The Moth Chase

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

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

with 2 comments

Hey K,

So I couldn’t resist using the corny pun (which has been used at least 5000 times in pop culture references) as our title.  But it left me wondering – really, do teenagers even get that reference?  I don’t think I saw that movie till I was in my 20s, and my hunch is that your average CW viewer isn’t especially in to classic racially-themed film.  Which also leaves me wondering, just who is the intended audience of this show?  Is this all part of the ‘playing adult’ nature of the series, as you mentioned last week?  Or does the CW expect its viewers to reside more in the camp-lovers of our generation?  It’s not entirely clear to me.

Indeed, tonight did feel like a more grown-up episode all around to me. The dinner party made for a surprising scene.  When do we ever see all the adults gathered…drinking wine out of fine crystal…in a fine dining room…candles going…etc…?  We don’t!  In Mystic Falls, it seems, adults only socialize with each other once the boys get into their hyper-masculinized drive to wage war and the girls are either a) compelled or b) just floating along obliviously.

Oh, and as we’re both fans of The National – did you, like me, love Lemonworld playing in the background of that dinner party as Elijah was pseudo-killed in the first round?  Between them having the same glasses that I use at my dinner parties and playing the same music I play, I began to feel a bit old being reminded that I’m not supposed to be relating to the kids in this show…if I’m anyone here, I’m probably Jenna!  Ouch!

Which leads me to Jenna – ugh, poor poor Jenna!  Didn’t you just want Alaric to tell her what was going on in that moment?  Really, what would be the harm?  It seems Jenna gets herself into more scrapes by not knowing what’s going on than she would by having a little helpful info!  And what is with the ominous ring passing off – is Alaric going to die next week?  I sure hope not – I quite like that guy…but the ring thing got me nervous!

So, um – the dagger needs to stay in to keep Elijah dead!?!  Really, no one is worried about the fragility of that plan?  There is no way that guy’s not coming back…and on that note, I’m starting to wonder if somehow, some way, Lexi is coming back too – what was the deal with all the references and meaningful glances about her tonight?  Perhaps it’s just a reminder of the Damon/Stefan rift, but to me it felt like something more – were you getting the same sense?  And if Elijah is dead, how does his death pave the way for Klaus’ destruction?  Was Elijah just the warm-up act?

Bonnie and Jer – adorable!  Love those guys!  (they reminded me that I was missing Caro and Tyler too!).  So Bonnie is now powerless – but why is that for her own good?  What does it mean that she’s crossed her witchy companions?  And what is the deal with these massacre locations?  My recollections of the Salem witch trials did not involve their connections to movements of freed slaves settling new towns.  What’s going on here?  I like the mythology that’s being spun, but I want it to remain rooted in actual history too!  What am I missing, K?  I feel like they keep bumping up against this witch-slave connection, and then keep backing off.  I want a full episode pretty much devoted to unpacking what is going on there!

Mostly this felt like a fun intro to next week – Katherine’s back, and badder than ever (but what will happen to her if Elijah somehow wakes up?).  Why is she willing to help rather than run for the hills?  And it seems next week will entail fun switcheroo antics – someone is going to end up making out with someone by accident…but who will it be!  I’m excited!!  And we have the potential return of Isobel!  IMDB isn’t listing her for this episode…but they’re not double billing Dobrev either, so here’s hoping!

Curious to know what you thought – also wishing my face had the quirky range of expression that Damon’s has…I think what I love most is the nonsensical nature of about half the faces he pulls. Really, was he turned on by naked Katherine, grossed out, confused…? It just wasn’t clear!

Oh, and perhaps my two biggest questions of the night: 1) Why did the witches forge an Original-killing dagger in the first place? And 2) How did John Gilbert write a journal entry about his own death?*

xoxo,
Natalie

* Was it just me, or did that take you back to our Old Testament classes in Divinity School where we put together for the first time that Moses – who supposedly wrote Deuteronomy – dies within the text?

—-
Dear Natalie,

Where to begin?! I’m not even sure how many episodes we have left, but this one felt like a real turning point: Elijah is dead (or is he?), John has the Ring, Katherine is free from the tomb and sticking around, Bonnie is powerless and the witches are on a rampage. The kicker, of course, was Elena finally deciding to stand up to Klaus – no more martyrdom and self-righteous/self-pitying self-sacrifice. The stage is set for whatever showdown is coming! I was totally baffled, like you, by the introduction of Lexi into the flashbacks and the strange parallel Stefan tried to draw between his learning not to be a homicidal monster and Elena’s need to grow a backbone. I know the moral of both stories is: “don’t give up,” but really, they are pretty different kinds of giving up. I did kind of like that Stefan was relating to Elena like a friend, not just a sappy, lovesick lover. It was the first time in many episodes where it seemed like they had a real relationship. That slightly better dynamic was achieved because Stephan started acting like Lexi acted toward him. I loved Lexi during her short visit to Mystic Falls last season and I loved her again in the flashbacks. It is impossible for me to imagine how she could be alive, but I have to admit, I didn’t really understand why they were bringing her back if not to resurrect her. Was it just to tie all of Stefan’s various stories into a unified narrative? Was it to remind Damon what a total asshole he was to kill his brother’s best friend? If the latter, what point will it serve: a “Damon slowly devolves into utter darkness as he is confronted with his wickedness” trajectory or a “Damon also must learn to hurt (to mourn and repent) in order to learn how to love” one?

