The Vampire Diaries, “Know Thy Enemy”

I’ll be honest: There have been a lot of television series off the air over the past month or so, but there are none I missed more than The Vampire Diaries. It’s certainly not the “best” series I watch, but it’s certainly the most watchable and enjoyable so it is very, very fantastic to have it back on the air. And just in case I or anyone else forgot how addicting TVD is, the series comes back with one of its best offerings of the season in “Know Thy Enemy.” I often wonder how long it’s going to take this series to run out of insane or out-of-the-blue twists to throw at the audience, but as of now, it appears that we’ll be waiting for a long time because this episode has a number of moments in it that are just wild. I think I tweeted something like “This episode is insane,” and that was only half-way through the episode’s airing last night. That’s the kind of effort “Know Thy Enemy” is.

It’s a testament to those twists that it covers up how insanely convoluted and confusing this episode’s narrative actually is. So if you recall from the last episode six weeks ago, Isobel is back in Mystic Falls looking to talk to Elena — which of course doesn’t sit well with Jenna and Alaric. But of course, Isobel isn’t just back in town for a little R&R or downtime with her estranged daughter. Let’s try to work through this without it sounding especially insane or confusing: Isobel, John and Katherine are working together in hopes of taking down Klaus. We know Katherine’s doing it to be free of him forever, John apparently wants to protect Elena and Isobel reportedly just likes screwing up everyone else’s lives. Unfortunately for John and Elena, Katherine and Isobel have A SECOND SECRET DEAL that involves stealing the moonstone, capturing Elena and giving them both to Klaus, mostly for the same reasons listed above (these are complicated people). Even more unfortunately for Katherine, Isobel HAS YET ANOTHER SECRET DEAL (sort of, it’s through compulsion) with Klaus to capture Alaric and probably dispose of Katherine. Oh, and why does she have to capture Alaric? SO HE CAN BECOME KLAUS’ VESSEL, DUH. After completing her tasks, Isobel admits to Elena that she could and should have been a better mother, and decides to let the light burn her alive. MEANWHILE, Bonnie gets juiced up on dead witch powers and is now fully ready to throw down with anyone and everyone. INSANITY.

All of that could have happened across five episodes on a normal series and no one would have spoken a negative word about it. But on The Vampire Diaries, that’s just a normal, fantastic episode. I think it would have been nice to have Isobel around for a little longer if only because I’d like to see some movement on the Jenna-Alaric truth-telling mission of 2011, but the way in which she was used here makes it really hard to complain. Of course, it’s yet another person that ends up sacrificing themselves in hopes of protecting Elena and that will probably lead to some more whining on her part, but again, I’m cool with that if it means that we get an awesome sequence like this one. I am also very happy with the fact that Matt Davis actually gets something to do now, even if that means playing a new character. Alaric is certainly one of the most likable guys on the series and the writers have been noticeably struggling to find something for him to do this season, so even though this doesn’t necessarily count as a solution to that problem, at least it gives Davis a meaty, interesting role to perform.We have no idea why Klaus can’t just show up and do what he wants with Elena, or Katherine or whomever, so it will be particularly compelling to see him sort-of in action.

Even though this episode was very heavy on plot, it did find some time to tell a few quiet little beats with other characters. Matt is of course upset that Caroline is a vampire and that vampires most certainly exist and killed his sister. The whole sequence with Caroline telling Matt the truth and trying to convince him that with time everything can be okay was really well-written and performed by the actors, but hell, even that had to buttoned off with a little bit of a twist: Matt asked Caroline to compel the truth from his mind yet again and even though she obliged, it’s revealed that he and her mother plotted earlier to pump Matt full of vervain so that he would still remember it all. You would think that characters re-learning the truth for the second or third time in a season would create a situation with diminishing returns, but the reveal was well-handled here. Matt and Caroline’s mom are wildcards on the outside of the major plots to save Elena and kill Klaus, so it will be interesting to see how the series’ writers pull them in to said plots.

There’s not a lot for either Damon or Stefan to do in this episode, but things work despite of all that. This series has so many weird twists and turns and compelling characters that it doesn’t really matter if two of the three leads just stand around looking scared and confused for an episode. Although, I did enjoy Damon’s struggles at the witch burial site. It’s always funny to make him uncomfortable. Nevertheless, what a fantastic start to what will surely be an epic final string of episodes. If this one is any indication, we’re in for one hell of a ride.

 

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