I was going to write another post today, but somehow I cannot get a word written. And the failure of the last episode of The Vampire Diaries keeps popping up in my head. I know a lot of the readers of this blog don’t watch this show. And I apologize for veering off-topic on my blog [then again, it is my blog]. I’ll have bookish posts again soon. I feel I just need to get this off my chest. Because.. you see, TVD is my guilty pleasure. And guilty pleasures are supposed to be fun. If they have you rolling your eyes, it should be a pleasant eye-roll. Instead, this week had me very very angry. So yeah.. After the cut you’ll find my TVD 4×04 thoughts. Obviously, the post contains spoilers for all seasons including this last episode.
There are a ton of reasons why “The Five” as an episode did not work for me. As you might know, I was severely disappointed by 3×22. I even, for a while, considered to stop watching. Until Amy and I got each other excited about the series again. And, really, because my expectations were at the lowest after that season finale, I thought the past three episodes were surprisingly okay-ish. No, nothing like season one or two, but surely better than the horror of the last episodes of season 3. Some of the problems I had with that season seemed to actually, possibly, be acknowledged, a little bit. Yay. Bring on episode 4, with the “big mythology reveal” and the learning Elena to feed, and the possible Delena development.
Unfortunately, the whole episode was a complete failure, which made me reconsider watching the rest of the season. It wasn’t because as a closet Delena shipper I was disappointed by their development (because I’m not sure it was a bad episode for DE). It wasn’t even because of the ridiculousness of the cure. Although, let’s be honest, that plot is kind of ridiculous. It was mostly because 1) I really do not know what we were supposed to feel about anything that happened in this episode. Were any of the characters supposed to be right? Were any of them wrong? The whole plot and characterisation just seemed all over the place. Point 2) is related to that: if the show won’t tell me who’s side I’m supposed to be on, I don’t like what I’m getting in terms of gender relations in this episode. Truly. The whole thing seemed set up as girls exploring feelings, and then boys correcting them and “setting them right” or handing them over to other guys. There were moments where the narratives might have subverted that, but if it was intended that way it was too implicit. I truly hope things will improve on that front, because this is not cool.
First instance? Elena. Oh my, Elena. I was so happy for you to get the chance to turn (even if I also sort of hated that as I would’ve loved to have seen a stronger human Elena, but I digress). Turning into a vampire might get you out of that position of in the middle of every plot needing to be saved by whoever is close-by. You might even get to stand up to the Salvatore brothers. And that would be lovely! What do we get instead?
In the first scene, Elena has to explain herself to Stefan for joining Bonnie and Damon in an effort to learn how to feed. Last week we’ve established that Stefan cannot help her, because he would turn ripper. It’s true, anyone else might have helped her, but yeah.. I guess it was triangle time and so Damon is presented as the only suitable option. What does Stefan do? He throws an arrow at her, “vampire hunter training”, and Elena has to convince him that he’s the one getting her through this (while for the past weeks we’ve seen that it is rather Matt, Damon, and Caroline getting her through this, while Stefan pouts – I am sorry, I do not like Stefan much). Yay, boys teaching girls. We need more of this in this show.
When Damon teaches Elena she’s proud of being able to feed, she “wants more”, she gets carried away, she’s having fun, she’s perhaps losing control a little, but at least she just kind-of is without constantly questioning how she’s a vampire and bad and blablabla (Hello, TVD, you’re a vampire show, how are you ever going to resolve this question without taking away from true characterisation?) Bonnie comes in and she frowns and Elena feels guilty [que Bonnie-hate on twitter and tumblr. I do so wish Bonnie would get a proper storyline and isn’t used as the one to turn to for magic, or the one to turn to for anti-vampire as in human morality, that is lauded as heroic in case of Stefan but somehow always comes across as awkward/questionable in case of Bonnie. Ugh, I feel for her]. Elena runs of and starts becoming emotional “I should be here with Stefan!” & “who am I?” Really Elena? You know you can’t be here with Stefan, he’d snap. Can you just be for a while? At the same time, who wouldn’t be emotional in this scenario? Her boyfriend cannot help her with this thing she’s finding very difficult. She is, as we’ve been told endlessly, something she doesn’t want to be, and moreover, lest we forget, she has HEIGHTENED EMOTIONS. Anyway, Damon gives Bonnie and Elena a speech about being able to feed without killing because he’s able to enjoy it. This makes you feel that Damon is the only one who gets vampirism right. I wanted to nod along with him. And I think I agree. I just don’t like how he’s putting two girls in their place, and then tells them they’re leaving because he’s obviously the one who decides that the trip is at an end while it was Bonnie’s trip to begin with.
