Previously on The Vampire Diaries, “The Simple Intimacy of the Near Touch”
Thanks to Sybil, Damon is stuck in a catatonic state, brought on by the massive flood of guilt that rushed in when his humanity switch was flipped back on. For reasons, Caroline really cares about saving him from himself, and even agrees to make a deal with Sybil to get her help. Caroline is going to give Sybil the bell, the one weapon that can kill the sirens, just to save Damon. Unfortunately, (fortunately?) Bonnie and Caroline don’t make much progress while inside his subconscious, even with the “back door” entrance Sybil provides them. Stefan agrees to help, but only because he needs Damon to start pulling his weight in the soul delivery business. However, he’s soon offered a deal from Seline: force Matt or his father to ring the bell and the entire town of Mystic Falls will be obliterated, which should provide enough souls to pacify Cade for the time being. Sure, the bell would also take out Damon, Caroline, and Bonnie, but sans Hero Hair, Stefan doesn’t care. Of course, all is well in the end; it’s too early yet for any major deaths.
Much of the episode takes place inside Damon’s head, where Caroline and Bonnie soon learn Stefan is the key to his brother’s fate. His subconscious is a walk down memory lane, which, I must admit, was a clever way for the show to bring back some familiar faces. It’s also the first time in a while that the title truly fits the episode it’s paired with. “Nostalgia’s a bitch” was something Damon said to Anna in the Miss Mystic Falls episode of season one, and it works here on a couple of different levels. Not only do Bonnie and Caroline have to face a few people from their past, but most of the core cast wind up squashing beefs with Damon that they’ve had for some time now. In case you missed the dozens of nods towards it, forgiveness was the major theme of this episode, with people throwing out apologies left and right like they got bulk packs from Costco.
While the appearance of Vicki Donovan and Tyler Lockwood were nothing to get overly excited about, seeing Liz Forbes and Grams was such a pleasure. Even if Liz spent the entire time torturing Caroline, and Grams was only around long enough for a locator spell, these women reminded me of a better time in TVD history. Nostalgia really is a bitch.
This episode had other elements very reminiscent of old TVD episodes, too. The action, the double-crossing, the near-death experiences; it’s the first time this season an episode has moved at such a lively pace, and it was sorely needed.
The Sirens are dead! Bad monologues must part and parcel with the siren curse. Just when we thought Sybil was the worst offender with words, here comes Seline to prove us wrong. Her big speech about how the bell will rip a hole in the universe leading directly to Cade, was not only way too long, it was also way oversold. Kristen Gutoskie had been perfectly fine throughout the rest of the season, so I do wonder if the fault lies in the direction or writing. Either way, it doesn’t really matter, because Sybil and Seline are gone. I suppose we shouldn’t get our hopes up, TVD did already fake us out with Sybil’s death, but I’m inclined to feel that this time is different since it was Cade who took them out.
I can’t help but wonder how much more affecting this episode would have been 2 or 3 seasons ago, or in an alternate dimension where the show never went so far off the rails. Damon has been down this path so many times – he’s bad, he’s good, forgiveness all around, he’s bad, he’s good, and so on and so forth – that it’s difficult to feel the emotional weight the show was aiming for. At this point, where almost every character is concerned, there’s numbness due to sheer over exposure of the same character arcs and plot points. There is one exception and, of course, it’s Bonnie.
There are two reasons the scene between Damon and Bonnie manages to pack an emotional punch. The first being that Kat Graham nails it – those tears! Secondly, it’s because Bonnie is a character who hasn’t fallen victim to that numbness; she’s still worth audience investment. Damon’s reading of his letter to her means so much, even after all this time, and because we love Bonnie, we can feel the significant weight of this moment through her. This could literally be said about every episode: without Kat, it all falls flat.
Which is why the “pivotal” scene between Damon and Stefan is so dull; Stefan has taken the same aggravatingly circular path as his brother, just as many times. Will these brothers ever truly make amends? Who cares! Though Damon has never offered forgiveness in quite this way – he’s cool with his bro turning him into a vamp after all these years – the freshness of this absolution fails to make an impact. The words may be different but they’re delivered in the same old way, in the same old graveyard. I will give TVD credit for not making this the moment Stefan got his humanity back, though, as that would have been entirely too predictable. Even for this show.
The entire purpose for walking through Damon’s subconscious was as stale as the Salvatore brothers’ themselves. I’m tired of Damon seeking pardon from his “friends” and I’m tired of them always giving it to him. Enough is enough already. Matt, who has hated Damon for the longest, and for good reason, essentially let his entire backbone dissolve after Damon apologized for killing Vicki. Sure, Matt said things weren’t good between them, not by a mile. But after Damon remarks about how much he’s always loved the Sheriff’s in Mystic Falls, there’s a look from Matt that pretty much contradicts his words. Just watch, they’re going to be BFF’s two episodes from now.
Caroline’s forgiveness, in particular, is the most ridiculous of all. She claims Damon was the only person who could ever truly relate to losing her mother. WRONG. Nearly every character on this show has lost their mother in one sense or another. Elena’s mother died, Bonnie’s was turned into a vampire (by Damon) and took off, Matt’s mother was never even really a mother, and Stefan, just like Damon, lost his mother, too. So, NO, Damon is not the only one who could understand and help her through that time. Fuck this reasoning and fuck this lazy ass writing. There’s only so many times you can watch the same beats play out, and this one with Damon has been played to death, several times over. Perhaps the worst part is that we’ll likely have to watch something similar happen with Stefan before the series is over.
- Matt’s line early in the episode was a major highlight, and a rather direct nod to the show itself “No matter how many innocent people die, all anyone’s concerned with are Stefan and Damon.” I mean, he’s not wrong, although he did forget to throw Elena in that mix.
- And sticking with the theme of calling out bullshit, Sybil basically asked Caroline why Bonnie’s life is always being sidetracked for everyone else’s. You know why, Sybil. At least the siren did one good thing in her time with us.
- Some of the direction in this episode was truly wacky. The red, glowing bell was a silly visual. The sound effects when Caroline and Bonnie were first entering Damon’s mind felt wildly out of place. It was as though everything was dialed up to 11, and not in the good way.
- Where was Enzo? My head cannon is he was out doing all things Vampire, in preparation to take the cure.
The Vampire Diaries S8E10
"Nostalgia's a Bitch"
Starring: Kat Graham, Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, Candice King, Matthew Davis, Michael Malarkey, Zach Roerig