Review: ‘The Vampire Diaries’: Race for the cure
There are many things at which the ‘The Vampire Diaries’ excels. Suspense, for one. Weaving tangled webs is another. Break neck pacing, as well. Actually, neck breaking in general, I suppose. But what the show really excels at is reinvention.
It’s something that’s been discussed heavily in terms of character development, but it’s mostly been limited to Damon’s personal journey and the journey he is on with Stefan as those are the two most obvious examples. When Caroline became a vampire in season two, and again when Elena became a vampire at the end of the third season, are two more examples of how the show is constantly reinventing itself. Granted, Elena’s transformation had a larger rippling effect in terms of storytelling, but Caroline’s transformation into a vampire completely changed her character. She went from an “insecure, neurotic, control freak” that was more grating than anything, to the moral compass and one of the most beloved characters on the show.
Despite my constantly growing affection for Caroline, my favorite reinvention came in season three when Stefan reverted back to his Ripper persona. As the Ripper Paul Wesley was able to play with a whole new set of emotions. His character had done a complete 180. For two years he’d been playing the brooding good guy to Damon’s (mostly) bad guy, but with one drop of human blood he finally had the chance to strut around as a bad ass. Wesley has mentioned on several different occasions how much he enjoyed those episodes and how if he had it his way, that would be the character he’d play all the time. And it looks like his wish might be coming true.
He might not be the Ripper per se, he’s not on a killing spree across the country, but Stefan’s changed quite a bit over the past few episodes. Three episodes ago he found out, via terrible secret keeper Caroline (seriously, the only person worse at keeping secrets is Peter Pettigrew), that Elena and Damon had slept together.
Last week, thanks to Rebekah’s own version of ‘The Breakfast Club’, Stefan was subjected to emotional torture as Elena recounted how his inherent desire to “fix her” once she became a vampire made her fall out of love with him and in love with his equally good looking older brother who accepted her as she was. When Stefan walked out on Elena at the end of last week’s episode it was clear that something had snapped. He was no longer the Stefan we’d come to know over the course of the last three and a half seasons. He wasn’t moping around (though, if Rebekah is to be believed, he’s still writing in that damn diary), but he wasn’t happy either. Going off what transpired this week, it looks as if he might have taken the patented Damon route and simply switched off his emotions all together.
After Elena confronts Stefan about why he’s treating her poorly, he basically tells her this is who he really is, she just didn’t know it until now because he was in love with her up to this point.
Let me be clear about something: it would be completely acceptable for Stefan to be like, “Yes, I am treating you like shit because you ripped out my heart (metaphorically – this show does not joke about heart ripping), stomped on it and then threw it in a blender like that Eve 6 song.” That reaction would be perfectly normal. But this show isn’t normal and that’s not what Stefan says. In the best line of the night (and probably of the entire season, if not the show), Stefan icily tells her, “You don’t know what I look like when I’m not in love with you.”
And that’s true. We’ve never seen this Stefan, because even when he was the Ripper, he was still in love with her. Don’t make me find the sad eyes/quivering lip silent phone call clip, guys, because I’ll do it. And then we’ll all be crying in to our pillows tonight. This Stefan, THIS Stefan, straight up Does Not Care. He has no emotional attachment to anyone or anything at this moment. His only goal is to find the cure, and even that seems to be more along the lines of finding piece of mind, not necessarily the first step in getting back together with Elena.
This Stefan – the vindictive, sassy, take no shit Stefan – is a completely reinvented character, and one that I hope stays around for quite some time. Damon’s had his time in the sun, he’s had the spotlight shining on his drawn out reinvention for three seasons now. Let the younger Salvatore have some fun, let him be the sarcastic, non-brooding brother for a bit. Because if this is what we can look forward to every week from this Stefan, I have no problem whatsoever.
Some stray observations:
- The hunt for the cure is still on. Team 1: Stefan and Rebekah. Team 2: Klaus and Damon. Team 3: Shane and Bonnie. Team 4: Mysterious person with the ability to compel. My money is on Elijah.
- It’s easy to forget that Rebekah and Stefan were once lovers in the 1920s, because of everything that has happened on the show, but I really like them together. Paul Wesley and Claire Holt have some pretty electrifying chemistry. But then again, I think they both probably have chemistry with my dining room table, so what do I know?
- Speaking of Stefan and Rebekah, they have been making some headway on their path to the cure, but are waylaid by a dude who would rather bite off his own tongue than give up who he’s working for (again, I think it’s Elijah). Klaus and Damon’s plan of turning a bunch of bar patrons into vampires didn’t work so well, especially after Kol showed up and drank them all dry. And Bonnie and Shane, well there’s the whole SHANE IS CRAZY AND WANTED FOR MURDER aspect of it all.
- I don’t know about you guys, but I love Kol. I mean, sure, one of my favorite moments on the show is when Damon threw him off the balcony and then got up and dusted himself off like a BAMF, but for some reason I thoroughly enjoy Kol’s presence. I don’t know if it’s that I think of him as the Originals’ version of Damon or what, but I like it when he shows up. And his presence here is interesting because he seems to be the only person actively trying to keep the cure from being found.
- Elena’s plan to find the cure: kill Kol, thus killing his entire bloodline. This is brilliant in theory, but balls ass crazy in reality. Jeremy is the equivalent of the potentials in the final season of ‘Buffy’. Sure, he might be able to sleep whittle and sometimes gets possessed into killing vampires, but he’s no match for an Original. I like the way Elena is thinking (but do not support Kol’s death), but she might want to lower her expectations a bit.
- Not enough Klaus. Not enough shirtless Jeremy. Too much Matt getting hurt.
So what did you guys think? Do you like this new Stefan? How do you feel about the Stefan/Rebekah hookup? What about the selfless Damon aspect of tonight’s episode? And for the love of God, is ANYONE paying attention to the Bonnie/Shane storyline?
Photo: Annette Brown/The CW