Welcome back, friends, to another edition of The Vampire Diaries Presents: Flashback Theater, sponsored by Geritol. In this week’s installment, we take you to that seedy, sordid city that never sleeps, New York City 1970s-style. The home of The Ramones and The Warriors, of Travis Bickle and his dreams of rain, and as we saw in “Because the Night,” of a hard-partying Damon Salvatore and his even harder-partying ‘70s hair.
Damon relived this chapter of his life while squiring Elena about town, hoping that he would have better success with an old plan of Lexi’s than she herself had enjoyed back in the Me Decade. Back then, at Stefan’s request, she had tried to show a switched-off Damon enough fun that he’d be willing to restore his humanity and face his life again, scars and all. In the present day, Damon tried the same trick on Elena, expecting that if she tried to pull any fast ones on him he’d be ready, having pulled those same fast ones himself.
He might’ve pulled it off had it just been the two of them. But he forgot that no one ever threw a party that Rebekah didn’t invite herself to. She tracked them across five states to throw a wrench into things, fully aware of Damon’s other reason for initiating the road trip. His old friend Will (victim of last week’s express open-heart surgery) used to operate there, running the diviest of rock ‘n’ roll dives while supplying fake IDs for vamps on the run—including, on apparently several dozen occasions, Katherine. And since those IDs tended to come from corpses created by regular customer Damon, he knew where to hunt for a line on her whereabouts.
So ran our parallel stories, separated by a quarter-century but united by one locale, Billy’s. While Lexi’s wingwomaning was characteristically vibrant and direct (and another reminder of why her returns are always welcome), Damon’s had to incorporate a bit more subterfuge. The thematic link between the tales was thinner at some times than at others, but that was made up for by direction and editing that did a nice job of seamlessly transitioning between past and present at the appropriate moments. The double reversal of Damon’s intentions toward Lexi, in particular, sold the 1970s twist effectively while foreshadowing the present-day one.
Another highlight of the field trip: Rebekah and Evil Elena squaring off and, ultimately, teaming up. Their catty dynamic generated many a fun moment when Elena was her “moral, self-righteous version,” so this pairing had to happen sooner or later. That switched-off Elena initially thought Rebekah was the emotional one, too mushy to make a reliable partner, was a neat spin. Now that they’ve eluded Damon, snagged his lead on Katherine, and absconded with his wheels, we ought to be in for some rollicking evil-Thelma-and-Louise action next week.
Back in Mystic Falls, it was heartening to see that even when separated by 300 miles and change, the Salvatore boys can still thoroughly bollix up their respective plans in tandem. Stefan, Caroline, and Klaus uncovered the last step of Silas’s diabolical plan right about the same time he was manipulating Bonnie into carrying it out. Naturally, they did not get to Bonnie in time to put the kibosh on it before things had progressed far enough that people had to die. And when it comes down to the life of a series regular versus the lives of one guest actor and 11 extras, well, let’s just say Silas bet on the right horse.
Thus Silas, our Big Bad who’s neither Big enough nor Bad enough to warrant his own actor so far, has all his ducks in a row. (Ducks, in this case, are murdered townsfolk, hybrids, and witches.) Phase Two of his scheme requires Klaus, leading to a taste of just why even the Originals have feared the legend of this vampire. He’s faster and stronger than the fastest and strongest dude in town, and he’s packing white ash to boot (or as much white ash as isn’t now lodged in Klaus’s colon). Perhaps eventually he’ll even be revealed as someone more menacing than a wiry local college professor.
Having arrived at the subject of Klaus, it’s time I was straight with you great many Caroline-Klaus shippers out there. At the risk of raising your hackles, I do not count myself among your number. Separately they’ve both been terrific characters, and some of their attraction has been compelling. Rubbing your show’s darkest character against one of its purest is bound to generate some enjoyable friction.
That’s fine in the short term. But as a major arc it’s problematic, and the climax of “Because the Night” offered a perfect example of why. She acted out of instinct to save her friend’s life, claiming twelve innocent ones in the process. Yet her reckoning with that fact was played mainly as another chip in the Klaroline game.
In the grand scheme I feel like the whole ordeal has diminished Caroline as a character. For one thing, it eats up her limited story availability, making it harder for the writers to develop her in any way except as a potential romantic interest/foil for Klaus; even her connection with Tyler is mostly defined vis-a-vis the Original lately. For another, that relationship only works if you convincingly bend Klaus towards redemption (nearly impossible, in my eyes, given the scope of his evildoing since season two, dew-eyed pony sketching notwithstanding) or if you degrade Caroline’s stature as the show’s moral center. Neither is an appealing tack for me. And with that, I invite you to brand me an unromantic scoundrel and idiot in the comments!
NOTES & QUOTES
– “Psycho Killer” was a pretty on-the-nose music cue for Damon’s 1977 reveal, but also a pretty slickly executed one. I’ll allow it.
– It took Damon six months to get Lexi into the sack? I’d think his ‘70s hair and that tank top would’ve gotten the job done in, like, 45 minutes.
– Whatever mojo Asia and her coven managed to inflict on Bonnie didn’t kill her, but it did zap the events of the last few episodes out of her memory. She’ll need to brush up on some recaps on the internet.
– Speaking of Caroline's character assassination, what is up with yanking away the part of her brain that understands how frigging triangles work? For the sake of a cheap, banter-y joke at her expense? Caroline deserves better, dammit.
– I know Silas is the bad guy and his current Shane-form is kind of a wanker, but it was fun watching Klaus get shivved, right? Right.
– True or false: Rebekah casually shoving scummy bar trawler to the ground head-first instantly became a top-five all-time Rebekah moment.
– “And that tone is the reason I didn’t pick up the first 20 times you called.”
– “Maybe she’s eating a hot dog... vendor.”
– “Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to spiraling, so go away.”
– “I was promised hedonism.” “It’s early. Hedonism isn’t a fan of sunlight.”
– “I’m not stupid.” “Let’s not say things we don’t mean.”
– “Not to nitpick, but we evil villains usually use minions to pick up our dry cleaning, that sort of thing.”
– “Do not tell me she took you to Bon Jovi concerts too.” “Wrong decade.”
– “I hated the moral, self-righteous version of you, but this one’s not so bad. Maybe it’s the new haircut.”
– “On the bar, on the stage, on the roof. It was a very long night.”
– Did I mishear, or did Damon abbreviate “ironic” as “i-RON”? Please tell me I misheard.
– “People who do terrible things are just terrible people.” I would believe the show had the courage of Caroline’s convictions if it didn’t immediately undercut her by having her do a (morally gray, potentially justifiable) terrible thing right after saying this, as if to crack open the idea that she and Klaus aren’t so far apart after all.
– “Every day that you’re like this is a day that you might do the one thing you can’t take back.”
What'd you think of the episode?