Elena’s life is the worst. She shouldn’t even try to be happy anymore, because the second that girl smiles, her worst nightmare is just waiting to pop up around the corner to make her suffer. Season 3 was already exceeding my very expectations, and The Reckoning was another amazing episode, one that delivered many clues to the past (read the two excellent posts on hybrid and mythology speculation if you haven’t already!) and set up so much complicated plot and relationship goodness for the future.
Before we get into the “crazy and unhappy bits”: this episode was in particular a great example of how well-crafted TVD is. The writers and actors (deservedly) get mad love weekly, so let’s high-five the rest of the crew that creates a beautiful, atmospheric, dramatically and effectively lit, tightly edited show with stunning locations (I loved that TP’d pool) and a score and music cues that add so much to TVD. So many elements are resonating to make the series as strong as it is. High fives all around.
Lost Boy: The opening scene of the empty high school, the sound of that mysterious clanking, led us to Matt Donovan — in a perfect illustration of just how alone he is. The spooky noises he hears could be one of the supernatural creatures that he knows haunts his town, it could be the ghost of his dead sister, or (as it turned out to be) it could be his best friends in the world (including two ex-girlfriends) having fun without him. I was glad to see both Caroline’s and Bonnie’s concern about how Matt is doing — though his life is the least supernatural, it’s arguably the loneliest. When he describes to Bonnie that the previous summer he only had two problems (Elena and sucking at CPR), he’s actually downplaying how long his life has been challenging. Then he was living with his wild-child sister, rarely seeing his mom, and had a long AWOL father; it’s always been tragic for Matty. What I loved about his choice in this episode (to kill himself and have Bonnie bring him back in order to speak to Vicki and save Tyler) is that it played on the two sides of Matt’s character, his deep melancholy and his willingness to help his loved ones, no matter what. As Katherine says to Jeremy, Matt doesn’t hesitate to take one for the team, making a sacrifice that’s both selfless (to save Tyler) and tragically selfish. He just wants to say goodbye to his sister.
I loved how human a solution Matt came up with — you don’t need magic to bring someone back to life. But because of that choice — and how well it worked — Matt is now a part of supernatural world. He can see Vicki. The build-up — him knowing that his dead sister is there, watching him — made the moment when he did see her, on this “side,” a really emotional moment. (Yes, I cry over Matt-Vicki moments. Always.) Now Matt has the same ability as Jeremy: he can talk to the dead (including the long dead Original Witch) through Vicki. Will he communicate with other ghosts?
Rebekah is right: Tyler and Caroline are so cute together. I could go on about how charming Caroline is in every episode, but just a few compliments this time — loved how Caroline wants the gang to be happy, even amid all the unhappiness, and that she instantly went into protective mode when Rebekah showed up, stepping in front of Tyler to defend him from the unknown threat of the “new girl.” I loved how this episode refused to dilly-dally — Klaus nabs Elena before the title card, and he understands that everyone works better with a firm deadline! So in a great moment of villainy, he motivates the gang to find the solution to the hybrid problem by experimenting on Tyler. Beyond the initial torturous transition — in a science classroom, of course — poor Tyler’s now done with his fair share of writhing around and suffering through monstrous changes. Being a hybrid means he is no longer bound to the moon; Tyler can change at will as we have seen Klaus do. Will being a hybrid be a good thing for him? Though Caroline wants everyone to be happy — and Tyler is ecstatic — I share that look of concern she has. Nothing is ever simple in this cruel, cruel TVD world. Will Klaus want Tyler as his “comrade”? Because of his werewolf side, Tyler is not susceptible to Klaus’s compulsion like Stefan is, but Klaus has other ways of motivating people do what he wants.
The Failsafe: In a classic TVD twist, Klaus’s hypothesis that Elena’s survival has been the hitch in his plan turns out to be false; her blood is the missing key ingredient to his hybrid experimentation. An elegant solution to keep Elena’s character relevant to the mythology of the show with her doppelgänger-sacrifice role has been completed, the fact that Klaus needs Elena to live — and stay human — in order to create his long-dreamed-of hybrid pals nicely inverts the shape of the target that was on her back last season. Klaus needs to keep her safe and has just the foot soldier for the job.
I found Klaus to be an impressive villain in this episode: we’ve heard how dastardly and smart he is, and we got to see it in action this episode. He’s cautious (he wouldn’t kill Elena until he knows he can) but he is sure to have a little fun in doling out his punishments for the lies and betrayal perpetrated against him. As we learned with Elijah when we first met him last season, the Originals live by a code of honor; Klaus has stuck to his word and not killed Damon. Stefan has not been honest; he’s betrayed the code. And Klaus seems deeply disappointed in him for that. Like in Season 1 when Damon wanted his connection with Elena to be honest (Bloodlines), Klaus wanted to come by Stefan’s loyalty honestly and didn’t resort to compulsion all summer long. Stefan has done everything Klaus asked of him, playing the role of the dutiful henchman and murdering countless people over the last few months. Stefan says to Klaus, “Whatever you ask of me, I will do.” But Klaus catches him in his lie: there was one thing that was holding him back — his love for Elena — and Klaus strips that from him by forcing him to turn his humanity off. Stefan has fought to hold on to his humanity through his powerful need to completely give in to his ripper side and he even manages to thwart Klaus’s command to drink from Elena. But in Klaus’s wrath, his will overpowers Stefan’s and destroys his defiant love for Elena. Now Stefan means it — he will do whatever Klaus asks of him. And the worst part is now he’ll enjoy it. As Klaus says to Elena in the gym, “I invited him to the party. He’s the one dancing on the table.”
