Jen suggested that we do a roundtable-style review for this week’s The Vampire Diaries, and boy howdy did she pick a doozy of an episode to suggest such a format. Did “Down the Rabbit Hole” solve any of the problems this season has suffered? Were the big events in the last ten minutes worth all the trouble? Does Noel finally have a chance with Caroline now that Tyler’s on the run from Klaus? Read on!
CORY: Welp. This episode gave us a lot to process. We learned that there was only one dose of the cure (duh), Tyler is on the run for the fortieth time (sigh), Katherine is back (finally), and Jeremy could maybe-possibly-perhaps be dead (wow). For an episode that had a lot going on in the first 38 minutes, somehow the last five ramped it up even more. I really do enjoy it when TVD slows things down and forces the characters to ask important questions of one another—like we saw in last week’s episode—but it’s hard not to gleefully sit back and let the full-bore insanity of offerings like this one rush over you. We’ve been waiting for the “raising Silas” plot to actually get to the raising Silas part for a while now, and “Down the Rabbit Hole” delivered that, among other things.
So let’s start at the end, because it’s the juiciest. Is Jeremy really dead? He’s been killed at least a dozen times over the course of the series’ run and used to have a ring to protect him from things like this. But I gather that becoming one of the Five means losing special human-wearing ring powers, right? I like what Steven R. McQueen has done on the show, particularly this season, but this death really turns Jere into a plot device. He and his tattoos brought everyone to Silas and now he’s not needed anymore. That’s pretty cruel, even for a show that is almost entirely plot-based.
It’s also damn cruel to Elena, who at this point has lost all of her true blood relatives. The teaser for next week suggests that A) Jeremy is dead, and B) Elena isn’t going to take it very well. While I do anticipate the aftermath of what would be the show’s biggest death to date (sorry Alaric, I love you, but...), particularly with Elena in the fragile emotional state she’s already in, this one hurts. I like Jeremy. And I really like Elena. She doesn’t deserve all of this, does she?
NOEL: It's terribly cruel, but good grief, this show needed to kill some people off. I mean, yes, they killed poor Mayor Lockwood, and while that sequence was very big and neat, her death really didn’t mean all that much. So while Jeremy had pretty much been reduced to a plot device, his death will at least have ramifications beyond being a sexytimes map. This is, of course, provided he’s actually dead. I have to assume he is. Now that he's a supernatural being (assuming Hunters are supernatural, given their whole curse thing), that ring means diddly, and he’s probably dead. I sort of want him to be dead, just so that the emotional fallout of his demise will actually mean something. Unlike, say, you know, Elena committing mass genocide.
So does Elena deserve all this? Eh. No, because even though she’s become Julie Plec’s way of keeping the ‘shippers frustrated (breaks up with Stefan, gets with Damon, sire bond gives hope of breaking that off so she can get back with Stefan, blah blah blah), she’s still our protagonist. She’s still gone through hell before becoming a vampire, and she’s managed to keep a decent number of people from dying-dying (thank goodness for those rings), and she’s still a very likeable character.
Also: Is Bonnie dead? Because that would be crazypants, too. She’s on death’s door, certainly, what with the Surprise Stabbing™ and all.
ANDY: My guess is that Jeremy is dead and Bonnie’s alive. We’ve seen the way this show treats cliffhangers plenty of times, all smash cuts and rising music. That last shot was an elegy, deliberate and mournful. It hearkened back to Alaric’s and Jenna’s deaths more so than to any of the faux-demises of a ring-protected human (Jeremy included). Bonnie, however, was still breathing, and the rule of thumb for TVD is the same as for the books of George R.R. Martin: If you don’t see them actually, officially expire on-screen, they’re still kicking. And thank goodness, since the last few episodes have teased out some great material for Bonnie.
Does Elena deserve it? I’m more concerned about whether we deserve it. I’ve been less enamored of the Cannonball Run for the Cure story arc, just because the show has been taking it so much more damn seriously than past plot-engine macguffins like the Sun and Moon Curse. (Exhibit A: the fact that we were supposed to consider the big reveal about the cure’s limited dosage to be legitimately shocking and not, y’know, a strong likelihood the characters should have considered all along. Have they never seen rationing of flu vaccines at Mystic Falls General?) Now the storyline has generated a tangible, irrevocable consequence, which could be the impetus to a second half of the season that’s both more streamlined and more emotional than the first.
But, I’m concerned what it says if the show has to knock off a family member every year in order to crank up the stakes. One of TVD’s greatest strengths from the beginning has the sheer brass balls with which it plows through story. That’s a fun and daring approach, but the flipside is, once you’ve heaped so much grimness and tragedy onto the characters, it gets harder and harder to pull back to smaller, zippier stories.
Am I overthinking this? If we assume Jeremy is dead, Silas is the Big Bad in waiting, and the 5k Fun Woodland Trek for the Cure stretch of the season is over, what does that signal for what’s to come?
CORY: I’m still bothered by Elena deciding to kill Kol and his entire bloodline. Like really, really bothered. I’m glad I didn’t have to review that episode because I would have just typed in angry all caps the whole time. I understand that she’s “different” now, but at least a few of those vampires had to have been innocent. It troubles me that the show isn’t interested in moral questions like it used to be. Nevertheless, you make a good point, Andy. If played correctly, Jeremy’s death could bring weight to a story that has been more plot-focused than ever. I really enjoyed last week’s episode because characters had to think and talk about how they felt instead of just making some instant, rash decision, and maybe—just maybe—Jeremy’s death will force them to do that again. Though, the nature of this show is that they’ll eventually just move on from his death, like they did with Jenna’s or Alaric’s.
