The Vampire Diaries, Ep. 4.12, “A View to a Kill”: Bold choice starts to put show back on track

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A View to a Kill

The Vampire Diaries, Season 4, Episode 12: “A View to a Kill”
Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine
Directed by Brad Turner
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on the CW

This week, on The Vampire Diaries: Bonnie gets a visitor, Rebekah has a dance, and Jeremy gets some ink

After weeks of padding and repetition, The Vampire Diaries is finally moving back on track thanks to two big moves in this week’s episode. It’s been 16 episodes, 10 months our time, since an Original was last killed, despite the frankly ridiculous number of times various parties have sworn revenge or justice or something else against the Mikaelson family. With this week’s death of Kol, it’s wonderful to finally have The Vampire Diaries of previous seasons back. The show that would have characters state ultimatums and intentions and then follow through that same episode, regardless of how many episodes remained or how important a character our leads were ploting against. The show that had tangible stakes and kept audiences glued to their seats because (almost) anything could happen (Elena and the Salvatores aren’t going anywhere, but everyone else is fair game).

By killing Kol, instead of coming up with yet another increasingly unjustified excuse to avoid doing so, the series has reinforced Team Elena as a viable threat, returned Klaus to his most believable role, antagonist, and provided an interesting and murky moral decision for Rebekah. It also puts the narrative foot on the gas, doing away with the impediment of Jeremy’s incomplete Hunter’s Mark, a storyline that’s been treading water for far too long.

From pacing to performance, “A View to a Kill” is far superior to last week’s “Catch Me If You Can”. Though both episodes center on cat-and-mouse chases and deception, this episode has the energy and unpredictability the previous one lacked. Whereas “Catch Me If You Can” is anticlimactic and very much an example of characters trudging through the motions, here there’s palpable dread. Late in the episode, via the pacing, editing, and even scoring, the energy picks up and all of a sudden, Kol feels in play, despite the upcoming Originals spinoff in the works at the CW. When the writers follow through on this, it’s a relief and the fallout, a glorious mess, promises far more interesting things to come.

A View to a Kill

The other smart move is the reintroduction of Bonnie’s mom, Abby. Her appearance midway through the episode not only makes sense, it had this audience member smacking her head, ashamed not to have seen it coming. After an entire season with Shane as the sole expert on magic, and a blatantly shady one at that, it’s wonderful to have another appear, and one who reminds audiences, more subtly than the other reminders in this episode, that Bonnie has her own good reason to look for the Cure. Rick Worthy remains a bright spot as Bonnie’s dad and seeing him work together with Abby to try to rein in their clearly out of control daughter should be interesting.

Unfortunately, Bonnie herself, though she’s far more compelling here, away from Shane, gives us one of the weakest parts of the episode and reinforces of one of the show’s recurring problems. When confronted with a curfew and her father’s cancellation of the school dance, she responds like a spoiled child. Mystic Fall’s propensity for galas, dances, and parties in general remains somewhat of a recurring gag, but the idea that everyone expects life to go on as normal while this much craziness is going on is frankly ridiculous and only serves to remind the audience that these characters, regardless of their seeming growth and maturation, can and will be infantilized by the writers whenever they feel the need to go back to the high school. Caroline’s continued absence is another problem and this is only exacerbated with a dance in the mix- no way everyone’s favorite Dance Committee member would miss an opportunity to micromanage.

A View to a Kill

The dance itself, and the scenes there with Rebekah and Stefan, however, are great. Claire Holt remains charming in the role and Rebekah could easily become an asset to the show, if she were given any opportunity to grow. She pairs well with Stefan and there’s no reason she shouldn’t be able to become one of the powerful, independent, dynamic female characters this series used to prioritize.

Now that the pacing seems to be improving, perhaps the most annoying issue is the dialogue, which continues to treat the audience as inattentive children. Most of the first act is littered with poorly phrased reminders to the viewers of the previous week’s action. And that’s after the “Previously on…” and the clunky “My name is Elena Gilbert…” introduction. The Vampire Diaries is the CW’s biggest hit. It isn’t struggling to attract new viewers. Watering down the characters and spoon-feeding relationship reminders only insults the intelligence and devotion of your fan base. (To paraphrase, “Want to go to the batting cages in Denver?” Really? You mentioned Jeremy and Kol’s offscreen season three friendship last week. Unsubtly. You don’t need to do it again and certainly not this clunkily.)

Of course, there’s still the heavy-handed main triangle problems and the lack of agency for most of the female characters (especially with Caroline gone), but it’s great to see The Vampire Diaries at least starting to head in the right direction. Hopefully the next few episodes will confirm this progress and start addressing the other problems that have so quickly taken over the show. It would be wonderful to have back the series this reviewer used to love.

What did you think of this episode? Were you surprised by Abby’s reemergence? How about Kol’s death? (Guess they aren’t part of his bloodline- lucky them!) What are you hoping happens next? Post your thoughts below.

Kate Kulzick

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