Water and Blood
What?! Another hiatus for over a month?! Naturally, we can’t see the opening of the tomb, the revelation of Katherine’s betrayal, and the creepy zombie vampire wake up after a little dribble of Damon’s broken blood bottle and expect to get more action – or answers – next week… Sigh. I suppose we have to start with what we’ve got. And for me, that was a lot of fantastic witch action, long waited for, and much appreciated. Though I can’t say I saw the ending coming. One of the most awesome things about the witches to me, was the sense that they had their own secret power, capable of keeping the vampires at bay, and even of overpowering the vampires (as we see with Gram’s head trick on Damon). Gram was the heart of that power – representing the experience and the confidence that Bonnie lacks, but can learn from her. I know it is one of the tropes of any good coming of age story that the hero has to be orphaned or otherwise left to fend for herself, and in that sense I hope we get to see more of Bonnie taking up Gram’s reigns, but I was still really shaken up to see Bonnie’s grief over her passing. She now joins the ranks of the other teenagers on the show (undead and alive), bereft of parents or betrayed by them.
But Gram didn’t go out before teaching Bonnie and all of us one of the most important witchy lessons – as Bonnie says, there are many sources of a witches power and many of them come from the ordinary life. One of my favorite moments of the episode was watching Bonnie and Grams set up for action, calling on the elements and laying the ground work for their ritual with the ordinary stuff of life. “What, just tap water,” Elena asks, to be knowingly mocked by Grams – what does she expect, the extraordinary springs out of the ordinary. This is one of the great things about supernatural fantasy worlds – they often hide within themselves a call to pay more attention to the power of the things of the world, which need not be special, exceptional, or strange. If a spell calls for tap water, a nice tupperware filled at the kitchen sink will do the trick.
Vampires often teach us the same kind of reverence for the elemental stuff of life – namely blood. This show, strangely, has really backed away from this part of the mythology. Sure, we know the tombed up vampires are going to need some blood. Sure, Anna brings her own live human (specially chosen for Gilbert genealogy) as a treat for her nearly dead-dead mom and we even see the bearing of teeth when she opens Elena’s vein. But for a show with two vampires at its heart, their bloodlust has been strangely absent. As has the bloodlust of most of the other vampires – Anna and Ben, for instance, aren’t seen preying on the town or craving the blood of their victims. Even Damon, our resident blood sucker, has fulfilled his needs, whatever they are, off screen. If vampires are fundamentally creatures of desire, these vampires seem to have sublimated their desires for blood into other longings – for love, for companionship, for reunion. I even found myself wondering if the entire plot could more or less stay the same if their were no vampires, just some other mildly supernatural plot that raises the stakes of ordinary teenage angst. I hope we rekindle the vampire-specific desires and all their messy implications after this second hiatus. What about you?
Speaking of ordinary teenage angst, though, how about Matt and Caroline?! I am loving this side plot and really rooting for both of them. Though I wonder how long it will be until they get pulled into the supernatural machinations unfolding around them. Surely they aren’t going to get a straight love story while all their other friends are fighting off an attack of the undead?
Final observation: the jokes about Bob/Duke throwing wild keg parties anytime he comes home from Duke, even though no one likes him, were fantastic (this said from a UNC alumna who is suffering the shame and humiliation of Wednesday night’s rivalry game). Though they got a bit creepier when I realized the scene of Duke’s kegger was meant to be the feast for the tombed up vampires – the analogy between the violence of frat-style parties and vampire attacks seeming a little too pointed.
What about you? Favorite parts of the episode? Predictions for the return? Who was that person opening the tomb and why can they do it? Will Katherine ever make an appearance?
I had the exact same response – why on earth is it going on hiatus so soon! Grrr! And yes, poor Bonnie…she finds out her boyfriend is a vampire and her Grams dies all in one episode, not to mention the guilt she may begin to face that her grandmother’s death is her own fault because she didn’t want to leave Stefan in the tomb. Strangely, though, this death doesn’t actually leave Bonnie orphaned – she always traipses over to Gram’s house from, presumably, where she lives with her parents. It’s just we’ve never met her actual parents…and I wonder if we now will? Does the witch gene skip a generation, or will we find a witch mother or father at Bonnie’s home? Can men even be witches?
Which leads me to my speculations on that person opening up the tomb and why they can do it. I’ve wondered a few times why all the witches are black and all the vamps are white. And of course, in Mystic Falls we can trace this back to Katherine and her various lovers and Katherine’s maid (slave?) Emily, and her subsequent lineage. I’m never quite sure how intentional they are being about the racial tension getting visually loaded onto the vampire/witch relationships; both fraught and friendly. But as Grams lay dying having saved some vampires, I wondered aloud if a witch could be turned vampire. Only seconds later we see this African American male vampire able to emerge from the tomb as some sort of blend of race, gender and supernatural codes. Did one of Emily’s witch-relatives turn back in 1964? Is he both witch and vamp? That’s my theory, at least – we’ve got some new being emerging from the tomb here and I’m dying to see whose side he’s on!
Speaking of the tomb, as Damon got stuck in there I realized that for all the ways I love this show, I’m not sure I’d love it nearly as much without him! He is far and away the most interesting character to me, and the last few weeks have only heightened that. His love for Katherine and what seems to be a blossoming affection for Elena certainly humanize him, as does Elena’s blossoming affection for him! Packing that O-Neg bag in his pocket for his lover was so bittersweetly thoughtful. And after learning last week that he ducked out of the Confederate army for ‘moral reasons’ (misconstrued by his father as weakness), Damon seems to have a moral core that is more complex than we previously realized. Pair that with the fact that he has a really good reason to hate Stefan…it just seems that the show is starting to play with notions of good and evil and the beyond beyond each in some interesting ways.
Indeed, if we consider the show in light of a show like TrueBlood, Damon as a human was more like the open-minded, vampire-affirming humans typified in sweet Hoyt (able to entertain racial, sexual and supernatural difference in the way many of his hick neighbours cannot). You mentioned last week how quickly Stefan turns on the vampires when they are revealed – I’m left wondering if Damon is truly the ‘good’ brother who was able to stay loyal, be non-judgmental and accept the other for who they are.
Speaking of blurred lines between good and evil – we’ve certainly gone through it with Anna. First we think she’s a dorky home-schooled stalker girl. Then she’s a powerful, evil vampire. Now she’s just a girl trying to find her mama-Pearl. I was genuinely happy for the two of them to escape. But as you keep reminding us, parents and their children don’t really pair up in this show. Abandonment is a key theme. I’m hoping Anna and Pearl stick around for a bit so we can see some real mother-daughter reunion joys and tensions get played out!
I’m with you on loving Caroline and Matt, but I kind of like how they’re kept separate from the supernatural goings on. As for my favourite moment – I think it was remembering my own teenage parties in the woods and the visceral feeling of something menacing hovering at their fringes. For us it was fear that someone would overdose or need their stomach pumped…but that sort of liminal concern was captured so perfectly by the kegger-as-food-for-awakened-vampires just beyond the trees. It was a great moment of allowing the supernatural to illustrate normal teenage angst.
So Katherine was last seen in Chicago in 1983…oh my, come on March 25th! I can’t wait!