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'The Vampire Diaries' Season 5 Episode 17: 'Rescue Me'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
March 28th, 2014 8:28am EDT

The Vampire Diaries

So, “Rescue Me” is one of those transitional episodes. You’ll read a lot of comparisons to chess if you’re the type to read numerous reviews after watching an episode of television. “Rescue Me” also subsists on narrative convenience the way a vampire subsists on human blood. The habit is very bad and nasty for vampires. It creates villains and all sorts of interpersonal problems for when good vampires don’t want bad vampires to feed on innocent humans. Narrative convenience is very bad and nasty for any writer, but especially professionals. Any person has the sense of what feels right during any story and what doesn’t. Some writers speak of characters moving them rather than they moving their characters. Character movement is necessary in every aspect of the story for the sake of the story or else it becomes a tuneless beast, a long unchanging note that drones on and becomes piercing noise. Damon reacting to a break-up by murdering Aaron Whitmore, though redundant, is an example of natural character movement that will serve the plot and the character when that decision ricochets off the wall and hits him in the face. Forced movement—narrative convenience rather—is everywhere in “Rescue Me.” Perhaps the unexpected prolonging of Katherine’s story necessitated the messy maneuvering in tonight’s episode.

The Travelers are most effective when chanting in unison in a junkyard with wildly fanning flames. The group adds a creepy atmosphere to the scenes. Large groups of people standing still, staring blankly ahead, and chanting, is effective. Sloan tortures Stefan. A mysterious man named Marcos is intimated in conversations, foretold of in chants, and seems best avoided by the gang. Late season introductions of Big Bads are the norm for The Vampire Diaries. Marcos forms out of shadow at episode’s end after a regrettable story involving Stefan and Caroline. “While You Were Sleeping” set up Caroline’s murderous mission to Atlanta where the do-gooder human, Tom Avery, would fall victim to Enzo. Stefan asks Caroline not to kill the guy for him. Tom saves lives. He’s more valuable to society than a vampire that needs on that society to live. He’ll die, though. Aaron Whitmore just died. The innocent humans always die in The Vampire Diaries.

Enzo snaps Tom’s neck after Tom enjoys a hearty breakfast. Caroline resolved to kill Tom because she made the deal for her friends. The day wears on. Caroline can’t kill Tom. Underlying her hesitance and indecision is Tom’s resemblance to Stefan. She’s feeling something for her best friend’s ex-boyfriend and cosmic soul mate. Enzo and Stefan read her hesitance and indecision differently, as a sign of her eternal and enduring character. Enzo spews out a story about why he wanted to be around Caroline that involves a woman who saw the good in him, which connects with Klaus’ attachment with Caroline. She radiates goodness and forgiveness. These bad, bad boys need a woman to tell them that they’re not all that bad and that, despite the horrific actions, one woman’s affectionate attitude towards them can redeem. Enzo’s actual murdering of Tom takes Caroline off the hook. She’s innocent, though she made the deal (and the Travelers didn’t honor it). Stefan consoles her at the junkyard. Caroline expresses frustration about weird flirting, charming English vampires, and Stefan uses her frustration to help her feel better about herself, emphasizing her goodness. Last season Caroline was responsible for the third massacre of twelve witches that seemingly began the present Traveler/Witches/Doppelganger nonsense. Caroline saved Stefan’s life when she set off the third massacre. One wonders why Tom became symbolic of Caroline’s goodness because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter when it should matter. Life and death mean nothing on The Vampire Diaries.

The PTA storyline that inevitably meets with the central narrative was among the worst B stories in the series. School means less than human life for the kids. Jeremy’s greatest line in the series explicates why he missed eleven days of school, cheated on math tests, and fought three guys. The characters’ lives are different from everyone else’s. Liv’s line about the world actually revolving around Elena was half-right, but the writers should’ve included every character. That’s why it’s frustrating to watch a story about Stefan helping Caroline maintain her morality, her goodness or her light (or whatever), because it’s been established every season, multiple times, that any action-good or bad—is justifiable.

Elena and Damon wander around the high school on parent-teacher night. Damon bothers her about their relationship. Elena ignores it to worry about Jeremy. The writing’s heavy on Elena and Damon as mom and dad, and Jeremy as this pimply-faced high schooler even though Steven R McQueen could crush Rhode Island with his pinky. Both treat him like a child up to the point he decides to move out. While his sister and her psycho love interested debated him and their relationship at school, Jeremy tried to handle Liv. He tried to anticipate, and to create a plan to save his sister from whatever the witches planned as plan B after Haley’s death. Jeremy decides to move out. It’s a less major thing than it written and acted because Jeremy’s one of those convenient pieces moved around for the sake of another character or a story.

All of ‘Rescue Me” is frustrating. The important plot points are hit and others are set-up for the final five episodes of the season. It’s all rather poor, though. Season five’s been the best during the Katherine stretch. Anything without Dr. Wes, Silas and Tessa, vampire torture, and any other serial plot elements, have been the worst parts of the season. Now, at the very end of the season, tangential parts of the entire season are thrown into this blender. Liv and Lucas are more nuisances than threats. Marcos will overstay his welcome. Honest writing would’ve dulled the bitterness and frustration, but dishonesty is paramount to the show’s couplings. And, yeah, everything was a mess tonight.

Other Thoughts:

-I resisted drawing comparisons to Unwritten Law’s “Rescue Me.” Had TVD aired 12 years ago on TheWB, Julie Plec wouldn’t have resisted using “Rescue Me” during the Caroline/Stefan car scene. “Seein’ Red” was quite the hit in 2002.

-Every random character introduced to die has an impeccable wardrobe.

-Brett Matthews & Neil Reynolds wrote the episode. Leslie Libman directed.

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