Enzo actively fights the possession for her. So, they’ll continue trying to save who they love most in life (while writing about it for Elena).

Alaric and Caroline engage in busywork. They learn a few things that’ll help the narrative in a few episodes, but it’s not especially compelling. The most unbelievable part of the episode in an episode that reveals sirens are real, with one living in the water eating humans, with the one paragraph Enzo and Bonnie read in The Odyssey informing the central narrative of the season, and, you know, with vampires, was when Alaric’s hot coworker tried to sleep with him in the formerly possessed vault.

I had a small but unrealistic hope that TVD would surprise the audience by returning Damon (and Enzo) to himself by the end of episode and by ending the story with the supposed Big Bad; however, even if they had used that twist, a new big bad would be introduced, and the same beats of investigations, road trips, threads to families, and all that would repeat as it has repeated for the last several years.

TVD struggled last season. This season, its last, has six less episodes, but Julie Plec and her writers had a full season to learn what worked and what didn’t with Nina Dobrev. They have the advantage of a final season and the nostalgia that comes with the final season. LOST used the sideways to pull at the nostalgia of fans, but Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, Eddie Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, and the other writers wrote a good, quality final season. The teaser of “Hello, Brother” resembled the teaser in the “Pilot”. The last act had Elena from the “Pilot”.  Nostalgia helps distract viewers from a bad final season, but it’s not enough. I wrote at the top of the review that this episode’s as dull as the finale. I hope the season’s not as dull as last season, but it may be.

Other Thoughts:

-I’ll carefully watch which cast members have checked out. The CW announced the end of the show after Ian Somerhalder announced season eight would be his last. Kat Graham announced it’d be her last too. This show would continue like Supernatural if Ian and Paul Wesley wanted to continue. Thankfully, they don’t. Ian seemed sedated. Paul projected a kind of apathy. The others seemed “checked in”.

-Welcome to the final season of TVD and of my TVD reviews. It’s my seventh season writing about the show. I could’ve written 2 or 3 novels, probably, if I wrote those novels instead of these reviews.

-Julie Plec & Kevin Williamson wrote this episode. Welcome back, KW. Michael A. Allowitz 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.