Let’s just get this out of the way: It really, really sucks that Price is gone, not just from the Vampire Diaries photo-recapping scene, but from TV.com as a whole. Like Jen said last week, we aren’t going to even attempt to fill his very funny shoes, and there’s a good chance that a rotating cast of TV.com writers are going to take a crack at reviewing The Vampire Diaries over the next few episodes. For this week at least, I’m going to play it pretty straight. This is an interesting time to check in on the show, and I’ll try not to go too far off on a tangent.
Before we get into “Catch Me If You Can,” allow me to briefly describe my feelings about The Vampire Diaries in its current state. Love triangles and shipper allegiances side, this season has felt, at least to me, more plot device-driven than normal. Maybe that’s not really the case, because TVD has always burned through one ridiculous MacGuffin after another, but perhaps after three-plus years, the show’s go-to moves start to grow cumbersome. It happens. I guess the stop-and-start, never-ending search for the vampire cure isn’t any more silly than anything that happened with the moonstone. But there is a sense, albeit a small one, that we’ve been down this road before.
With that said, this season has succeeded by tapping into some new, raw emotions for the three main characters. Regardless of your feelings on who Elena loves, or how she loves them, I think it’s fair to say that the reconfiguration of her bonds with the Salvatores has taken the characters to compelling places.
In any event, “Catch Me If You Can” was the typical kind of mid-season episode we’ve seen from TVD before: There was some cleaning up to do in the fallout of last week’s more visceral episode, but there were also a lot of moving pieces slowing lurching toward whatever next Big Moment the show is building to. Thankfully, unlike a lot of shows, The Vampire Diaries knows how to merge these dueling functions into one episode relatively well, especially when the plot manages to progress character stories; for the most part, this episode did that.
Although the show is still sort of cheating with the existence of Damon and Elena’s sire bond, it also seems dedicated to exploring the consequences of Elena’s recent choices. She, for a number of reasons, “chose” Damon. But even after she became aware of the sire bond and was forced to tell Stefan the truth about her feelings for Damon, she was still stuck with the choices she’d made, and this episode shined a bright light on the realities of those choices. Meaning, leaving Jeremy to be trained by Damon resulted in very specific events, ones that put innocent people in danger, including Matt. And Stefan knowing the full truth about Elena’s relationship with Damon led to another series of events that don’t particularly benefit Elena either.
Of course, in this regard, Elena is sort of screwed, as “Catch Me If You Can” displayed. Even though she was willing to look past Damon’s note that he might make some hasty choices with Jeremy last week, when those choices actually manifested, Elena was certainly uncomfortable. When Damon was compelled* by Kol to kill Jeremy, that wasn't exactly Damon’s fault, but it did highlight what can happen when Damon’s in charge of a responsible plan that doesn’t directly involve protecting Elena. Further, now that Stefan has finally started to rebound from his funk and become much more apathetic about Elena, Damon, the True Meaning of Life and just about anything else, Elena can’t help but feel guilty (because that’s what she does) about what she brought out of him.
* Is it just me, or has there been an excessive amount of compulsion on the show lately?
As a result, Damon almost killed Jeremy, only for Stefan to save the day by breaking his brother’s neck and locking him in the cellar until further notice. I don’t think the show wants us to see this as Elena’s “fault,” but the events of this episode did put her in a tough spot—so much so that she decided the best course of action will be to kill Kol, both to help Jeremy kill a bunch of vamps all at once, but also because she’s just a bit pissed at Kol for compelling Damon. It’ll be interesting to see how this plan develops. I’m guessing, based on TVD’s track record, that it will go very poorly, but I’d love to see Elena be forced with the fact that she led to the death of thousands of vampires. That she’s even considering it tells us something about where her mindset is right now.
No disrespect to Ian Somerhalder, who I think is really great on the show, but there are few things I love more about TVD than detached, sarcastic Stefan. The show clearly enjoys moving the brothers around on the “hero/antihero” scale, but the writers do a nice job of bringing different layers of complexity to them so they don’t just switch places depending on who Elena is in True Love with, and Paul Wesley does fantastic work when he’s able to let loose as this version of Stefan. He was far and away the best part of this episode, from the honest assertion that sex with Rebekah appealed to him because she was crazy to his retort to Elena about his palling around with Rebekah (“And this will be the second time Damon tried to kill Jeremy. Nobody’s perfect right?”). Wesley and Stefan have so much more energy when they're not moping over Elena, as central to the show as that relationship is.
But, on top of those nice little character moments and a nice performance from Wesley, this episode did a really great job of crystallizing all the warring factions in what the show has now labeled “The Race for the Cure,” which is both moderately offensive to various fundraisers for terminal illness and funny because everyone keeps saying it with a straight face. While it is still unclear to me exactly why every character wants the cure and what they plan to do with it (other than “keep it from everyone else”), it was important for TVD to lay out the alliances and stakes as they stand now. All three factions (Team Shane featuring Bonnie the Uncontrollable, Team Crazy Sex, and Team Klamon) own important pieces to this puzzle. Shane has Bonnie and all the pre-work he’s done to raise Silas; Stefan and Rebekah have the headstone, and Damon and Klaus have Jeremy and the sword.
While it’s guaranteed that everyone will double-cross everyone else, it’s still smart for the show to stop and take stock of where characters stand and suggest how they might proceed. For the first time this season, it feels like TVD’s love triangle and its larger plot mechanics are on more of an even playing field. For the show to be at its best, that’s a necessity.
– Every time Bonnie gets to do something interesting, the show pulls the rug out from under her, so I’m holding my breath about her knowledge of Shane’s big plan. It’d sure be nice if something substantive came of this.
– Elena’s plan to wipe out Kol and his entire line is insane, correct? That feels like both a flawed plan and one that Elena would immediately regret on a deep level.
– No Caroline or Tyler this week, so it’ll be curious to see how they’ll fit into the Race for the Cure.
– Can’t imagine that Caroline will be happy that her bestie Stefan is shacking up with Rebekah.
– So who sent the weirdo that bit off his own tongue and then killed himself? Elijah, probably. HOPEFULLY.