The Vampire Diaries, Season 5, Episode 5: “Monster’s Ball”
Written by Sonny Postiglione
Directed by Kellie Cyrus
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on The CW
Qetsiyah’s presence and subsequent spell two weeks ago altered the course of the show permanently, as not only did Stefan lose his memory and seemingly become a new person in the process, but Silas also lost his mind control capabilities, reducing his hold over people considerably. While last week’s episode explored the ramifications of the former, this week looks at the effect of the latter going forward, in a fascinating episode that, despite some issues, is the strongest one of the season.
The idea of introducing Nadia Petrova is an interesting one. While Katherine has been ruthless and manipulative through most of her time on The Vampire Diaries, the one time she did show genuine emotion and vulnerability was when she witnessed the massacre of her family, arguably the impetus for her to turn off her humanity. Bringing in her daughter, combined with her recent turn to mortality, thus puts the character in a situation the audience has not seen her in before, and how she reacts from here on out will be very telling, particularly in regards to what aspects of her behaviour for the past 500 years was a result of her survival instincts, and how much of it is, or always was,part of her personality and true colours.
Stefan’s current state is also a fascinating one. The loss of his memory has acted as somewhat of a reboot for the character, and the new incarnation, unburdened by any prior emotions or ties to characters, adds a hitherto unforeseen factor of unpredictability to any plans going forward. This episode proves that the elder Salvatore is not going to tolerate being a pawn, or going along with any plans the rest of the Mystic Falls group may have, and in fact may act as a hindrance if he sees it fit. His flippant explanation of Damon’s plan to Qetsiyah this week is a refreshing turn, and if it continues, he has the possibility of becoming the most compelling character on the show for entirely different reasons than what made the old Stefan interesting. Where he sets his alliances going forward, and how that affects the course of events, is worth keeping an eye on. In addition, it will be interesting to see how Stefan reacts to blasts from further in his past, such as Lexie.
This episode, however, continues the worrying issue with female consent that revealed itself last week. The Bonnie storyline continues to be disturbing in how Jeremy insists on making decisions about Bonnie’s well-being that run counter to her own wishes, no matter what his justification might be, without seemingly suffering any consequences for it. This week’s episode, however, also adds the issue of Qetsiyah and Katherine to the mix. Silas’ easy manipulation of the witch who managed to previously imprison him for 2000 years not only undercuts Qetsiyah’s capabilities when stacked up against the immortal, but being forced to do the bidding of her nemesis without anyone protesting makes her little less than a puppet to advance the story as well. While she does get an opportunity to make Silas pay for his manipulation, it only comes after Stefan, another guy, opens up her eyes to the plan.
Likewise, Damon’s insistence on feeding Katherine to Silas is disturbing for all the wrong reasons, particularly when coupled with these prior instances. While it may be difficult to side with Katherine in light of her ruthless actions in prior incarnations of the show (some of which she recounts this episode), the larger idea of forcing the women on the show to go along with the plans men make for them, without seeking their input, giving weight to their concerns, or having their manipulators face any immediate consequences, is an issue the show hopefully either addresses or abandons before too long, as it otherwise threatens to become a growing dark spot on the season as a whole. This becomes particularly worrisome when contrasted with how Stefan is treated this week as well; while he is also forced, by death, into going along with Damon’s plans, he gets an opportunity, independent of the actions of others, to not only get revenge on Damon for doing so, but mucking up the plan as well, an opportunity not afforded to any of his female counterparts.
Overall, however, this is an entertaining episode. The university’s secret society shows the first signs of being fascinating and distinct from the Mystic Falls Founder’s Council, and the professor’s interest in studying the process of turning into a vampire, as well as his veiled threat to Elena, sets him up as an interesting antagonist and allows the show to explore an aspect of the vampire presence that it has teased at before with John Gilbert and Qetsiyah’s hunters. The addition of Aaron also has potential , as he seems to be set up to be another version of Matt, a human surrounded by supernatural creature as without being aware of them, and how the characters react to his presence, contrasted with that of Matt, whom many of them were childhood friends with, is worth keeping an eye on. The departure of Tyler is a saddening aspect of the show, as the hybrid had made strong strides towards becoming a compelling and welcome presence on the show, but the idea of transporting him over to spinoff show The Originals, as is hinted at this week in his conversation with Caroline, could be a promising development as well. How Nadia reacts to Damon’s betrayal of Katherine, how Stefan’s new personality and interests affect things going forward, and how Matt deals with the Travellers, are all worth looking out for next week.
– Deepayan Sengupta