Previously on The Vampire Diaries, “Today Will Be Different”
“You decided that I was worth saving” is a line of dialogue spoken by Damon in the season 1 finale. He’s talking to a woman he thinks is Elena, but would later discover was actually Katherine. Remember that juicy cliffhanger kiss? Regardless of who he said it to, the line was an important one at that point; it marked the first of many times The Vampire Diaries would ask us if Damon was worth saving.
Seven seasons later and TVD is still stuck on that question. Damon has gone through this transition from evil to fairly decent person about a million times. He’s sunk to the lowest of lows, only to be brought back up by the people who care for him, over and over. Which is why it now no longer carries the same weight. Consequently, watching Stefan wrestle with the idea of whether or not he should give up on his brother for the umpteenth time, is boring as hell. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Stefan thinks this time around is any different, but he claims he’s never seen Damon like this before. Boy, please. Not only have we seen Damon in many similar situations, this entire story feels like a regurgitated mix of seasons past. Take the events of season 3, for example. Swap Klaus with Sybil, Stefan with Damon, and Elena with Bonnie, and boom, there’s the building blocks of season eight.
It’s frustrating to see the show do this when there are little more than a dozen episodes left in its run. This is their last chance to deliver something so epic that it leaves us wanting more. The worst part though, is that I can’t even fully hate the show. It would be so easy to just turn the switch, like so many vampires have done with their humanity, and go into full hate-watch mode. But I can’t, because each and every episode still manages to show potential. It’s often squandered, yes, but for whatever reason, that’s what keeps me hooked. So, I’m left in this irritating state of limbo – no longer loving it and not willing to hate it. I’m not angry, just disappointed, y’know? Ironically enough, the potential I saw in this episode comes from its tone, which felt reminiscent of TVD’s early days. The action was exciting, the focus was on core relationships, and the ending was a fairly surprising one. The only thing missing, which has been absent for quite some time, was more vampire related activities. I mean, this is a show about vampires, could we at least see one of them sipping a blood bag from time to time? A few snapped necks and a death by neck biting will have to suffice for this week, I suppose.
The Vampire Diaries would be absolutely lost without Bonnie. Despite having been sidelined for much of the series, she’s always written with such consistency. Though I often wonder how she can still truly care for all these fools who have hurt her time and again, Bonnie has never been petty. She’s always been the BFF any woman would be lucky to have, and she proves that again by being so darn sweet with Caroline. Even with everything going on, Bonnie still devotes time to celebrate her friend’s engagement. It’s nice to see these two bonding again, and to finally see some of Bonnie’s loyalty reciprocated. Though it may be a case of too little too late, Caroline’s choice to fight for Enzo on behalf of Bonnie was a truly touching gesture. But it only works because of what that action means to Bonnie. In general, TVD only maintains its emotional significance because of Bonnie and her relationships with other characters. At this point, everything else is just falling flat.
This week’s cold open, for example, was likely intended to provoke some feelings of sadness. Damon believes he never met Elena? Oh, please tell me it isn’t so! But the only thing I took away from that flashback was how nice it was to see Liz Forbes again. The real tragedy was having Bonnie stripped from Damon’s memories. It was particularly hard to see Sybil in Bonnie’s place, enjoying Damon’s pancakes in the prison world. Their friendship has been the saving grace for a few seasons now, which is what made Bonnie’s choice to save Enzo over Damon so impactful. Unfortunately, Bonnie played right into Sybil’s hand and Enzo finally gave in to shutting his humanity off. Which led to another gut-wrenching moment, where Enzo tells Bonnie that if anyone can bring him back from this, it’s her. Did you see her tears? Brilliance. Bonnie makes everything better.
The action sequences were also a lot of fun this week. From Damon’s failed attack at the wedding dress shop, to the death match that wound up involving 4 vampires, to the final scene with Tyler’s death, it was a nice reminder of how TVD can up the ante when it really wants to.
Sybil. I really hope she’s not the final villain of TVD. Last week I talked about how this new villain was a lot more interesting when she was just an idea, a presence. That continues to be true. I was enjoying her scenes with Caroline and Bonnie, until it became clear she was never going to shut up. Honestly, this woman talks way too much, which only serves to make her seem less threatening. I laughed so hard when Bonnie sent her flying through the car windshield. It was a predictable move after the dialogue about not needing a seatbelt, but it still really paid off. I only wish they had run her over a few times for good measure. But again, I’m the petty one, not Bonnie.
It’s hard to get on board with Sybil because she’s such a mystery, and not in a good way. How is she any more frightening than a vampire who’s using compulsion? Why is she wasting her time on this small-scale destruction if she’s truly so old and powerful? How come she doesn’t care about who let her out of that vault? Why does she care so much about breaking Enzo when she could just find another lackey to do her bidding? She does comment on how she’s never failed at controlling men and doesn’t want to tarnish her record, but that seems like a convenience for plot’s sake. It’s a good thing Nathalie Kelley is doing everything she can with the material she’s getting –that accent is a mess, though – otherwise Sybil would be entirely unwatchable.
Tyler’s death. So many characters on this show have died and come back, and then died and come back; it’s really deadened the emotional impact. So, RIP or whatever, Tyler. At this point, I think the only death that would truly upset me is Bonnie’s.
The pitchfork/tuning fork. It better do more than just hurt Sybil’s ears. Ric rolling up at the exact right moment to hit Damon and then incapacitate Sybil bordered on being pretty badass, but ultimately felt too convenient.
The Vampire Diaries S8E3 = 7/10