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'The Vampire Diaries' Review: 'Pictures Of You'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
April 19th, 2013 9:45am EDT

The Vampire Diaries

Finally. The Vampire Diaries' fun prom episode happened. Best friends tried to kill each other; Silas took on the guise of more characters to fool other characters; Steven R. McQueen revealed the worst accent of all-time. Prom episodes are usually great for nonsense drama, confrontations, and wistful sentimental nostalgia for days gone by. Mystic Falls' prom committee chose the unimaginative yet thematically relevant prom theme--pictures of you. Pictures of the senior class lined the path into the prom. There were pictures from freshmen year, of happiness and innocence before supernatural nonsense took over the town, and a lot of characters in those pictures died.

The past wasn't just evoked in still photographs along the path into the senior prom. Silas used Jeremy's visage to speak with Caroline. Damon and Stefan hatched a plan to get Elena to choose to turn her humanity back on by getting her to feel again, which involved intense reminders of what was and what could be should she simply feel. The characters are far from where they were when those pictures were taken. Elena will try to kill Bonnie before episode's end, and Bonnie will try to kill her. Jeremy's no more present than the Elena seen smiling in the photographs. And McQueen's no more able to speak in foreign accent than David Boreanaz.

The Elena story follows the expected trajectory of the story. The brothers don't want to piss her off and have her murder someone, so they resist overtly pushing her. Elena pushes back regardless. She's still hanging around Rebekah because she's in her miscreant phase. Elena's new friendship with Rebekah is like Jen's friendship with Abby Morgan in the second season of Dawson's Creek. Elena and Jen can't 'be' with the friends who care about them. Jen hung out with Abby because she didn't conform to the other Capeside folk, and Elena hangs out with Rebekah because she pushed everyone else away. Jen's friendship with Abby ends when Abby accidentally drowns. Elena's friendship with Rebekah sort of began when she drowned to death in the season three finale. The writers push Elena to some dark places in "Pictures Of You." She wants to kill Bonnie to stop Silas, not because she wants Jeremy and Alaric back, but because they'll nag her about turning her humanity on.

Elena's attempt on Bonnie's life results in the Salvatore brothers gleaning a sign of humanity in her. Elena expresses fear as Bonnie's mind-jawning her to death. The brothers lock her in the dungeon whilst they concoct a plan C to get her wanting her humanity back. Elena's turn as a villain has been decent, though the writers have struggled writing what is essentially a numb character. Elena's certainly a bitca now, but it's only a matter of time before she kisses and makes up with everyone.

Bonnie's another character removed from the person she sees in the photographs. Bonnie was able to control her magic in the past. Expression's uncontrollable. She sleeps and wakes up to a fire on her couch, she gets angry and nearly causes a tornado at the prom, and she almost kills Elena. Silas wants to help her, but she wants him out of her head. Silas continual appearance in various guises is still like The First, right on down to his intimate knowledge of the characters. The First's knowledge made more sense than Silas. Silas is an ancient vampire/with (eh I'm picking nits). TVD's headed to the inevitable spell and subsequent breakdown of the walls between the other side and this side. First thing's first though--Bonnie needs to see the true face of Silas, but his true face is masked by shadow. He's old and much less flamboyant and charismatic than we've seen.

The recurring theme of the episode is this idea about the characters going back to who they were in those pictures. Elijah challenges Rebekah to prove she wants to be human by being human for one night--no compulsions or feedings or anything vampires do. Matt tells her she can't change. Elena reminds her of her worst qualities like torturing her and trapping her with a werewolf to get a lead on the cure. Any character can be redeemed and change in the series. Rebekah chooses to save April's life, though it might ruin her chances to get the cure from her brother. Elena's lone emotion isn't fear. One can see pain and sadness as she looks at the old pictures. Bonnie wonders aloud whether or not Elena not feeling horrible about what's happened is worth committing horrible acts. Obviously, the answer is no, but we're not there yet. Anything's worth more than feeling what she felt that night her brother died for Elena.

Of course, the most significant change follows prom. Prom is the event for a class to gather and remember the four years before they graduate. Stefan talks about moving on from Elena with Caroline and how it is harder to do it than he thought. Change, moving on--it's all part of growing up, and some struggle, and others thrive. We're seeing all that in The Vampire Diaries as season four nears its conclusion. Struggling high schoolers hear that it'll get better after high school. Will it for these characters? Probably, but not without pain.

Other Thoughts:

-TVD set up next week's backdoor pilot for The Originals starring Joseph Morgan. Fans are excited for it. I'm intrigued.

-I'm a fan of prom episodes in television, mostly for the dramatic nonsense. Some of my favorites include the prom episodes from season three and four of Dawson's Creek, the Everwood prom episode where Emily Vancamp is hauntingly beautiful, the terrible Boy Meets World prom episode where Alan Matthews nearly gets his jawn on with Topanga; but my all-time favorite prom episode will always be Buffy's "The Prom" wherein Buffy gets the coolest gift from her class, and Giles reminds Buffy about surprises.

-Tyler's back for a cup of coffee so that Caroline has a romantic moment on prom night with him.

-Nick Reynolds and Caroline Dries wrote the episode. J. Miller Tobin directed it. This is Nick Reynolds' first TV credit.

Photo Credits: The CW