Let me just put this out front: I enjoyed the fall finale of The Vampire Diaries’ third season. “Homecoming” was an entertaining episode with a number of truly fun and thrilling moments. If this were just about any other series, I’d be talking about how insane and well-plotted this episode was.
But this isn’t any other series, this is Vampire Diaries. And over the last two-plus seasons, this series has conditioned me to assume that every episode it puts out is going to be at worst, damn good. “Homecoming,” unfortunately, had a lot of issues. Honestly, this feels like the first truly problematic episode of the season and maybe the first one in two seasons. That sounds somewhat hyperbolic, but I have very high expectations for TVD, expectations that the series ingrained me. I’m not worried that the series has suddenly “lost it” or something ridiculous like that, as one problematic episode does not a bad season make. However, it’s hard for me to ignore the big problems that “Homecoming” has, so I might as well address them now.
We all know that Vampire Diaries has the best pacing and pulls out the greatest (in number and in quality) twists on television. In recent memory, every single one of those twists has felt relatively organic and true to the series’ world and rules. I thought that Mason’s return a few weeks ago was going to be the first big issue, but “Ghost World” made his reappearance (and really all the ghost stuff) work quite well. With that said, “Homecoming” showed us that the series can force twists, or at least manufacture and telegraph them so obviously that you know exactly what’s going to happen 10 minutes into the episode and then you wait around for the next hour waiting for those said things to occur.
This episode’s forcing of twists started very early on in the episode with the utterly pointless in media res opening. Not only is that approach generally lame and not only does the series never use it, but they basically wasted it so they could create a shocking moment for 20 seconds before quickly cutting back to “one hour ago.” Really? I know that the guy who created The Event is on the writing staff this season, but I don’t need his terrible gimmicks bringing down this great series. TVD rarely, if ever, shocks just to shock and the opening few minutes of this episode made it seem like that’s exactly what “Homecoming” was trying to do.
And then late in the episode, the writers went to the same well. I understand the desire to surprise the audience with Stefan’s save of Klaus and the reveal of Katherine (even though everyone watching at home could clearly see that one coming from a country mile away), but the way that final sequence approached revealing why the characters did what they did was both too choppy and too out-of-character. I’m willing to go with Stefan wanting to save Damon even if it means keeping Klaus alive because that’s a thing that the Salvatore brothers do; they save one another no matter what.
But since when does Katherine care that much about anyone? Again, I can see that Even Bleiweiss (in his first credited script) was trying to tie Katherine’s act of humanity back to the constant references to how someone’s humanity always messes up the group’s plan, but this was probably one step too far. Again, since when does Katherine care that much about anyone, especially if it means finally ridding herself of Klaus? And since when does she just readily admit that she loves Damon too? Where in the hell did that come from? It’s Katherine, so we can never, ever trust what she says or assume that we know the whole story, but based on what we saw in this episode alone, the script was straining way too hard to make a thematic point and ultimately forced a character to act unlike herself. That’s not something that good series like this do.
So the structure of “Homecoming” was quite messy, pointless and strained at times. That is definitely my biggest issue with this episode. Nevertheless, I think the whole plan felt a bit obvious as well. Maybe the series’ has trained me to see how these things go, but usually, I think I know what’s going to happen and before I know it, TVD pulls the rug out from under me. Here though, from the beginning I knew that Damon would swap Elena for Katherine. I knew that Klaus would have hybrids at his beck and call and I was disappointed that they were empty, worthless threats. And perhaps most importantly, I knew that the series wasn’t going to ditch Klaus, especially in some trade for Mikael. I’ve had that kind of pre-determined knowledge before, but like I said, the series usually throws me off somehow. “Homecoming” didn’t really do that.
This is just pure speculation and conjecture, but I’m wondering if the shorter number of fall episodes had something to do with the obvious, somewhat rushed nature of this episode? Clearly The Vampire Diaries burns through multiple seasons of story in a few weeks on a regular basis, but it does feel a bit odd that Mikael is already gone. Moreover, the first two seasons have had 10 and 11 fall episodes respectively, allowing them to plot things out just a bit more than this season’s eight episodes before the break. I’m almost certain that Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec and their team knew pretty quickly when the break would come, but having two or three last episodes than usual might have pushed them into delivering a big cliffhanger slightly earlier than they wanted. Like I said, none of this is probably true and I’m sure that every episode in 2012 will be awesome, but it could be a possibility.
Nevertheless, like I said up-top, don’t take this the wrong way. The series was bound to have a more overtly problematic outing, it happens. If I were giving this episode a letter grade, I think it still deserves a B or B-, which definitely isn’t awful by any means. “Homecoming” featured a number of great moments (Elena stabbing Rebekah most notably) and I quite liked the cliffhanger with Stefan stealing all of Klaus’ family with revenge on his mind. I appreciate that the series is totally committed to having Stefan still be a bad-ass and I really cannot wait to see him face off with Klaus on a regular basis now. In two months, everyone!
- I’m not a huge fan of the whole sired thing because it feels like a manufactured way to create constant drama between Tyler and the rest of the group, but I thought Tyler and Caroline’s final conversation in this episode made it a lot better. Tyler’s rationalization of why he thinks being sired is better than being a wild werewolf actually made sense. Michael Trevino was good delivering that speech.
- Seriously, no Alaric? That’s some BS.
- Bonnie needs something to do as well. I’m all for the constant stream of new characters, but I also don’t want the series to lose hold of the original cast at the same time.