The Vampire Diaries "Pictures of You" Review: Prom Bite

By Andy Daglas

Apr 19, 2013

The Vampire Diaries S04E19: "Pictures of You"

One of the ripest running jokes stemming from the Vampire Diaries-verse is that Mystic Falls gussies itself up for one soiree or another every ninth day or so. It’s true, this show does love to stage episodes around a party, or a ball, or a Founder’s Something or Another. But it’s a running joke told with affection, because said episodes are often exceptionally strong ones. They tend to let the show ground its sometimes-sprawling plots in and around one setting, let it take stock of things, and then push forward with a major development or two.

“Pictures of You” didn’t do that. What it mainly did was expose many of the ruts Season 4 has been stuck in. Namely: Damon and Stefan keep trying to reawaken Elena’s emotions, Elena keeps irritatedly rebuffing them (they’ve clearly never read that hoary old adage about the definition of insanity). Bonnie’s involuntary magic keeps flaring up and setting things on fire. Klaus snarls some more threats at Tyler and then stands around so he can run away. (Hey, at least it’s been so many weeks since that last one happened that it almost felt fresh. Almost.)

Sure, there were some pleasant scenes and a neat twist or two. Nina Dobrev continued to have a blast playing Evil Elena with just the right balance of vindictiveness and insouciance. Elijah made the most of his level-headed family arbitration; even better was the reveal of Silas duping him, which mimicked a classic present/future cross-cutting scene beautifully to disguise what was, by that point, at least the third different Silas fake-out.

As the show’s lodestone of humanity, Matt remains the best, calling Rebekah on her shit and spurring her to overcome it with equal gumption. And now that Bonnie’s had a chance to properly grieve for Jeremy, she’s in a strange and potentially fruitful place, teetering on the edge of a Dark Phoenix scenario where her ability to rein in her growing power might also depend on becoming someone willfully, instead of inadvertently, dangerous. (Would that the show might explore this from a genuine interest in Bonnie as a character, rather than a plot device.)

These were all character-based highlights, and those keep me hooked even when the story is kind of a mess. On the narrative front, though, the episode was a worryingly common Season 4 exercise in wheel-spinning.

Part of the problem is that, until this season, for an aggressively serialized show, TVD hasn’t done a big season-long story arc on the scale of Race for the Cure 2013™, and now it’s struggling to pull one off. Past seasons have assembled strings of shorter, more focused story arcs, with each one overlapping with and catalyzing the next. That’s what's let the show maintain its signature breakneck plotting, hitting the turbo boosters on one story just as the prior one was running out of steam.

Portions of this season have veered in that direction, but underlying everything has been the cure and Silas’s scheme. The drawback of being entirely serialized is that TVD doesn’t have enough story engines to generate self-contained episodes on top of which the season-long elements can just skate for a few weeks here and there. So when the momentum of the primary arc stalls, there’s not a lot to fall back on, narratively.

“Pictures of You” made abundantly clear another reason why the show does a better job with shorter arcs: The plots are so patently ridiculous that the longer you stop and think about them, the less sense they make. Now, ridiculousness is not inherently a problem for a show about sexy vampires and witches stabbing each other in between boot-knockings. It only becomes a problem when the show starts taking its plots this seriously, rather than shrugging them off as, essentially, a big bag of MacGuffins (*cough* Sun and Moon Curse *cough*).

Being reminded of the same harebrained schemes week after week exposes how flimsy they are. I have long since stopped caring about whether Silas wants to die and tear down the veil, or tear it down first and then die, or not die but give the veil a lovely new coat of paint. I’m tired of updating the spreadsheet of who currently has the cure, wants to take the cure, wants to destroy the cure, wants to give the cure to someone else, or wants to listen to The Cure while reviewing a TV episode titled after one of their songs.

And yet the writers want me to care about these things so badly. And I expect they will continue to insist that I care about them for the next four weeks. Yet all I want to do is move on to the next batch of supernatural silliness and sex and stabbings. Shit or get off the pot already, show.



Notes & Quotes

– Caroline, as usual, had her ups and down. Plus column: that dress; offering a shoulder for Stefan to lean on; sharing the flask with Damon; getting to dance with her man; that dress. Minus column: Abandoning the event her entire party-planning career has been building up to doesn’t strike me as a win for Caroline Forbes. She surrendered the night to Elena with scarcely a fight, rather than sticking it out with her friends as planned (did she even say five words to Matt and Bonnie?). And the less I say about the utter pointless incongruity of slinking off to Klaus to raid his closet for evening wear, the safer I’ll be.

