Let's talk about cats FINALLY. For years we've been talking about The Vampire Diaries and in almost none of those years have we ever talked about cats, but that trend ends now. The main thing you need to know about cats is that they were programmed by evolution to manipulate us. Haha, I know, evolution is only a theory and science is just a horror movie concept that justifies random electrocutions of vampires, but stay with me here. A very long time ago cats started resembling human infants with their big eyes and mewls and people began inviting them inside to sit on the papasan. Those cats became domesticated and later on we built an entire technological infrastructure called "the world wide web" in honor of them. But make no mistake: We are being manipulated. Cats are manipulating us, they are appealing to our maternal or paternal instincts in order to live in our apartments and knock glassware off of our milk-crate coffee tables. Are cats born evil? Nope, just manipulative. And in this case we love it. Manipulation can be great! Manipulate away, you darling rascals.
TV is a lot like cats in that way. We KNOW it is a machine built for nothing more than human manipulation, yet we love it so much. It puts very attractive people in front of us and our reptile brains are BOUT IT. It makes us feel emotionally connected to characters or storylines so that we'll continue to tune in the following week. It creates a sense of community in viewers that apes the feeling of having a cozy family. And none of this is a bad thing! TV manipulates us because deep down we all want to be manipulated. So it's not The Vampire Diaries' fault that it figured out who our favorite character is and is currently putting her through so much angst and anguish and now the grim reaper's scythe is hanging over her head. Because this show knows it will upset us to see these things happen to our favorite character! And let me tell you, IT IS WORKING. As much as my heart is not thrilled about what happened to Katherine in "Fifty Shades of Grayson," I get it. I definitely get it. And I'm on board. Manipulate me, show. Make me feel things. I only wish I cared this much about the other plotlines! But much like a cat pawing its owner's face at 4am, I'll take what I can get.
"Fifty Shades of Grayson": Let's talk about it!
We started in the Whitmore dungeon where Damon was pulling out ALL THE STOPS in order to escape.
Wow, Damon! That was truly impressive. But like, okay, this time he had the advantage of a bullet that he could jam into the keyhole and explode. But you're telling me he figured out how to bust out of this prison over the course of 6 hours but couldn't bust out during the 5 YEARS he'd been in there? Get ready, because this episode was not the most logical episode. Which, fine! As long as it had a lot of Katherine I was still going to love it.
Oh, that smile. Katherine woke up after a night of shirtless hugging Stefan and looked positively radiant. Fair enough!
Unfortunately her hairdo wasn't looking quite so radiant. This bit made me laugh:
Haha oh Katherine. Even in her time of distress she's still hilarious/the best. All wrapping herself up in a blanket and bumping into furniture. I think I'm okay with the element of Katherine aging super fast, that is interesting and poetic. But isn't it kind of dumb that she still looks HOT AS HELL in the face and body? I was thinking this show should've done more of a climax-of-Beetlejuice thing or made her look like the Cryptkeeper all of the sudden. But I never get my way and I never will.
Anyway, Katherine bumped into Damon and immediately started locker-room bragging to him about boning his brother.
It wasn't shown, but I guess Damon had THOROUGHLY searched the campus for Elena right? Before traveling the 2 hours to Mystic Falls? Okay good, just checking. Anyway, Elena was missing and Damon was back in Mystic Falls ASAP.
Then, I guess Elena had decided to get some Z's since we'd last seen her, and now she was in some burnt out basement strapped to a table. Which, if we're keeping track, is LAB #3 that Dr. Maxfield works out of. This dude had labs all over Virginia. But when you are a busy scientist doing tons of important research (electrocuting vampires), you need all the best resources you can get.
Oh look, Elena's mad scientist father had ALSO kept a diary. And again, this show's conception of "science" was so ridiculous ("because science" was the only explanation Wes gave when Elena asked him why he liked to torture vampires). So Grayson's diary was basically just things like "Today I shocked a vampire" and "Today I shocked a vampire even more." You know, SCIENCE. I guess it's fine though. Casual distrust of science is about as fresh a horror idea as vampires themselves, so whatever. Go to town, show. Still though, I wish whatever tests Wes had been doing to Elena for the first half hour had been interesting IN THE SLIGHTEST.
Anyway, then the Salvatore Bros realized that they needed to team up and find Elena, so they drove back to Whitmore and confronted Aaron. And by confronted, I mean they took him hostage.
