This review contains spoilers.
6.9 I Alone
There are shows, like The Vampire Diaries, that start off pretty terribly before going on to become sizeable hits (think what’s happened with The 100 this year). They burn hot and bright for a couple of seasons before the complacency sets in and eventually drives even the most enthusiastic fans away.
Vampire Diaries was a textbook example of this, and to see it get back to its early quality in its sixth year is fantastic. I realise that I’ve already driven this point into the ground over the course of the season, but it bears repeating a week before the mid-season finale, as I Alone was just a fantastic hour of television. Not just a good set-up for next week – a good episode all by itself.
That’s pretty rare for a show as serialised as this, where the really good stuff is usually reserved for mid-season and season finales, but this year’s run has proven how much mileage a Vampire Diaries at the top of its game can get out of one really, really solid idea.
That good idea, nestled amongst a lot of other ones, was putting Bonnie and Damon in 1994 together. It was such a ridiculous notion when we started the season, too ridiculous to be true of a show that had long ago seemed to have run out of interesting things to do with its characters or new ways for them to interact, but it’s worked so, so well. As Damon says in this episode, he’s acting out of concern for his friend, not his love for Elena, and that alone is a breath of fresh air.
The moment that ends this episode, in which Bonnie realises that her friends have failed to meet her, was one of the best things the show has done in years. It’s was so loaded with history, meaning and emotion that, even without Damon’s voiceover, we would have understood exactly what was going on inside the heads and hearts of these two unlikely friends.
The only problem with this, as well as the Caroline/Stefan/Enzo triangle going on in the rest of the show, is that Elena is a complete spare part. There are the shippers who are quite rightly rooting for their favourite couple to reunite, memory wipe be damned, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes that the show could do away with its original heroine. She exists merely as a love interest to better, more complex characters, and that’s not what you want in a protagonist.
Caroline wasn’t in this episode, but that doesn’t mean Enzo and Stefan’s little rivalry took a week off. The reasons for the two of them being at war aren’t really that clear, but the ways it’s manifesting itself are worth the logic leap. Sarah Salvatore wasn’t Sarah Salvatore, but she’s also dead now, and it looks as though the show isn’t willing to give its characters as much of a free pass as it may previously have done.
Season six is doing a really good job with Matt, and hopefully that final scene between him and Jeremy means that lil’ Gilbert will get dragged into what feels like a great storyline waiting to happen. I worry, as always, that it’s all just in preparation for killing Matt (which would be a monumental mistake), but seeing him turn against the group makes all kinds of sense and feels completely earned.
The same goes for Jeremy, whose snark regarding Elena’s promise they would get Bonnie back was perfect. Of course they weren’t going to get Bonnie back – haven’t they seen the show before?
Having humans on a show like Vampire Diaries is an invaluable resource and it helps that these two have been there since the very beginning. Part of the problem with the last few seasons, basically since Elena became a vampire at the end of season three, was that our heroes were now so incomprehensibly villainous that it was impossible to root for them. When Elena would break up with Damon because he’d done something evil, it just smacked of hypocrisy.
Now we have someone – someone we love as much as Matt Donovan – calling them out on it, as well as a more obvious villain in Enzo for him to direct his distaste towards. It helps that Stefan’s a little bit more morally grey than he has been before, standing in for the show’s stance on murder and betrayal.
But with all of this going on, we also have to find time to deal with Kai in the mid-season finale – also one of the best bad guys Vampire Diaries has seen in a while. If the show can keep up this quality for just one more week, then we’re looking one of the most thrilling and unexpected runs it’s ever done.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Fade Into You, here.
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