Sometimes in life you just have to accept the ridiculous in order to enjoy yourself. Which can be difficult seeing as nearly 100 percent of everything is straight-up ridiculous. Who came up with the idea for gravity? Like, sure, let's all cling upside-down on a giant orb for half the day, that's a great idea. Or water. That is wet, invisible nonsense. And guess what is currently hiding inside each of us? A SKELETON. Forget about skeletons in the closet, the one inside your body is the biggest creep of them all. But the thing is, if you dwell on these ridiculous ideas you might miss out on the finer aspects of life. By which of course I am referring to teen supernatural dramas, and specifically The Vampire Diaries.
This week's episode "The Cell" was very terrific so long as you could accept at least three ludicrous things as no big deal. Like how humans are suddenly so much more powerful than supersonic supersensory superstrong vampires, provided they have a dinky syringe of vervain on them. Or the fact that Damon had experienced five years straight of torture underneath Whitmore College but he didn't tell anybody about it, and also seemed to have forgotten about it entirely seeing as he was just trouble-free chillin' on campus for several weeks without having any flashbacks. Also, dragging an enormous safe out of the forest and leaving it on someone's front porch is just a normal thing that happens in Mystic Falls. See what I'm saying? All of these things were ridiculous as h*ck yet if you could refrain from questioning them you got some of the richest and best storytelling of the season so far. "The Cell" was a very good episode! Let's talk about it.
We began with a tiny bit of a fakeout: The exterior of the Salvatore Shanty looking surprisingly warm and inviting—if slightly sepia-toned—and also there was an African-American maid and a TV with some kind of cryptic lettering on it. OH WAIT THIS WAS THE 1950s!
Damon came in dressed like one of the Drapes from Cry-Baby and I guess one of his human relatives was living here at the moment so they got to doing what Salvatores do best: STABBING.
It was just a whole lot of stabbing! The explanation was that the uncle/cousin/whatever had sold Damon into science, which is a very rude thing to do. So Damon shoved a glass into the dude's neck and then ANOTHER dude came out and syringed Damon. I mean, I don't know, the '50s were a rough time for everybody but especially the maid.
Then it was present day and Damon had stopped having the flashback just in time to realize that history was repeating itself!
Oh, Dr. Wes, you scoundrel. Just kidding, I mean I know he's a villain but I liiiiike him sorry. Damon did NOT like him though, so he just sort of laid on that filthy floor all frowning because he was already over it.
Speaking of over it:
HAHAHA I will never get tired of this show making fun of what a dumb device diaries are. Except, you know, even making fun of diaries STILL counts as relying on diary voiceovers for exposition. It's seriously so strange that of all things, Season 5 has decided to exhume THIS artifact. Were viewers really THAT nostalgic for early Season 1? If so let's just skip the diaries and bring back Tiki or Matt's mom. But yeah, back to the diary device, I realize that times are tough when one or more of the Salvatores is locked in a dungeon and the show can't have a top-of-the-episode expositional cell phone convo like usual, but oh well. At least we got the sight of Katherine writing in a diary and essentially lampooning Elena. Just to provide you with some foreshadowing for the rest of this review, Katherine's plotline is by far the best thing about this episode and also season. Let's just get that out of the way up front.
Anyway, then the doorbell rang. It was Caroline!
So yeah, this was crazy. The idea was that Stefan was still dealing with PTSD from drowning in a safe all summer, so Caroline decided that she would cure him with some safe-therapy. But it was like, how did she get that enormous safe over to the house? (Also, did the safe get bigger somehow?) Caroline mentioned something vague about her mom helping her get the safe there but that honestly just raised even more questions. And now I'm even wondering how Stefan got that safe to the quarry in the first place? Anyway, forget about the circumstances of how the safe gets anywhere, just accept that a vampire teen brought a several-ton safe to Stefan's front porch for therapy purposes.