Then, in another instance of great gender dynamics, Damon and Elena have a porch talk where Elena is portrayed as having doubts (what else is new?) and Damon is disappointed (again, what else is new?). Then, Stefan interrupts them and Damon HANDS ELENA OVER: “She’s all yours”. Ugh, really? Because Elena has to be watched 24/7 and when one brother fails the other is on duty. I get it, Damon was rejected and blabla, and yes, my Delena feels were all over the place, but still.. WHAT? In an even better twist, Elena then turns from being proud of herself for feeding without killing/hurting anyone into someone who is all woe-is-me, and guilt, and “it was horrible, Stefan!” And Stefan comforts her and tells her it will be better. But we all know he’s probably all: “I told you! I knew it! Elena can’t be a vampire because she is compassionate, and loves, and has feelings, and we need to protect her from this!”
Which brings us to the Stefan, Rebekah, Klaus storyline. Or, better, the story line that was horrible x 3 (but again, I hate Klaus, I hate Stefan, so that leaves little else to be expected). Basically, the story is this: there are 5 vampire hunters. They are dangerous. Klaus encountered them before, 900 years ago. Klaus comments to Elijah that they are dangerous. The next screen? Rebekah courts one of them, falls in love, is seduced. They sort-of sleep together, he tells her they’re hunters and that they have a swords that allows encryption of their tattoos. He stakes her. Klaus’ commentary: Rebekah is WEAK! She always LOVES! And she is FOOLED! And she betrays her FAMILY! And she is WEAK! WEAK I tell you. Because she LOVES. And who’s foolish enough to do that. Blablabla. Klaus then makes Rebekah tell that the thing that tempted her was the fact that the hunter promised her a cure for vampirism. He could make Rebekah human again. [this is where twitter collectively groaned over the obvious and horrible plot twist]. So Klaus offers Stefan a cure for Elena. Stefan has to make Rebekah tell him the rest of the solution to how the cure is found (which she does, because SHE LOVED! She is jealous of Stefan’s and Elena’s LOVE, she has EMOTIONS). As soon as she tells Stefan, he helps Klaus in staking Rebekah. That’s what you get for loving and feeling and weakness, you are staked by your brother and ex-boyfriend. *rolls eyes* Meanwhile, Klaus makes Stefan promise to keep this a secret, nobody can know, not even Elena, etc.
So, what am I supposed to think? While I felt sympathetic to Rebekah and Elena (and Bonnie), the overriding plot seems to suggest that they are somehow “wrong” for feeling/trusting. They are all corrected/supervised by a male (Klaus or one of the Salvatore brothers). And what’s up with Stefan promising to help Klaus over Elena’s future without her knowing? Again, are we to take that as romantic, or foolish? I hope rather than trust that he will be proven wrong. I need answers to these questions, because rather a lot depends on the interpretations given in retrospect. If Stefan is eventually shown as being mistaken, if Rebekah will be proven right, then okay, perhaps the episode might be interpreted slightly subversive. But the ease with which female characters are handed over from brother to brother, the ways girls are so often emotional and confused and not allowed to be strong (We really do need the return of Katherine), the ways in which boys always have plans while girls are divided in their allegiance. I don’t know. I’m starting to find it pretty uncomfortable. And I think that when an episode is as weak as 4×04 was, it stands out a little bit too much.
Basically, I just really hope the rest of season four will allow for Elena’s character growth, for her to stand up on her own without either Salvatore. At least to have her have the choice (which does not seem to be there right now). I’d like Bonnie to have a plot that doesn’t mean she’s a tool to be used or a girl to be attracted to whoever is deemed her new love interest. I do not like the originals, but I want Rebekah to have a satisfactory ending and not to be shamed for feeling and loving by Klaus (and to some extent, Stefan and Damon). And Caroline, informed by fears of what’s coming, I want her to have a plotline that is not about a love triangle between Tyler and Klaus. She used to be so strong, now she’s just caught between boys. She would be perfect to help Elena. That would be so interesting. Do not make the girls all about emotions = weakness = girly = in need of supervision. Thank you.