The Vampire Diaries "No Exit" Review: Severed Head Games (PHOTO RECAP)
Look, I get it. Some people can only enjoy a show if the particular couple they're rooting for are happy and securely in love. While some of us ENJOY experiencing the angst and heartache of watching good characters go through bad times, some folks straight-up reject that as an option and will turn against a narrative right quick. I usually rail against that kind of binary thinking, because I do like to feel upset and I trust writers to not only guide me into bad times, but out of them again. But increasingly I'm starting to see why people get so wrapped up in their ships like that. It's not so much about fighting for a couple as it is fighting for a fundamental, insisting that there should be some kind of foundation, given, constant to this crazy story.
This season of The Vampire Diaries has seemed, well, all over the place. I still cannot believe how much time the show wasted on such a truly terrible villain like Silas, nor how underdeveloped the Augustine stuff has been so far. But the biggest mistake this season has made was its attempt to be a throwback to Season 1 while also throwing all the old character dynamics in a blender. Those fundamental romances and friendships everyone's always so worked up about? I think I miss them too. In making all the leads constantly break up and then find love in somebody else's arms, it feels like romantic inbreeding and, well, stagnant storytelling. I truly do not want to end up with a show where a Nina Dobrev character goes back and forth between the two Salvatores. I know that's in the TVD DNA at this point, but it's okay to question the TVD DNA, right? Now the series has the option of either holding strong to what is proving to be a very flawed premise OR it can figure out how to engage its audience without the ever-diminishing returns of yanking the carpet out from under viewers' feet.
What am I saying here? I guess I'm saying that TVD seems to have stripmined all the romantic potential from its three leads (and Caroline) and should probably look elsewhere for sources of emotional angst. Like, don't give me a Stefan-Caroline hookup when I'd rather see each of them fall in love with a new character (or not at all!). I know writers love to double-down on the leads' romances and that everyone's afraid of another Nikki/Paolo situation, but still. I'm feeling restless! But honestly, what do I know? I'm very much an outlier when it comes to this fanbase. I still love the rhythms and comedy and violence and characters of TVD, but I'm increasingly disengaged from what's going on. I want to be scared again. I want to be curious. I want to sit up and cheer for people. Lately I've just been sitting there, accepting one half-hearted storybeat after another. Where is this season going, exactly? Why am I supposed to care? WHERE IS JEREMY?
Haha sorry I'm such a bummer today. To be clear, those were all general complaints about the season, because "No Exit" was actually really fun and funny and a number of things happened that I really enjoyed. For example, Damon bit a man's head off! Let's talk about it.
We began in a secluded countryside home straight out of a slasher film. Broken swing set, blood on the welcome mat, that kind of thing. But this was not a slasher film, it was just a vampire and a supervampire standing in the living room playing The Dozens.
Apparently Enzo and Damon had fallen into a Damon-eats-a-vampire-every-eight-hours routine, which meant they needed to go around creating vampires for that purpose. That honestly seems like a full-time job, but apparently they'd been passing the time by trying to guess the life stories of the poor rubes they were converting. In this case they were openly speculating about whether this unfortunate yokel's wife had left him for the preacher or the pharmacist. Very rude!
Anyway, the dude woke up, drank a vampire Capri Sun and then Damon did his thing.
Haha my favorite thing about Supervampire Damon is that he literally bites heads off. That is just so strange! But I wish TVD would get really gross with it and have him snap the head off right away and then drink from the neck geyser. You know? Something really disgusting out of an early Peter Jackson film. But this was still pretty great, I am not complaining about an accidental beheading and I will never complain about an accidental beheading. Unless it's my own. Just kidding, I wouldn't complain then either. My ghost would just high-five the poltergeist who caused it. "I always wanted to be Final Destination'd!"
Meanwhile at the Salvatore shanty Katherine was pretending to study so that she could grab on Stefan and also impress him with her extensive knowledge of off-the-books Roman history.
Oh, Katherine. As much as I think she's a genius most of the time, it always makes me laugh when she starts doing bozo stuff. Like, come on, how did Stefan not immediately know what was up from this slip-up alone? The biggest red flag was not that "Elena" was disagreeing with a history textbook (classic Rebekah move), it was that she claimed she'd written an essay in high school and that she had attended high school. NO YOU DID NOT.
At this point Caroline came in and told them that Damon had been biting heads off of dudes, so it was obviously road trip time! (Caroline also threw so much shade at "Elena" that it felt like she already knew it was Katherine? But nope! I guess something about Stefan just puts Caroline in territorial mode.)
Then Katherine returned to college (REMINDER: IT'S TWO HOURS AWAY) and packed up a suitcase of all of Elena's sexiest lingerie with which she could seduce Stefan. In my opinion that would be the worst part of stealing somebody's body: Wearing their underwear. No way. Anyway, then Nadia called and told Katherine that Matt knew about her schemes.
