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The Vampire Diaries - S8E12 - What Are You?

Previously on The Vampire Diaries, “You Made a Choice to Be Good”

Images: The CW

As speculated last week, much of this episode focused on saving precious little Stefan. Now that he’s human, the deal he and Damon made with Cade is null and void. Cade still wants his soul, though, which forces Damon into a race against the clock to save his brother from an eternity of misery. All he has to do is retrieve the Maxwell journal by midnight and Stefan will be spared. Of course, Damon manages to deliver said journal just in the knick of time. Stefan nearly dies anyways, thanks to a stab wound that can’t be healed with vampire blood. Luckily for him – unluckily for us – medicine has come a long way since the last time he was human.

These literal rescue efforts are all well and good, but what Stefan really needs is more symbolic. To be truly saved, he’s going to need to redeem himself, somehow. Caroline keeps assuring him that he can still make amends for all that he’s done, but considering he’s committed thousands of brutal murders, 32 within the last month alone, and a few that have hit very close to home, is this something he can ever really come back from? Possibly. Most likely; but only because this is The Vampire Diaries universe, where even the most appalling deeds are eventually given a pass.

While Caroline’s and Damon’s attention was on Stefan, Bonnie was dealing, or at least trying to deal, with the loss of Enzo. Matt, Ric, and Dorian were digging deeper into the Maxwell family history. And a couple of familiar faces, some more welcome than others, made a comeback. While the episode was certainly better than most this season, it failed to truly maintain or further the momentum it built up in last week’s installment.

The Good

This whole thing is about to sound like a bit of a backhanded compliment, and it kind of is but it can’t be helped. While the flashbacks in this episode weren’t great – the acting and directing choices were quite puzzling at times – it was nice to see Matt’s role in Mystic Falls’ history. Since little was known about his ancestry before a few months ago, there was never a reason for him to get in on the flashback action. Even though this feels like a too little, way too late situation – Matt has been inconsequential for years now – it at least gave Matt less of a reason to feel like an outsider. His character deserves something like this. He has always been the one to defend his hometown, no matter what, and the fact that his ancestor held the key to defeating the Devil means Matt finally has a family secret he can be proud of.

Stefan getting arrested, stabbed, and kidnapped was a fantastic way to kick off his status as human. Okay, it probably wasn’t great for him, but it was enormously entertaining for us (just me?) It’s yet another way too little way too late situation, but it was only fitting for Stefan to start seeing some consequences for his actions. Though Caroline was quick to bail him out of the first two events he did have to suffer, even if that suffering paled in comparison to what he actually deserves. Seeing the faces of his most recent victims in a more tangible way than just his memories, and being impaled by the real estate agent – anyone else cheer when this happened? – was a small price to pay for all he’s done but, nonetheless, it still caused him pain. One can only assume that whoever kidnapped Stefan did so because they have revenge in mind. You can’t go through life killing that many people, without making a few enemies. As for who the kidnapper might be, my bets are on Dorian or perhaps someone Kai is working with. Dorian was acting mighty shifty before he left the Armory, and we never got a chance to hear what he wanted to ask Ric. Kai could be working alone, but the connection between his sudden reappearance happening around the same time as Stefan’s disappearance can’t be discounted.

The Bad

The return of Seline and Sybil was unpleasant, to put it mildly. While their comeback wasn’t completely unjustified, as they did play a part in tying together a few loose story threads, it’s a shame the writers couldn’t have figured out some other way around it. Here’s hoping this was their final siren song – for real this time.

This pains me, you guys, but most of Bonnie’s scenes were not good this week. Now, absolutely none of that is the fault of her character or Kat Graham. In fact, the phone call between her and Damon was one of two standout scenes from the episode – the other being the return of Kai. The pain in Bonnie’s voice was palpable and the delivery of her dialogue, the catching of breath and hesitations before certain words, felt extremely authentic to someone going through that experience. No, the blame here belongs solely on the writers. Unlike the ease with which Caroline can shift Stefan’s blame onto Cade – really, Caroline? – this isn’t an attempt to keep Bonnie’s track record unblemished. Kat achieved an ambiguity in her dialogue that made me simultaneously believe there was a chance to save Enzo, while also wondering if she was just in severe denial. The problems were with Bonnie’s mother, Abby, and the overly hurried pacing of their scenes.

First of all, Caroline only called Abby so she would feel better about Bonnie not being alone. She didn’t even stop to think whether this was something her friend would actually want. But also, what gives Abby the right to waltz back into her daughter’s life after all these years and start making decisions for her? Not five minutes after her arrival, she’s forcing Bonnie to say goodbye to the love of her life. Slow down, woman! Let Bonnie grieve at her own pace, please. Then, with very little understanding of just what the hell is actually going on, she burns the man’s body. Sigh. Sure, Bonnie may have opened some ominous “door to darkness” but doesn’t that deserve time to be explored and explained? If TVD can spend an entire episode flashing back to the mind-numbing origin story of the sirens, then surely they can toss this storyline an extra few minutes for examination. But nope, they stick to what they’re good at: sidelining the fuck out of their best character. Angry sigh. It’s a good thing Stefan was kidnapped before he got to Bonnie’s door, because we all know she probably would have been nicer to him than he deserves, and I don’t think I could handle anything less than a kick to the nuts and a slammed door to the face.

The Great

Kai is back! This is not a drill! The most entertaining (fight me!) and best looking (those arms!) of all the villains in TVD history has returned. It’s unclear as to how exactly he’s made his way back to the land of the living – his 30-second or so appearance didn’t exactly warrant any time for explanations – but it doesn’t matter, because his addition to this final run of episodes can only be for the better. This is the first time all season I’ve felt that urge for the next episode to come as quickly as possible. 

Final Thoughts

  • “What are you?” was the ideal quote to pull from season one for this episode. It’s a question Elena poses to Stefan, and it’s what leads to her finally discovering the truth about him being a vampire. These quote titles have been really hit and miss all year – mostly miss – but this one works perfectly in tying themes across an eight season expanse. It’s a nice full-circle kind of moment.
  • Glad to have Ric back, but who in the hell could he have realistically trusted to take care of the twins?
The Vampire Diaries S8E12
  • 7/10
    Plot - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Dialogue - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performances - 7.5/10

"What Are You?"

Starring: Kat Graham, Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, Candice King, Matthew Davis, Michael Malarkey, Zach Roerig

User Review
5 (1 vote)
About Jasmin George (185 Articles)
An avid reader of TV Guide in her youth, Jasmin has been a fan of all things television since she can remember. She’s very passionate about story, especially the kinds that use cameras and actors to convey them. When she doesn’t have her eyes glued to the tube, you can find her listening to podcasts or reading reviews about, well, TV. Yeah, Jasmin might have a slight addiction but she’s perfectly happy to coexist with it.
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