For an episode that was pretty crammed with torture and torment, She’s Come Undone was a surprising amount of fun. But there’s also that inescapable The End Is Nigh feeling: finales are always game-changing on this series, and the approaching graduation day feels even more so than usual.
One thing I particularly loved about this episode was how Mean Elena and Silas pretty much use the same bag of tricks: adept at psychological torment, Elena and Silas play on the others’ worst fears and deepest insecurities, with doses of real and imagined violence to drive home their points. And I gotta say, when it comes to cruel and biting takedowns, Elena wins, and she doesn’t even have super-psychic mind-reading abilities. She just knows her targets all too well. And while the horror-movie vibe of Silas freaking Caroline out, leaving her unable to trust anyone, with his disfigured face and otherworldly beasty growl, ups the scare factor, at the end of the day neither Elena nor Silas are very threatening as villains — it’s not so much some big dastardly plan but what they’re willing to do to get what they want. Before she came back to herself, Elena wanted to be free of the meddlesome brothers and her former BFFs, while Silas? He wants to kill himself. He wants to die and be with his beloved — but he’ll burn the whole world down to get there.
The Salvatore brothers have a clear mission for this little “intervention:” get Elena to open the floodgate of emotions and be her old self again by making this “emotionless” existence (in quotations since even a flip-switched vamp displays emotions) worse than the alternative. And they are committed to doing whatever it takes to get there. It’s actually pretty impressive that, save for one smashed glass and some hurt feelings, Damon and Stefan keep it together and don’t break. Why Elena is such a hold-out is subject to much theorizing from Stefan, and there’s a laundry list of reasons: her brother is dead, she killed an innocent woman, and tried to kill two of her best friends; she has no home, the only life to return to is the end of a senior year she hasn’t cared about from day one. But what she does have are her pals: those who “fawn” over her and never give up on her, even when she tries to kill them. Ultimately, it’s that which brings her back to herself: Matt is brave enough to test out that Gilbert ring’s efficacy and Damon risks driving Elena further away from him.
Though Elena jokingly refers to her little prison — a safe, quite a symbolic choice — as “solitary,” it’s an apt description of the state of a flipped-switch vampire. She’s isolating herself, in what she later realizes is a cheat. Katherine is right: the easy way out is avoidance; the hard thing is to face what you’ve done and what you’ve lost. After an episode of provoking emotional responses in those intending to do that to her — who gets the worst of it: Caroline, Stefan, Damon, or Katherine? — she is finally broken at the thought of Matt dying. (Me too, babygirl.) She’s known him since he was the little kid with a goofy smile that Damon describes, they’ve been there for each other through alllll the crazy that is Mystic Falls, and she willingly died so that Matt could live. So why does she crack here when she was twice willing to attack Caroline and Bonnie? Maybe it’s a cumulative effect of the intervention; maybe there’s something about the innate decency of Matt Donovan, the guy everyone loves, that brings out the best in those seemingly past redemption.
Elena emerges from the no-emotion fog shaky: she’s not okay but will get better. And she doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against the boys for torturing her (and yeah, Stefan, inflicting physical pain until someone breaks? that’s torture) — instead her focus is on her doppelgänger. In an awesome moment, we learn that Elena has gathered herself together not by focusing on love, or friendship, or even her proven capacity to carry on in the face of great tragedy, but on hate. Much like Stefan last season when he was determined to get his revenge on Klaus after having his switch forcibly flipped, Elena comes back angry. And she’s right: Katherine has brought a world of misery to Mystic Falls. It’s time for revenge!
While She’s Come Undone centers on how little Elena has left, she’s not alone in that bleak state: Rebekah is without her brothers, without a hope of becoming human again, without direction. Katherine’s been dumped by Elijah (a breakup that must hurt infinitely more than any other because it’s Elijah). Matt has no money, no family, failing grades, and enough grief to last a lifetime. Caroline’s been left behind by her “two boyfriends” and while we don’t know what she has planned past graduation day, Silas’s peek into her subconscious tells us she’d at least like Klaus to beg her to join him in New Orleans. Even Stefan is feeling a little lost, talking about ditching Mystic Falls for good and breaking this history-repeating Salvatore cycle.
