Caveat Lector: I am tired of compulsion on The Vampire Diaries. Painfully tired. I'm tired of compulsion, the sire bond, Shady Shane's spirit tea, hypnosis and everything else that resembles it. I feel bound by these bonds that bind and gag. I couldn't be more tired of all of it had I been compelled to be tired of it. And this episode is full of it. It's full of compulsion, too. Ba dump dum. Okay, I heard you groan. I'll see you next week. What? You want a "Catch Me If You Can" recaplet? Really? After how I botched the last one? You want one considering my staggering plot device fatigue? Fine, but when it comes to being a glutton for punishment, Rebekah has nothing on you.
Over at Zanadew (just typing Zanadew makes me feel better), Jeremy balks at killing "innocent people." Germ granted, these were once innocent people, but now, thanks to Klaus (and a side order of Damon) they are transitioning vampires. Yes, you love your sister and she's a vampire; a good one, but come on -- how many of these critters are going to be as "compassionate" as she or as awesome as Caroline, at least at first? These newbies don't even have an elder vampire who cares enough to tutor them. They're just going to end up blood sucking fiends and will probably go home to kill off their families in the most appalling ways, so just stake them and get it over with.
While hunters cannot be compelled, they sure can be coerced. When Jeremy balks at killing the baby vamps, Klaus compels those baby vamps to kill Matt. Not funny, Klaus. Not funny. I'm going to need an elegant bracelet and an OMG Cindy + PONIES sketch to get over that one. Since Damon already ordered Elena to come to him, she shows up and ferries Matt to relative safety. And no, Elena doesn't seem overly disturbed that Damon bought into Klaus's turn-a-town plan, because that might help her regain some likability, which is definitely not in the script.
Kol shows up at Zanadew (still smiling at that) and kills all the baby vamps, because he's the only one with a clue as to what a spectacularly bad idea it is to disturb Silas's grave -- even in search of a vampirism cure. Since Damon won't be swayed from "helping" Jeremy grow his hunter's mark into a complete map, Kol compels Damon to kill Jeremy. Wackiness ensues.
Meanwhile, Rebekah and Stefan search Shane's office for Silas's headstone. They have plenty of time to do it, because Shane has been arrested (more on that later), so they reminisce about how much fun sex was when they were young and crazy. By the end of the hour, they'll be traveling to crazy town again, but before they board the crazy train, they have to deal with some crazy who has been compelled to keep them from getting their hot little mitts on the headstone.
When Rebekah compels the interloper to talk, he BITES OFF HIS OWN TONGUE. I can't figure out who sent him there with such well-thought out In Case of Compulsion instructions, but while I'm afraid the guy might simply be Kol's minion or Shane's one phone call, I'm hoping Katherine or Elijah are behind this. I'd jump for joy to see either, provided neither ever again compels someone to bite off his own tongue (although I'm not above a "Kat Got Your Tongue" headline). I don't know why Rebekah doesn't compel the interloper to write down his answers, but since I'm not anxious to see him bite off his fingers too, I'll let that go.
Somewhere in there Elena calls Stefan for help with the Damon/Jeremy situation. Yes, I know Jeremy is her little brother and Elena is doing what she has to in order to protect him (and keep Damon from doing the unspeakable… a second time), but I still find her gall a bit dumbfounding. Her utter nerve -- and, later, her overwhelming sense of entitlement -- makes me sputter at my TV. And I love Elena (although the writers are slowly stripping away my reasons), so I can only imagine how those of you who already hate her must be feeling after "Catch Me If You Can."
Stefan snaps Damon's neck, drains his blood to keep him weak and locks him up in the Mossy Manse dungeon. Elena can't visit him, because if she does and Damon invokes the sire bond to force her to free him, he'll kill Jeremy. Somewhere in there, Elena gets into a completely inappropriate jealous little snit over Stefan (and Rebekah). By the episode's end, Elena tells Jeremy she has the stupidest plan ever… although she doesn't describe it exactly like that. If he kills Kol, he'll be killing Kol's entire vampire line, so Jeremy's mark should insta-complete. Yes, because killing Originals has always been so easy on this show. That is her plan. Save me.
Now, onto Shady Shane. Bonnie seems to be losing control of her Expression magic, at least until Shane chants at her that she's in control. After April drops a dime on Shane to Sheriff Forbes and Bonnie's father, Interim Mayor Rudy Hopkins (who, henceforth shall be known as Interim Dad), Liz arrests Shane, even though he's not in her jurisdiction (more on that in the recap). Bonnie assumes Shane is not guilty of talking Pastor Cliché into killing the Council -- at least until Shane admits it is the truth.
Shane smooth-talks Bonnie by explaining the Council killings don't amount to a massacre. They were sacrificed in a ritual meant to raise Silas. Once Silas has risen, Shane says all those lives will be restored. When Shane tries to manipulate Bonnie with the idea of raising Grams and saving her from eternal spiritual torment, Bonnie Expresses herself by mystically hurting Shane. She is relentless, until Shane uses his "You are in complete control," trigger to calm her down.
While I'm tired of the compulsion device and feel the show is leaning a bit too heavily on it, it was set up at the beginning of the season so it's clearly part of an ongoing theme. I do appreciate that. With so many characters set to graduate high school, Season 4 is a great time to explore ideas of freedom and control. I like the entire idea. It's the execution that itches.
