The Moth Chase

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

Like Porn for a History Teacher

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Hey Kathryn,

Wow what a great episode!  It was full of fantastic moments of the horror genre – hair dryer covering the sound of danger; the scary phone call from inside the house; and even the fabulously creepy happy Mr. Sandman music playing as evil walked away at the end. Moreover, we got to see Elena kick some vampire ass (well, almost kick it), we got more story on Alaric with an interesting twist, and we got to see a whole new set of vampires start trooping around Mystic Falls.  Let’s take each of these in turn.

I loved Elena’s fighting back at Noah.  At first I thought she was silly for trying to run – of course he could out-move her and have her dead in a second if he wanted.  But then her resourcefulness kicks in – first a pencil and then the mop handle (wow on snapping that mop handle with her knee, by the way. That alone seemed incredibly strong to me!).  I was actually disappointed when Stefan and Damon had to come in to finish the job.  On the one hand, I suppose we needed to get the information out of Noah about the journal and Katherine.  But the brothers swooping in could also simply indicate that Elena, for all her toughness, just isn’t ready to kill yet.  But this almost makes me wonder if a time is coming when she will have to.

Alaric continues to intrigue!  He pushes it too far with Damon when he asks him where he’s traveled, and Damon realizes on some level that something is up.  In that moment I realized that the more natural question a man would ask another man who says he travels a lot is, “oh, so what do you do for a living?”.  And I was struck by how Damon never ever gets asked that.  Doesn’t anyone wonder?  When Damon followed up later by glamouring (ok, I know that’s True Blood, but I don’t know what they call it in this show) him, at first I thought Alaric was employing some special supernatural skill to resist the mind control.  I was almost disappointed to see the vervain crumbled in his hand.  Although, if Alaric were just a really resourceful human, he might be even more interesting…and that could certainly bode well for Elena’s own developing vampire-defense skills.  Wow, so on the relationship between Alaric and Elena – what are we to think?  Sure, there’s lots of Isobels in the world.  But of course this means something in a supernatural tv show!  If we are to think that Alaric’s wife was Elena’s mother, does that mean Alaric is her father?  Isobel would have had Elena before she married Alaric.  But what is the connection between Isobel, Elena, Katherine’s lineage and, of course, Damon?  It seems now that wasn’t a random kill for Damon, but that his murder (or turning? I’m not letting go of that yet) of Isobel might be more fraught with meaning than we imagined.

New vampires – yey!  I thought Anna was weird, but I didn’t quite see that coming.  How come she couldn’t just control Jeremy’s mind?  Between Damon’s previous advances on Caroline, Anna’s advances on Jeremy, Damon’s relationship with Bree, Ben’s hitting on Bonnie (I’m, of course, very worried about this – poor, Bonnie!), Logan and Aunt Jenna, and possibly Alaric and Aunt Jenna, I’m starting to wonder if anyone in this town dates for genuine affection and companionship.  Is sexuality really the only way to get close to someone?  Don’t any vampires just forge a friendship with someone and then look through their room later for whatever they need?  Why is sexual entanglement such an important theme?  Is it because it heightens the betrayal?  Is it because we need to see the victim be thoroughly objectified?  If that’s the case, what’s going on with someone like Anna, for whom the sexual advances are resisted and, tactically, a more friendship based approach would have worked better?

So, speaking of incredibly inappropriate things teachers say to high-school students in this show – it’s like porn for a history teacher!!  Who says that?!  What does that even mean?  I know I might be stretching this analogy too far, but it seems that in a narrative world where sex is so overused for manipulation and getting what one needs, everything has to become eroticized.  Whereas vampires might seduce humans for aid in the ongoing supernatural battle, even the use of the journal for one’s own vampire research has to get compared with auto-eroticism.  If you’re not using someone else to advance the war, then you use something else, and even that’s got a sexy edge.  And so it’s curious to me how deep this erotic drive in vampire stories needs to go.  Curious, and certainly intriguing.

