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The Vampire Diaries, Ep. 3.17, “Break On Through”: Back on track to crazy fun land

The Vampire Diaries, Ep. 3.17, “Break On Through”: Back on track to crazy fun land

The Vampire Diaries Review, Season 3, Episode 17: “Break On Through”
Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine
Directed by Lance Anderson
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on the CW

This week, on The Vampire Diaries: Jamie’s a bitten boy, Damon’s a bad boy, and Ric’s a dull boy.

After last week’s mediocre episode, this week things are back on track towards the show’s usual level of intrigue and excitement. Not everything works, however. Sage, featured in last week’s flashbacks, shows up in town and quickly schemes away with Damon. We didn’t get much insight into her last week and that continues here. She shows a lot of resolve and craftiness, but outside of her love (or obsession, if Rebekah’s to be believed) for Finn, and her age, we know very little about her. The writers don’t seem to agree, however- there’s a strong sense from the script that we know and have a preexisting relationship with the character. This contrasts greatly with the way, for example, Lexie was treated in season one. It was clear that Stefan and Damon had a long-established relationship with her, but the audience wasn’t expected to share in this.

Damon also shows uncharacteristic foolishness, though perhaps it’s actually completely in-character pride and bravado, in his dealings with Sage. He hasn’t been this cavalier with his secrets and plans in a long time. Perhaps this is due to his history with her, but given how little we’ve seen of this, his behavior smacks somewhat of plot-onium. However, the final reveal of the sign works very well, and had this been his goal all along, to lull Rebecca into a false sense of security, thinking she’d destroyed the entirety of the remaining wood from the second white oak, the earlier scenes would have played much better. Perhaps this is Damon’s plan all along, but if so, this isn’t conveyed particularly well.

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Bringing the Wickery Bridge back into the mythology in such a big way is a nice touch. The series is very good at circling around, connecting new pieces of mythology to earlier seemingly disparate elements. When poorly executed, this idea can lend a show a strong air of contrivance, but here it gives a sense of narrative completeness instead, making Mystic Falls feel like a distinct and well-woven universe. Another example is the decision to tie the Founders murders in with the Gilbert rings and Johnathan Gilberts’ psychosis (mentioned as far back as early season 1), which has paid off well.

Ric has a lot to do this week and Matt Davis is clearly having a blast playing EvilRic, whose screentime is wisely kept to a minimum. His early MRI scene is well handled, if a bit expected, and his attack of Meredith is appropriately tense, but the end of episode doublebluff between EvilRic and Elena is the most interesting of his scenes. Once again, Elena proves herself to be among the smartest, most resourceful, and nerviest of the teen genre heroines. She quickly assesses the situation, freaks out an appropriate amount, though silently, and instantly snaps back to focus on and handle her current predicament as soon as EvilRic enters the scene.

Elena isn’t the most prominent or showy of the teen genre queens, but scenes like this consistently remind the audience how she’s managed to survive becoming embroiled in a world of supernatural death, and it’s not because she has a big strong vampire boyfriend. Elena’s unassuming nature makes Nina Dobrev’s performance an easy one to overlook as well, but she’s consistently strong and her brief scene on the phone with Jeremy is excellent, as is her scene with Bonnie. Her friendship with Bonnie and the warmth of this dynamic has been sorely missed and this, along with Jeremy’s brief appearance, makes the episode feel far more personal than the past several installments.

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Injecting Jeremy, however tangentially, back into the story is smart and by showing us Samantha’s seemingly quick fall to the darkness of her Gilbert ring (though theoretically she could have been brought back several times by her ring before Stefan killed her), the stakes for both him and Elena are high. We have already seen the ring save Jeremy- if one save is all it takes, he may already be starting to go. Elena has lost her parents, her aunt, has been responsible for the death or transition of several of her friends and their family members (at least in her mind), and now her only remaining family, Jeremy and Ric, may be beyond saving. The stark image of Elena alone in her large kitchen works well, particularly due to the writers’ trust of the audience to get the point without unnecessary dialogue, and keeping Jeremy out of town instead of hurrying him back both makes sense character-wise and works better for the series, allowing time to be spent on the already significant number of secondary characters and plotlines.

Not all of the secondary characters have fared well this season. Caroline has had a lot on her plate, and Candice Accola has risen to the challenge, but Bonnie’s arc with her mother has been somewhat of a weak point in the past several episodes. Having Abby take off makes sense for the character, and continues the theme of less-than-present parents, but it’s a bit disappointing that this is the best they could come up with. Though Caroline’s attempt to change Abby’s mind is well written, and Accola plays it well, this is the third parent to abandon their child (Caroline’s dad, until this season, Matt’s mom, and now Bonnie’s mom, again). The only two (alive, onscreen) parents in Mystic Falls are Caroline and Tyler’s moms, and Tyler’s not even in town at the moment. What does a parent do, living in this town and knowing its secrets? Why would you stay? This is an interesting idea, something the series has barely touched on. It’s too bad they’re not taking this opportunity to explore it.  That being said, this episode is a dramatic improvement on last week’s- here’s hoping they keep the momentum through the rest of the climb to the finale.

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What did you think of this week’s episode? Were you as surprised as I at the show’s restraint re:Damon/Rebekah? Anyone else intrigued by EvilRic’s manifesto? Post your thoughts in the comments below!

Kate Kulzick