Not that the gang didn’t already have motivation to kill Klaus, but now it’s the way to free Stefan from compulsion. But even if Klaus were to be killed, would Stefan want to regain his humanity? Or would he be so far gone into the bloodbath lifestyle of the ripper? Returning to Mystic Falls to be the guilt-ridden love of Elena’s life may become as unappealing to him as it seems now to Klaus. Is there a scenario in which Klaus himself would remove the compulsion from Stefan? We’ve had hints of it before, but again in this episode, the idea that Klaus is primarily motivated to sire a hybrid race by a deep sense of loneliness is raised again in The Reckoning. Is there a “love is the answer” solution to Klaus’s villainy? (I hope not. Rage on, Klaus!)
I found it an interesting reminder in that final scene in the Salvatore library when Damon called Stefan “brother”: even though Stefan’s as far gone as he’s ever been, Ripper Stefan is still Damon’s brother, and their bond has so far been unbreakable despite everything they have been through. It’ll be potentially explosive to see them face off over Elena — in a way that once again twists their relationship to her and to each other. Once again they are both her protectors, but with Stefan no longer earnestly concerned about her or feelings. Have I mentioned that I love how amazingly cruel this show can be? “By all means, carry on.”
Damon chose to leave town at end of previous episode, but his road trip with Katherine is immediately frustrating (and not just sexually frustrating for the once-again rejected Katherine). She knows that keeping Damon from returning to Elena will require some convincing and she tries to get him distant enough — geographically, by stealing his phone, by coming on to him in the car, and by reasoning with him about the long-term benefit of raising Mikael instead of running back to Mystic Falls. But he turns back. Though he wants to save his brother by killing Klaus, his primary motivation is to protect Elena. Their difference of opinion of how he should behave himself matters little to him when her life is in danger, and she needs him. Having witnessed Stefan kill Dana and Chad, seeing him fight and lose against Klaus, and being herself the victim of his attack, Elena knows that Stefan is really gone — and tellingly she doesn’t take the necklace back. What she’s wanted all summer she finally has: Stefan is back but he’s a full-on, remorse-free ripper. Refill that glass of bourbon, girl.
Compelling Moment: Damon’s pledge to never leave Elena again — and Stefan’s perfectly timed “Well, isn’t this cozy.”
The Rules: We get another glimpse of communicating from beyond the grave: Ghost Vicki is able to move objects and send a text message from the Other Side. When Matt is dead (or nearly dead?), he sees Vicki and speaks to her, temporarily on what is probably the Other Side; the Original Witch gave her a message to deliver. Brought back with good old-fashioned CPR, Matt is now able to see Vicki and hear her. Tyler is successfully made into a hybrid with one key alteration to the method Klaus had tried before: the potential hybrid must drink the blood of the doppelgänger to complete his transition. That detail was the Original Witch’s failsafe to keep Klaus from siring his own species; if he broke the curse on him, the doppelgänger would be dead, and Klaus would therefore be unable to create any more hybrids. Though we don’t yet know the how, Katherine tells Damon that Mikael is capable of killing Klaus (“dead-dead” not “dagger-dead”). As we saw with Bill Forbes and compulsion last episode, Stefan is able to struggle against Klaus’s compulsion — but in the end has his will overpowered.
- I’ll blame my jet lag if I’ve missed anything ridiculously obvious, but nothing stood out as particularly foggy in this ep…
Other thoughts & questions to ponder before Smells Like Teen Spirit (306):
- R.I.P. Dana and Chad. Senior year won’t be the same without you.
- “Given the choice, doppelgänger or hybrid, I go hybrid every time.” Any significance we can read into this line about Klaus and the Original Petrova lady?
- Interestingly, if Klaus had only listened to Elijah about the doppelganger-resurrecting elixir 500 years ago, this whole mess could have been avoided, and Klaus could have had his hybrid comrades for centuries now.
- The way the information from the Original Witch via Vicki is received and interpreted by Klaus makes it seem reliable. Can we trust that the Original Witch truly did communicate through Vicki, and that Vicki was really looking to help save Tyler? If so, what does that say about Anna’s insistence that Vicki is “darkness” and cannot be trusted?
- Mikael is awake! Bound by chains, entombed, and looking a little desiccated, Mikael is nevertheless alert. Who is this “vampire who hunts vampires”? Is he an Original?
- What made the Original Witch hate Klaus so very much?
- Is Rebekah’s bad attitude toward the “doppelgänger bitch” simply jealousy over Stefan, or does it date back, say, a thousand years?
- With the necklace now in Damon and Elena’s possession, will Bonnie be able to use it to contact the Original Witch for some intel? How will they get any scheming done with Stefan, now the dutiful henchman of Klaus, watching over them?
- Where has Klaus gone? Will he try to make more hybrids with the doppelganger blood bag? Or will he go into hiding from Mikael?
What did you think of The Reckoning? Sound off below with your likes/dislikes, theories, and predictions! (And my sincere apologies for being so late with this post!)
Crissy Calhoun is the author of Love You to Death: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries and Love You to Death — Season 2. When not obsessively re-watching CW shows, she works as managing editor at ECW Press in Toronto. She blogs at crissycalhoun.com and tweets @crissycalhoun.
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