Life after death
After the conclusion to last season, I am pretty psyched to be back in The Vampire Diaries world of teenage melodrama and supernatural antics. Bring on incoherent plots, strained believability, and over-the-top emotional angst! Starting with Elena’s big decision – to go through with her transition or not. I absolutely loved that the show went here at the end of last season. Not only was it a gutsy move to make with the female lead, but it seems to be the new trend in vampire fiction: don’t just love a vampire, be a vampire! Undoubtedly there will be great comparisons to make between Bella (the first to start this trend) and Elena when the last Twilight movie comes out in a month. One difference was apparent even last night: from very early on in Bella’s story she has wanted to end up a vampire, while Elena professed to want nothing less. So what did you make of all the talk of life and death and life after death?
It seemed totally incoherent to me. There was something almost silly about her horrified question “Am I dead?” asked to two very “alive” vampires only to start talking about how if she didn’t feed she would die. And when Jeremy pleads with her to hold out hope that Bonnie will find a way to prevent her from turning, he says he needs her to be his sister, not “one of them.” But what is this whole show if not proof that the bonds of sibling love (plus many other kinds of love) are alive and well among vampires (um, witness the Salvatore brothers and that whole messed up clan of Original siblings). I know a lot of the drama rests on the assumption that being a vampire is really different and somehow awful, but nothing about this show has suggested that the vampire characters really, fundamentally change – that they are really a different category of being, having crossed to some not-alive plane of existence. All we have to do is look at Caroline to see that the show isn’t really willing to take us down that dark a path (and the whole time people were moaning about Elena becoming a vampire all I could think was poor Caroline!). I am very curious to see if and how they press a new identity on Elena the vampire. I’d love to see signs that she is really a different person, not just a heightened version of herself, able to have hotter, more aggressive sex and leap really high and fast in the air, plus a few scenes of her trying not to kill people. What do you think? Did you buy her protests that this was a fate worse than death? How seriously could we really take them when she didn’t even once consider just peacefully dying for real at the end of the day – especially since by the end of the episode she is consoling Stefan saying “At least I get to live”? Also, what do you make of the fact that Elena didn’t complete the transition by taking human life herself, but was able to feed because Stefan killed for her? Does this signal that she will be an even wimpier vampire than he is? (also did it kind of freak you out that Nina Dobrev’s head could fit through those iron bars?!)
I will also really love to hear your thoughts on the very heavy handed theme of “Elena’s choice.” Damon must have referenced it at least four times and Stefan and Elena at least once each. A lot was being made of the idea that Elena is in charge of her own life, making her own choices. It is a fascinating theme, but also a little problematic. When we are talking about teenage girls and matters of life and death, don’t we think that sometimes other people should help them make choices, or even disregard their choices to save their lives? Am I just ignoring the conventions of teenage drama (rule #1: kill off or otherwise absentee all parental figures)? Or is there something kind of creepy going on with the fetishization of Elena’s free choices? (or is this just a subtle take-down of Breaking Dawn Part I which is often read as being anti-choice because Bella won’t even consider terminating her pregnancy? Though as you so beautifully argue that is still Bella’s choice as much as any other…).
Since it didn’t really seem like a real choice for Elena, the choices that really mattered to me last night were Bonnie’s. I really hope this season focuses on Bonnie more. She is by far the most awesome character or the one with the most incredible potential – her power is earned and costs her something dear, she is constantly having to make very real and very difficult choices about her power, and she has to struggle in the most obvious ways with the ways her own choices are always being entangled in other people’s power plays. This seems to me a far more interesting way to think about “choice” and “individual desire,” and I hope they go there more often.
I’ll leave Tyler/Klaus and Klaus/Rebecca to you, though I will note, in closing that I think the Salvatore brothers are being far too hard on Matt. “Every morning you get out of bed you better earn it” – unfair pressure anyone!
I can’t wait to hear what you thought and to be back in this mess together!
Um, yeah – it totally creeped me out that Elena’s head could fit through those bars. Yes, I thought it was s rip off that she didn’t have to do her first kill herself. Yes, I think it’s utterly strange that she would wake up as a vampire in transition and not have any bodily sense that something is off…but would need to ask the guys what was going on!!! And YES, the Bella comparisons are going to fly – but, I also kind of wonder if that’s what they want? The final rooftop shot, framed by trees, moonlight shining seemed like a classic Twilight aesthetic in an episode that opened up new aesthetic frontiers for the show already (the kettle boiling was a pretty gorgeous shot, and I can’t remember seeing that kind of creative production in this series before). So I wonder if there’s some play happening here…
…which leads me to this question of Elena’s choices – yeah, totally heavy handed; I agree. And I also would agree with you that Elena clearly needs help with her choices, given her way overly quick and easy emotional and physical adjustment to this vampire life that she adamantly did not want just 5 minutes ago. But I wonder if they’re giving us a ground from which they’re going to play out her central choice – which sadly, it seems is not going to be between life and death, but rather between Stefan and Damon. I think you’re right to point out that she seems pretty much exactly the same, still in tune with her love for S, still the same old girl. But I wonder if as she lives into her vampire self, as she begins to feel that heightened passion, heightened zest for ‘life,’ if her desire will move over. When she said she’d get to be with Stefan forever, I though – ugh, how boring (and thanks for the parallel again to the eternal marriage themes in Twilight)! But it could be interesting to watch her battle her competing desires with those desires heightened in the weeks to come. My hope is that’s where this is going!
And so long as we’re making comparisons, I have to draw the one between Bonnie and Buffy’s Willow…right down to the play with the same black vein aesthetic – which simply cannot be by accident. Again, if the show is self-aware enough to be playing with a set of pop culture types, then I wonder how Bonnie will develop. Will she, like Willow, become evil Bonnie for a while? Will she lose control and lose her self? Because that would be fun to watch!
Finally – I can’t believe you didn’t bring up the priest guy! I found the opening scenes, with this religious force entering the field of action for the first time in the series’ history, absolutely fascinating. The mixing of religion with police power with this band of men taking the women who lead the town immediately out of power – I found the pace and arc of it quite thrilling (as I wondered again what the heck this show is trying to do with and say about the power and danger of women’s choices!). Mystic Falls quickly went into a sort of theocratic lockdown….again, current political sphere in the US – women’s choices, women’s choices. But how to interpret their stance yet, I just don’t know. Hopefully they stay in this realm of play as I tend to think – against most interpretations, as you point out – Twilight has done.
So what on earth is the deal with the group “suicide” at the end?? Granted, we don’t know any of the people in that house right now – so I guess they’re all expendable. But I can’t imagine the minister is going to die…has he drunk vampire blood? Is he some sort of new Alaric figure?
Wondering what the heck denomination that guy was…and wondering why I’m thinking Methodist –