'The Vampire Diaries' Review: 'Handle With Care
Nina Dobrev’s playing three characters, Paul Wesley is playing two, for a second it seemed Ian Somerhalder would play two, and the carousel of Silas/Tessa/Amara continues to turn. Nina Dobrev’s consistently excellent playing the very different Elena and Katherine. Amara’s a different type of girl than the others. She’s out of her mind, yells a lot, and sees phantoms (or ghosts). The title of the episode’s a fun play on the package Damon opens at the end of the episode. Amara’s the anchor, or she’s not anymore because she took the cure. Some threads I can’t untangle. Damon wants to protect Amara. Silas is off somewhere, probably sitting in the rain, staring into a puddle, and listening to Sunny Day Real Estate’s “Every Shining Time You Arrive.”
The goals for the characters were as follows: kill Silas; bring Bonnie back. The characters failed. In between the exposition heavy opening and the dramatic conclusion, which wasn’t that dramatic if you want to know the truth, there was drama involving the triangles: Stefan, Elena, and Damon/Tessa/Silas/Amara. The episode started to work for me once the endless exposition about the mythology concluded and it shifted to the characters. Characters always resonate more than convoluted mythology, no matter how intricate the convoluted mythology is. The Stefan without memories knows and feels one thing his other self would not want to know or feel: Elena and Damon together sucks. Elena’s drawn to the cabin with Stefan and Tessa because Tessa implies she and Stefan had sex. Elena’s a little self-involved and also vulnerable whenever Stefan’s involved. She goes to check on him and then is trapped, thanks to Silas’ spell.
The story in the cabin establishes the essence of Stefan. Absolutely indifferent Stefan was a nice change for the character in the fifth season of a show. Stefan dealt with situations honestly and without remorse. The essence of Stefan loves Elena forever regardless of who she’s with. Stefan loves his brother, too. The little things bother Elena in the cabin. It’s not a Dawson’s Creek story where Joey’s painting a mural on a wall bought by Pacey while Dawson seethes and plans a murder-by-boat for young Pacey Witter. Little things bother people more than the big things. Okay, the big things suck. Little things gnaw at a person, especially when there’s feelings. Stefan’s most hurtful act is really minor: he makes dinner for Tessa (and Elena). Elena sits alone, crying. She’s sad Bonnie can’t come back, that Silas sucks, and that Stefan’s flirting with a rather unpleasant and vengeful witch. I think the little details resonate. I felt for Elena.
Stefan made dinner for Tessa as a way to lull her into a sense of pleasant ease. Looking like her eternal lover has its perks. Stefan would not let Tessa kill Elena (that was Tessa’s plan if Damon didn’t kill Silas). Tessa’s vengeful and finds Stefan in his bedroom after the betrayal in the cabin. Tessa’s act of vengeance is restoring Stefan’s memories. From the flash cuts to the past it seems Stefan remembers the most painful parts of his life: murdering his father, losing Elena, getting thrown down to the bottom of the creek, and Damon and Elena’s choice to be together. The episode cuts to black directly after Tessa tells him to remember that part. So, I expect anguish from Stefan, staggering anguish, in next week’s episode. Stefan needed to know he could still care for Elena, I suppose, and Elena needed to know Stefan didn’t hate her.
Damon’s actions since last week have been motivated by Elena’s best interests. She wants Bonnie back. Damon snapped his brother’s neck for the sake of the goal. Damon then goes on a road trip with Silas and Jeremy to find the anchor and destroy, where then Silas brings Bonnie back and Silas dies. The actions of Damon come off as less noble than Stefan almost always. Ian Somerhalder’s eye movement in every scene’s responsible for this. He’ll do everything for her, but he doesn’t know she longs for a dinner made by Stefan. No, that’s not the central issue, though it kind of is. Tessa points out the hurdles of Damon’s relationship with her. Indeed, Elena’s sadness over Stefan throughout the episode suggests he won’t compare to his brother. Damon kills two Travelers. The Travelers want Silas alive for his blood, if I recall Tessa’s explanation correctly. Anyway, Stefan and Elena are eternal, whereas Damon’s never good enough. He failed and then got a bigger problem to deal with: Amara.
Elsewhere, a bit of progress is made in the Professor/Secret Society mystery. The secret society has a name reminiscent of 1980s WWF tag team wrestling. Plus, it has a vampire, but the society doesn’t like vampires. I don’t know, everyone. Last season’s professor storyline sucked. This professor is nothing more than The CW’s best Mark Long imitator with a chiseled jaw line. It was fun to pair Caroline and Katherine up. Less fun is the impending “Save Katherine” storyline. I quite like Katherine, but entering into deals with evil professors won’t entertain anyone, writers.
The episode’s mostly entertaining and worthwhile though it’s just a transitional episode. Plot-wise, nothing’s accomplished. I stopped expecting the characters to succeed early in the season four years ago when a coin-wielding Elijah arrived in Mystic Falls. The circular structure didn’t annoy me, i.e. that the characters were back to where they started without making any progress. At least Amara’s not an unstoppable vampire. The sense that the show’s going off the rails and won’t recover persists, but the character work tonight was terrific, except for the Bonnie/Jeremy scenes.
-Wardrobe department, find a larger sized shirt for McQueen to wear. He’s bursting out of it like The Hulk.
-What accent did Nina adopt for Amara? I don’t remember where Amara’s from. Oh well.
-Amara coming to life from stone reminded me of Hermoine’s “resurrection” in William Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale. Shakespeare’s play stresses the importance and the essentiality of forgiveness whereas TVD’s central action is driven by characters that don’t forgive.
-Caroline Dries & Holly Hicks wrote the episode. Jeffrey Hunt directed it.