“A View to a Kill” was a good episode to drop into. After a rocky start to Season 4, the last three or four episodes have done a lot of good work toward righting the ship. Much of the season still feels like less than the sum of its parts, but as it capped off this leg of the main season’s story arc, The Vampire Diaries is at least bringing its full arsenal to bear once again.
One weapon in that arsenal that’s been missing much of the year is camaraderie. "A View to a Kill" started off with a rare glimmer of relative happiness: Jeremy and Matt’s bro-time had shifted from wrestling at the cabin to playing Xbox on the Gilbert sofa, and Bonnie was busy preparing yet another Mystic Falls theme party to Caroline’s meticulous standards (I hate that this made two episodes in a row with no Caroline, but I loved the detail that, yes, she absolutely would notice if the gym were 10 red balloons shy of Nena’s specifications).
It was a small moment, and one immediately undercut by an enraged Kol, who decided it might be easier to rub out a witch than a hunter. (Kol, it turns out, isn’t very bright.) But those fun interludes, however short-lived, are vital to keeping the emotional bonds among the characters in place. Three seconds' worth of Elena busting her kid brother’s chops over doing chores can be worth ten times as many sober pronouncements about protecting him from the sundry dark forces that mean him harm, if only because, to us, it’s a more accessible way of relating to a loved one. Maintaining that groundwork allows the show to pull off its huge, violent, convoluted schemes and still keep us caring.
This week’s scheme, courtesy of Elena, involved her baiting Kol with a false truce while Stefan kept Rebekah wrapped up in another web of heartfelt emotional manipulation. When Kol let his guard down, Elena and Jeremy would kill him—and his thousand-fold sire line, fleshing out Jeremy’s hunter’s mark in one fell swoop. Then Matt would dagger a distracted Rebekah and Bonnie would handle Klaus with whatever Plot Convenience Magic she had up her sleeve. Three Originals on ice, simple as pie!
Of course it didn’t go exactly as planned, because welcome to The Vampire Diaries. Kol’s guard didn’t drop, though he did oblige Elena and us with another restatement of why Silas the Great and Powerful is to be feared. Bonnie was waylaid by the first instance of two parents in the same room at the same time on this show in like 53 episodes.
And Rebekah—forever jerked-around, crapped-upon Rebekah—saw through Stefan’s head games and decided to simply give in. Their pas de deux against the deserted, melancholy backdrop of the aborted Mystic High ‘80s dance was a fun twist on both the “sentimental drivel” of that decade’s teen movie aesthetic and this show’s penchant for galas with concepts as high as their mortality rates. Stefan getting the party started with The Cure was a delightfully hoaky wink, but using the motif (and Bon Jovi) to call back to his bond with Lexi cleverly brought the exchange to a deeper level. The lines between scheme and sincerity blurred even before Rebekah’s scarred, affecting surrender.
In the episode’s other heart-to-heart between a Salvatore and a Mikaelson, Damon and Klaus engaged in some old-fashioned “villain bonding time” in the slightly less festive environment of the former’s cell. Klaus, possibly having read large swaths of the TVD commentariat, demanded to know how it is that Damon’s many cold-blooded transgressions never seem to make a dent in Elena’s opinion of him. It’s a fair question to ask, since the show has never quite figured out whether it wants Damon to progress along any sort of moral arc, and if so, how. Seriously, you could fill out two-thirds of an Alignment Chart with just Damon, from different points in the series’ run. Damon’s response (which opens the door to more scrutiny than this review has scope to get into—please, weigh in in the comments) laid out the crux of his M.O.: “If you’re gonna be bad, be bad with purpose. Otherwise you’re not worth forgiving.”
Back at the Gilbert homestead, Kol eventually had his fill of exposition and decided to get back to some murderin’. Except that, as I mentioned before, he’s not very bright. Leaving Elena wounded but clearly alive before he shuffled off to dismember Jeremy is piss-poor villaining. Keeping the white ash stake in his coat pocket, in easy reach during a scuffle, isn’t much smarter. He deserved to meet the business end of that thing.
Showing up at the right instant to witness his brother’s death sent Klaus into a boiling rage, but Bonnie’s arrival was just as fortuitously timed. Kol’s demise was predictable—he was never so much a character as a danger to be thwarted—but the resulting ramifications were bracingly intense. Bonnie’s trick of inviting Klaus into the house only to imprison him there was a neat reversal of the traditional residence-barrier. I also enjoyed how clear it was that Elena hadn’t the faintest idea what Bonnie was planning at that moment, despite “Bonnie takes out Klaus” being the third leg of Elena’s original plan. Way to think through the details there, Elena.
So the scheme to get three Original threats out of the picture more or less worked (for now), the map is in hand (and arm, and entire torso), and most of the gang has linked up again. The next stage of the hunt for the cure is on. All we need to do now is figure out where the hell Caroline and Tyler ran off to.
– A Duran Duran title, but not one Duran Duran song? You wound me, show.
– Bonnie’s had one of her strongest arcs ever this year, getting enmeshed in complex and ill-advised relationships both with Shane and with his expression magic. But she’s also done so largely on an island, disconnected from the other core characters. I like seeing her drawn back into the mix of the main action.
– So, is Elena going to ever grapple with the ramifications of her decision to sacrifice tens of thousands of innocent vampires in order to advance her goals? This makes two episodes where the show’s moral compass has barely batted an eye at mass murder, and for a show that has taken pains to depict vampires as decent people at least as often as they’re monsters, it should acknowledge the darkness of that turn.
– Did Stefan know about the vervain-laced water when he gave Damon a bottle of it prior to letting Klaus stand guard?
– Stefan called the Originals “dysfunctional bickering lunatics.” There’s your promo tag for the spin-off, CW!
– I fully believe that Damon has an actual, physical Revenge Sex Handbook.
– “Put these weapons away before someone tries to use them on me.”
– “Or are you one of those Mary Sue vampires?”
– “I happen to like Earth just the way it is.” Kol, echoing Spike’s sentiments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Becoming, Part 2.”
– Stefan’s a fan of Say Anything, The Princess Bride, and The Breakfast Club. I’m betting Damon’s more of a Heathers man.
– Jeremy randomly reminded everyone of Katherine’s existence, which has Chekov’s Doppelganger written all over it, folks.