The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Eternal teen vampires return – and it’s still all in the family

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Dear Natalie,

After a long holiday hiatus, our favorite prime-time undead are back – and picking up right where we left off: Stefan and Elena have just consummated their angsty, destiny-driven love only to have Elena storm out when she discovers that her near identical appearance to Katherine might have more to do with Stefan’s wooing than her own special breed of teen independence. Damon saves her from a car accident caused when she tries not to hit another mysterious vampire who materializes on the road (we have yet to learn who he is or what he wants) and then takes her on a road trip to Georgia to meet his old flame, a sexy, leggy witch who has it out for him. Plenty happens in the episode, but what it really offers us is a whole new range of plotline promises and mysteries to be solved – how is Elena related to Katherine and why does it matter? will Damon unlock the terrifying tomb and unleash 27 starving vampires on Mystic Falls? what role does Bonnie have to play in aiding or hindering his devious plan? Will Jeremy and his new bibliophile lady friend (“I’m home schooled. I just hang out here for a mock school environoment.” Amazing) discover the town’s bloody secret?

Most of these evolving stories circle around questions of family and relatives: Jeremy and Anna both have ancestors who kept diaries about the mysterious goings-on of 19th century Mystic Falls and clearly Jeremy and Elena both are involved in these vampire plots because of their bloodlines. Though Elena, we learn, comes from a different bloodline from Jeremy and may in fact be directly related to a vampire. Bonnie is tied into the mess through her great-great grandmother, Emily, and Stefan and her grandmother have a tie back from the 1960s. Stefan reveals to Elena that their connection is based on more than happenstance: he is the one who saved her from the car wreck with her parents and then spent months spying on her to see if she measured up to Katherine. Even as our teenage heroes try to self-determine their lives, making independent choices and seeking to break from custom and expectation, they are caught up in a web of family relations that, to some degree, is determining their present. I’m really curious how these overlapping family tales will continue to unfold and enfold the characters in plots that are bigger and more complicated then them. Which, in a sense, isn’t that what all good teen drama is about – how to strike out on one’s own while increasingly realizing that one can never, not completely, escape one’s family, one’s home?

The central family relationship we’ve seen so far, and the one driving the main drama, is the tension between good and evil brothers Stefan and Damon, respectively. Now that his real motive for being in Mystic Falls is revealed, Damon seems to have given up some of his eternal brother-feud and has decided, at least for the time, to play nice. Watching Elena and Damon make some kind of peace, aided, no doubt, by her anger at Stefan, one has to wonder if the three of them won’t bury the hatchet – at least until Damon finds a way to free Katherine from her eternal resting place. But even as we’re given reasons to think that Damon might not be that bad, we see just how evil he can be when he cruelly and cold-bloodedly kills Bree by ripping out her heart (an overly symbolic way to fill an ex?). We’ve seen Damon kill before, but somehow that maneuver, on the heels of his flirty good-boy behavior at the bar with Elena, totally surprised me. No matter how nice he plays, he is still the bad vampire and we are just beginning to see how bad he can be.

To top things off we also have that strange flashback to Damon sucking the blood out of Alaric’s wife (if that is indeed what we were seeing). I don’t know about you, but I am not at all sure what we’ve got in Alaric. His whole speech about finally meeting and killing a vampire face to face seems to suggest pretty strongly that he is not a vampire himself. But he is super strong and he has a mysterious family ring and he has come to Mystic Falls to hunt down evil, so he is not just an “ordinary” guy. Whether he is just some suped-up vampire hunter or something more supernatural, we have yet to learn. Any guesses?

I will leave a discussion of Bonnie to you – though I am really excited by the prospect that she is about to play a major role in whatever cosmic battles go down. I only hope that her time in the tomb and Stefan’s promises that the vampires can’t get out (if that isn’t a challenge to fate, I haven’t heard one) cured her of her blockage so her powers will be in full effect next week.