The ample use of compulsion (and the like) in these most recent episodes strikes me as lazy. You want a character to do something that could keep him from reaching his only goal, but can't come up with a
compelling reason for his actions? Compel him, and then you don't have to bother yourself with crafting a compelling motive. You want people to reveal ugly secrets? Compel them, and then you don't have to waste time thinking up a more organic catalyst. You want a character to tap into dark, human-sacrifice fueled magic, even though she's the show's moral compass? Have a manipulative professor feed her some spirit tea and hypnotize her. You want a character to betray someone, but don't want to have to make her deal with the consequences later? Blame it on the sire bond. When it's all over, you can wave away all repercussions. I suspect I've mentioned this before, but just in case I haven't, here's a fun fact: I keep typing sire bone instead of bond.
I'm trying not to be totally negative, though, so let's look at how the writers have woven their pet themes into the blood-stained tapestry that is Season Gore. With vervain in short supply, nearly everyone is vulnerable to compulsion. Those who aren't compellable aren't free agents, though. Since the Originals are still in town, even normally uncompellable vampires can be compelled. All the vampires are willing to compel humans (and in the past, have sometimes done so at the request of other humans), but everyone objects to being compelled. This is a neat study in hypocrisy.
Bonnie is under Shane's control. Interim Dad is trying to control her, too. Being a hunter makes Jeremy want to kill even those vampires he'd rather spare, so he's struggling against that. To gain control of himself, Jeremy has to submit his mind to Shane's shenanigans. And then there's Shane, himself. He may not be compellable, but either his lust for power, or his grief (or more likely, a combination of both) controls his every move.
Thanks to the sire
bone bond, Elena -- who is trying to control her vampirism so that she doesn't go off the deep end and lose her humanity -- is under Damon's control. Damon is trying to let his love for Elena guide his steps, but was having trouble staying on the straight and narrow even before Kol compelled him to kill her brother. Now he's locked up in his own house and under the control of his own little brother -- the very one who all but forced him into completing his vampire transition in the first place.
Stefan is a walking, talking case study on control issues. Caroline is nearly always in complete control. Tyler fought so hard to free himself from the sire bond, but had to force some hybrids into freeing themselves (only to be slain by the sire whose bonds they'd just broken). Rebekah wants control of the cure. As always, Klaus wants control of the whole world, so he can force someone to love him.
Looking at how it's all been set up make me feel like I've been too cranky about the use of compulsion (and the like). I suspect it's because we had two compulsion-heavy episodes in a row and like I said in last week's recap, the characters could get on the Internet and order some damned vervain. Since there are nearly weekly product placements for smart phones, that's a hard option to ignore. That said, the writers have carefully steeped every episode in their theme. That is to be applauded.
I will be back with the full recap, ASAP. In the meantime, please grade the episode at the top of the page and then come on over to the forum, where we are working on Expression magic that will cause vervain to spring up all over Mystic Falls, and in the writers' room, as well. You are in complete control.
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I'm trying to think of the last time I wrote something about an episode of TV that made me see a show in a whole new light. If I've done so before, it was probably in a Lost recap, but honestly, I can't remember. I might have to go back further than that -- perhaps to my Buffy fandom heydays. I know the most recent time it happened, though. It's right there, in the recaplet. See that link up there? If you're feeling discouraged with season
cure gore four, click on the recaplet link and read the last five or six paragraphs, starting with "I'm trying not to be totally negative..." In trying not to be negative, I accidentally swung myself around to full-on positive. I don't care if you love or hate The Vampire Diaries, except that you're nice people and I want you to enjoy your entertainment. My analysis isn't transformative by any means, but if you're feeling discouraged, I offer it to you, in hopes that it will give you a different perspective.
Speaking of perspective, I'm still trying to decide how culpable Damon is -- concerning the Lakehouse Town deaths, so I'm offering up my own version of "Previously, on The Vampire Diaries, in lieu of the show's. After watching "Catch Me If You Can," a couple of times, I went back and watched "After School Special" again... well, I fast-forwarded through all the Breakfast Club nonsense and just watched the scenes at the Lake House. Klaus shows up and finds Jeremy hasn't yet killed any more vampires. He later tells Damon that there's a town full of people just waiting to be turned and killed. When Damon balks, Klaus ribs him about trying to be good for Elena, then says he's already taken action. In the next scene, we learn Pizza woman has been turned. When she attacks Matt, Jeremy kills her. Later, Damon and Elena talk on the phone. Before he tells her to come to him, he says that he's set on getting her the cure, and that will involve him doing things she won't like. By episode's end, he takes Jeremy and Matt to the Zanadew (never not going to smile at that) Lounge. The bar patrons are all in transition. When Jeremy says to Damon that he thought he was going to convince Klaus to do this another way, Damon says, "Well, I thought about it, and then I realized his idea was better."
Here's what I'm trying to figure out. Did Klaus take out the whole town before talking to Damon, or only the Pizza Woman? Did Damon give the okay for the massacre? Even if Damon did agree before Klaus slaughtered the Zanadewians, how much does it matter? It's not like Damon holds any sway over Klaus, and he knows it. As mercurial as he can be, Damon has a strong pragmatic streak. He knows bucking Klaus is only going to lead to more trouble.