I am not sure why it was for her own good that Dr. Warlock took Bonnie’s powers, but it does set us up for a more nerve-wracking showdown. Our team is down their only witch. What will happen, do you think, when Luca and his dead realized Elijah is dead? Will they go on a rampage against Team Elena or will they join forces with them to try and combat Klaus together?

Of course, that all depends on whether or not Elijah is really dead. Like you, I kind of can’t imagine that dagger will stay in place forever. And really, is that the best the ancient witches could do? It doesn’t sound like they really wanted to kill those Originals all that badly? What intrigued me was that they somehow had a lot of compunction about the idea of a vampire killing another vampire, thereby cursing the dagger if a vampire wielded it. Does it go against witch codes of honor that a member of a “species” would kill another? But it is OK for a human or a witch to kill a vampire?

Trying to understand what those crafty witches were up to when they created the dagger is akin to trying to understand the strange connection to witchcraft and slavery. When touring old freed slave properties, Elijah said something like: “some people say that the decedents of slaves carry the real history of this country.” There is a great liberationist history perspective in that statement and it is like all the other hints on this show: are they trying to do something really interesting and complex with race or are they just feeling their way in the dark, throwing out cool, oblique lines every once in a while? It is even harder to make sense of since there is always double speak going on when supernaturals are around humans. Alaric and Elijah both know that when you talk about “descendants of slaves” in Mystic Falls, you are really talking about witches. Which means that Elijah’s statement might really have meant something like “witches hold the secret keys to supernatural history and lore” which we have seen to be true. Whether or not that supernatural layer is also really meant to say something about race relations in the U.S. via metaphor or symbol is unclear. I agree, let’s have some serious flashbacks to this whole witch/slave connection! As far as the real Salem, etc., I know a bit about this because I do research on colonial New England. Tituba, a slave from Barbados (sometimes referred to as Black and sometimes as an Indian or half-Indian) was one of the first women accused of witchcraft in the Salem hysteria. It is clear that her race and the assumption that she brought voodoo and black magic from her Carribean home played a huge role in the prejudice against her – and played on white colonial fears of black power. But in general the people who were accused as the hysteria went on were white and there is no indication that a group of freed black slaves were at the heart of witchcraft accusations in Salem, much less that they migrated south to found new towns (really, they went south to Virginia?!!). Kind of like the allusion to Guess Whose Coming to Dinner? I think this is playing on the general association of Salem with witchcraft, not any real historical connection.

Elijah’s doublespeak did help me appreciate what characters like Jenna and Matt allow in their ignorance – by forcing the other characters to speak in code they reinforce the way the supernatural is always standing in for the normal and vice versa. I have to admit, though, the presence of poor, sweet, ignorant Jenna and stupid, compelled journalist girl (what is her name?) at the dinner table made it seem a whole lot less adult. If anything it just infantalized the women. The men were all in on the supernatural game, talking in code, sizing each other up, marking their territory. But the women had no idea what was really going on.

I love that you had a flashback to Intro to Old Testament watching Elena read Jonathan Gilbert’s journals! I was similarly confused and then Stefan explained everything by saying that Jonathan Gilbert was wearing one of the magic “you can’t die” rings, which Stefan did not know when he tried to kill him. This line was pretty fast and easily missed, but I think that is what was going on. Though it was certainly a fantastic line to have in a journal: “I saw the face that killed me” – really that would make a fantastic opening line to a mystery thriller novel!

I am glad we are at least moving past constantly worrying about Elijah. It is time to get on to Klaus! But if we have to take a detour through some time with crazy Katherine, I’ll take that too! I can’t wait for doppleganger hijinks to re-ensue next week.

And yes, Damon has the strangest facial expressions of any character I can think of on TV. His face is so expressive and so impossible to read it is almost cartoonish. And he believes every smirk-frown-furrowed brow combo so thoroughly it is hard not to get swept along.

OK, too much for now. I am going to ponder what Damon is going to do with that moonstone. Something tells me it won’t be safe.

Kathryn

2 Responses

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  1. I’m not convinced that that Lexie’s appearance was to hint at bringing her back, but if it was, the only way I could think of it making sense is if she’s an original herself. After all, the only thing we know of her antecedents is what she herself said. Though she didn’t show any cool extra powers like Elijah, she did show herself to be quite a bit stronger than Stefan or Damon. In season 1, it only took Logan the News Guy one wooden bullet to put Stefan down. Lexie took several and kept on coming. While this additional strength could just be her age advantage, they could play it that she was an original who’d been holding back a little. Additionally, while she was staked, she was also immediately disposed of, so if she came back, it’s conceivable that no one would have known. I’d say they have room to bring her back that way if they want to.

    Kit

    February 21, 2011 at 12:59 am

    • Thanks for the comment, Kit – yeah, that’s sort of what I was thinking too. I too am by no means convinced, just curious. Something felt out of place with how she was integrated into the story. If she’s not coming back as an Original, I at least think she’s going to end up playing an even larger role in the historical back-story than just this one episode. (Natalie)

      themothchase

      February 21, 2011 at 8:50 am


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