I think the cutest part of this was when Katherine straight-up admitted that she liked Matt because everybody liked Matt. I don't know if I've ever seen her be so sincere like that before and it looked good on her. Of course, she was also arguing for his murder, so that detracts from the moment a bit, but still. Nadia was NOT about to murder Matt, if only because it seemed like she really enjoyed having a hunky blond slave to hang out with.
Meanwhile Damon had tired of playing with a dude's severed head and he and Enzo decided to leave. That's when they heard chanting coming from outside.
It was the Travelers! And they'd trapped them inside the house! And then THIS guy popped by:
Yeah, sorry, but I STILL like Dr. Wes so much, deal with it. Television is a visual medium and I like to look at him, but also he's kind of hilarious to me. In this case he made a speech about science vs. magic and then just straight up endorsed magic. INTO IT. He was there to "experiment" upon Damon somehow, which basically meant he wanted to watch Damon eat Enzo. And you know what? SO DID I. I really wanted to see Damon eat Enzo. On the other hand I liked Enzo WAY more in this episode. Part of that had to do with his t-shirt, but also it became very clear that Enzo is 100% in love with Damon. Yeah, I said it. The guy is hopelessly in love with Damon and that made it seem so tragic and poignant when he decided to stick with him during this cannibal phase. Sorry if you think I'm reading into this plotline too much, but for me it only makes sense if there is some kind of unrequited romance brewing here. JUST BEING REAL.
It's not clear how far Damon and Katherine got out of town before he stopped for gas and their road trip got very ridiculous. I prefer to think they only drove for about 5 or 6 minutes tops.
Not gonna lie, Katherine's scheme made me laugh o'loud.
HAHA she broke his car! She just straight up lifted the hood and yanked at some sh*t. Man, I love Katherine. For being a 500-year-old mastermind she has basically no game and some of her sexy schemes are just so bad. In other words they are the best.
Meanwhile Caroline and Tyler decided to finally face each other following the news that she had boned Klaus in the woods that one time.
They were teaming up because Matt had gone missing. But in order to not get murdered, Matt convinced Nadia that he'd just straight-up lie to his friends until vervain was out of his system and she could compel him again. Which meant that his cover story involved SO MUCH shirtless hugging with Nadia.
Obviously they did not approve of this matchup (Nadia had broken Tyler's neck the night before), but if we're being real a lot of that had to do with the fact that everybody was slut-shaming each other all of the sudden. Caroline especially got it the worst.
I honestly have not seen this many monsters slut-shaming each other since the last time I went home for Christmas.
Meanwhile Katherine made her move and her move was greasy as hell.
This isn't really a criticism since the episode addressed this later, but how dense did Stefan have to be to not immediately recognize this wasn't Elena? The main thing to know about Elena is that she is the least horny vampire in vampire history. So to have her throwing her junk Stefan's way over and over was just insane. I guess Stefan maybe operates under the assumption that all women want him all the time? But yeah, it made me laugh so much that people didn't immediately see this wasn't Katherine. Sure, the eye-makeup is different, but it's the SAME FACE, SAME PERSONALITY, SAME SUSPICIOUS DECISIONS. At least when Klaus inhabited Alaric's body everybody was seeing a legit different person, so that option was unfathomable. But in this case it's absolutely Katherine and nobody's noticing. Anyway, yeah, "Elena" was clearly angling for some lovin' and Stefan seemed straight-up okay with it.
Meanwhile Enzo was getting nervous that Damon hadn't fed in a while.
Sorry guys. I realize this isn't Tumblr but I reaaally think they're in love. Enzo is WAY too devoted to some guy he hadn't seen in half a century and Damon began to despise his ex-girlfriend VERY quickly once Enzo was back in the picture. THIS IS HAPPENING.
Anyway, then "Elena's" phone rang.
HAHAHA. I loved everything about this part. Enzo had to ask "Elena" for help, but Katherine intercepted the call and then pretended it never happened when Stefan asked. So diabolical! And by diabolical I mean sloppy and obvious. Girl, you are sharing a motel room with a vampire who has supersonic hearing. At least do a better job of lying about it.
Then Dr. Wes started firing a gun into the house!
I mean it made me laugh that evidently the whole time Enzo and Damon were hanging out Dr. Wes was just creepin' in the doorway with chanting gypsies behind him. I love Dr. Wes. Anyway, Enzo's seeping bullet wound was now too much for Damon to handle.
Haha, then Dr. Wes used gypsy magic to turn Enzo's blood into acid! It did not taste very good to Damon!
At this point Damon finally convinced Enzo to leave and Enzo seemed VERY okay with it. Passionate love that could heat a fire or not, nobody wants to get their head eaten off.
So THEN Katherine REALLY made her move. It involved, basically, just getting naked in front of a dude. The perfect seduction, in other words.
