Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Vampire Diaries - "My Brother's Keeper" Review

"Anytime TVD comes up with a less than stellar storyline, you can rest assured it will be over in a couple of episodes, because the show runs at an extremely fast pace."

Case in point.

"My Brother's Keeper" sees The Vampire Diaries returning to familiar territory: Impossibly formal town tradition barely covering a swath of insidious teenage drama with a supernatural bend. Overall, it was a solid episode. Nothing to write home about. In fact, it would've seemed completely throwaway and slightly maddening had it not been for the final twist at it's end, which not only validated the existence of an otherwise "filler" episode, but in true Vampiaries tradition, quickly picked itself up and dusted itself off after a wild misstep in it's previous hour. That was very much needed.

Other than said twist, not really much of note happened. So, since I can't be bothered to turn on the pseudo-intellectual juices this evening, let's make with the bullet points:
  • Gotta love Jeremy's eye rolling attempt at tempting fate, which may as well have been the theme of the episode, as we basically ran in place for a whole hour while everyone made stern, whispery threats to one another.
  • I'm trying my best to get over the fact that this season is basically shaping up in the exact opposite fashion I was expecting it to. Instead of the cast banding together to find a central big bad unlike anything they've faced before, we are instead slowly shattering this town coven piece by piece with nary an actual enemy to be found. Not that that is a terrible thing in concept, simply that the show has not yet proven to be that it can subsist in its current form with just interpersonal conflict without resurrecting tired tropes and ideas.
  • Speaking of which, I worry that the lack of a true central antagonist may really hurt this season's endgame. You can only get by on the same teen drama for so long and introducing new characters every now and again to freshen things up does little else to mitigate that situation. In a show like this, a proper antagonist is what allows dramatic tensions between characters to reach their respective boiling points. A story like this works best when plot and character are inextricably intertwined. This week, we had all character, and very little development with those characters indeed. The increasingly superfluous fighting and bickering can only go on so long before we all start questioning the point. 
  • I'm very happy that, in being Jeremy's Hunter Sponsor, the series has finally found a long term solution for keeping Matt around. I give him a lot of shit, but I really do enjoy the character, and as I've said before, a human in the primary cast is essential.
  • Professor shane may have officially broken the record for how duplicitous a human can be in one season.
  • Caroline shined yet again in this episode, as basically the only one left of the principle cast who is still operating on cool rationality. Who knew such a resource would become such a rarity so quickly? She should just start wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, "Dude, What Are You Doing?". I feel like she's better than the inevitable I-know-it's-a-plan-but-feelings arc she is seemingly being dragged into.
  • The reason I rate this episode as highly as I do is two fold. The first is, though there was not much there to execute, it was all executed very well this episode. Stefan's twisted plan to get the map to the cure was handled very well. Kinda fucked up the more you think about it. You want your girl back so you ensure her dear brother develops an insatiable desire to destroy her? At what point does a means to an end become not seeing the forest for the trees?
  • The second, and most importantly, was the twist ending, which I absolutely loved. It was handled exactly the way a twist should be handled. It came out of nowhere, yet was hidden in plain sight the whole season. It didn't sacrifice tight storytelling to maintain superficial drama, it enhanced the drama by tying previous threads tighter than we ever thought possible. Is it kind of a stretch? Sure, but it wouldn't be The Vampire Diaries if it wasn't, and they've at least introduced the concept of siring in universe extensively elsewhere. Besides, so much was accomplished in that final five minutes that I don't feel has been fully appreciated. It's no secret that I hate the apparent resurrection of the central love triangle that was supposed to have been resolved last season, but after hearing Caroline's revelation, this latest arc is completely validated. And they got to give Delena fans the service they've been dying for. So many of this season's minor plot holes have been filled with this knowledge, such as Elena suddenly changing into a whiny unlikeable mess. We all just probably just wrote off Elena not being able to drink from the bag as The Vampire Diaries being The Vampire Diaries and making it up as they go along because... reasons. Now we know that not only was there an actual reason for that, but so many of the little idiosyncrasies peppered through this entire season have now paid off. A twist like this was most certainly planned by the writers from the get go (it wouldn't be so air-tight otherwise), and while I wish the journey to this point had been a little smoother, the reveal itself no less exhilarating.
  • Caroline was right, in more ways than one. Stefan and Elena do have epic potential as a couple, while Damon and Elena are a plot point. There's no way of saying that without sounding like I'm picking a side in the never ending tween rage wars, but the only reason I say it is because that is always how the series has always depicted their situation, whether they wanted to or not. Just look at last season, where before the final choice, the writers basically handed the audience the Stefan and Damon pro-con list, and even they had trouble evening it out, as you had the litany of positive qualities and things that Stefan could give her, stacked against Damon being able to consume her. Right. I get that they were trying to go the whole "rational vs. passion", "need vs. want", "love is crazy" route, but it just fell flat because the protagonist was never that caught up in the first place. The only difference this time around is that the plot point in question just turned out to be an interesting one, but it doesn't change the fact that The Vampire Diaries made their bed with this triangle a long time ago, and eventually they're going to have to get horizontal.
A decent episode with a fantastic ending that threatens to resuscitate a wildly inconsistent season.

79% = *** = "Good"


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