TVD’s traditional early scene exposition dumps are seldom artful, but if the show wants to have the Salvatore boys toss around the ol’ pigskin while catching us up every week, I would be totally cool with that.

– Elena ganking Caroline’s dress was such a predictable yet hilarious dick move that I wish we could get a whole episode of just them trying to out-mean-girl one another.

– Is it just me, or did Damon’s forcible corsage application have, let’s say, uncomfortable overtones?

– It was sweet—or, y’know, as close as TVD gets to sweet—to bring Jeremy and Tyler out of mothballs so that everyone could take part in the prom episode. It was less sweet that Jeremy was only a demonic delusion, but in Mystic Falls you take your moments of happiness where you can find ‘em.

– Matt’s freshman-year hair. That is all.

– Sorry, Rebekah, but I don’t think “I used my vampire powers to save a person’s life” would piss off Big Bro all that much. He’s not testing your biological humanity.

– 'Sup, Klaus? Katherine here. Hey, I heard there’s a bunch of cool and dangerous shit happening in New Orleans. Might take five or six seasons to sort through it all, if we’re lucky. So you can officially forget about your centuries-long obsession with me for a little while and go do that! Kthxbai.

– Oh, hey, Silas actually has his own actor now! And from the brief glimpse we got, I suspect he is not someone who typically appears on your average CW casting-call roster.

– “You of all lovesick fools should applaud his devotion.”

– “Why do I feel like we’re at a practice run of Caroline’s wedding?”

– “Is this real?” “Does it matter?”

– “Hindsight is almost a bigger bitch than you.”

– “So technically, you’re a walking reminder of all the horrible things that have happened to me.”

– “I know you said to kill her with kindness, but can’t I just kill her?”

– “You’re not a good person. You’re not going to win this cure by being yourself, so just stand there and refrain from talking. Okay?”

– “It is such a hollow little life that you lead, Niklaus.”

– “Lemme guess: An extremely handsome man came up to you claiming to be me.”

– “Talked about his hair. Figured it had to be you.”


What'd you think of "Pictures of You"?

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  • TeVaerua Apr 23, 2013

    Every time I hear that Fall Out Boy song I think of Klaus (due to this week's promo), so of course I'm falling in love with it.

  • bethm06 Apr 22, 2013

    Season 4: the season in which Julie Plec beat multiple dead horses.

    Between sire bonds, the never-ending quest for the cure, Caroline and Tyler repeatedly being separated/reunited/separated, Stefan continually proclaiming he is over Elena and then still obviously having feelings for her, and wayyyy too many episodes devoted to Elena getting her humanity back, this season is totally uninspired and keeps dragging boring plots on and on. Please stop this nonsense and just give us a Klaus + Caroline romance, a few more scenes of Bonnie actually being interesting and badass and using her magic, and some more violent hybrid massacres.

  • eliana1st Apr 24, 2013

    amen

  • feramy05 Apr 22, 2013

    Julie Plec, please take note of Tv's review, b/c it sums up everything that has been wrong with this season. Save two or three episodes, the season has been an entire waste.

    I'm not a shipper, and I don't care who she gets with at this point, but if you're going to pair her with both brother's throughout the series, at least give her a longer relationship with Damon than like, four episodes, and maybe make it without the stupid sire bond attachment.

    Also, while I once was looking forward to the spin off with the originals, now I am almost feel that things are written in stone with some of our characters b/c they are leaving for this other show. What's the likelyhood that Rebekah will turn human? Not likely given the circumstances. What's the chances of Klaus and Caroline ever happening? Um zilch if Klaus becomes a permanent on another show. And since I couldn't care less about this neverending Silas story, these are the little things I would normally hold onto, the hopes for these characters. With their fates already seemingly determined, I find myself less invested. And I love this show. :(

  • bethm06 Apr 22, 2013

    Can I get an AMEN! I've been watching all season and I still don't understand the Silas story and honestly, I don't really care enough to want to understand it. The only characters I care about anymore are Caroline and the Originals, and with Klaus + co going off to their own show, it means the few remaining interesting straws on this show are gonna be gone.