With that sort of in mind, let’s talk about what ended up being my favorite scene of the episode: Stefan and Elena on the top of the hill, talking about change and acceptance. Sometimes when you have to watch and think critically about these episodes one at a time, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. For me, it seemed like the show rushed into the Race for the Cure so quickly that it never quite permitted Elena’s transition to gain traction. Neither the character nor the show took a lot of time to consider what her being a vampire truly meant (some of those early Season 4 episodes did make this attempt, and were better for it). So in this episode when she told Stefan that losing the cure might be for the best because she’s not the same person she was before the accident on the bridge anyway, I nodded along furiously.
In this regard, the cure storyline has a little more impact. Everyone rushed into this because they specifically wanted to avoid thinking about Elena being a vampire (among other, ever-changing personal reasons), and now they really have to deal with the reality that she might be one forever. I don’t know if the show meant to tell the story this way or found a nice little moment to re-contextualize the thread a bit, but that was an effective scene nonetheless. And nice to see Stefan and Elena sharing a moment without TRIANGLE DRAMA hanging over them. What’d you guys think of that scene, and more broadly, the idea that no one will actually get the cure? Does anyone deserve it?
NOEL: Cory and Andy, I love how optimistic you are about the loss of the cure, and the recontextualizing of things, and the idea that now that Jeremy’s dead, we’ll have some emotional consequences to deal with. I want those things to happen. I REALLY REALLY do. But I’m not convinced they won't. I think we’re going to get an episode about Jeremy’s death, but then we’re on to the next race: To find Katherine before she does.... whatever she has planned for the cure. And I say this as someone who is absolutely thrilled to see Katherine back. Oh, and we'll also have to deal with Silas, who I hope is a much bigger and scarier threat than Mikael turned out to be (I had really high hopes for Mikael).
But I do agree that that little moment with Stefan and Elena was perhaps a highlight, and it was the show taking a moment to think about Elena’s... predicament. I didn’t like last week’s episode as much as you did, Cory, as I found most of it pretty repetitive. This plunge after the cure hasn’t allowed for much reflection, but the show itself hasn’t seemed all that interested in reflection this season, moving jerkily around ‘shipping changes and their impacts and then focusing on the cure. I do like the idea that the characters tossed themselves into finding the cure to avoid thinking about it—a lot, actually—but I feel like the reason the characters don't want to think about is that the writers don't want to think about it, because they don’t have an answer. Which is disappointing.
The stuff that only tangentially related to the cure, with Caroline and Klaus and I guess Tyler (but really, who cares about Tyler?), was a bit more engaging this time around. I love that someone other than Klaus or Damon doesn’t want a damn cure, and I love that it’s Caroline. I love that she’s loving her immortal life. I get that she’s new to it, and thus doesn’t have the baggage that everyone else has, but thank goodness she sees it as good thing, a way to help her friends and herself. It’s a little less doom-and-gloomy. But with that said, I still find her need to redeem Klaus—speechifying about him showing “kindness, forgiveness, and pity”—to be pointless. Although I find attempts to redeem pretty much anyone in a romantic entanglement on this show to be pointless.
ANDY: There’s a reason that on Twitter we call her Awesome Vampire Caroline. I relished her exchange with Klaus in large part because she articulated what is so often displayed but dismissed, that this show’s conception of vampirism isn’t incompatible with humanity. One of the biggest missed opportunities so far in the Vampire Elena arc is that we didn’t get to see much of her and Caroline relating on that level, sharing their perspectives on the human/vampire divide, perhaps even clashing over it. Instead, Elena’s nature became primarily another chip in the Stefan vs. Damon conflict, easily my least favorite component of the TVD’s DNA.
I don’t agree, though, that this episode was taking pains to redeem Klaus; mercifully, it seemed to do the opposite. He feinted toward compassion but immediately undercut it with the acknowledgment that 1) He’s content to be a villain, and 2) The only reason he’ll even half-ass toward less villainy is if it might get him in Caroline’s pants. (I also take umbrage with your curt dismissal of Tyler, Noel. His story has been one of my favorite parts of this season so far, and you sir are a scoundrel of the first order for intimating otherwise.)
CORY: Klaus and Caroline is... interesting. I think the show knows better than to actually “go there,” especially after this episode, but I appreciate how much mileage it's gotten out of this complicated relationship. Klaus doesn’t always have proper things to do other than scowl (probably why he’s getting a spin-off), but this is a powerful high note in the barely-a-triangle between the two of them and Tyler. Although it’s quite lame that Tyler is on the lam again, it was worth it to have this collection of scenes. It was great to see Caroline almost convince Klaus to do the “right” thing, only for his true nature to win out in the end. That’s true to the character and true to his relationship with Caroline. He wants so badly to be a better person and for her to forgive him for all his evil. Yet he can’t, and neither can she. At this point, he’s realized that it’s best that they just acknowledge the truth. He’s a killer. She’s awesome. It won’t work. Whether or not the show will successfully pull off this Silas story is still up for debate.
– We didn’t say anything about Vaughn, but he was a nice minor addition. Accents and stuff. Though it would have been cool if one of the Five was a woman. —CB
– “If anyone can get him to give it up, it’s Caroline.” PHRASING. —NK
– “How are we the ones that made it this far?” Because you’re both plot devices and not characters. —NK
– “If I weren’t a vampire, I wouldn’t be able to do the nine things I’m going to do to you when I’m free.” Damon spent the episode tied up. Yeeeeeeeeep. Even TVD wants to see Ian Somerhalder in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. —NK
– Was anyone else hoping Elena would encounter Jenna in Silas’s Cave of Hallucinations, as long as the dude’s going to crib the First Evil’s schtick? And am I correct that Jenna’s the only major or minor character never to make at least one posthumous cameo? —AD