This review contains spoilers.
4.15 Stand By Me
Killing off one of your central characters, and one who’s been around since the first episode no less, is not something many television shows get away with lightly. The Vampire Diaries, on the other hand, used to do things like that all of the time, but seemed to lose their nerve somewhere around the middle of their third season. Now we’re half-way through season four, and the show has pulled their trump card out at a pivotal moment.
Just when we were settling into the idea that none of the central characters were in real danger (given their respective supernatural powers, resurrection rings, or casting on the upcoming spin-off), little bro Jeremy has been killed off. Last week I was unsure whether this death would end up sticking so, imagine my surprise when we not only hear about his decomposing body, but we also see him burn along with the Gilbert house. After so long in hiding, it’s brilliant to see The Vampire Diaries regain its bravery and gumption.
It’s not an overstatement to say that this event will change absolutely everything. Elena effectively died in last season’s finale, sure, but what did it really change? She was still the same whiny, over-emotional girl who couldn’t choose between the Salvatore brothers and wanted nothing more than to see her friends and family happy and safe. Jenna’s death seemed like an inevitability when it finally went down, and Alaric’s was overshadowed by our heroine being plunged off a bridge. This death is monumental, and there’s a satisfying feeling that the writers and producers know exactly where they’re going with it.
The episode itself was a masterclass in how to do the ‘death episode’ without descending into unnecessary weeping and nostalgia. Every moment in these forty minutes meant something, they were all there for a distinct reason, and not a second was wasted on shameless emotional manipulation. The reason it’s sad is because the events seem true and genuine, and everyone in the cast did a fantastic job with the material they were given. Special points go to Nina Dobrev, of course, who had the hardest job to do as Elena blasted through the various stages of grief. It’s the last time we’ll see her cry for a while, and she really went for it.
First came denial, and Stefan and Damon’s rash decision to let Elena stay trapped in the notion that Jeremy (now a supernatural creature) would somehow be resurrected by his ring. Everyone but Elena can smell Jeremy’s body starting to decay, however, and the audience are forced to go through the same process of realisation that Elena does. We can’t believe that they would really kill our heroine’s little brother – her last connection to humanity – but they have, and it’s shocking. It doesn’t help her fragile state (or ours) that she lives in a world where there’s almost always a loophole that means the dead don’t stay dead.
The master plan comes from Bonnie, who spends some extra quality time with Shane back in Nova Scotia. Completely brainwashed by whatever demon awoke down in the caves, she readily accepts the idea that she must sacrifice twelve people in order to bring Jeremy back to the land of the living. The catch, and it’s quite a big catch, is that he’ll have every supernatural creature that’s ever died tagging along after him. Bonnie, spaced out as she is, is prepared to do this so that she can get her boyfriend and her Grams back, but Caroline and Matt aren’t so sure. It’s the insanity of the idea – her last hope – that finally wakes Elena up to reality.
And she loses it, consumed by grief and rightfully ticked off with the overcrowding in the Gilbert family plot. Importantly, everything she says in her tirade is true to the character we love, and this makes it all the more heartbreaking. By absolutely losing the plot, what we’ve been waiting for in Elena embracing her vampirism wholeheartedly feels earned and entirely necessary. If this had happened back in episode one, fans may have felt alienated by such a big change, but now we can enjoy a numb, unfeeling Elena with the knowledge that, when her feelings are switched back on, all hell could break loose.
This was a fantastic episode, and the perfect way to lead us into a month-long break. It’s revealed to us that, with Shane stuck back on the island, Silas is the one pulling Bonnie’s strings back in Mystic Falls. Will she go through with the plan to ‘take down the veil’? It’s certainly a possibility and, despite Silas’ similarities to Buffy’s The First, he’s turning out to be an effective villain. We also have to search for the cure, which is with Katherine and Hayley in New Orleans – is that the spin-off I smell?
No matter where the mythology goes from here, Damon’s decision to turn off Elena’s feelings will have massive repercussions, and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to see the good girl unleash her inner demon. I’ll see you on March 14th for the fallout.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Down the Rabbit Hole, here.
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