But I did really like these scenes because it reminded me how fun this show is when Stefan and Damon are on the same page and working toward the same goal. You know? It seemed like they were back to being a team, which I didn't realize I'd missed until this storyline.
Anyway, they grabbed Aaron and forced him to call his "legal guardian" and orchestrate a trade for Elena.
But because Dr. Maxfield is CRAFTY and SCHEMING, he immediately renegged on the deal to switch hostages and instead activated his Universal-By-Way-Of-Italy Soldier. And by "activated" I mean he just sort of gave Enzo blood and asked for a favor.
Again, I'm not trying to be the logic police here, but why on earth wouldn't a full-strength and suddenly freed Enzo just immediately murder his captor and inject himself with an antidote (as Damon later easily did)? Was it Stockholm Syndrome? Brainwashing? It's unclear! Personally if I had been imprisoned for the better part of 70 years I'd be quietly plotting my escape/revenge and would be ready to take it at a moment's notice. And Enzo used to be ALL ABOUT revenge against his captors! Yeah, I just fully don't understand the logic here. Plus this whole Augustine thing has really pushed the limits of plausibility when it comes to vampires being subservient to ordinary humans. How on earth is a human with a syringe going to imprison vampires for a century? The logic is ridiculous and could have been fixed with even a minimal amount of brainstorming. Sorry to harp on this stuff, but logic tends to be important on shows like this. How can viewers be expected to care about the stakes these characters face when the writers don't seem to?
Anyway, then Katherine tried CrossFit.
I'm not convinced that CrossFit makes people younger so much as it makes their tendons and joints much older. But whatever, at least she was trying! And yes, it was absolutely wonderful to see Matt coaching Katherine. It's sincerely so cool whenever this show pairs off two unexpected characters like this.
Haha oh, Katherine. ("Haha oh, Katherine" should be the name of her spinoff. It will be a single camera comedy like Veep.)
So then Nadia ran out to the woods (which, by the way, the woods?) and slapped Katherine's face because she'd found Katherine's suicide note, and as we all know, suicide is for assholes.
I loved Katherine's reaction to seeing Nadia in the first place. These two! But things took a turn for the poignant when Katherine made them both green smoothies and then got sincere about whether she could be redeemed or not.
YES. THAT IS EXACTLY what we've been saying for YEARS. YES YOU CAN BE REDEEMED. And witnessing that redemption will be endlessly entertaining and powerful and important. Just don't drop dead on some stairs or anything, okay?
Oh, this was a major revelation: Katherine is PART-WITCH. Well, technically part-Traveler, but as we learned that's just a more gypsy-like version of a witch. Anyway, Nadia is a smart cookie, so she suggested Katherine could possibly just start living in other peoples' bodies, which, personally, who WOULDN'T want to do that? I have more than few bodies already picked out. But yeah, Katherine wasn't into that idea.
Whether it was poignant or foolhardy, Katherine wanted to remain in her own body so that Stefan would still like her. Doppelganger stuff. But still, kinda sad right? It's always about the guy, isn't it.
Much like Mystic Falls High, Whitmore College is virtually empty all of the time. That's why the hostage exchange was scheduled to go down in a LECTURE HALL. Unfortunately the Salvatores didn't see Elena waiting for them, but rather THIS GUY:
Who had, somehow, gotten a drivers license and driven the 2 hour to Whitmore? I don't know. Either way Damon was stressin'!
Hey Enzo! It was Enzo, everybody. Just out in the wild Enzo-ing it up. Now, last week when we met him I assumed he was this suave, handsome, charismatic guy, but either I was wrong about that or the show changed its mind about him because suddenly he was AWFUL? Enzo was awful. I don't like Enzo anymore. Aside from his plotline having no logical bearing or motivation, he was so boring also?
Like at one point he was trying to tell his boring story about how Damon failed to save him during a house party fire, and nobody was listening so he threw a desk. Haha whatever, you toddler. Like, I get that he'd been away from society for 70 years, but get real dude, vampires make terrible decisions all the time. Nobody in this room was surprised or seemed to care about what had happened 70 years ago. Aside from maybe not checking a corpse (laying 3 feet away) for keys, Damon didn't really do anything THAT bad. Um, except also I guess for letting 70 years pass without so much as peeking into the same exact laboratory-dungeon to see if Enzo was alive or what the Augustines were up to. So, sure, there MIGHT be a negligence issue at worst, but don't tell me Enzo didn't also make questionable decisions during HIS stint as a vampire. But yeah, not only did I not care about Enzo's grievances, his bratty attitude about it served to justify Damon's decision to let him burn.
