The Vampire Diaries "Stand By Me" Review: Stages of Grief

By Andy Daglas

Feb 22, 2013

The Vampire Diaries S04E15: "Stand By Me"

Killing a central character is a huge card for a TV show to play. Essentially you’re shutting down a whole avenue for stories and closing off a network of relationships you’ve spent time constructing. If you’re going to do that, the payoff has to enrich the characters and relationships that remain. Play that card to generate compelling stories and drive significant character development, and it’s worth it. Play it just to wring some tears out of the moment and ride an emotional catharsis, and it’s manipulation.

“Stand by Me” was a masterful example of the former. Jeremy’s death, once Elena allowed herself to grasp it, utterly obliterated her, pushing her to a place where, at Damon’s behest, she relinquished her last inkling of humanity. For all the shaky plotting and shifting motivations that propelled the race for the cure, the entire storyline has been elevated by this tragic irony. The quest to make Elena Gilbert human again has culminated in her choosing to become fully a monster.

Nina Dobrev had to carry the episode even as her character was mostly caught in the undertow for the first half, and she turned in a terrific performance all the way through. From balancing both an assured mode of denial and a fragile one, to sinking into despondency as reality set in, to then escalating her flood of grief into a maelstrom of rage and hopelessness and fire accelerants, she nailed every note (“There’s no room in the Gilbert family plot”). The gradual shift in her face from ruin to numbness when Elena switched off her emotions was uncannily fluid.

Ever since vampirizing its heroine, I’ve been curious to see if the show would cross that Rubicon. Doing so could be fruitful, or it could be disastrous, but either way they’ve laid the appropriate groundwork to make such a devastating descent—realizing Elena’s oft-expressed worst fears—plausible. The episode foreshadowed early on that it might pull the trigger, too. That fear was clearly in the back of Stefan’s mind when he trailed off contemplating what would become of Elena, “now without any family...” This was the only potential outcome so unthinkable as to make both Stefan and Caroline unflinchingly accept Damon manipulating Elena through the sire bond as a necessary recourse. Even then, in the wake of her near-self-immolation, nobody put up too much of a fight when Damon ultimately decided the switch-off would be the lesser evil.

Yet for a while it appeared such drastic measures wouldn’t be necessary. Matt—who knows a thing or two about losing a younger sibling—almost got through to her, reinforcing again how theirs is quietly one of this show’s most potent relationships. Their sojourn very nearly sent the episode down the opposite path, one which still would have held true to an aspect of TVD’s thematic heart: pulling Elena back from the brink by tapping into her strongest human connection, rather than her strongest mystical one.

Ol’ Matt might’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids and their millennia-old vengeance-fueled ghost-demon. This being The Vampire Diaries, the show can’t take its foot off the gas to mourn for too long. Enter Bonnie (none the worse for wear despite the shit that went down at Silas’s Cavern on the Green), armed with a bushel of Mystic Falls’s most abundant renewable resource: Cataclysmically insane plans!

“Stand by Me” gained some of that old TVD steam here at its midpoint, in a sequence that did about as tidy and dynamic a job possible of dumping a metric ton of convoluted exposition. It hit on every stage of the reveal (Shane/Silas to Bonnie, Damon to Stefan, Bonnie to the gang), brought in all the key opinions (most of which, suitably, boiled down to, “WTF?!”), and even built the whole thing into the crescendo of white noise that battered through Elena’s last defense. Healthy grieving just isn’t possible when one of your friends or another is always trying to magically jailbreak an entire purgatory dimension.

All because Elena’s not the only one unhinged by the tragedy, nor is Damon the worst grief counselor under the circumstances. Bonnie is wounded deeply enough that she surrendered all doubts and reason and hitched her wagon to Shane-cum-Silas and his kooky scheme of reviving every supernatural entity that’s ever bitten the dust. (Basically he’s Walter Peck at the end of Ghostbusters, and Bonnie is the Con Ed guy. Do I have that right?)

