This review contains spoilers.
6.2 Prayer For The Dying
With a title like that, it was always clear to the audience that someone would be kicking the bucket in this episode. Now, on another show it might have been too obvious to kill Liz, who had apparently been cured by Caroline’s vampire blood in the previous episode, but Vampire Diaries has always done well with twisting the expected.
When Jeremy ‘died’ in season four we all assumed that he’d be back the next week, and the show created an entire episode based around that audience complacency. Now, with Liz finishing the episode still alive yet still dying in the most human way possible, it looks as if we’re in for a whole half-season of the same thing. If this episode’s anything to go by, then that journey is going to be heart-wrenching.
Ninety per cent of these characters are divisive for the audience, but I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t like Caroline Forbes. Putting her at the centre of this, then, will be the secret weapon to making us care. The pace of Vampire Diaries has always been such that there’s always something new vying for our attention and our affections, but this storyline appears as if it’s going to be here for a while, the ramifications even longer.
The emotional beats are pretty familiar – Caroline starts avoiding her mother before she’s even gone, Stefan tells her his own story of loss, she goes back to the hospital too late to say goodbye – but both Candice Accola’s performance and the fact that this isn’t actually the end of the story make it feel fresh.
The show could easily have chosen a story in which Caroline had contributed to her mother’s death, Damon had blamed her and Stefan stood by her, but we’re instead doing one where Caroline gets used to the idea that there’s no miracle cure, but just the slow, painful process of losing a parent before you’re ready to.
Unfortunately, the ongoing Elena problem was out in force, with the show wedging her into scenes that would have benefited from her absence, presumably to keep up the appearance that Elena is still our protagonist. She’s at least in-character, making Liz’s sickness and possible death about her, her life choices and her relationship with Damon, rather than about her best friend.
Contrast it to Stefan generally being an A+ friend to Caroline throughout all of this. A lot of people, me included, have wanted those two together romantically since around the season two mark, but right now it’s just a joy to see the show explore a different kind of intimacy – rare on a show that insists on forcing love triangles wherever there can conceivably be one.
But this wasn’t the only thing going on this week – we also saw Kai and Luke merge. They’re not twins, but narrative convenience trumps the established rules, and now Kai has exactly what he wanted all along. Luke, meanwhile, is dead, surprisingly no-one after being sidelined all year.
Also, it’s all Damon’s fault, but we’ll forgive him because he was desperate to save Liz, and Damon’s friendship with Liz is one of the only things from season one that still makes me happy.
We were reminded that the winner picks up some traits from the loser, and given that all we really knew about Luke was that he preferred the fellas, maybe that’s Vampire Diaries’ clumsy way of not really killing their only-ever gay character. Regardless, Kai is the best villain we’ve had since Klaus, and I’m excited to see what’s in store now that we’ve gotten the merge over with.
As fun as this show is when it’s going crazy with supernatural creatures and dysfunctional witch covens, sometimes we just want to spend time wallowing in the characters’ very human misery and, in the best way, that’s what much of Prayer For The Dying was about.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, I’ll Remember, here.
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