At one point Damon openly suggested they team up to free Enzo permanently and Enzo couldn't even explain why that was a bad idea.
Instead he just threw Damon out the window! Which, sure, I tend to settle a lot of my arguments that way as well. Not judging. I'm just saying that it's impossible to care about a character who does not operate by any relatable logic or brainpower. Get out of here, Enzo.
In my opinion it is plenty rude to throw somebody out a window, but it's so much worse when you throw them onto a jalopy. It's rude AND disrespectful. Needless to say Damon was NOT happy.
Except, again, Enzo was seriously no match for Damon because Wes had infected Enzo with some kind of agent that made him desiccate. So what exactly was the plan here again? Sending a weakened vampire out to kidnap a very strong vampire? I don't get it. Oh trust me, I'm sure hours and hours of discussion went into this plotline, but it was probably all reverse-justification because none of the motivations make sense. This show could've gone all cyborg-vampire or even Manchurian Candidate in this plotline so that Enzo had NO agency whatsoever but it instead wanted an emotional confrontation. Neither worked. Too bad, because the Enzo-Damon stuff could have been actually interesting. At this point it was all just screentime taken away from Katherine sorry.
Meanwhile Stefan had a particularly smarmy moment with Aaron.
So, Stefan let Aaron go after Aaron explained that Damon had been targeting his family, because Stefan wanted to make a point about he's not as much of a monster as Damon was. UM SORRY. We've seen enough of this show to know that over the long run Stefan has murdered far more people and been way more ruthless. We know this. Stefan knows this. So to get all superior to Damon in this scene was just lame. Unless he was just lying in order to get Aaron to turn over his secret files, in which case, victory? But I'm pretty sure Stefan was being sincere when he claimed to be a better person than Damon. That was such a Stefan thing to claim.
Okay, then after what felt like a million scenes of nothing happening between Elena and Dr. Maxfield, he finally started doing stuff. Specifically he explained that he'd developed a serum that would make vampires crave vampire blood. And he wanted to inject her with it so that she'd become a Ripper toward vampires. Now, THAT is a good idea. And scary. And has stakes. But again, it's not really science-y. So does he actually want to develop health remedies from vampire blood or was he simply trying to eradicate vampires? Can't have it both ways, dude! A little more specificity with the Augustine stuff would have made me care more. (Oh, and by the way, the "Augustine vampire" was actually Enzo and HE ate Elena's roommate. Just in case you were hoping there'd be a cool reveal behind that turn of events, nope.)
To Dr. Maxfield's credit, he actually did stab Elena with the syringe! But of course he didn't think to sedate her or knock her out or anything beforehand, so all she had to do was head-butt him and/or whip him with her hairdo and it was lights out!
Dr. Maxfield never pressed the plunger, so Elena was NOT going to be a vampire-feeding ripper this day. Also Stefan arrived a second too late and unbuckled her and pretended to be her savior.
So yeah, okay. Consider the seeds of this romance re-sewn.
This was a very excellent scene:
Nadia confided in Matt that she'd lost hope in Katherine and they bonded over what disappointments their mothers had been. First of all, I love any mention of Matt's mom (mostly because I want Melinda Clarke to return to the show), but also this felt emotionally sophisticated and immediately affecting. Nadia is a new character but I'm already invested in her because I understand her motivations AND she's proactive enough to try and actually get results. Also it counts a lot in her favor that she's clearly taking a shining to Matt. You know?
Sure, they touched hands over an ancient gypsy-witch dagger, but still. It felt real. Also, maybe this has been explained before, but did Matt and Rebekah know that Nadia was a vampire when they first picked her up in Prague? If not, how did they not know? Rebekah especially should have known. These are the things I wonder when I watch teen serials about sexually promiscuous monsters.
So yeah, Damon saved Enzo's life by injecting him with something labeled "antidote." Classic quick-thinking. But then Enzo was still mad, so Damon stuck his hand in Enzo's chest and admitted that he'd turned his emotion switch off before leaving Enzo to die, but I honestly cannot be bothered to care about Enzo anymore.
