Episode 2.21 Writers: Michael Narducci, Rebecca Sonnenshine Director: Darnell Martin
THE ONE WHERE Stefan and Damon bring in the big guns – aka, Katherine – to try to scare Off-Switch Elena into switching her humanity back on.
VERDICT Cards on the table – I have a very, very personal gripe against this episode, and it’s one I’m having difficulty seeing past.
Let’s put it this way. If, six months ago, the producers of The Vampire Diaries had phoned me to ask, “What is the worst possible way we could come up with to convince Elena to turn her emotions back on?” I would have shot back immediately, “Anything involving Matt.”
And guess what we get?
I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. After weeks of the writers brilliantly showing us the old Elena is well and truly dead and buried despite Stefan and Damon’s best efforts, it looked like (thank god) love wasn’t going to be the answer. It was genuinely refreshing that the show looked like it was going to avoid that old chestnut – love conquers all. But no, in the end it’s Elena’s love for the wettest guy in the show – a guy she usually shares about five lines with for an entire season – that wins the day, and all that good work comes tumbling down.
It’s a real let-down. There’s nothing clever or ingenious or surprising about this resolution, and it’s not even particularly emotional, because it’s so obvious that Damon killing Matt is a “plan” of some sort; having worked that out, the resurrection ring becomes the most likely plot device, and hey presto – Matt wearing the resurrection ring, aka, the Get Out Of Death Free Card of The Vampire Diaries.
It’s a real shame, because Stefan and Damon’s idea to bring in Katherine to scare Elena into submission was a much more exciting idea. Indeed, the one brief interrogation scene we get between Katherine and Elena is an episode highlight. Sadly ’twas not to be.
Before that, Stefan and Damon’s attempts to bring Elena back to normality feel like the show going round in circles making a point that’s already been made adequately in previous episodes. The only real difference was that Elena’s bitchy comebacks didn’t have quite the same spark. To be fair, the poor lass can’t have been feeling quite as perky as usual, but from a viewer point of view, the wittier ripostes of previous weeks were more fun to watch.
Rebekah suddenly deciding to become Matt’s BFF, wasn’t entirely convincing, either, and neither was him letting her (after a few minor objections). The script even highlights the fact that a year ago she tried to kill him, which may not have been wise. Katherine’s new penchant for self-analysis (which began last episode and continues here) is as unconvincing as it is sudden.
The episode did have some saving graces. Nina Dobrev has rarely been better as Katherine, and the way she purrs “love,” when she taunting Elena – “You wouldn’t last a week as a vampire without everyone fawning over you. I’d loooove to see you try” – is spot on.
She’s also excellent as post-Off-Switch-Elena. It’s almost a relief after all that sloppy stuff with Matt to discover the show still has some fangs, and Elena reveals that “one thing” she held onto to stop her descending into an emotional breakdown wasn’t love, but hate. “Elena, Katherine’s not worth your time,” protests Stefan. “Even if you spend ten minutes of your life hating her, she wins.” “Not if I kill her,” retorts Elena. Great stuff.
Elsewhere, Bonnie finally become not-irritating after far too much faffing about these past few episodes, revealing that she does have a plan and that she’s stringing Silas along. Possibly not the best of plans but she enlists Katherine’s help, which is always a good move if you’re planning to double-cross someone. Hey, Katherine soon proves she can produce the goods, coming up with a slight amendment to the plan.
Although Silas himself remains an annoyingly amorphous threat, at least the big bad arc plot finally seems to be going somewhere. But it still doesn’t feel like we’re only two episodes from a season finale.
MONEY MONEY MONEY There was one piece of product placement in this episode that was so heinous and clumsy we refuse to screengrab it because that would just be more free advertising for the product. Anyway, you could hardly have missed it, so you must know what we’re on about, and if you did miss it – GOOD! The product placement didn’t work. (SFX has nothing against product placement in theory – if it helps a show’s budget or to keep a show on air, then fine – but it doesn’t have to be so bleedin’ obvious; we half expected Rebekah to turn to camera and say, “And now for a word from our sponsors!”)
THE FACE OF THE ENEMY We get to see a murky glimpse of Silas’s true face through Caroline’s car window.
REVIVING MUM Caroline’s attempts to revive her mum were far more emotional than the “apparent” death of Matt, perhaps because there was a real chance Elizabeth Forbes could be killed off (unlike Matt, who, as seemingly the only human left in Mystic Falls, seems strangely unkillable). On the other hand, it was a pretty random way of engineering some tension. Will there be repercussions? Will Caroline suddenly want to leave town and take mum to a place of safety? Here’s a tip, Caroline – don’t follow Klaus to New Orleans. That’s NOT going to be safe.
BEST LINE Matt: “I see you compelled the bartenders again.”
New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four air in the UK on ITV2