Previously on The Vampire Diaries, ‘Day One of Twenty-Two Thousand, Give or Take’
Last week’s episode left me feeling excited about the potential for a new direction that season seven could take. The use of flash-forwards and the clearing out of Mystic Falls suggested that The Vampire Diaries was going to explore some fresh territory, at least to a certain degree. While this episode maintained the new structure of bookending with flash-forwards, a lot of the content felt oh-so familiar, and not in a good way. Which is unfortunate, to say the least, because Never Let Me Go had a strong start and included some interesting plot developments.
Three years from now, Caroline has put her controlling nature to good use as a TV news producer. When she receives a message from her fiancé – who is unnamed and unseen – it quickly becomes clear that Mystic Falls is still off limits. Whoever the fiancé may be, it’s implied that he knows about Mystic Falls and the fact that they can’t go back there. If, like myself, you spent the episode assuming that Stefan was the fiancé, the second flash-forward offered a nice surprise.
When future Caroline gets a second message, from Stefan, she is far from happy about it. In fact, she never wants to hear the name Stefan Salvatore again. Before we even have time to consider what could have happened between them in three short years, Caroline and her assistant are shot (and killed?) by the mysterious Bow & Arrow Woman. These short glimpses into the future are already my favorite aspects of the new season. I love the bits and pieces of information we get with each one of them and the intriguing mystery they are slowly building.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#4a7097″ class=”” size=””]“See, last night, I was in the town square minding my own business when I tripped and accidentally ripped Malcolm’s heart out.” – Damon[/pullquote]
Present-day Mystic Falls has become a destination spot for college kids seeking thrills. The town’s alleged reason for evacuation is under speculation and rumors of supernatural occurrences have started to spread. People are sneaking in after dark in the hopes of getting a “ghost selfie” but as we know, outsiders are now fair game for the heretics. We’ve witnessed dozens of murder scenes in TVD but never one through the lens of a thermal camera, and the effects were very cool. Aside from the parody-level Blair Witch parallel – which was slightly less offensive after the characters themselves called attention to it – this opening scene was absolutely captivating. For a minute there, I actually thought the heretics might be a serious threat.
Bonnie and Ric’s interactions keep the episode on a good path. She knows what he’s been up to all summer and completely understands his desire to contact Jo. Her empathy allows him to open up about the mysterious pink stone he’s been carrying around. Ric has been told that The Phoenix Stone – a name that’s only slightly better than The Moonstone – could have the power to bring people back from the dead. Initially Bonnie doesn’t feel any magic emanating from the stone but when she looks deeper, what she sees is disturbing: blood, agonizing screams, and death. The visions strike again while Bonnie is performing a spell on Matt, which is particularly troubling because she’s nowhere near the stone.
Matt has become the lawful owner of the Salvatore home. In order to prevent Damon and Stefan from rescuing Caroline, the heretics needed a human to sign the deed and deny entry to anyone but them. That poor human is Matt; a character that comes second only to Bonnie in being fucked over by their friends. Of course, he agrees to Bonnie’s plan to stop his heart in order to break the threshold spell, and it works but not for long. Stefan is seconds away from saving Caroline when Enzo has another human sign the deed, sending Stefan flying out the window. Despite their best efforts, Caroline is still trapped with the heretics and is untouchable by vampires thanks to Valerie’s vervain-skin spell.
The second time around, Bonnie’s visions included the “x” scar. This means nothing to her, but we know that both Beau and future Stefan have this mark. We already knew the stone had some connection to Lily, since it apparently used to be hers, but now we know it has something to do with the future plotline as well. The ever-increasing links between this stone and the larger story are very promising. The stone is legit, too. Ric goes against Bonnie’s advice to destroy it and decides to test its power. It works, but only when it’s touching the actual body.
What Didn’t Work
Caroline’s quick thinking and all around badass escape from Enzo was awesome. Unfortunately, that was the last exciting thing to happen in the Salvatore mansion, and the episode itself (aside from some Bonnie stuff and the flash-forward.) The problem is that the heretics just aren’t convincing or compelling as villains. Considering the fairly large amount of screen time they’ve had over two episodes, their backstories and relationships are still very one-dimensional. It’s hard to care about them when they just feel like knock-offs of the Mikaelson (original vampires) family. Not that they were the best villains either but at least they offered some complexity.
Lily’s “children” however, are as flat as paper. I mean, who cares what Nora wears to a funeral? Why is this important to our story? It’s boring and a waste of time. Mary-Louise, Nora, and Valerie are all just as childish and annoying as Rebekah was, except this is worse because there are three of them. So far, the most interesting ones of the bunch are Beau, who doesn’t have any dialogue, and Oscar, who we haven’t even met yet because he’s been out on some lengthy, mysterious errand.
There was some potential for Valerie to be appealing. When it seemed as though she was genuinely helping Caroline, I was excited by the possible motivations behind the gesture. Regrettably, it looks as though we’re about to go down a very recognizable path. Nora, making it clear that Valerie isn’t “the nice one,” draws Caroline’s attention to an entry in Stefan’s journal from 1863. That’s the day he first met Valerie and referred to her as “the most wonderful” girl he had ever met. Déjà-vu, anyone? This feels exactly like when Elena found out about Katherine except, it worked much better the first time.
Sometimes a group of villains is defined by their leader, so all of this might be forgivable if Lily was a little better developed. It’s such a shame, too, because she is the mother of two main characters, which could allow for a much greater depth to the threat she poses. Except since there’s been almost no time spent on exploring this relationship, the stakes (vampire related pun intended) aren’t very high, and it’s really hard to care that they are technically related.
Lily is petty as fuck, too. She’s still mad about some vase Damon broke over a hundred years ago, and she’s relying on the tactics she used back then to get her way now. She’s taking away their “toys” – Caroline, Elena, their house, and their town – so they’ll be at odds with one another. Thankfully Damon and Stefan see right through this plan. Let’s go back to Elena for a moment, though. She may be gone but she is far from forgotten. And look, I get it, there’s no way they were never going to mention Elena again as it would be completely unrealistic. It’s just very puzzling, and frustrating, that the writers continue to rely on her for plot development. Nevertheless, Elena’s body has been removed from the family crypt and the only way Damon is going to get her back is by leaving Mystic Falls for good.
Damon decides to play along with Lily’s plan but he’s going to stay one step ahead by using his time away from home to look for Oscar. If he’s able to capture the heretic, he’ll use him to make a trade for Elena and Caroline. Bonnie had better be going on this mission with him. They had one, ONE interaction during this whole episode and it was via telephone. Still, that wasn’t the worst thing about this episode. That prize goes to Enzo playing guitar and stroking Lily’s hair. Oh my God, just a whole world of NOPE, to that.
The Vampire Diaries S7E2
The flash-forwards continue to be the highlight of season seven. Bonnie gets some much needed screen time to develop relationships with Ric and Matt, and it’s awesome. Lily and the heretics get too much screen time and the result is boring, one-dimensional characters. The Vampire Diaries is treading too much familiar ground and is STILL using Elena as a plot point. Here’s hoping next week is better.