But the important thing to note (at least this episode really wanted us to note it) was that Damon was suddenly realizing that he had certain psychopathic tendencies that would never go away. And while, to us, it never seemed like he'd ever forgotten that fact and indeed his arc for a few seasons now has been about him fighting against those tendencies, now it was suddenly too much to bear and he was ready to walk away from his relationship just like that.
It all went down in the Salvatore shanty where Elena was reading her father's murder journal and, as Elena is wont to do, openly justifying murder.
But Damon seemed pained. Like someone who realized he was in love with a woman who not only frequently looked past mass murder, but seemed to only surround herself with mass murderers. And it was, somehow, his bad influence on her that made her this way.
WHOOPS! Damon and Elena broke up! Seemed kind of abrupt to me, but whatever. Elena's love life is the bread and butter of this show, but boy am I tired of bread and butter. Sorry to sound controversial, but I legit don't care who Elena dates or which Salvatore gets a turn next. I truly don't. This used to be a serial, but now it's a procedural. WHO'S DATING ELENA THIS SEASON. Don't care. Everybody stay single, please.
THIS was what I cared about, and it might be the only thing I'll care about from now on:
Katherine tried to get a firm answer out of Stefan about what their hookup had meant to him. Was this the culmination of nearly two centuries' of romantic intrigue, or was it, as last week's episode implied, just a foolish chapter in their messed up lives? Obviously Katherine was hoping for something more meaningful, but, devastatingly, Stefan did not feel the same way.
I mean, unrequited love will always be compelling (much more so than a love triangle, which is a humblebrag of a problem), so it was hard not to feel VERY sad for Katherine in this moment. Stefan's logic was, she had been super mean to him for a few hundred years so it would be hard to look past her myriad crimes and love her. (Again, Stefan was a total hypocrite here. How many times had he been a ripper by this point? Twelve dozen? Yet he knew firsthand he was still essentially a decent person deserving of love.) But really, the look on Katherine's face as she tried to walk away said it all:
And then, to his credit, Stefan grabbed her and made sure she knew that he was her friend and still cared about her.
Devastating. But in a good way. These two have such a history that for them to feel connected like this felt somehow even richer than a simple romantic hookup. I'm disappointed that Katherine seems to be on her way out because as much as it's been a thrill to see this redemption arc unfold, I truly felt that SHE would've helped redeem Stefan in return. And only recently had she started to accept her new circumstances! I would've loved to have seen this play out for a least a few hundred more seasons. Unfortunately the heart wants what it wants, and in Katherine's case it wanted to STOP.
I mean she's not fully dead yet according to the promos but still.
On the one hand I'm hella upset at this show's audacity that, after the same season in which they shuttle off THREE of its best characters to another show, it (maybe) kills off the next biggest crowd pleaser. But on the other hand, as I mentioned before, Katherine is the #1 most compelling character on the show right now and it makes sense to put her life in jeopardy in order to keep us invested. The next episode (TVD's 100th!) seems to be ALL about Katherine and will either culminate in her death or at least a twist that will keep her alive in a surprising or insane way. But any episode that fully celebrates Katherine is a good episode. I just truly hope this series knows what it's doing by potentially removing its undisputed best element. Unfortunately, after how this season has unfolded so far, I'm just not so sure it does.
As far as entertainment value goes, "Fifty Shades of Grayson" was interesting enough from moment to moment, but too many of the plotlines felt inconsequential or dragged out. Obviously Enzo was a disaster, but also did we really care about Elena's father to this extent? I'm not sure that strip-mining her backstory for twists and revelations is really the best form of storytelling. Her average upbringing was what made her relatable and her story so strange. But epic sagas LOVE to overcomplicate backstories to the point of incoherence. When backstory strip-mining isn't done right it makes its characters seem dumb or incompetent for not remembering those things from the past (i.e. Damon's incarceration at Whitmore had slipped his mind for the first 8 episodes?). And Elena GREW UP with the knowledge that her father had a secret room in the basement where obvious electrocution noises could be heard? I didn't need any of that. I feel like the backstories on this show are spent. Let's move forward, guys.
SORRY SO GRUMPY. I just feel like this show has been all over the place for a while now, and very few of those places are places I want to be.
But Happy Holidays though BYEEE!!
... What will happen to Katherine?
... Do you still care about Enzo?
... Will Damon and Elena stay broken up?
... Was Bonnie upstairs in Jeremy's room the whole time & do you blame her?
AIRED ON 5/15/2014
Season 5 : Episode 22