Meanwhile at Whitmore College, Aaron was dealing with the "suicide" of his roommate Jesse, which had brought the suicide rate of his circle of friends to a solid 100%. It was some pretty sick irony that the lady who MURDERED Jesse was standing there trying to commiserate with him, but even Elena couldn't keep up the charade of sympathy for very long and she was already asking him for a personal favor right away. See, her boyfriend wasn't answering her texts!
Meanwhile in the '50s we really started to get a sense of just how badly Damon was treated by the mad doctor Whitmore.
Yep, lots of eye-stabbing and onto-floor-throwing. Ugh, the '50s.
Meanwhile Aaron agreed to help Elena find Dr. Maxfield but was chagrinned when he led her into the Whitmore House, which of course she needed to be invited into. But then, surprisingly, Aaron was able to invite her in because HE OWNED IT.
Haha this was also very ridiculous, the idea that (1) Elena didn't know Aaron's last name was WHITMORE, and (2) he had been trying to keep his family heritage on the down-low. Sure. That is such teen fantasy right there, the secretly wealthy hunk who doesn't want people to know about his family's prominence because they'll treat him differently. NOPE. In real life this guy would've been telling every co-ed within a hundred miles just who he was and getting soooo laid. Also I just don't believe that the only living heir to the recently murdered college founders' family could be anonymous EVEN IF HE WANTED TO. He'd be in all the papers, he'd be giving memorial speeches, everyone would be rallying around him for support. Like, I know that TV logic is important, and that characters remain silent when they're not on camera, and everybody lives in a vacuum or whatever. But sometimes it would be nice if people seemed real? Just a thought.
Then Elena saw her own father in a framed photograph in Aaron's house. What were you UP TO, Grayson? But before she could think too hard about it, Dr. Maxfield ran down the stairs and shot her up with vervain.
Aaron seemed surprised by this! It was probably fair to assume maybe he knew more than he'd let on about the existence of vampires, but nope. He had been completely in the dark about that. So in a quick but amusing beat, Dr. Maxfield sort of brought him up to speed real quick and gave him some reading materials to help.
That's always the problem with adding new characters to a long-running serial: It's hard to be invested in a character with no awareness of the overall mythology (see: April). It's like, get out of here dummy, you're in over your head. So at least Aaron will now become a more interesting character after learning the truth. Hopefully?
Meanwhile it was time to REALLY dig into Damon's experiences from 60 years prior. The big thing to know was that he had a friend in the dungeon.
Meet Enzo! So, the thing is, everybody knows that one of the major reasons for flashback episodes on TVD (aside from wigs) is they always introduce a new character who will later appear in the present day. Pretty much always, yeah. So it's with great pleasure to inform you that Enzo is GREAT. He was some Italian dude who'd fought in WWII and became a test subject for the Augustines. Also he gave some monologue about falling in love with a nurse who'd worked there or something, which I'm guessing is only important because we'll be meeting her too someday? I don't know. But Enzo was handsome and he and Damon were insta-besties, that's really the main thing to know about Enzo.
I loved this moment between Katherine and Caroline. Caroline was trying to read a Psychology for Dummies book and Katherine just immediately accused her of having tingly sensations toward Stefan. Which I think is very possible! Caroline and Stefan are definitely both single now. However, I prefer to think that Katherine wasn't simply sexually harassing Caroline, she was actually trying to make sure she wouldn't be hurting Caroline's feelings if she decided to make a move on Stefan herself. That's MY theory anyway.
But yeah, so far Stefan's safe therapy wasn't working and he was fake-drowning so much. That's when Katherine stepped up with a very good idea. TO BE CONTINUED.
Meanwhile in the '50s Damon was still trying to get answers about why he'd been locked up and tortured so much.
Dr. Whitmore mentioned something about regeneration, and trying to isolate the science behind vampirism or something kind of uninspiring. But then we learned that the WEIRDEST part of his studies involved inviting his prisoners to an annual New Year's Eve party where he made them stand in a cage and also feed their blood to partygoers.
