The Vampire Diaries - Episode 4-15 Review – “Stand By Me”
by Matt Basilo on February 27, 2013

So The Vampire Diaries followed up last week’s fantastic episode with another stellar one.  There is one thing I always commend this show for, and that’s that it has the characters ask and answer the questions we’re all thinking.  In my last review, I wondered if Jeremy was still wearing his protection ring, and if it would bring him back to life if he was.  Within the first several minutes of this week’s episode, Elena answered that question and Stefan (separately) answered it.  It seems like a fairly obvious thing, but a lot of shows don’t even put that miniscule level of detail into their dialogue and stories.

 

Of course, we came to learn that the ring would not save Jeremy.  As “one of the five” vampire hunters, Jeremy was now supernatural.  As such, the ring lost its powers to protect him.  However, through Elena’s denial, the writers actually provided a very clever way of giving the audience hope that he would survive.  Her line of thought – that the tattoos disappeared and therefore he was no longer supernatural – was plausible.  When it became increasingly clear that he wouldn’t be returning (particularly when Stefan and Caroline could smell his body decomposing), the journey became when Elena would accept this and how she would react afterwards.  She went through the various stages of grief, notably denial, anger, and finally acceptance.

 

Perhaps the most powerful scene, to me, was Elena making the difficult (but ultimately right) decision that bringing back Jeremy wasn’t worth bringing back all of the awful and evil supernatural beings that are on the other side (although, I do have to wonder:  What entities are they referring to here?  Has anybody other than the good guys died so far?  The only two significant villains have been Klaus and Katherine, and they’re both still kicking).  It reminded me somewhat of Elena’s final words to Jenna, when she urged her to “turn off” her feelings just before she was killed by Klaus.  By that point, Elena realized she couldn’t save Jenna, and in a crucial moment she made a difficult decision that would ultimately result in the loss of somebody she loves.  And while characters like Caroline argued against the plot to resurrect all of the demons on the other side, I was really glad that Elena was ultimately the one who put her foot down and rejected the plan.

 

Likewise, Bonnie was the perfect candidate to act as the person fighting for the plan to bring back Jeremy, even if it means other evil beings will be brought back as well.  While both Elena and Bonnie both love Jeremy, they love him in different ways.   Bonnie’s love is built on passion, which perhaps makes it a bit more difficult to see things rationally.  I can see her interactions with Professor Silas (so hey, I was KINDA right about Shane being Silas……right?) being entertaining.  Besides which, the possibility of seeing Bonnie AGAINST the crew intrigues me (although, again, a bit Willow-esque).  Even after Bonnie’s grandmother’s death, we never really saw Bonnie and Elena against each other.

 

I loved everything about the Elena/Stefan/Damon triangle in this week’s episode.  Each character did a remarkable job with their new direction.  Stefan is slowly realizing that having Elena is not the biggest, most important thing in the world (and in realizing that, he’s seemingly coming closer to winning her back).  Damon’s incapability to be there for Elena emotionally continues to lead to their apparent eventual romantic downfall.  And Elena is in such distress (and rightfully so) that she’s unable to recognize either of those observations in regards to both relationships.

 

To focus on those first two points, I think it was very telling that Damon sent Stefan back to Mystic Falls with Elena.  As best as I could tell, there was no strategic advantage to this.  Damon would have no easier time finding Bonnie, and Stefan didn’t have any special connections back home.  As best as I could tell, Damon simply did not want the responsibility of having to be there for Elena.  To me, this was exemplified to the nth degree when he instructed her to turn off her emotions.  You could tell, right off the bat, that Stefan did not agree with this plan.  Furthermore, could you ever imagine Stefan pulling that same move?  Particularly that quickly?  When Elena does eventually turn her emotions back on, I suspect that Damon will pay for that decision.  The final observation I had that Stefan has a certain connection with Elena that Damon has not achieved was when the house was burning down.  Elena was emotionless and could not comprehend the severity and permanence of what she had done.  So she left without looking back.  Damon reacted the same way – he simply walked out, standing by her side.  Stefan, on the other hand, seemed to express reluctance.  He walked a little slower and looked back at the house, as it burned to the ground, on more than once.  He was the only one of the three that seemed to realize what Elena was doing, and that it likely wasn’t the best choice.

 

And while I was a bit critical of the way Stefan referred to Elena as his “friend,” I really didn’t mind his reconciliation with Damon this week.  Yeah, it is a bit soon considering what has happened between them, but the fact remains that (a) a dire situation such as this is likely to bring them closer together and (b) Stefan and Damon work better as friends than they do enemies.  I constantly say this, but the series truly did not find its groove until these two began working together.  We had enough of them against each other last season.

 

I will admit that I found it sad to see Jeremy, and Elena’s home, set ablaze.  I get why they did it:  They wanted to show that Jeremy wasn’t coming back and that Elena truly did cut off all of her emotional ties.  But, as somebody invested in these characters, it was still a sad sight.  Mostly because Jeremy deserved better.

 

For what it’s worth, I still think Jeremy was the wrong character to kill off.  Frankly, Jeremy’s death was a little too tragic.  Yes, it was the perfect (and perhaps only) catalyst for Elena to turn off her emotions, but Jeremy is just a little too innocent.  He was thrust into this situation, and unlike virtually every other   character, his morals were never really jeopardized.  He was always looking out for others, and he never really did anything wrong.  If I were to kill off any character, Tyler would be my first choice.  His character is the least necessary – hell, he’s disappeared for extended periods on more than one occasion.  Yet, at the same time, he has enough close connections (Caroline and Matt, mostly) that his death would still have an impact.  My next pick would be Bonnie.  Whereas Jeremy has been virtually completely innocent and has always tried to do the right thing, Bonnie’s hands are far from clean.  She’s hurt people, and she’s spit in the face of the spirits that have empowered her.  And yet, she’s never directly the one who pays the price.

 

And like I said last week, Matt would NOT be somebody I’d eliminate.  This episode perfectly exemplified the important role he plays as the sole human on the show.  In many ways, he’s the emotional center of the show.  His emotional bond with characters such as Elena, Jeremy, and Caroline cannot be replicated.  And his emotional breakdown at the end of the episode – while a bit uncomfortable to watch – really showed the audience the impact this series of events have had on these characters.  As much as I root for the Elena/Stefan relationship, I don’t think Stefan could have filled Matt’s role this episode.

 

You need that human character to keep the show – and the characters – grounded.



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