Five episodes in, Season 4 of The Vampire Diaries is proving to be a rare hybrid: a return to some of the themes of early Season 1 — highlighted by the dear-diary duet and candle-lighting moment in The Killer — while simultaneously exploring darker, more violent territory where a “by any means necessary” philosophy is put to work — and its dangers revealed.
With “danger magnets” Matt and April at the Grill as hostages along with vampire-hunter potential Jeremy, the question of how far each character will go in the name of what they value most is explored, each motivated by a tenuous balance of hope and desperation. Stefan must keep his secret and Connor alive — fighting for his endgame of a cure for Elena. But the newbie vamp is focused on her little brother’s safety: being Jer’s only family is the defining role Elena has, and it’s what’s keeping her from giving up. It’s for her brother that she becomes the titular killer. The danger in adhering so closely to one goal, one mission, is nowhere more apparent than in Connor, whose puts his faith in his Hunter’s Mark, believing that if only he completes it, he’ll discover the true purpose of a life killing vampires — including his best friend. For Connor, the world was clearly delineated: vampires kill humans, hunters kill vampires; making a deal with a vampire was not an option, no matter how desperately he wanted to learn about his mythological history as one of the brotherhood of the Five.
In The Killer, the Gilbert kids are each marked as killers: one of humans, the other of vampires — a set-up for a supernatural sibling showdown I do not ever want to see. The bond the Gilberts share is one of the show’s foundations, there since the beginning of the series though not without its tests. Jeremy’s anger at being compelled — again — is instant and palpable, and thankfully for once Elena had nothing to do with it. Instead she shares his anger at the betrayal, realizing that she too has been kept in the dark and her brother left vulnerable to attack. And with Connor’s death and the appearance of Jer’s mark, Jeremy can never be compelled again. (As we learned last week from Stefan’s comment to Klaus, a member of the Five can’t be compelled.)
On a show where the kill count is incredibly high, it was refreshingly honest to see Elena so destroyed by the fact that she killed someone. Despite the fact that it was an awesome death scene, in my opinion — the “You missed” was such an action movie line — the aftermath shows how human and how sane Elena still is. That’s the way you should feel after snapping a man’s neck: horrified and like you’ve betrayed who you are and what you’re willing to do. TVD has shown us again and again that if you put a character in terrible circumstances, they will do unthinkable things, and after three seasons it’s Elena’s turn to prove how dangerous she can be. However much it was an action of self-defense, and done in protection of her little brother, that Elena is gutted about it proves to me how little she’s lost herself — diary entries that say otherwise aside.
What I liked about this episode was how the secrets, betrayals, and discoveries were powerless, as always, to truly shake the bond between the Salvatore brothers. Damon nearly tears Stefan’s heart from his chest in search of the truth, but by episode’s end he is signing up for a quest he doesn’t believe in for a result he has no personal interest in. It was an on-point question that Damon asks of his brother: can Stefan love Elena as a vampire? Their relationship grew from his admiration of her humanity, and it’s been clear from the past five episodes that he is desperate for her to hold on to it. Where does Stefan’s motivation to cure Elena of vampirism truly lie?
In the world of subplots, I’m personally finding Bonnie and the Professor a lot more compelling — even when they’re basically doing nothing for seven hours — than “Ty” and his two supernatural lady friends. Caroline, Tyler, and newcomer Hayley haven’t yet had much to do this season, and I’d love to see more — and more integration between the various pockets of Mystic Falls supernatural teen drama. Who better to do that than Klaus? With his interests in all intrigue, I heartily welcome him home from Italy. And considering he killed five of the Five back in 1114, he’s sure to have some insight for Elena into those pesky blood hallucinations she’s having.
Compelling Moment: The conversation between Stefan and Damon in Stefan’s room at the end of the episode — adversarial but full of brotherly love, funny but getting to the heart of the tension between them, and of course punctuated by sips from amber-alcohol-filled tumblers.
The Rules: “Potential” Jeremy gets his hunter’s mark after Connor is killed, suggesting that these vampire hunters operate similarly to Buffy’s Slayer system. Bonnie tells Shane that witches have a natural resistance to manipulation, but he’s able to hypnotize her with the help of a little “better when you smoke it” tea. Elena experiences hallucinations in the wake of killing the hunter; details on that next week!
Foggy moments: Not a traditional foggy moment, but I found the blood-dripping-down-Elena’s-chin distracting, and almost a moment ruiner. Instead of empathizing with poor Elena, all I could think about was the makeup.
Questions & thoughts before We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes (EP406):
- R.I.P. Connor: a true hunter, a great adversary, and a lover of blowing stuff up and smashing phones to bits.
- How will Klaus react to the Connor’s-dead news?
- Are there more active hunters out there? How would Stefan find them?
- Will Jeremy keep his mark a secret?
- How shaken is Elena’s trust in Stefan?
- What is Shane’s master plan and how does it involve Bonnie? Does he have a way of identifying hunters?
- Who owns the Grill, and who’s going to explain the blown-up interior to that poor sap?
- Was anyone else filled with infinite sadness seeing Alaric’s uninhabited apartment?
- Whose ring will be stolen next week?
- Is Tyler telling the truth about his plan with Hayley?
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