So uh, yeah. The Augustines were definitely a bunch of weirdos. Like, drinking vampire blood I maybe can understand. The human body is a joke and constantly breaking down, so sure, give me a few drops of that cure-all. But pouring vampire blood into a champagne flute pyramid? That's just rich person madness.
Meanwhile in the present day, a couple of blonde hunks were getting real. By that I mean Dr. Maxfield finally clued Aaron in about how his parents had died.
Haha Aaron relax. By the way, I get that "animal attack" is the all-purpose explanation for vampire murders, but it's also something that makes less and less sense anytime I think about it. WHAT KIND OF ANIMAL, detectives? Is that in the report? Do the bite marks match up with anything in those woods? A fanged baboon maybe? What about DNA evidence? I don't know, nevermind. Aaron got mad and punched Dr. Maxfield in the face which made ME so mad. Leave his face alone, you sad-sack trustafarian!
MEANWHILE. LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.
Katherine went INTO the safe with Stefan! The logic was that his PTSD would turn him into a Ripper-esque mess and having a human nearby would spell certain doom for that human. So Katherine banked on his ability to overcome those impulses with his innate sense of heroism. Which yes, that is Stefan's dichotomy: Mass murderer AND hero. It's not a contradiction, it's just his spectrum. So this was the one way I feel like Katherine's suicidal tendencies paid off, unlike last week's lazy attempt at pathos. She wasn't explicitly trying to kill herself, she was merely saying that if she DID happen to die during this exercise, oh well. That's definitely different than throwing yourself off a clock tower because your long lost vampire daughter cut you a stank-face. So yeah, Katherine being in the safe with Stefan = GENIUS.
Speaking of genius:
Back in the day Stefan and Enzo had worked out an escape plan, and it meant that Enzo would let Damon drink his thimble of blood each day so that Damon could grow stronger and bust them both out during a New Year's Eve party. And he did it! (By disgustingly breaking his hand on camera in order to slip some shackles.) Anyway, that's when the night REALLY got started.
Unfortunately during the carnage Damon accidentally set everything on fire and Enzo's cage bars were too hot to touch.
And that's when Damon flipped off his emotions-switch and bounced.
Elena did NOT like this story, and fair enough. It made Damon look very bad! Because poor Enzo! But also, they'd had a deal. (Which makes sense; all characters introduced in flashbacks need to reappear with an angry agenda.) I will say that the entire element of these two powerful vampires being unable to break out of their cells over a 5 year period was hard to believe. Yes, they were weakened by vervain, but even a weak human should be able to overpower a scrawny doctor with a syringe and bustle out of the cell right? Plus Damon had been drinking twice as much blood as the doctor knew about, so couldn't he have made a move sooner? I don't know, I just felt like we've seen vampires get vervained in the past and they usually bounce back and get things done pretty soon afterward. This whole imprisonment situation felt inconsistent to me. But again, just gotta accept it and move on.
BECAUSE THIS WAS HAPPENING:
Katherine went from making Stefan infuriated about her presence to close-talking and breathing with him and nurturing him and it worked and he was cured and oh man SO GOOD. Katherine the schemer, using her skills for good. But not just GOOD. Something sort of epic. As ridiculous as it was that the safe was on the Salvatores' living room floor, it was all worth it to have this scene happen. One of the series' finest.
And of course Caroline accidentally (?) cock-blocked them. But still, that look between Stefan and Katherine shortly after?
Amazing. Amazing. The best.
So after Aaron punched Dr. Maxfield's perfect face, he stole a gun out of the safe and went to the dungeon to find out which of these vampires killed his parents.
And that was the twist: DAMON HAD DONE IT. Even though it had only happened last summer!
The reason for that was because his main coping mechanism during his imprisonment was the dream of someday getting out and systematically murdering the Whitmore descendants forever onward. So even though he'd been out of the dungeon for 55 years he'd been secretly keeping this promise to himself, including the time earlier that summer when he apparently left Elena's bosom to go murder Aaron's parents. Which, again, if Whitmore murderizin' remained so fresh in Damon's mind, then why was he so taken by surprise that the Augustine stuff was still going on in the exact same locations?
