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'The Vampire Diaries' Review: 'Monster's Ball'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
11/1/2013 9:11am EDT

The Vampire Diaries

Season 5 of The Vampire Diaries is either on a path towards brilliance or going completely off the rails.

Julie Plec has said in interviews that she keeps the TVD story in her head, so never does she commit the stuff in her head to a computer, I assume. Now she’s behind three shows on The CW. Five episodes into The Vampire Diaries’ fifth season and it’s hard to tell where everything is going. A ton of stuff has happened in five episodes. Murders, conspiracies, ancient love affairs and heartache, Bonnie’s death going public, Steven R. McQueen working out on camera, amnesia Stefan, Silas owning the town and then losing it once Quetsyah showed up. “Monster’s Ball” continued to throw, presumably, every idea the writers had during the first few weeks of breaking the season. Katherine met her daughter, Nadia; Professor Maxfield’s more intelligent and nefarious than last season’s Professor; Damon killed his brother twice; Jeremy disregarded Bonnie’s wishes to not come back through Silas; Tyler’s back to tell Caroline he won’t be back, that he’s going after Klaus so he can ruin his life like Klaus ruined his.

On the surface the amount of plot and movement through five episodes is exciting. TVD hasn’t lost the knack for break-neck pacing and crazy reveals. I don’t want TVD to lose its identity. Throwing as much plot into a story can trigger something bad. Characters could be lost under the all of the plot. It’s fair to wonder what TVD’s identity is. TVD’s essentially a show about two brothers and the girl they love. It’s also about death and loss and mourning. In their world, death is not the end, unless it is—that fluctuates. Simply, though, TVD follows a group of people who care about each other and will sacrifice their lives for their friends’ lives. The threats come from ancient evils with convoluted back stories. The scene in which Jeremy, Bonnie, and Damon, talk about Silas and how to use him to bring Bonnie back includes a cliff notes version of last season’s Silas mythology. The cliff notes exposition requires cross-cutting exposition. Once all three are clear on what happened and what needs to happen, there exists more uncertainty and mystery. They can’t trust Silas. Helping him so he’ll help them will have a catch. Plus, Quetsyah’s around to further complicate the mythology.

The Vampire Diaries made sprawling mythologies an essential part of its charm. The actors are incredibly good-looking, the writing’s brisk and clever, with enough twists and turns to keep social media buzzing until the next episode. The many relationships inspire many fan-made videos. Fans love the idea of love so much and the idea of x character loving y character. It’s cute. Season 1’s the lightest on the mythology. Season 2’s pretty fantastic. The writers used expectations of mythology and the major narrative arc of the season to pull of a memorable twist. Season 3 used aspects of the grand mythology to show something different from Stefan and to delve into and flesh out the originals. Hang around with anyone or anything for awhile, though, and what once was charming may start to grate and annoy. Room with a friend and you’ll learn what annoys you most about him or her. Date someone long enough and you’ll stop comparing her to the stars and instead transform into a Leonato from Winter’s Tale. Five seasons into an intricate and at times confounding mythology starts to wear on a guy or a gal. The charm wanes. The spark’s just not there like it once was.

Damon works with Silas to bring Bonnie back from the other side. Silas wants to destroy the other side so that he’ll die and meet his beloved. Damon wants to trade Silas’ life for Bonnie’s. Their partnership involves betrayals and multiple neck snappings. Damon’s motivated to save Bonnie solely for Elena. Elena’s been distant since she found out the truth. Elena feels guilt. Bonnie was dead during the summer of her life with Damon. Damon experiences the cold shoulder from his girlfriend. Damon’s motivations stem from Elena’s desires—her mood determines his mood. Silas gets answer from Quetsyah as Stefan. Quetsya, of course, finds out what’s going on and then desiccates him. Stefan wakes from his temporary ‘death’ and breaks Damon’s neck, because Damon’s a dick. By episode’s end, Damon makes progress in his plan. He corrals Katherine to cure Silas, which he forces her to do by forcing her neck to his mouth. Katherine doesn’t die.

Katherine met her daughter in “Monster’s Ball.” Nadia and Katherine’s scenes involved evocations of Katherine’s personal mythology: what she’s done, who she’s done it to, etc. Katherine defines herself by her invulnerability, but she’s more so defined by how long she’s run. There are constant reminders of how long she ran from Klaus. With Nadia, she’s still running, but from Silas. Damon’s forceful feeding of her blood to Silas felt like a period to her chaotic life. It was wonderfully bittersweet. She finds her daughter, the one person in life she went back for, and cared for, only to be sucked dry. The girl woke up, though. Her heart never stopped beating. Katherine’s story was the best of “Monster’s Ball.” The twist that she woke up, asking, “Am I in hell?” wasn’t like the moment she posed as Elena, made out with Damon, and cut off Elena’s Uncle’s fingers. The way the show arrived at that moment was really well done.

Elena’s story involves Professor Maxfield. Maxfield’s more compelling than Elena’s attempts to learn more about Megan’s murder. Maxfield’s testing Jesse in his lab. Jesse’s the ‘perfect candidate.’ He tested Jesse’s mood, reaction to light, lucidity, etc. I’m looking forward to the chance Maxfield’s going to open up the vampire mythology, but his plan’s probably just evil. Maxfield told Elena to leave campus before people start spreading rumors about her and her friends. Elena meets a possible soul mate in Aaron. Aaaron suffers from extreme survivors guilt and is like the male Elena. I really loved the look Nina Dobrev gave him during the compulsion scene. Elena hasn’t expressed what she expressed in, perhaps, forever. Of course, like everything else, the storyline involves more mythology, which may or may not go off the rails.

We shall see.

Other Thoughts:

-So, Michael Trevino’s heading to The Originals? I haven’t seen the latest episode of The Originals. It’s still a problematic series. Klaus isn’t a great leading character, but Joseph Morgan’s a terrific lead. I dug the Davina episode. The middle acts of that episode are strong.

-Caroline’s broken-hearted over Tyler’s departure. I didn’t care about their relationship. Caroline’s the best when she’s unattached.

-It took five seasons for TVD to put Paul Wesley in James Dean’s leather jacket. Paul Wesley should be the James Dean type studios look for when looking for the James Dean type.

-I got distracted thinking about Shakespeare once we learned Quetsyah bought a Cleopatra costume. Elena’s Anne Boleyn and Damon’s Henry VIII were interesting choices by the writers. Perhaps The CW wanted to connect TVD with Reign in whatever way possible.

-John Postiglione wrote the episode. Kellie Cyrus directed it.

Photo Credits: © The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved


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