The Vampire Diaries – Episodes 4-17 & 4-18 Reviews – “Because the Night” & “American Gothic”

The best part of these episodes – and I daresay, the best part of the entire SERIES – had to have been when the random barfly brushed his hand through Rebekah’s hair, only for Rebekah to swiftly grab his face and violently throw him to the ground.  Hilarious.


Episode 4-17 – “Because the Night”


For somebody who has been almost entirely critical of the handling of the Elena/Stefan/Damon love triangle since Elena and Damon began hooking up, I have to say that I have absolutely loved Elena’s interactions with both brothers since turning off her humanity.  Yes, it’s still a little close to Katherine’s general attitude, but as long as you view Elena and Katherine as two different individuals (and I do), it’s actually a refreshing interpretation of Elena’s character.  Here you have this girl who is so emotionally driven – seemingly her entire character is based around her either being really happy or really sad – suddenly devoid of any emotion.  And for the entirety of the series, Elena has always wanted to do the right thing, even at the expense of her own well being.  Yet now, she’s using people and making alliances with whoever can get her closer to her end goal.  Her new personality has created an entirely new dynamic to every possible interaction within that triangle.  It’s been a lot of fun.


I was pleased with the twist at the end of the Lexi/Damon story, where it was revealed that Damon spent weeks manipulating Lexi just so he could leave her in a torturous situation.  Over the past couple of seasons, this show has gone to great lengths to soften Damon’s history (for example, his downright sweet and tender interaction with Elena the night her parents died), essentially retconning the fact that he was introduced as the primary villain.  If you remember the first few episodes of season one, you’ll remember that things between Damon and Lexi were ugly.  Really ugly.  I mean, he killed her.  And his motives were quite malicious and diabolical.  For them to turn around and say, “Oh yeah, actually, they used to be in love” would have felt a little cheap.


Having said that, I had absolutely no problem with the current Damon expressing some regret over the fact that he killed Lexi.  The fact of the matter is, he has grown and developed significantly over the past four seasons, so it makes sense for him to reconsider some of his past decisions.  That is entirely different than rewriting his history to make his prior actions less sinister.  Actually, I sort of appreciate the explanation behind his decision to kill her.  It certainly didn’t make it okay, but we now have a better understanding as to why he did it.  And we know he’s sorry for it.


It might sound odd, but I also actually appreciated the fact that the show “dumbed down” the motivations of various characters and why they’re invested in getting – or preventing – the cure.  Katherine wants it, presumably, to use against Klaus.  Klaus and Elena want it so that it can be destroyed (Klaus for self preservation, Elena to avoid going back to her humanity).  Stefan, Damon, Caroline, and the rest of the friends want it so that they can give it to Elena.  Rebekah wants it for herself.  And even more compelling, we now understand why people are for or against Silas’ curse.  Silas wants to destroy the other side so that he can die and be reunited with his wife.  Klaus wants to prevent it because of the enemies he’s made on the other side.  And everybody else wants to stop it because of the evil that will be unleashed.  And then you have a torn character like Bonnie, who would like to save Jeremy.  While rather fantastic (in the “fantasy” sense), these are all realistic and relatable motives.


Episode 4-18 – “American Gothic”


With all of the similarities between no-emotion Elena and Katherine, I was curious to see how they would interact with each other (and how it would translate to the audience).  I was very pleasantly surprised.  There are still some subtle differences between the characters – I consider Katherine darker, while Elena appears to be more nonchalant and casual than anything else (despite her actions at the conclusion of the episode).  I actually got a real kick out of Elena impersonating Katherine at the diner.  It was perhaps my favorite part of the episode.


We also rarely see Katherine in a vulnerable position.  Yes, we’ve seen her scared and frightened when the threat of Klaus or another original is looming, but she’s almost always in a scenario where she is the older, stronger vampire.  Seeing her getting bested by another vampire – another female, no less – was entertaining.


I’m also really enjoying the way all of these relationships have developed due to Elena’s humanity being gone and the cure being a reality.  Stefan had grown close to Rebekah, yet now he’s somewhat at odds with her because she wants the cure, but Stefan wants it for Elena.  Meanwhile, Elena now doesn’t want the cure, and is actively working against Stefan and Damon.  Stefan and Damon, while they have different wants and are competing against each other for Elena’s love, are now working together in order to achieve a common goal.  Elena is also working with Rebekah to ensure to that they find the cure before the Salvatore brothers.  Yet they have different motivations as well.  It’s also fun seeing Elena in the villainous role against Stefan and especially Damon.  Damon has always had more of an edge, so it’s great seeing him make snide, aggressive remarks towards her all while also expressing his love for her.  Four seasons in and this show continues to find new formulas for their central characters.


Perhaps more than anything else, I was thrilled to see Elijah back!  When the character was first introduced, I was mostly unimpressed.  However, once he began brokering deals with Elena, my interest was piqued.  I became a real fan, however, last year when he emerged as the gentleman of the family.  He was the one who honored the deals he had made and seemed to have a level of respect (and occasionally compassion) for the people he was bargaining with.  His likability reached a certain point that Elena actually felt guilty about sacrificing him in order to take down Klaus and the rest of the originals.  His recognition that Elena wasn’t the same was a nice touch, and his sympathy towards her after hearing about her various and significant losses was sweet.  From his manner of speaking to the way he dresses, the dude just exudes class.


And speaking of the originals – let me just say that I would definitely watch a show that had Klaus, Elijah, and Rebekah as central characters.  Like Elijah, Rebekah has developed quite a bit as well (although she’s a bit more vengeful and impulsive than her brother).  And Klaus is a fun Spike-like character that works great as a reluctant hero (or anti-hero) or villain.  I know none of the three of them are necessarily “name” actors, but I really hope this show is given a chance to succeed.

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