Finally, I loved Jeremy’s line to Anna about how vampires are metaphorical substitutes for real historical fears: “a country at war doesn’t want realism, they want vampire fantasy.” Oh irony! here we are, a country at war, devouring our own bloodletting myths. But oh meta-irony! Jeremy is about to learn that he is so mistaken. What he mistakes as allegorical figures releasing psychological and cultural tension will prove to be only too real. Which raises the question of what we all think we’re doing when we watch these supernatural stories – releasing pent-up fear in fantasy or secretly hoping the fantasy will prove more real than whatever fears we already face?

Glad to be back and can’t wait to hear what you thought!
Kathryn

—————–

Hey Kathryn,

Yes, yes, it is so great to be back!  I didn’t realize how much I had missed Vampire Diaries until I started settling back into it last night.  And what fun to have two guest stars from other female-directed programming I have loved – Vanessa’s mum from Gossip Girl as Bree, and Mia Kirshner (Jenny from The L-Word) as Alaric’s girlfriend, Isobel.

Yes, you’re right, Damon’s brutal killing of Bree was difficult to watch after he had seemed so nice all episode long.  And I had to wonder if there would be greater repercussions to killing a witch (who has angry vampires at a moment’s dial) than killing a human woman.  And of course, I balked at yet another fabulous woman being killed on this show!  But I’m a little embarrassed to say that I enjoyed Elena getting another love interest – or at least, flirtation-buddy – and I happily anticipate the unfolding of such a narrative.  It seems to be a standard with these vamp-loving girls: Bella’s got Edward and Jacob; Sookie’s got Bill and Erik (at least in the books – I’m not far enough into True Blood yet to know if they develop that in the show).  We noted (with a little annoyance) at the beginning of the series that Vampire Diaries might go down the same path.  Now we’re there, I’m kind excited to see how it all unfolds at next week’s sock hop (oh my goodness, I can’t believe we’re going to get a sock hop – I can’t wait!).

But this need for two competing lovers in the vampire stories has got me wondering.  Why the need for it?  The central relationships in these shows – Bella & Edward, Sookie & Bill, Elena & Stefan – have a destiny type quality to them.  They’re marked by unparalleled passion, a sense of irresistibility and a stamp of the eternal.  And I think it’s this stamp of the eternal that necessitates a competing love interest.  When Lexi’s boyfriend pointed out that if you want to date someone eternal, you have to be eternal, the pain in his eyes wasn’t just at his loss of Lexi.  It was also that he now had to walk alone without her for an eternity he had taken on for her.  So I think this second love interest plays out a number of relationship fears we might have – both the fear of committing to something or someone for life and the fear that whatever we commit ourselves to will leave us while our life endures.  Of course, this analysis all ties in nicely with your read of Jeremy’s psychological/cultural read of the vampire narratives – the tension between releasing fear and secretly hoping what we fear is real can certainly be applied to cold-feet around relational commitments.

Speaking of Lexi’s boyfriend – didn’t you just assume that he was the vampire in the road at Elena’s car accident?  I’m intrigued that you didn’t – do you think there’s another mysterious vamp out there besides the one we met?

So the fact that Isobel – Alaric’s dead girlfriend – is played by such a major actress as Mia Kirshner, makes me think this character is going to play a much larger role than we had originally thought.  I don’t think we’ll just see her in flashbacks.  I actually wonder if she is going to be a vampire, herself – if Damon was turning, rather than eating, her.  And if I’m right about that, then I’m definitely with you thinking Alaric is some kind of suped-up (as in supernatural’d-up?) vampire slayer, but who might be working with his now-vamp ex-lover to fight evil and track down her killer/turner.  Ok, that might all be a little far-fetched, but I think the answer might be in some combination of that.

This is getting long, so I think I’ll leave Bonnie for next week – when my hope too is that she’s going to break out.  I was home alone last night watching, so I was pretty pleased that we didn’t have to deal with the release of the vampires from the tomb, just yet.  And oh, didn’t you love that almost flirty, but sweet, exchange between Stefan and Grams!  And just what is it that Stefan is holding back from telling Elena about her adoption and why she looks like Katherine? I just can’t wait to find out!

I’ll sign off here – please oh please let the sock hop next week have some wonderfully ironic allusion to Grease!

ox,
Natalie

Read the entire Vampire Diaries conversation from start to finish

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