The Vampire Diaries, Ep. 4.08-9: Plot pitfalls avoided with thoughtful, restrained approach
The Vampire Diaries Review, Season 4, Episode 8: “We’ll Always Have Bourbon Street”
Written by Charlie Charbonneau and Jose Molina
Directed by Jesse Warn
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on the CW
The Vampire Diaries Review, Season 4, Episode 9: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Written by Michael J. Cinquemani and Julie Plec
Directed by Pascal Verschooris
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on the CW
Last episode’s controversial reveal, that Elena is sired to Damon, could have led the show in several different directions. Fortunately, the path chosen is one of restraint. Over the course of these two episodes, we get a clear picture of what siring can mean for a vampire, what it doesn’t mean, and just how conflicted everyone involved seems to be. First we have, “We’ll Always Have Bourbon Street”, which shows the audience, and Damon, what could happen to Elena if she remains sired. Flashback episodes are usually fun and this is no exception. Bringing back Lexie, who remains a favorite despite her early season one demise, works very well, as Lexie is one of the very few characters who is reliably honest. Madeline Zima is great as Charlotte, pairing the crazy eyes with a strong layer of pain, desperation, and heartbreak. Though it may have been even more effective if we’d met a more stable, pre-vamping Charlotte, the episode gets its point across- no one wants to see Elena turn into anything like Charlotte.
It’s also nice to see movement on Bonnie and the still-creepy Professor Shane, though Bonnie is going to need one hell of a lot of rebuilding after the way this season has belittled her instincts and intelligence. The introduction of Expression is interesting, though the writers for the next few episodes will have to be creative to avoid Expression feeling like a retread of the Dark Magic/k we’ve seen earlier this season and on countless other genre series. Bonnie’s early season scenes with Grams remain some of the most powerful of the series. If Expression feels too similar to the dark forces she was toying with previously, and Bonnie doesn’t notice and back away, it will feel like an utter betrayal of Grams and her sacrifice.
Hopefully, Stefan, Damon, and Caroline will piece Shane’s plan together sooner rather than later, as they now have all the information they need. Damon and Shane, in particular, have an odd rapport- they’ve interacted a number of times now, yet Damon doesn’t seem to have a good read on Shane. Of course, he does have other things distracting him, but still, it’s been interesting to see the clear villain of the season so comfortably situated with our protagonists and yet undetected. Jeremy’s progress in “O Come” is welcome, as combining his inability to control his actions with Elena’s overly weakens the themes of a show that has so consistently centered on free will and choice.
Meanwhile, Tyler gets something to do in the form of his sadly temporary role as Alpha of the hybrid pack. It’s probably for the best for TVD to steer away from making werewolves/hybrids a major element on the show (additional similarities to True Blood are not desirable, at this point), but keeping Tyler around with such little purpose doesn’t necessarily work either. After Klaus’ murder of the hybrids and then his mom (putting the human character count even lower, a significant issue at this point), Tyler will have little to no purpose aside from killing Klaus, even though that means his own death. If it felt like Klaus was in any danger at all, that could be interesting, but time and again, the series has opted to keep Klaus around, no matter how thin the excuse. If Tyler decides to stay, and Klaus stays too, the writers will have their work cut out for them, attempting to make it even remotely believable.
Perhaps the biggest strength of “Bourbon Street” is the response each of the main characters has to the siring reveal. Damon may not want to believe it, but he puts aside his emotions and makes sure. When presented with the evidence, Elena accepts it and does her own research as well. Both have mature and measured, if conflicted, responses and rather than pushing away their friends, as a lesser show would have had them do, they seek out those who can help. Talking to Tyler, in particular, makes such sense this reviewer feels like an idiot not to have seen that conversation coming.
Ending “Bourbon Street” on a cliffhanger and putting off Damon’s decision ‘til the end of “O Come” is another good move. With something this significant, Damon’s ability to ever be with Elena, having the decision approached and made in one episode would feel too abrupt. This needs to be a choice made with deliberation; otherwise, it’s too easy for Damon, or more accurately, the writers, to undo the choice down the road and claim it was made in the heat of the moment and without proper reflection. Clearly something has to change, as otherwise Elena can never see Damon again and we no longer have a show, but for now, the Delena arc feels natural and their goodbye appropriately final.
What did you think of this episode? Anyone else enjoy the witch in flashback totally playing Damon? Think Damon’s siring solution will work? Will Tyler go off the deep end? Post your thoughts below!