  • KateSullivan Apr 21, 2013

    I finally got around to watching this sheerly because my deliberate plan for the day was to watch a double header of baseball today and my neighbor decided to vacuum at nine in the morning (one more time I am doing the same at ten at night) and had this and defiance to watch. Really all this did for me is actually kind of feel something like sympathy for Silas only to discover we are going to likely ignore that story next week just like we didn't get any real episode where Bonnie really got to mourn Jeremy. I think I might like defiance though....

  • coolhandkate Apr 21, 2013

    Episode 19 and I feel like nothing has been accomplished all season.

  • safibwana Apr 21, 2013

    It's not been a good season, but a few things were accomplished:
    1. One of the most useless teen characters was killed off.
    2. One of the useless adult characters was killed off.
    3. Elena got a personality.
    4. Matt was rescued from a life on the streets.

  • sraley2 Apr 23, 2013

    #4-FTW

  • TeVaerua Apr 22, 2013

    Agreed, I'm most certainly not missing Jeremy, plus his death was what made Elena awesome so it's hard to find fault with that!

  • AdeleTeras Apr 21, 2013

    Yeah it was a meh episode for me, had it's moments but wasn't definitely on the level the show has set for itself. I think this show always needs a great villain, and for me there is no one better than Klaus but because he is not the villain anymore (not at least for me), that job is on Sylas now. But to be honest, I do not really give a frak about him. I am not impressed by him at all. Maybe now when he actually has a face he will come together as someone with real juice rather than just someone who can make you hallucinate. As Elijah put it, what is the big deal with that? You wont actually get hurt, you are an immortal, almighty being, suck it up.
    I think Klaus needs a better story arc, he IS the most compelling character for me. (You might guess how excited I am about this spin-off, it better deliver.) And less Bonnie, please less Bonnie, I can't put my finger on it, but she just bores me to death.
    Matt and Rebekah are cool, they are genuine characters that I would love to see more of. So there, I do not know ... I am on the fence about this season and the episode. Just, meh, I guess, I hope it will get more interesting and they will introduce higher stakes and faster pace.

  • sraley2 Apr 21, 2013

    "The plots are so patently ridiculous that the longer you stop and think about them, the less sense they make. Now, ridiculousness is not inherently a problem ... It only becomes a problem when the show starts taking its plots this seriously..."

    I couldn't agree more with you, Andy Daglas. But let's take that idea a step further.
    Don't you ever find it ridiculous how seriously you write a review about a show that is virtually impossible to take seriously? You write very well, but I think you're missing the point.

    This show is crazy popular, but not because most of the people who tune in honestly believe it is the superbly written masterpiece that some 14-year-old kids might believe it is. It's popular because it's ridiculous. Maybe you should try to embrace that and cultivate your humorous side when taking on the task of reviewing it.

    I know that I am not the only one who will say "I only watch this show because of Price Peterson's recaps. Damn, I miss Price."
    No offense to you or your writing, but these reviews need more levity. And in the process of attempting to find the humor in all of this silliness, you might alleviate some of your frustration.