And what of Ms. Bonnie Bennett? She tells Katherine she didn’t “switch sides,” and yet she promises Silas she’ll help him perform the spell. She also makes a deal with Katherine, promising to get her true immortal status — i.e., an eternal break from five centuries of running from her enemies. Besides the great collision course that creates, with Elena vowing to kill Katherine while her BFF vows to make her un-killable, it’s an indication of how far Bonnie will go. She’s done some crazy stuff in the past — way back in season one she fake de-activated the Gilbert device; she’s temporarily killed herself and Jeremy and herself again; she’s body-swapped Klaus and Tyler; she’s used so much Expression that she’s become the most powerful witch on the planet. And while she is fiercely loyal to her friends, she doesn’t feel the need to share her plans with them. She’s isolated herself from the (motto-less) team, not telling them about her arrangement with Silas or her deal-making with Katherine. How desperate is she to get Jeremy back? To get Grams? Just what is Bonnie Bennett planning on doing?
Some would call it a “cheat” that death doesn’t last on TVD. In this episode alone, we get two death fakeouts: Liz seems pretty dead but she ain’t (and Caroline’s negotiation with her to bring her back to life was heartbreaking and so very Caroline), and Matt turns out to be wearing the Gilbert ring of resurrection. (Remember, Elena tosses the ring to Damon right before she lights the first match in Stand By Me, so all the ducks are in a row for this twist.) And of course, there’s the Other Side where all dead supernatural creatures hang out in a state of limbo, ready to sneak back through any chance they get. And the impermanence of death gets a big show in the next episode as we near the much-ballyhooed veil-dropping. If Bonnie destroys the Other Side like Silas wants her to, anyone who dies — whether witch or hybrid, werewolf or vampire — would be gone for good. No take-backs, no surprise cameos. Is that the world that awaits us in season 5?
Compelling moment: There were two true shocks for me: Elena setting herself on fire (and then laughing about it) and Matt getting his neck snapped by Damon. But my #1 compelling moment was Nina Dobrev’s performance as Elena reacted to Matt’s death, then realized he’ll come back and was flooded by her emotions returning. Nina plays something so bizarre and supernatural completely honestly, and it’s gutting to watch.
The Rules: Katherine reminds us that big spells require a power source — a full moon, a comet, a mystical object (like the moonstone), or a connection to uber-powerful dead witches like “Qetsuya or whatever.” (Never change, Katherine.) Bonnie says she’s the only one who can see Silas’s true face, meaning she will always see his true face and never be fooled (not that others can’t see it — as Caroline sees his groovy face twice in this episode).
Foggy moments: If you’re wondering why Elena was wearing a hoodie when she was in the woods outside the Salvatore house, Julie Plec tweeted that it has to do with “very cold weather when shooting,” and that the hoodie is Stefan’s.
When Caroline calls her mother in a panic, it seems like Liz, town sheriff, doesn’t already know about Silas and his special psychic powers. PSA for Mystic Falls Residents: anytime a crazy mind-controlling super immortal comes to town, alert your friends and loved ones immediately. Activate the phone tree.
Other thoughts & questions before The Walking Dead (EP422):
- So, will Caroline actually be valedictorian? Will Damon’s little dreamworld fiction come to pass? (Clearly, the most important plot point in the next two episodes…)
- Anyone else a little terrified when Elena kept spinning that glass bottle? I was sure shards from it would end up in Caroline’s jugular.
- How did Silas get into the Forbes house? Does his First Immortal status grant him immunity from the invitation rule or was Liz fooled into inviting him in? Was Caroline hanging out with Silas-as-Liz the whole time? (Obviously, the call-the-cell-phone trick isn’t reliable at all: if Silas can make you believe you’ve been staked, he can make you hear a phone ring.)
- Will the Salvatore brothers help Elena or will they try to stop her?
- What will happen to Little Miss Katherine — will she become a true immortal or be killed by her doppelgänger? Or is she fated to an eternity of running? Can’t wait to find out!
What did you think of She’s Come Undone? Sound off below! Only two episodes left…
Crissy Calhoun is currently writing her Season 4 Love You to Death companion guide to The Vampire Diaries with her kickass co-author, and Vampire-Diaries.net’s co-founder, Heather Vee. The first three volumes are available here: Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3. Find Crissy online at crissycalhoun.com and tweeting @crissycalhoun.
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