Now, this was a great episode for Bonnie, and for Kat Graham, who’s gracefully walking a fine line between understandable psychic disarray and outright bugnuttery. I’ve generally been a fan of her material all season. I think that could continue, as she’s the linchpin between the good guys and the mythical scary apocalypse monster. That said, I will be severely disappointed if this season ends with Bonnie going full-on Dark Willow. It’s bad enough that Silas has somehow seen enough Buffy the Vampire Slayer to cop The First’s M.O.; let’s try to be a little more inventive with our Big Bad, shall we, show?


NOTES


– The episode’s first gut-punch moment for me: “What’s that smell?” “It’s his body.” Oof.

– I appreciated the moments spent indulging the others’ grief as well. Matt spent all day propping up Elena and Bonnie, and so couldn’t even make it home before breaking down in his own pain. Caroline, in a bit of denial, unburdened herself into the void of a voice mailbox she acknowledged Tyler will never hear.

– Damon’s mildly impressed regard for Rebekah’s eloquent sadism was a welcome spot of comedy. They should play “bad cop/worse cop” more often.

– Speaking of Rebekah, the poor girl got ditched once again, left to finish the table-setting work up in Fauxva Scotia. And hey, Vaughn was around to screw with her head, because it’s been like three days since anyone last tried to screw with Rebekah’s head.

– After so many spleen-venting conversations on that front porch, watching Elena, Stefan, and Damon stride off it and away from the burning Gilbert homestead carried an effective sense of finality, if not closure. Also it looked damn cool.

– “Aren’t you Elena’s current love? It’s so hard to keep track these days.”

– “Poison your best friend once and suspicion follows you forever.”

– “Damon Logic.” Patent pending.

– “She lost her brother. I’m not enough. Not this time.”

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  • _Fire_Ice Mar 28, 2013

    I do have to give this episode a thumbs up for ripping out my heart and stomping on it. I didn't cry till like 10 minutes in when Matt showed up, that was the saddest thing ever. I also super love the Damon/Bonnie hug it reminded me of those days long ago in season one where I wanted them together. I am also REALLY glad we are going to get an evil Elena, maybe now she won't be so boring. Though this episode I did appreciate the emotion, it was one of the first times I felt genuine despair wash over her.
    This episode also really made me sorta want Elena to be human again, only because I think her and Matt should be together, now I know that will never happen cause the end game is always gonna be Stefan and Elena, but I just really think Elena shouldn't be with Damon or Stefan and Matt and her always seem to have this connection that overcomes everyone else’ even Damon and Stefan’s.
    The final thing I loved was Damon’s brother comment, it made me tear up a little and was actually one of the most touching moments because it was so subtle. The whole Damon wouldn’t be able to handle life without Stefan thing was friggin adorable.
    But by far the funniest moment was that everyone pretended they actually cared about Bonnie when she finally showed up, but all the dialogue about saving her and finding her was, naturally, just to make her figure out a way to save Jeremy, that killed me, I got a good laugh outta that one.

  • _Fire_Ice Mar 28, 2013

    OK so now that I'm done my thesis papers I can catch up on all the awesome I have missed from TVD. I have some how managed to avoid spoilers but I hear ep. 18 is a Klaroline episode, so I guess I can forgive this one for having no Klaus. But there are still a lot of things that irritated me about this episode more than it probably should have and I don’t know why. Maybe because it triggered memories of the Kol murder / vampire genocide that took place. The characters willingness to kill mass amounts of people to save one person, is really starting to get old, I appreciate the sane people in the episode for finally putting their foot down and saying no, but no doubt if it was about Elena instead of Jeremy this would have gone another way. Other random thing that was annoying about this episode was the unnecessary flashbacks, literally the flashback was to something that happened like 10 seconds ago.
    I particularly loved that they could smell a body decaying from outside the house but Rebekah couldn’t notice one until she almost tripped over it.
    Also have mixed feeling about burning down the house, I know they were going for emotional impact, but I know we are gonna have to hear a lot of crying over it later once she inevitably gets her humanity back. Which is why I think I was even more irritated by the reasoning for it, I mean does anyone honestly think the people of Mystic Falls are going to question someones death, the only people that do that are the ones that already know that it was probably something supernatural and thus wouldn’t mention it. Plus Elena totally told April like how many hours in advance of burning the house down that Jeremy was already dead, if you were trying to avoid suspicion that is an epic fail right there.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    Calm down pls, Freddie Mercury & stop yelling @ me, u r scaring my dog. She is now running in circles. :( OK thx. K BYEEEE!!!

