'The Vampire Diaries' Review: Episode 'Dead Man On Campus'
Damon Salvatore was a character without an arc this season; even Matt had an arc. Damon always had the task of torturing folk, traveling to distant places, or worrying about the stability of his relationship. I began to think TVD’s writers ran out of ideas for Damon. The writers seem focused on keeping Damon and Elena apart even when together. I think they’ve been together the most in the season premiere. Damon doesn’t mope or feel guilt. Whatever he feels he turns into action. He doesn’t dwell, and that may explain the new revelation from his past he didn’t seem to remember or chose to forget. The experiments-on-vampires thing seems likely to fail, since nothing long-term has worked for awhile on TVD. I’ve seen comparisons between season four of Buffy and this season of TVD because of college and evil professors. The worthwhile comparison is between the two shows’ experiments plots: Buffy and The Initiative, and Wes, the Augustines, and now Damon. Of course, Joss Whedon made “Restless” to conclude season four. I don’t think TVD has a “Restless” coming at any point in the run.
Damon’s traumatic past as a lab vamp for the secret society will work really well for Stefan’s own trauma from his summer in the water. The brothers need to bond, to relate, to understand one another, to get beyond their mutual love for Elena and remember their brotherhood. Stefan’s okay at the end of “Dead Man on Campus.” His old love, Katherine, helped him endure the frightening bouts of total recall from his summer drowning in the water over and over again like the song that never ends and goes on and on, my friends. Damon’s solution to internal torment is repression, which is why he’s flawed; Stefan reached contentment through confrontation and comfort. Lexi led him through the nightmares of his past, but now that’s dead, a suddenly empathetic Katherine knows how to help Stefan.
Stefan wanders around the town, drinking and saving a suicidal Katherine after she jumps off of the top of the clock tower. Elena and Damon don’t bother him. Damond reminds her Stefan remembers his negative feelings about them. Stefan’s just trying to get a handle on what’s going on inside his head. A lack of control ails Stefan while absolute control empowers Damon. Katherine makes sure Stefan feels in control of himself, of the fact he’s standing on solid ground, not taking in water each time he opens his mouth. Damon tortures Dr. Maxfield in his quest for answers about what’s going on, why he’s experimenting, and why he’s turning innocent college folk into vampires. For five seasons Damon has been in control. Every character suffered a ‘break’ from themselves or from reality. Damon’s the steady ship withstanding tempests. The idea of Damon losing control is the most interesting development for the character in years.
Maxfield’s plan hinges on vampires becoming addicted to other vampires’ blood, a way to keep humans safe from preying vampires. Wes’ idea isn’t inherently evil. If vampires existed, society would support someone trying to remove a vampire’s desire for human blood. TVD vampires aren’t the traditional vampires, though. The separation between a vampire and a human on the show is feeding on blood, speed and reflexes. Elena waded through heightened emotions from the change, but becoming a vampire did not permanently change her. TVD vampires retain their humanity, and they choose to use blood bags rather than feed directly from humans. The secret society is like a fundamentalist sect. The ideas, the beliefs, about vampires are set and unchanging. At least it’s not another storyline involving ancient supernatural beings.
Elena and Caroline experience a rift in their friendship after Jesse’s staked by Elena. Jesse is really similar to Vickie after she became a vampire. Vickie’s worst parts were heightened by the change. Jesse’s been experimented on and intentionally changed. He’s an actual victim. He has no control over what happens to him, but he still dies. Caroline bitterly points out old Elena would’ve given Jesse a chance that she doesn’t think about giving as a vampire. Caroline’s issue isn’t even the quick decision to stake Jesse, but Elena’s relationship with Damon. Caroline remembers the monstrous side of him. Elena looked at her with that face which conveys acceptance of what one’s saying but reluctance to accept it.
The word ‘monster’ is brought up several times in the episode. Damon refers to Wes as “Dr. Frankenstein,” the doctor, who, of course, made a monster from an experiment. Wes will wreak more havoc through his experiments on behalf of the secret society than our lovable vampires would cause on their own. Damon’s already monstrous, so how much more monstrous can he become when he’s experimented on again? I should add that for all the storyline’s potential and intrigue, I’m not crazy about it.
-Give Paul Wesley the focus of all the episodes. The dude is tremendous. I also think Nina Dobrev’s amazing as Katherine. Let’s see a Stefan/Katherine road trip episode. TVD writers love road trips and parties.
-Matt’s entire arc set up a Travelers arc for Katherine to run away from while her daughter hates her for awhile. Of course Matt’s arc wouldn’t actually matter for Matt.
-Brian Young & Neil Reynolds wrote the episode. Rob Hardy directed it.
-TVD’s back with a new episode December 5!