And that's when, for the first time in her life, Elena suddenly disapproved of murder.
And for the record, so did Aaron.
So yeah. Not sure this is quite as major a reveal as it was supposed to be. (Because who cares about Aaron OR his parents? And also Damon has been a murderer for hundreds of years, deal w/it.) But between this and Enzo's "death" it was clear that Elena was suddenly troubled by Damon's actions and maybe Caroline had been right about him. I don't know! But this is a soap involving a love triangle so it stands to reason Elena and Damon will be breaking up at some point before the final season's mad dash toward OTP endgame. Was this the beginning of that?
Who cares, because:
YESSSSS. YES YES YES.
All right, look, one gripe: The tone of this episode treated Stefan and Katherine's hookup as some kind of funny fling. Like, 'Look at this wild hookup!' But if you've been watching this show since the beginning, then the idea of Stefan and Katherine coming together like this isn't just some minor or meaningless thing. This is, like, premise-rattling. Forget that Elena is the main character; Katherine is the CATALYST for the entire PREMISE of the show. She had such a rich and anguished history with the Salvatores. Her shadow loomed over all of Season 1 and culminated in one of the great twists in modern TV. Her arc from supervillain to sad hobo has been the richest and most surprising in the show's run. This hookup was not some fun lark or some trashy rebound. These are two broken people who get each other more than any other characters on the show. Now that they've hooked up I pretty much don't want to see either of them be with anyone else? But then the tone of this hookup (complete with lusty music and a throw-caution-to-the-wind apathy) made me think that this was just a temporary stop or a footnote in each person's journey. I really hope not. Stefan and Katherine's love (then hate, and now maybe future love) just feels so much more epic than a one-off fling. I'm really hoping this wonderful turn of events will be explored and deepened. I would love to see someone as hardened and jaded as Katherine dissolve into a romantic, thus completing her re-humanization at which point she could become the new main character of the show instead of Elena. I would ALSO love to see Stefan actually get into it with someone as dynamic and independent as Katherine. But knowing this season, I'm just not sure it'll be giving us what we want. But seriously credit where credit's due: This turn of events was tremendous. So good.
So then Damon woke up from his head-wound and Elena was gone! She was in the laboratory next door strapped to a table.
So yeah, Enzo was back. I would've added an exclamation mark to that statement but DUH, of course he was back, that's how flashback characters work. Still though, Enzo is crazy-likable. Just a good addition to the show, I hope he stays awhile! He'll definitely need awhile to get caught up on all the new cell phones and Windows tablets and Mi-Fi gadgets. Welcome to the future, Enzo!
"The Cell" was very, very entertaining for many reasons. Damon looks good as a greaser; Enzo seems very promising; the Augustine society remains very intriguing; Dr. Maxfield's face; and most of all KATHERINE (and Stefan). That last element was the most important, mostly because Katherine is the best, but also now that Stefan has fallen for her (hopefully?), it is the most I've liked his character in a while. I mean, he was fine, he's the romantic lead and frequently the hero, but now that his heart is making these good decisions I'm way more invested in his inner workings. The show is always doing this: Forcing us to shift our sympathies from one Salvatore to the other, much like Elena does. Or at least, that seems to be the intention anyway. At this point I like both guys and am interested in their journeys. Whatever mistakes this season has made (ugh, Silas), at least it's kept us very invested in these core characters and has gotten back on track with a fresh-seeming storyline. Only one more episode until the mid-season hiatus! What could possibly go wrong?
*rollerblades into a hedge*
... Was the Stefan-Katherine kiss everything or EVERYTHING?
... OR are you holding out hope for a Stefan-Caroline thing?
... Enzo: Thumbs up or THUMBS UP?
... Do you care about Aaron at all be honest.
AIRED ON 5/13/2016
Season 7 : Episode 22