    PS Tip: Don't ever let famous singers/awesome people in2 ur house, they will scare ur dog & eat all the peanut butter . . . 'cause Freddie is a ghost now. :( Also they will sing very loudly & there will b ppl outside ur house 2 get their autograph 'cause Freddie Mercury.

    BTW HOPE I WUZ LOADS OF HELPFUL & STOPPED U FROM MAKING A LIFE-ALTERING MISTAKE!!!!!!! K THX BYEEE!!

  • Knoxera Mar 03, 2013

    Well, one thing I love that the writers did with this storyline is firmly put Katherine back into the villain category. She got way too de-fanged in the fandom for a while there, with most viewers casting her as just some saucy, entertaining little minx. It's a problem TVD has had with a lot of its antagonists, from Damon to Klaus. The lines have got to be drawn again, and Jeremy's death - a real, ugly, smelly, permanent death from the show for once - was the way to do it.

    Nina Dobrev gets special props from me for her breakdown scene. The way she grew increasingly manic and couldn't finish a thought and finally threw up her arms to shield herself from comforting words and then dropped to the floor in despair, repeating that it "hurt" made for a truly memorable scene that, for me, really anchored me to her character and made me empathetic toward her again. She's a character surrounded by so much constant drama that sometimes it becomes almost impossible to connect with her, but at this point things are so truly bad that she's commanding center stage.

    Will a more powerful, interesting Elena rise from the ashes? Only the next few episodes will tell. I am a little nervous, especially from the "Bring it On" trailer, that they're just going to take her down the numb partier "Damonesque" path, which is quite empty and something we've already seen (from almost every character actually). What I'd rather get is one-on-one time with her, her tracking down Katherine, her trying to figure out who she is and where to go from her and get some revenge... But, hell, looks like we might just get drinking and cheerleading tryouts. We'll see.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    OMG your comment about smelly deaths made me think of Price . . . :(

    LOLZ drinking. Elena needs a drink so bad. :)

  • spacificly_oei9 Mar 02, 2013

    It was a pretty great episode; Katherine finally shows up again and Silas is pretending to be Shane (kinda obvious). But since like season 2 I've been wondering when on earth is Lucy Bennett going to come back? Bonnie is totally going psycho even considering about lifting the veil and having Lucy back would probably be interesting. I liked the way Bonnie's mom came back a couple episodes ago, and how they introduced Bonnie's dad and tried to help Bonnie. But definitely Silas is going to be the main character the writers are going to focus on and I'm looking forward to what his impact is on the show!

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    Wait who's Lucy Bennet? Did you mean Emily? Or was it that one witch that helped Katherine? Confused.

  • spacificly_oei9 Mar 12, 2013

    The witch that helped Katherine was also Bonnie's cousin (that's who i was talking about), she did actually say she might come back.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 13, 2013

    Oh. Okay thanks. Honestly I don't pretend to understand life anymore. :(

  • coolhandkate Mar 02, 2013

    This episode carried some decent emotional heft, which was a nice change compared to some of the more rerent episodes on the island.

    'm glad they didn't wait to reveal that Silas is duplicating Shane because I was seriously struggling to figure out why Silas mattered at all once it was revealed that Bonnie can drop the veil between worlds.

    So... Who gets to kill Bonnie before she destroys the world?

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    ME!!!!!!! Pls, writers? I would do anything 4 u guyz if u just let me end this freakin' lady. K thx.

