Friday, October 25, 2013

The Vampire Diaries 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' review: Ghost whisperer

When Stefan lost his memory last week, I was split pretty evenly about it. On one hand, you have what could be a trite plot twist. On the other, it could be a lot of fun having Stefan rediscover this weird world. I mean, these are people who are vampires and where a friend is dead but is making sure no one knows. That’s kind of funny, and maybe he would point out some of these oddities in a breaking-the-fourth-wall kind of way. He did do that, a bit. And then there was a lot of what was supposed to be serious that, to put this blatantly, was just hilarious. Ultimately, I struggled with whether to be much more lenient with this episode because it was, in a way, entertaining, but in the end, it failed at what it wanted to accomplish. It’s not like this is worst-episode-ever territory (the worst TVD episode is still “Into the Wild”). But it just did not live up to what it set out to do.

The problem with The Vampire Diaries this season is that it’s unsure of what the hell to do now. That’s really it, in a nutshell. The show focused for so long on Klaus and the Originals, that once they all were shipped off, it’s been panicking, frenetically looking around at what it can cling onto. And, unfortunately, what it’s been clinging onto is the past. And that’s simply not enough. There’s no reason why it should expound on the murky mythology that is Silas. And where is Bonnie headed, even? And are you sure you want to make a Creepy Professor the antagonist again?

And if there’s one thing that “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was — besides hilarious — it was a retread of everything. Literally. That’s what it had to be, because Stefan was getting explained to him everything that’s happened. It’s an affirmation about what season five has been like so far, which is strange because there actually are a lot of shifts in the dynamics. It’s just sad that it took Stefan amnesia to finally realize what kind of screwed up universe these people are living in.[*]

[*] Though I love Caroline and Stefan, you can’t make him forget everything and then have Caroline just shove him and then have him be all, “You’re always there for me.” What? I don’t understand this show.

Where this episode suffered however is that it was just unintentionally funny. I know this was supposed to be another hard-hitting episode in the vein of “Stand by Me,” but it just was not. From the moment Damon hugged Jeremy, I just could not stop laughing. And it didn’t stop until Bonnie’s funeral (if you want to call it that). That’s just not the reaction I should have been having, I’m guessing. I know I say a lot that I’m dead inside, but that doesn’t stop episodes from making me not laugh when they’re trying to be serious. It didn’t happen with “Stand by Me,” which did more than make me not-laugh, by the way. Normally, this would add to the entertainment factor. But here, it’s just a drawback. This episode didn’t pack the punch they would have liked it to, not for me anyway. It’s a shame.

Even worse so is that everything that had to do with Bonnie just confirmed her one-dimensionality. Damon didn’t care that she was dead, he just didn’t want Jeremy to say it because then it would be real. Oh, and of course, it would be so awful for Elena, because… I don’t know why exactly. Sure Bonnie’s death and indefinite stay in purgatory must suck for her, but think about what it will do for Elena. Caroline didn’t even want to think about it because god forbid they mourn a friend they’ve lost. And the funeral, surrounded by a tree stump, where they placed a pom-pom(?), a whistle(???), and feathers(??????) because…? Okay, she was a cheerleader, but when did we ever get to see any of that? And I get that the feathers was the first time Bonnie showed Elena she was a witch, but the problem here is that it reaffirms that’s all Bonnie was to this show. And to be honest, that’s a reason it’s suffered so much. A character should be more than just her faux-title. Elena isn’t defined by being a vampire, is she?[**] There, sadly, was just no other objects to place on that stump(?????????) because Bonnie wasn’t fleshed out beyond her convenience to the plot. The characters even went around asking for her to fix the plot this episode, but she just couldn’t — which is too bad, because the plot could use her right now.[***]

[**] Okay, I realize I’m being too harsh here. Obviously, those could very well be moments the characters hold close to them. But I just can’t help but feel having the most powerful item being feathers is just underscoring how Bonnie was important as a means to an end and not a character in her own right. But that’s me. I don’t want to harsh Tumblr’s buzz. I’m sorry.

[***] And, was that scene where Elena cried about not having anything to wear a little too close to Willow’s speech in “The Body” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer? These kinds of coincidences need to stop.

Stefan losing his memory must be bittersweet. On one hand, he doesn’t know what he should be missing, so that’s nice. On the other, all he’s left with is this.

This was originally published on NWN.

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