Review: ‘The Vampire Diaries’: Trading places, trading faces
Prom episodes are a staple of teen dramas and just like their real life counterparts, they act as a gateway to the future. Couples make up and break up while lifelong friendships are put to the test. Prom is the beginning of the end for most people. It’s the last hurrah of high school, a moment in time when friends gather together and celebrate the past and toast the future. It’s the most anticipated event of senior year, second only to graduation, and according to television and movies, it’s really, really important.
For example, in the prom episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, Buffy once again saves her classmates from certain doom and after three years of thinking no one noticed that she consistently risked her life to protect theirs, she finally got her time in the spotlight. After a speech that still makes me tear up a bit, the Sunnydale Class of 1999 (BRB, mourning my youth real quick), Buffy was awarded the first (and probably only) Class Protector Award. And then she danced with Angel. It was the calm before the storm that accompanied the final two episodes of the third season but it was sweet.
On ‘Veronica Mars’, Logan, afraid he is quickly running out of time to tell Veronica how he feels, gives a drunken but heartfelt confession declaring he thinks their love was epic, spanning years and continents and with a little ruined lives and bloodshed on the side. You know, normal teen stuff. His version sounds better suited for an episode of ‘The Vampire Diaries’ rather than ‘Veronica Mars’ but the scene goes down in history as one of the best Prom Moments on Television. The fact Logan doesn’t remember the speech the next morning doesn’t change the fact that it awakened Veronica’s own fears about losing Logan which eventually led to them rekindling their romance in the season finale.
But prom episodes aren’t always filled with happy moments as the senior prom episode of ‘Dawson’s Creek’ will attest. And because I still have emotional scarring from this episode, I’ll make this brief: Pacey is stupid and breaks up with Joey because he thinks he’s not good enough. Pacey is an idiot. End of story.
No matter what happens, good or bad, in prom episodes, one thing is clear: the end is near. For many shows graduation signifies a difficult transition that they probably won’t survive. And that’s because the dynamics of high school are much different than those of college. But fortunately for ‘The Vampire Diaries’, the characters rarely went to class so I don’t know that we’ll see a transition struggle (and plus, when did those kids have time to apply to college anyway?). What I do know is that of all the dance-themed episodes that have occurred throughout the last four years, senior prom was kind of the worst.
I mean, let’s look at the prom king and queen: Matt and … Bonnie (“I’m worried about her. I think someone nominated her as a joke or something”)? Let’s look at the death count: zero? The moments everyone was waiting for in a prom episode – the romance, the bloodshed, the scene in which Silas as Jeremy rips off what turn out to be breakaway pants – never come. Instead, we get a patented Salvatore Brothers Plan of Action (meaning that it has a 5 percent success rate) that includes trying to jump start Elena’s emotions by attempting to remind her how she felt about each of the Salvatores. Yawn.
The way each brother approached the situation is very indicative of who they are. Damon gives a sort of half-assed attempt by throwing around the b word a bit (boyfriend, not bitch, though that’s what Elena’s been since she went all anti-humanity) trying to incite some sort of reaction, but Elena claims she only told him she loved him because of the sire bond (sigh). Stefan, meanwhile, takes the truly more emotional approach by trying to tap into her memories of what it must have felt like all those other times they danced together (you know, before the killing happened). Stefan’s plan backfires because Elena doesn’t have a heart and he’s the one left feeling all those emotions. At this point, the only love triangle I’m interested in is Stefan/Football/Damon. I really would watch those brothers play football for the next 150 years as long as they traded off who was shirts and who was skins.
Despite their ultimate failure, the episode wasn’t completely devoid of emotion. In fact, two couples were on the receiving end of some emotional arcs. First, Tyler returns in time to conveniently share a slow dance with his beloved Caroline, suspiciously knowing exactly where to find her even though she is no longer at the prom. Despite wearing Michael Trevino’s face, the jury is out on whether or not this was Tyler or Silas, and with the latter popping up as pretty much everyone this episode (because literally every single character has died at some point), it’s doubtful that it was really Tyler.