  • melkat16 Feb 28, 2013

    TVD lost me the minute they tried to convince us that most of the vampires we know and love are desperate for the cure. Seriously, why would a powerful, immortal, ageless vampire want to become a weak, fast-aging human??

    The shock value of death on TVD is no longer there. Silas is going to bring Jeremy right back anyway so why waste time crying and mourning him??

    And there's something I don't understand. Why is everybody all the time scrambling to save Elena? What is so special about her? Every single character is willing to put their lives down to if ONLY to secure a moment's happiness for Elena.

    I'm losing the interest I once had for TVD and I don't want to.

  • amxo Mar 01, 2013

    I don't think Jeremy's coming bsvk.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    Hold up, what's bsvk? Not even urban dictionary knows that one!!

  • CarmenGarcade Feb 27, 2013

    everyone in mystic fall have lost at least one family member, many of them while been humans, i dont understand why elena cant get throught that, why stefan and damon needed to shut her humanity down, that is just stupid.

  • melkat16 Feb 28, 2013

    I totally agree. Are they implying she's the only one on the show who cares so deeply about her friends and her loved ones that she will lose her mind when they die?

    And that the rest of the characters didn't really love their loved ones as much as Elena does?

    When Caroline's dad was dying, all her friends were not around her to offer support and her dad's death was soon forgotten, No big deal. Same thing with Matt's mom and his sister Vicki. And JENNA. And the list goes on..

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    and on and on and on. Agreed. Elena should suck it up and deal.

    'Whoops, my bro died, NBD.' - Elena
    'FINALLY!! Thank you, girl.' - Me

    But Jeremy WAS way less sucky than Caroline's jerk dad or Jenna. There were others who deserved the kind of mileage that Jer got out of his death.

  • Inigo_Montoya Feb 27, 2013

    Hi. So I was wondering what is ur fav smiley face? (J/K I am trying to survive this hiatus and failing . . . GAHHH. Want 2 see the ashes of Elena's diary so that I know I will never have 2 worry & B sad ever again.) I feel like someone should make a post where in the comments everyone should say random stuffs and things they be feelin' at that moment. I would do this myself but I don't know how 2 make stuffs or posts. My pet robot follows directions though so if you tell me to tell him how 2 make stuffs/posts I would B happy. :) K THX. =D

    PS My fav smiley face is

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    PS Also u can put random facts abt 'bots and/or ghosts!! :) Seriously I want to do this, guys. If there's already something like this out there, pls tell me. K thx.

  • Klara93 Feb 28, 2013

    Hahahahahahha I laughed so hard at the first sentence! Having the same problem with emotions over here! But the best way to cope is to avoid everything TVD related. In the beginning it's VERY hard but after a while you stop thinking about it. My recipie: No more fanvideos. I'm not really supposed to be here either but today is an exception (a)-

    Anyway, on to what I'm feeling about the hiatus:
    ASDFJKLDHFJSGLJGJKBSGAAAHHH I WANT 4.16 NOW WHY DO THEY MAKE US WAIT? Okay I know the answer to that one... To make us feel exactly that way..Stupid television...

    I like the ice cream smiley, though I prefer this one :3 b/c it's very cute :D

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 01, 2013

    BTW I was really drunk on TV.com yesterday so this is kind of the love child of that . . . (PS is that a bad idea? Probs a bad idea 2 B on the Internet whilst drunk =D.) Anyway.

    WHAT NO MORE FANVIDEOS HOW WILL I SURVIVE???? Seriously. I watch interview w/ funny people in good tv shows as a cure for boredom. Being an unmarried, boyfriendless person w/ no social life what-so-ever gives me more free time than I know what to do with. I will try. That's all I can promise.

    I second that emotion. I LOLed so hard at this part: ASDFJKLDHFJSGLJGJKBSGAAAHHH
    The best.

    Agreed. So cute. :3
    Still gonna stick w/ the ice cream tho.