  • bleumystique Apr 21, 2013

    Great review! You pretty much covered everything that anyone could have possibly said about this episode and some. I mean this, all of this, I so agree.
    -The thing about this show is that, even on a slow episode they still have interesting characters, pretty people, and entertaining dialogue, so it's never a complete wash. The witty lines being slung around in this episode were nothing short of entertaining.
    -I must say that I may have actually enjoyed Bonnie the most in this episode. It's weird, because Bonnie has never been my favorite character. I have a tendency of taking out my frustrations for the writers for just not doing the character any justice, out on Bonnie. I mean, she's mostly used as a plot device or a self righteous, judgmental pain in the arse. There is no getting around that. This season though, I've thoroughly enjoyed her. Dare I say, I've found her more tolerable and even likeable than Caroline these days. It's as though they've switched places on my list of characters arranged from favorite to least favorite. I find that shocking. Bonnie still isn't everything I wanted and needed her to be as a character. I still harbor residual resentment and mollified rage at her portrayal for...reasons, but I've definitely enjoyed her more. Great moments in this episode, what with her mourning Jer in her dream, the tender and twisted moments she had with Jer/Silas, and thrilling moment when she was attempting to kill Evilena. Fantastic. Loved it. It isn't like we thought Elena would die, or that Elena would kill Bonnie, I mean Elena is the lead and surely Bonnie dying would violate some sort of rule what with her being the sole mino...I mean, witch.
    -Honestly, I've only enjoyed Caroline this season when she's interacting with Klaus or with Stefan, and even then she still can sometimes find a way to get on my every last nerve. What the hell happened to Caroline? I was done with her in this episode when she came whining to Klaus about needing a dress. Like what?! Seriously?! I swear she's in the makings for being a "kept woman" and I don't like it one bit. She attempts to seduce and charm Klaus all the while not seducing and charming him. She thinks she gets over on him, even though he always knows what she's doing. She thinks he's giving her what she wants when he doesn't necessarily do that. She gets pissed. He shrugs it off. Oh boy. But going to his mansion and pleading for a dress that more than likely belonged to some dead chick he drained and killed fifty years ago was just too much. I think I said it on twitter. You know the wife of the serial killer that pretends to be oblivious to the fact that she's donning trinkets and trophies from the victims of her husband? Caroline Forbes ya'll.
    -I've never been a huge fan of bitchy Rebekah, but Rebekah and Evilena together are something special to watch. I love it.
    - I swear when they were showing Tyler I thought it was Silas. I mean he already appeared as everybody else in this episode. Sometimes it seemed like he was even doing it at the same time, which was fudgin freaky, but whatever. The whole invasion of the body snatchers thing is getting old though. We've seen it too many times before on this show. I think these kids need to come up with a safe word or secret password or something to toss out there just to make sure if the person they are talking to is really the person they are talking to. At one point I thought Silas was going to shape-shift into Sheriff Forbes' cat or something, but maybe I was having Animorphs flashbacks or something. I don't know.
    -I love it when the Salvatores bond. I don't love it when they start pining after the same girl at the same time, while being aware that they are pining after the same girl at the same time, but trying to avoid mentioning that they are pining after the same girl at the same time, and yet still eluding to it. I also love how they think that no woman is capable of being immune to their charms and attempts at seduction. So cute those Salvatore boys.
    -I can watch the original siblings all day. Rebekah trying to be sweet was nice to watch. Elijah can just stand there and I'd watch him for hours, and even though he got duped in this episode, in a way that struck me as uncharacteristic, I still adored him. Klaus was a bit more of a jackass in the episode, but he's Klaus so who cares? It felt, though, liek they were just all hanging around waiting for their cue to be relevant. Which brings me to Katherine, the awesomer one of the plot devices. What the devil was with the letter? That was probably one of the worst of them all. Of all the ways they could have segued into Klaus returning to NOLA, that was so far on the bottom it should have been overlooked. I don't even have the words to describe that special kind of stupidity. But Ill shrug it off because the Mikaelsons are heading to New Orleans, dammit! My beloved Elijah, my kickass Klaus, a city filled with beauty and culture and I almost fell out of my chair when I seen...*gasp* more than one ethnic minority! Boom.

  • Vicky8675309 Apr 21, 2013

    great review!
    I'm only watching now for Damon's lines and looks....the show has gone downhill imo. If Elena goes back to the boring brother then that's it for me. I don't want a mopey Damon. Otherwise bored with the love triangle which the show will never give up and pretty much bored with the rest of the show--but Damon gets the best lines and is magical eye candy:-)

    off to read the comments...

  • eliana1st Apr 21, 2013

    loved this review Andy,.... thank you,....
    I think the show has trouble doing longer and more complex storylines is the fact that over and over again it insists on the show being all about Elena,... who is by far the most boring and predictable character of them all,.... the cure storyline could have been very interesting,... but even though Elena taking the cure has become very much irrelevant the writers still remind us every 17 seconds that it all is for her,... Rebekah wants the cure and how an original can get her hands on the cure ? team up with Elena,... which is why the first 30 seconds of this episode was nice,... for a short while we were allowed to be engaged in a story that did not involve Elena,... they have made us care about these characters and basically all of them are plot devices to create stories around Elena,... I am sorry,... this I-still-dresses-and-try-to-kill-everyone-Elena is just as plane of a character as I-will-throw-up-kindness-and-forgiveness-all-over-you-Elena,...

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