This review contains spoilers.
7.16 Days Of Future Past
I’ve been wondering lately how season seven of The Vampire Diaries is going to hold up on rewatch. While early seasons were well-constructed in a haphazard, crazy sort of way and last year’s run felt like it built up to a number of inevitable conclusions in Elena’s exit, Bonnie and Damon’s new friendship and Kai’s super-villainy, this year has been a mess. Remember when the big cliffhanger was the Heretics taking over Mystic Falls? Yeah, me neither.
We’ve literally time-travelled three years since then, and all but one of the aforementioned Heretics has been killed off. What was the point, and did the show ever want us to invest in them at all? Why are we spending weeks on end without either Bonnie or Caroline?
The complete lack of female protagonist is particularly strange when you think about what this show used to be and the presumed gender-divide of its viewership.
But I’ll admit that I did quite like this episode taken entirely on its own, despite some of the huge problems contained within. It felt epic and final, even if those epic and final moments concerned characters we neither know well or care about, and I’ve enjoyed the re-focusing on the dysfunctional relationship between Stefan and Damon.
It’s nowhere we haven’t been before, of course, but Damon’s abandonment of his nearest and dearest three years ago has at least given Stefan (and Bonnie, when she shows up) something new to angst about. He didn’t just go out of town, he buried himself alive, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves while he had a really long nap.
Damon still only cares about himself and Stefan still only cares about Damon, but right now that conflict has a bit more substance to it.
But it’s the only thing that does, seemingly, because as weird as the relationships already were this season, having Rayna apparently become obsessed with Stefan during her three years of imprisonment at the Armory is a step too far for me. The writers have already compared her to Elena/Katherine in the words they’ve had the characters say, and if it was just leading us here I’m disappointed.
I understand this started as a romance show with some vampire hijinks thrown in, but Elena’s departure gave it every excuse to change things up. Instead – with the odd exception – we’re retreading old storylines at best. At worst, characters are doing things completely out of character just to give others a reason to be in the story.
They’ve all become Enzo, in other words – pawns for the whims of the writers in any particular episode. This week he’s after Matt because he had released Rayna in order to punish Stefan for something we don’t know about yet. It’s baffling, even if I do still quite like Enzo. In contrast to some of the newer characters, he’s the sort of wild card the show needs. His actions make so sense, but that’s actually a consistent character trait.
And we’ve lost Nora and Mary-Lou in an episode which might have had the worst timing of any episode ever on television. We’re living in a world where The 100 fans are still setting the world on fire over the violent end to its own lesbian relationship, and where shows like The Walking Dead are also playing into the damaging trope. For The Vampire Diaries – a show that has a less than great track-record for portraying any sort of diversity – to kill off both of its lesbian characters in one scene is not good.
I didn’t even like them, but I’d rather have kept them around for a while just as a statement of intent.
They’re not the only ones to have bitten the dust, though, as Matt’s aforementioned girlfriend has also been fridged over the time jump. Apparently Stefan had something to do with it, and he’s feeling very sad and vengeful about it. Was this necessary? Could we not just have had Matt still be angry over the death of his sister at Damon’s hands, or over Elena’s fate? Poor guy’s lost everything and everyone he’s ever cared about, we didn’t need more.
So despite the worrying direction of a lot of characters and relationships highlighted in Days Of Future Past, I’m still optimistic about the time jump and what it might do for the show. As tone-deaf as the death of Nora and Mary-Lou is for the wider world, they were bad characters that offered very little to season and their departure (along with recent words from Ian Somerhalder) is a sign that the show might be getting back to a simpler place.
I like it crazy, and I like when we’re pushing our characters to their psychological limits. There were touches of that in this episode, and in a few that immediately preceded it, and that makes it a success in my book.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, I Would For You, here.