  • Klara93 Mar 02, 2013

    That depends on how drunk you are ;) As long as you remember parts of it the next day, you'll be fine. Also, drunk Inigo, kinda hillarious. Pet robot <3

    But now we have made it for a little more than a week. Only two weeks to go! :D Can I join your forever-alone.club btw? Another tip for surviving the hiatus: find another obsession. Mine is Castle. I'm only a few episodes behind now!

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 10, 2013

    Seriously though, I'm feeling the need of a shrubbery. =D

    Yeah, it's pretty weird. Honestly, most of the characters don't grow personalities (or shrubberies, they took 14 episodes to even MENTION shrubberies! And only in the briefest way possible!!) until a bunch of episodes in. Anyway. Drawing lines (or circles, circles are way more fun) between TLG and TVD is SO EASY. I'll show you.

    Mads & Caroline
    Great friends, influential to the storyline.

    Sutton & Katherine
    Kinda evil, female lead's look-alike, impersonate female lead tons, 'wanted to do the right thing but screwed up in a HUGE way . . . sorry?' personalities.

    Char & Bonnie
    Look, all I know is that whenever they turn up on the screen I settle down for a nap.

    Ethan & Stefan
    Stefan's a little more boring than Ethan, but still. Good guy, ♥'s female lead SO MUCH. Loved the female lead's doppelganger/twin before her, now thinks she's a scumbag (true, but hurtful still, no?).

    Thayer & Damon
    AWESOME!!!! Seriously, Thayer is the best. Loving the female lead's doppelganger/twin made them do some bad stuff, but then they start liking the female lead and are a freakin' adorable couple. LOVE THAYER SO MUCH CAN'T EXPRESS THIS ON YOU ENOUGH!!!!

    Alec/Ted & Klaus/Elijah
    Kinda evil, but hard not to see them as a malevolent Easter Bunny. Though, of course, Klaus and Elijah are way hotter than Ted or Alec.

    Kristen & Jenna
    FREAKIN' CLUELESS ADULT GUARDIAN.

    Laurel & [Sorry no comparison]
    LAUREL IS THE F'ING BEST!! Laurel. Is. The. Best. Ever. Like, ever. Also Justin's weird. Just warning you. BTW DID I MENTION LAUREL IS THE BEST???? 'Cause she is. Also she's a musician. Girl after my own heart. I LOVE YOU LAUREL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    As you can see, TONS of circles. :)

    TLG is a great show. I recommend that you keep watching.

    PS LAUREL IS THE BEST!! Also Thayer and Sutton. Mostly Thayer. And Laurel.

  • Klara93 Mar 05, 2013

    Wesley is the best! Haha I know. FARFELKUGEL! :D
    Now give me... ANOTHER SHRUBBERY!

    Okay, watching the lying game is the weirdest experience ever!. I just saw the pilot and is was like watching TVD without the vampires (The Diaries..?). I mean we have Elena and Katherine. Her two friends who kinda reminds you of Bonnie and Caroline (maybe they are very different I dunno since I only saw the pilot...). Again, this girl REALLY reminds you of Nina Dobrev. Although less awesome b(c Nina is the best. No one will ever be as awesome as Katherine but I guess Sutton will do for now..

    So it was all kinda creepy. At first I wanted to put the blond guy as Stefan or Matt but then I realised that he was kind of a jerk so I guess he can be S01-Tyler... Man, I ca't get over how weird it was..

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 04, 2013

    By the way I just realized I know WAY too much about television . . . At least most comedic/full on hilarious movies. Haha. Mel Brooks is my personal idol. I guess that's kind of sad. Most people would be like Gandhi or something. Me, I'm like, 'Chips n' dip at my place while we watch a marathon of Monty Python!!' That quote basically describes my life. Very sad.

    On that note, The Big Lebowski, anyone?? =D

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 03, 2013

    YAY!!! Basically my life goal is to make people watch (and enjoy, but even if they don't it probably won't stop me from trying) the shows that I do. =D

    'What about the R.O.U.S.'s?' - Buttercup

    'The Rodents Of Unusual Size? Oh I'm sure they're not real.' - Westley (PS this is the same actor that plays Robin in Men in Tights!!)

