Previously on The Vampire Diaries, ‘The Day I Tried to Live’
Final moments and goodbyes were at the heart of this episode. There was a teary farewell for Mama Forbes, and a long awaited good riddance for Jeremy. There was one hopeful new beginning though, for Caroline and Stefan.
This week opened up with a flashback to the night that Elena and Jeremy’s parents died. We soon learn that it was Liz thinking back on it, as she packs her things at the station. She’s going to spend her last day at work going through a couple of cold cases. Many of which are immediately closed thanks to Damon’s admissions. The only case remaining is the Gilbert file and it holds unanswered questions. Why were there suitcases in the trunk? Why did they take Wickery Bridge when an alternate route would have been much faster? Why were there no skid marks on the road? Most ominously though, why did Miranda Gilbert call Liz two hours before her death claiming she had something very important to tell her?
As a surprise for her mother, Caroline and Stefan move Liz’s things to the Forbes’ cabin, so Liz can live out her final days in peace. In typical Caroline fashion she worries about the small things like what the perfect last book for her mother to read is, and Stefan is there to ease her worries. During their day together she wonders if he’s only there because her mother asked him to be. She lets him know that if he has somewhere else he’d rather be, then that’s okay. Which was really code for, are we going to hook up or what? Stefan reassures her, while being a handsome handyman, that there isn’t anywhere else he’d want to be. Which was code for, we’re definitely hooking up!
Thanks to Damon and Elena, Jeremy has a high school diploma and an acceptance letter to an art college. Damon’s blatant lack of sentiment when saying goodbye to Jeremy was right on par with my own feelings. He did have the perfect parting gift for a new art student though: a joint. Jeremy immediately heads out back to enjoy it but is busted by his big sis. Elena has a moment of clarity when she realizes just how strange their lives really are and that perhaps the most normal thing to do would be to smoke that pot with her brother. The Gilbert siblings have a few moments of bonding over munchies and giggles. I suppose this was better late than never – honestly it feels like forever since they’ve even felt like family. It’s too quickly interrupted when Elena is needed at the police station.
Elena is surprised to learn that her parents’ death was ever under investigation. She has no information that can help to solve it but she’ll ask Jeremy what he may know. Though Liz is apologetic for bringing it all back up, Elena understands, and the two of them share a touching final moment together.
As it turns out, there were some rather easy answers to solve the Gilbert case. Jeremy had been smoking pot in his bedroom and that’s why his mother had called the Sherriff that night. The suitcases in the trunk were for a surprise vacation that Mr. Gilbert had been planning but had to delay because of the previous day’s storm. A storm that had also caused a power line to fall onto the alternate route, and which left Wickery Bridge with a slick surface not conducive to tire skid marks. Case closed.
Damon takes Liz home, she’s not quite in the mood for Caroline’s surprise. She asks him for a drink but as he leaves to get it, she falls asleep and is unresponsive. Caroline, Stefan, and the rest of the gang arrive at the hospital to say goodbye to Liz. As Nina Perez would say, “then someone started cutting onions.”
It felt as though the writers really wanted Jeremy out of the picture. Elena and Damon compelling him both a high school diploma and a college acceptance was bordering on silly. His character hasn’t felt essential to the group in quite some time but his departure didn’t feel natural. Even his goodbye with Elena felt lackluster; sure you just go with Ric, see ya! His actual future, in Santa Fe as a vampire hunter, does help to somewhat redeem this ending. It makes far more sense for his character to pursue that line of “work” than a sudden realization about his desire to attend art school. His final line to Ric, asking to be notified if Bonnie should ever come home, does leave me with some concern. For me it’s not a question of if Bonnie comes home but when. So when she does return, will Jeremy just come back? I hope not.
The Vampire Diaries is doing something so right between Caroline and Stefan. The buildup to their first kiss has been perfectly plotted and it unfolded very organically. They had some great intimate moments in this episode to increase the anticipation. Caroline reaching into Stefan’s pants to grab his cellphone was very unnecessary but so worth it.
Just when Caroline needs to hear something grand, Stefan comes up with the notion that it’s not about what you do in your final moments but in what leads up to them. Cue the swelling music! He takes her hand in his, the sun shines so bright behind them, and he brushes her hair behind her ear. There’s a pause, his hand lingers on her arm, the music reaches epic proportions, and they kiss! The directing and staging in this scene was excellent. It reminded me of all those mixed feelings of hesitation and longing that go into a first kiss. It was a thing of beauty, folks.
Sarah arrives in Mystic Falls to be the website photographer for The Grill. She believes that Matt has recommended her for the job when really it was Enzo’s doing. The only thing making Sarah’s presence slightly believable is that it’s a paying gig. Once they finish at The Grill, Enzo wants Matt to take Sarah to a tunnel. This time he’s using Jeremy as his collateral – we all knew Jeremy wasn’t going to leave without at least one more life-threatening encounter. Enzo runs Matt over with a car but then pretends to be an innocent bystander. He ends up healing Matt with his blood in front of Sarah and then uses vamp speed to take off.
The revenge plotline had no business being in this episode. There was no connection with the rest of the story, leaving it feeling very structurally awkward. Perhaps this should have been the scenario where Enzo threatened Matt’s mother’s life, at least then it would have a thematic tie-in. Unfortunately, these scenes only took away from the emotional energy in the rest of the story.
The Surprisingly Quite Sad
The best moments of this episode, by far, were the ones focused around Liz. I think they gave her character a deserving sendoff. I honestly didn’t suspect she would be leaving us so soon. It wasn’t until that shot where she puts her badge down on the desk and turns the light off that I started feeling worried.
Her desire to find some supernatural element in the Gilbert case meant that perhaps there was some deeper reasoning for her own illness. Upon discovering that the Gilbert’s deaths didn’t have any supernatural interference it forced her to realize, but also helped her to make peace with, her own circumstances.
The Gilbert case itself, while highly suspicious that it was the one cold case left in all of Mystic Falls, worked well to evoke the mother imagery that ran throughout the episode. We learn of Jeremy’s last conversation with his mother when he figures out the reason for the phone call to Liz. Damon provides an alibi for that night in admitting that he had been visiting his own mother’s grave to bring her flowers. He also talks about how he was chosen to write his mother’s eulogy but never even attended the funeral. These little character beats added something special to the emotional weight of losing the last mother figure on the show.
Caroline’s final moments with her mother were precious. The bike memory had a tender emotional resonance from Caroline discussing it earlier that day with Stefan. It was a very suitable metaphor for their current states of mind. Caroline didn’t think she was ready to live without her mother, but Liz showed us that she had made peace and trusts that her daughter will be just fine on her own.
The one aspect I can’t get past however, is how little time Caroline and Liz actually spent together. Damon and Liz have always had great chemistry so their scenes in this episode were enjoyable, but Liz’s illness has really just been the impetus for Stefan and Caroline’s budding relationship. Which overall is fine by me, but it took away from the mother-daughter moments that I think were necessary to make this story feel complete.