The Vampire Diaries season 6 episode 16 review: The Downward Spiral

This week's Ian Somerhalder-directed episode of The Vampire Diaries shows season 6 at its wackiest, most absurd, and most fun...

This review contains spoilers.

6.16 The Downward Spiral

There was a point some time between seasons two and three (possibly four) of The Vampire Diaries when things just stopped being fun. It was still crazy and melodramatic and frequently ridiculous, but not any of those things to the same level. We were stuck with a love triangle that wasn’t going anywhere, characters too big for what the show was able to give them (Klaus, Katherine etc.) and too many dead ends to count.

Season six threw all of that out and decided to get back to that wacky, absurd fun that made us all fall in love with the series in the first place, and this episode – The Downward Spiral – might be the best example yet of that coming to fruition. Seeing Caroline flip the switch was always going to be interesting on a character level but, my god, I seriously didn’t expect it to be such a hoot.

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Carrying on with the Buffy parallels (because why stop now?) this is basically evil Willow – the heart of the group taking some time to just be selfish and wicked, and her friends scrambling to keep up with the whirlwind that is their evil bestie. They even have a big ‘I love (like) you’ moment from Stefan that’s supposed to bring her back from the brink, but here it just functions to make things worse, leading us into some very, very exciting stuff for the rest of the season.

Before that, though, we get to watch Caroline running riot around Mystic Falls, taking what she wants because she wants it, instead of begging for scraps dropped from the throne of Elena Gilbert. Because she’s still her, just with less inclination to care, she offers Elena a deal – give her a year off from the pain of life and she’d promise not to murder anyone. It’s a fair deal in this universe, to be fair, but of course Stefan and Elena don’t take it.

The show’s done a good job of making this an understandable move on Caroline’s part, not least because, bar Matt and possibly Bonnie, she’s always been the most selfless character on the show. When Elena turned off her humanity, it was a choice made in overwhelming grief too early in her vampire life, but Caroline made a decision, and she’s much more in control. Stefan’s reaction to this comes from guilt (his favourite emotion), but Elena’s is self-righteousness.

Part of the fun of having Caroline turn is that she can be the audience mouthpiece even more than usual, so those moments when she calls Elena out for making everything about her, and Bonnie for her exposition-commentary, were hilarious to me. She’s just being Caroline, but more so.

Speaking of Bonnie, she’s back, and gets a suitably muted greeting from her supposed best friend. The show thankfully knows that it’s her friendship with Damon we’re all now invested in, and so it proceeds to drive a wedge between them that’s also all about Bonnie taking care of herself for a change.

Kai will only help Damon with the mystery of his mother if he agrees to set up a meeting between him and Bonnie in order to apologise, but Bonnie isn’t too keen on seeing the guy who stabbed, maimed and tormented her for months in a witch prison. It’s fair enough, really, but being a Salvatore, Damon does it anyway.

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Damon’s always been one to do what needs to be done and deal with the personal consequences later, but it still hurts to see he and Bonnie essentially break up mere days after she finally got back to present-day reality. She clearly has some level of PTSD, which is a refreshing wrinkle for a supernatural show like this, and I look forward to seeing how she deals with this. While everyone’s looking at Caroline, they may actually be missing the real ticking time-bomb.

But they’ll be preoccupied for the time-being, with Caroline successfully blackmailing Stefan to flip his own switch with the life of his niece, meaning we now have two careless vampires in the mix. They’re the two protectors of the group, which just makes it more delicious, and that final shot of the two of them on the bar (this episode was directed by Ian Somerhalder, clearly having a ball) brought home the potential of this storyline.

Whether they wreak havoc together or Caroline ends up regretting letting the Ripper out of the box, we’ll have to see, but, if this week’s anything to go by, it’s going to be an absolute blast.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Let Her Go, here.

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