Ok, I’ll leave the brotherly love/spats/betrayal to you, as well as Caroline and Matt – the only two crazy kids in this show who seem to be dating for their own desire and not to play some spiritual battlefield.  Oh, and the flashforward to next week with Katherine’s bloody lips and the guest appearance James Remar – Dexter’s Harry Morgan!  I can’t wait!

ox,
Natalie

Dear Natalie,

I agree – it was a wonderfully packed episode with some of the creepiest moments yet. The Scream-esque scene where Elena is blow-drying her hair while the vampire-finding compass spins wildly out of control on her bed – so creepy! I think I probably get a little less freaked out by these things than others (than you?), but my heart was totally racing in that wonderful, suspense/horror movie sort of way. And then we see mystery-vampire hanging from her ceiling! Ahh!

I am really, really intrigued by this new band of teenage vampires. And let’s just pause for a moment and ask why is it that pretty much every vampire we’ve met so far was turned when they were young, most before they hit 20? I get that this makes them immortally attractive, but it is also kind of weird. It fits right into the on-going theme of the show of adults being displaced and teenagers taking on the both the emotional drama of their own development and the cosmic battles between good and evil. We haven’t seen a proper adult character for episodes and now we have this new band of undead youth show up, also tied to Katherine in some way. There are hints that once upon a time adults were involved in these battles – Jeremy and Elena’s ancestor, for example – but the center of the drama has shifted to the young, both dead and alive. So who are these new teenage bloodsuckers? Did Katherine prowl around creating her own mini teenage vampire army? And how does Ben fit into this? He can only have been turned recently, since everyone in high school still knows him as a former football player. So how does he know or care about Katherine? I hope we get some answers next week!

You will notice that I didn’t really count Jenna and Alaric as adults. Alaric has something of an adult-protector vibe about him and I am so curious to learn more about who and what he is. When the camera panned down to his hand after he was fake-hypnotized by Damon, I thought for sure we’d see his mystery ring and learn that somehow it has the power to protect him from vampiric influence. But no, he just happened to be holding a crumpled sprig of vervain. What? Does he just walk around clutching it all the time?I agree, I too was disappointed by this easy way out. Even though he promises to have a central role to play and his story line is a bit more “adult”, his showdown with Damon seems completely on a par with the other teenage dramas. Or maybe it is just that all the teenage dramas are so damn adult it is hard to tell them apart. And I agree completely – how many Isobels can there be in this supernatural world? I am not sure if Alaric is Elena’s father, but I definitely think we’ve just learned about Elena’s mother.

As for the fight-back Elena, I also loved it. Like you, I wondered if her days of innocence are numbered and she will have a death on her hands sooner than we think. I couldn’t help but think about a comparison with Sookie Stackhouse, who also discovers a capacity to kill that empowers and unnerves her. Sure, you can discover there are vampires and even live with them, you can witness all sorts of torture and horror and death. But things really change when you realize you aren’t above any of it and have  the capacity to give as good as you get. I wonder how Elena will handle it if she does have to kill, and what this will do to her comparison as evil Katherine’s opposite?

I was also really struck by the violence of the Salvatore brothers. There was something significant about Stefan being the one to wield that broken broom stick as torture device and stake. It was a whole new side to his sweet, I don’t drink human blood demeanor. Apparently his ethical impulses do not extend to torture and murder, at least not when Elena’s safety is on the line. I have to admit, I liked this Stefan. Or maybe I just like the fact that the line between Stefan and Damon is starting to blur a little. We are seeing Damon in more positive situations all the time and I have to admit, there was something pretty hot about the idea of the Salvatore brothers as a vampire-ass-kicking duo. I am still really struck by the juxtaposition between nice-Damon and Alaric, who serves to remind us just how un-nice Damon can be. But I wonder if there isn’t more to that story than meets the eye and if the line between good and bad won’t blur even further before all is said and done.

I am very excited for our flashback in time next week, and for the guest appearance of Harry Morgan!

As a final thought: who really thinks Stefan’s plan to trick Damon is going to work? I didn’t think so.

Kathryn

Read the entire Vampire Diaries conversation from start to finish.

Written by themothchase

January 29, 2010 at 9:47 am

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