The Vampire Diaries "The Walking Dead" Review: Ghost-traumatic Stress

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The Vampire Diaries S04E22: "The Walking Dead"

Let’s talk about relationships. Not the kind that lend themselves to mashed-up couple names, but the kind that exist among friends and family. Because, for as central as The Vampire Diaries’ various love polygons often are to the conversation around the show (both among fans and in the marketing), it's these non-romantic bonds that have flourished as some of the series’ greatest strengths.

“The Walking Dead” briefly brought many of those relationships back to the surface, living up to expectations that first arose when the notion of dropping the veil was explained. And it was a blast. There were Damon and Alaric pallin’ around again, as always not more than ten feet away from one of the dozens of liquor caches they’ve stashed throughout Mystic Falls. There were Stefan and Lexi falling right back into step, complete with a nod toward the echoes of their relationship in Stefan’s current buddy system with Caroline.

These were incidental scenes, comprising not much more than five minutes of total screen time, and they were all but meaningless to the larger plot of the episode, let alone the season. But that’s what made them so delightful. This has been a grim season, and these digressions crucially let things breathe. Just to see these characters so at ease with a comrade is refreshing.

Equally potent emotionally but more important narratively were the pair of family reunions. Elena reconnecting with Jeremy was powerfully cathartic, all the more so since it was almost entirely wordless—a rarity in a circle where everyone expends an awful lot of energy telling everyone else how they feel. My one quibble? I wish it’d been Elena, rather than Stefan, who snapped Kol’s neck (hilariously mid-quip). Partly for the touching Gilbert-sibling team-up quality, partly to restore some damn agency to Elena now that she can’t go ten minutes without someone trying to rescue her in some way, shape, or form.

Jeremy wasn’t the only deceased relative arriving in the nick of time this week. Not for nothing did Bonnie obtain the power to defeat Silas from Grams—the most important person in her life—instead of from ancient non-character Qetsiyah. The Ballad of Silas and Qetsiyah was a MacGuffin that got mistaken for mythos, but what promising moments it did generate focused on Bonnie’s growing power and faltering control, both of which were at the heart of Grams’ longtime fears for the young witch. Now that Bonnie’s hubris has finally pushed her too far—in a way I did not see coming, wrapped up in a pretty nifty reveal—her relationship with her grandmother could prove more vital than ever, either to revive her or to facilitate whatever existential transition the show cooks up.

As for Bonnie’s vanquishing of our much-ballyhooed Big Bad: Was it lame that the key to victory wound up being nothing more than to MAGIC AT HIM HARDER? Of course. It was a spectacularly anticlimactic turn from a show that’s specialized in delivering multiple climaxes each season. (I know, I know. Phrasing.) But that also made it a fitting end to a stupid, pointless, ill-defined villain. Drying Silas up into a nondescript husk and explicitly stating that “we’ll never know” who he was felt like the writers throwing up their hands and acknowledging this. (P.S.: Silas died on the way back to his home planet.)

That leaves us with an impending finale centered on an apparently still-open veil and a whole mess of ticked-off dead vampire hunters, including Connor, Vaughn, and some Berserker-looking ex-boyfriend of Rebekah’s. Oh, and hey, the cure is still a thing that exists and is around. THANKS ALARIC. Oh, who am I kidding, I can’t stay mad at you.


– Another opportunity to bring back Jenna, and nary a mention. Has she been retconned out of existence? Do we even know for sure whether Sara Canning is currently alive? 

UPDATE: Several commentors have pointed out that last season, Esther explained that Jenna is not on the other side. Although Jenna was a vampire when she died, she didn't do anything evil, so she got to go sit at the dead-human table rather than mingle with the supernaturals. Thanks, astute commenters! There is a lot of mythology to keep track of on this show.

– Liz, after Stefan explained the Silas arc: “I have no idea what that means.” Join the club, Sheriff.

– Anyone else cheer when Elena clobbered Stefan/shivved Damon so she could make a break for it and do her own thing? Man, I hope Elena gets to take the reins of her own life again next season. 

– Matt refused vampire blood to treat his injury to avoid the risk of getting be-vampified himself. There’s something about being willing to suffer in the name of preserving humanity that sums up Matt Donovan tidily.

– “So this is either really good or reeeeally bad.” 

– “Not every ghost has a reason to come back to Mystic Falls. Just the ones like me, looking after their idiot best friends.” 

– “Really? I’m your biggest problem right now?”

– “I thought you were gonna take care of the children.” “You heard that? Well that’s not creepy.” Aw, Damon and Alaric. 

– “So you’ve been back, what, five minutes and you’re already laughing at me?” “No, I’ve been laughing at you for a while and you just haven’t been able to see me.” Aw, Stefan and Lexi. 

– “I’m just glad I got the chance to knock her upside the face.” Aw, Rebekah and Caroline?

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