    *Westley promptly gets attacked by a giant rat*

    Me - 'LOLOLOLOL'

    I like the quote 'You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is not to get into a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this: never go against a Sicillian when DEATH is on the line!!' - Vizzini

    Ah, I love you Princess Bride.

    Sweden eh? . . . A few months maybe. Don't worry though, Mongo's very patient!!

    YAY!! Then we can quit watching TVD, start watching TO (The Originals) and continue watching The Lying Game!! (PS We still need a Caroline fix . . . ideas?)

  • Klara93 Mar 03, 2013

    Hmm.. I live in Sweden so I'd say that's a too far away :(

    The R.O.U.S. are the best haha :D

    Oooh this seems like a good show! Okay this rant made me very excited. I have to watch this! If we can't have Katherine of TVD I guess this migh do as a temporary replacement. Haha as you said, i seems like a better version of the parent trap. I loved that movie when I was a kid. Tomorrows mission: Watch the pilot episode of The Lying Game.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 03, 2013

    OH YEAH!! Duh. Can't believe I forgot to mention this EXTREMELY IMPORTANT part of The Lying Game. One of the twins (I'm not gonna hold this back . . . it's Sutton) both looks AND acts, almost EXACTLY like Katherine. Same hairstyle, same kind of tortured, 'I was trying to do the right thing but totally screwed up my and everyone else's life . . . sorry?' personality. And she's Katherine in the best way Katherine can be. Detective Katherine. 'Member from S3? Yup. Sutton's the best basically. Even her twin Emma isn't totally awful like Elena is. So it's like the doppelgangers except the 'good' one isn't A) a mass murderer or B) insufferably boring. I can't express on you how good this show is. Possibly because I haven't watched any of those other shows where there are twins and they impersonate each other all the time. That's probably it, but I'm telling you, this is even better than the Parent Trap, and that movie was awesome.

    Whew. Just ranted for WAY longer than I thought I was going to.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 03, 2013

    Hmm . . . Depending on how far you live from San Francisco, maybe next weekend? Haha. =D

    I'll definitely check it out. I'm on the seventh episode of The Lying Game, and already the girl's entire life is falling apart in the BEST way. Highly recommended. Saw Princess Bride again last night and almost died laughing!! =D

    See ya next weekend when you get to meet Mongo!! PS If you want him to love you tons, just bring him some beans and/or buy him a Candygram!! He loves making friends so much, it's adorable. He's a robot though so it's hard. He's kind of like my own personal dimple-less Klaus. =D

  • Klara93 Mar 02, 2013

    Good! Yay true love! When can I meet this pet robot of yours?

    Castle is kinda like TVD. It is bad but actually kinda good haha. It doesn't really make sense b/c they get medical results in lite three seconds and after a while it all gets very predictable. But you don't really care about the cases they are solving, it is the characters that you are invested in. So as I said, kinda like TVD. The story isn't always that great but we love the characters and we really care about what happens to them (except April ofc)!

    No I haven't! But I look forward to it hihi :D

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 02, 2013

    AND YES. You may absolutely join my club. Have you gotten your badge yet?? I'll FedEx it to you!! =D

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 02, 2013

    Not too drunk. =D Though yeah, I just remembered Inigo's drinking problem in Princess Bride. LOL. Mongo's my fav robot of them all. I went into the robot store and it was love at first awkwardly-strong-robot-hand-shake. (Like puppies!!)

    I haven't seen Castle . . . I assume from your comment it's good? I just started The Lying Game, and the first half of the pilot's good!! I like The Palace too. And of course I could just watch every single Mel Brooks movie ever or Princess Bride like a hundred times! =D

  • monicaconso Feb 27, 2013

    And yet even in such an episode I found that the best scene was once again between Stefan and Damon remembering that despite betrayal and Elena, brotherly love never dies.

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