The second emotional arc revolves around Rebekah as she finally gets to attend a school dance, but Matt continually rains on her parade by refusing to dance with her. She is also challenged by Elijah to go one day without using her vampire powers (super hearing, super speed, life saving blood powers, compulsion). If she can do this, he’ll give her the cure she so desperately seeks. In the end, after Elena chomps down on April because she’s a bitch, Matt begs Rebekah to save her life, thus destroying her chances at getting the cure but proving that she’s more human than she thinks. Sadly, April lives to see another day.
Bonnie also lives to see another day despite Elena’s attempt to kill her in order to thwart Silas’ plans to bring down the veil between this world and The Other Side. Personally, I’m all for that chaos. Because I am desperate for some Alaric action. Elena on the other hand is desperate to keep this from happening because she knows if the wall between the worlds come down, she’ll have to face both Jeremy and Alaric and she doesn’t want to. When Elena attempts to kill Bonnie by draining her blood, she becomes ill and Bonnie turns the table using her expression magic to try to kill the shell of her best friend.
This brings to light two things. First, has Elena learned nothing from watching friends and loved ones and even complete strangers be killed? If you want to kill someone quickly, ripping out their heart or snapping their neck is probably the best option. No fuss. Second, the fear on Elena’s face as Bonnie tries to kill her is the first real emotion we’ve seen in weeks, which leads to Plan C (Plan B is to knock Elena out with vervain and lock her up in the Salvatore basement) – the Salvatores will make her life hell in order to turn her emotions back on. Whether or not this will work will be interesting to watch, though at this point I’d almost prefer Matt give Elena a speech about yellow crayons.
Throughout all of this is Silas parading around town trying on different faces. He’s Jeremy, Rebekah, Damon and Stefan, and probably also Klaus and Tyler for a bit as well. And I don’t know if these kids have never read a book or seen a god damn movie, but when you know Silas is capable of doing these things why do you A) split up and go places alone where it’s easy for him to prey on you, and B) not have a secret password for when you encounter someone to ensure that you’re speaking to the real person and not Silas. Both of these are better than traipsing around town wondering who you’re talking to at any given moment. And also, by having Silas impersonate this many people in one episode, the show has worn out its Just Kidding It’s Really Silas Moments. The reason The First was so terrifying on ‘Buffy’ was because it didn’t run around town trying on every dead face. It chose wisely. And it also had Nathan Fillion to do its bidding.
Overall, I don’t know that the prom episode lived up to the hype. It wasn’t so much a gateway episode as it was just another piece of the ever growing TVD puzzle. Yes, it showed the strained relationships that often accompany the end of high school, especially for girls, but it didn’t really serve as a gateway the way they do in most of popular culture.
There wasn’t a bittersweet emotional moment that tugged at your heartstrings. There was no choreographed group dance. And not one person punched Andrew Keegan in the face. This week’s episode, while seemingly packed with story, didn’t really advance the main plots all that much. Yes, Elijah was tricked by Silas into giving him the cure, and yes, a conveniently placed letter from Katherine about a witch in New Orleans who may want to harm Klaus served as the jumping off point for next week’s backdoor pilot for ‘The Originals’, but in terms of advancing the central plot around Elena and her humanity, we’re essentially where we were before. And given that we’re coming around the final curve and heading down the home stretch for season four, this is worrisome.
Some stray observations:
- Before we knew the cemetery scene was a dream, I assumed that Elena had gotten a really good bulk rate on headstones and bought one for all of her friends because she assumed they’d be needed down the road. Turns out it was just a nocturnal arson dream. I hate those. They’re way worse than those sleep whittling dreams.
- Signs it’s Silas and not your brother: he talks about his history of laughter. Come on, bro, Stefan doesn’t laugh.
- Has Klaus been supplying everyone’s awesome costumes this whole time? And why doesn’t he open up his own boutique instead of moving all those vintage dresses around the world.
What did you guys think? Do you agree or disagree? Are you bummed Rebekah saved April? Did you like Klaus’ pick for Caroline’s emergency prom dress? And why don’t the Salvatores play more sports?
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.