Stefan definitely took a gander. That's when Katherine ran out of the bathroom and mouth-attacked him!
And guess what? Stefan felt VERY conflicted about it. Not so conflicted that he fought off her advances, necessarily. But conflicted enough to leave the room. Still though, Katherine chalked it up as a major win.
Still though, Elena would have never behaved this way and Stefan must've known that, right? Yes, she's been known to have passionate hookups in motels but only after hours and hours of the world's dullest sexual tension. Elena's main aphrodisiac is repression, so this openly sexual version of her was definitely an imposter.
Meanwhile Matt and Nadia were enjoying a quiet evening of gin rummy when they started bonding over having effed up parentage.
But it was all a ploy for Matt to swipe Nadia's phone and text Caroline for help! Haha I love the idea that Matt was seducing somebody, anybody, as part of a scheme. He is now a bona fide himbo! No complaints. Nadia was super sad, though and she was not about to put up with Caroline's guff.
Nadia had a few centuries on Caroline so their tussle was pretty one-sided. But then Tyler ran up and tackled her!
Tyler had the audacity to claim that "young hybrid > old vampire" because if young hybrids were so powerful, why is he the only one left? And yeah, Nadia threw him across the room pretty easily and bounced.
Meanwhile Matt had been compelled for real to forget everything, but Nadia at least left him with the parting gift of an implanted memory that they had engaged in sexual congress. That was very nice of her! I'm sure that will come in handy for Matt later. "Handy" is a sexual innuendo in this scenario, just FYI.
Meanwhile Katherine's biggest scheme of the episode began to unfold. She realized that she could possibly manipulate Stefan into MURDERING Damon if she could successfully get Damon to attack her. So she pretended to be a motivational speaker to him and get him to fight his urges, knowing he probably couldn't.
But what was charming was how Damon actually DID try to fight it. This was a big change from his very terrible attitude toward her in the previous episode. Was that growth?
When he finally did succumb to the hunger, Katherine legit kicked a stake over to Stefan to finish the job!
But obviously Stefan had a Plan B that did not involve murdering his own brother.
Phew! I gotta say, Katherine gets points for ruthlessness here, but it wasn't the most thought-out plan on her part. In a way I think all her flawed thinking in this episode was actually kind of humanizing, you know? Like we know she's good at longterm planning but spur-of-the-moment decisions tend to not work out great for her in my opinion.
Meanwhile Tyler and Caroline SORT OF made up. Sort of.
I guess it's good that they're being civil to each other again. I just want everybody to get along, you know?
Meanwhile Stefan threw Damon into the dungeon.
This was interesting: Damon had immediately figured out that Katherine had tried to murder him a few hours earlier. But what was crazy was that he still believed she was Elena. So in other words, he now believed that Elena had tried to murder him. That's a hell of a thing for Damon to just casually believe, right? Yikes. Even when he comes to realize it wasn't actually Elena, is there any going back from that? He really thinks his ex-girlfriend tried to knock him off! Hardcore.
Oh, then we found out the one tiny way in which hybrids ARE more powerful than vampires:
WHOOPS! Nadia got werewolf-poisoned. The most notable thing here was how genuinely upset Katherine seemed. See, it's always so startling when we get earnest concern out of her. But now that we know only Klaus' blood can heal a bite and he's currently running around in New Orleans trying to murder his siblings and also getting stabbed so much, it'll be interesting to see how they get Nadia out of this, if at all.
Then we finally got to the scene that this episode had been building to the whole time:
Stefan and Caroline figured it out! Matt's text to Caroline had the letter "K" and plus Elena had been acting VERY strange lately. And say what you will about Elena's weird morality, she probably would not have tried to murder Damon. And nobody brought this up, but Elena was IN THE ROOM with Katherine when she "died" and everybody knew Katherine had the ability to jump bodies. So uh, yeah, brainiacs. Your best friend is possessed by a jerk. Now what?
As much as I am loving this plotline of Katherine joyriding in Elena's body, I'm very glad the charade is over. It was frankly making the other characters look too stupid, and I don't personally love to watch a show full of great people acting stupid.
All in all, "No Exit" was a fun and breezy hour of violence and trash and that is a compliment. Again, the dialogue was noticeably funnier and every character had great moments. It's just that a lot of this season feels so mushy and unmotivated, so even when the credits rolled I wasn't quite sure what the point was. What is everybody trying to do? I mean, I see that they have short-term problems to deal with, but it all feels like a bunch of scrambling to me. This season could really benefit from a bigger mystery or a more cinematic threat. That's just my opinion. I'll be over here lying in a gutter if you want to hear more.
... Is Nadia gonna die?
... Did Katherine's motel seduction count as a tr-tr-triple kiss?
... Should Enzo make an honest man out of Damon?
... Where was Jeremy?
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