The Moth Chase

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

Beyond Good and Evil

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Dear Kathryn,

Oh, it’s good to be back – despite some of those overly-expositional scenes (esp: Rebecca making our crew re-narrate things we all already know), I thought this was a lovely re-immersion into Mystic Falls following the Christmas hiatus. The closing scene, soul music filling the dusty air of an abandoned bar, Matt in his letterman jacket, and vamps beginning to stir ended it all with a nostalgic sheen. In fact, it seemed to me that temporality was an important theme throughout.

First, did you notice little background references to the end of the world? In the library, there was a book displayed prominently on a table: The Last Days, and the bar advertised a band, “Orphan Bodyswap Apocalypse” – surely a playful reference to how orphaned all our main characters happen to be (except, Bonnie has a dad – who knew?!), and all the bodyswapping that has taken place throughout the season (the originals, certainly, but also reaching interesting new dimensions in this episode with April and Shane – a topic I’ll leave to you). So just what will be the apocalypse for our Mystic friends? Who’s world is about to end?

Apocalypse wasn’t the only temporality that emerged, however. The advent of Expression magic seemed too to be a harbinger of a new age; an age somehow beyond good and evil. I couldn’t help but think of Nietzsche’s ubermensch when Dr. Shane said Expression wasn’t controlled by spirits, that it wasn’t good or bad, and that its use was dictated by its user. As you know, Nietzsche described the death of God as unchaining the earth from its sun (to use his metaphor), ushering in an age where morality could no longer be imagined to have an external (spiritual, religious, authoritative) arbiter. In this time beyond good and evil, he argued, only the Strong individual (the ubermensch, overman, superman…) would be able to resist external forces to pursue radical obedience to his (or her) own will. This individual is rare, but revolutionary. S/he is, as Shane tells Bonnie she is, the key to everything.

Of course, we’ve been waiting for Bonnie to become the key to everything all along – ever since she first began discovering her powers. Each event that happens in Bonnie’s life seems that it will push her a little closer to the fullness of her power. And each event that happens seems to let us down. Given that these Nietzsche-ian forms of morality and power with which they’re playing are inaugurated by the death of the God figure (translated in other paradigms as a death of the father figure), I find it curious that Bonnie’s dad has shown up at this precise moment. Prediction: Mr. Bonnie New-Mayor is going to bite the bullet pretty fast.

These themes of will and power appeared in E/S/D love triangle too, in particular with regards to compulsion (which, it’s worth noting, doesn’t work on Prof. Shane – thanks to a tip he  picked up in Tibet?!). Under Rebecca’s spell, Elena realized that she loves Damon because she feels free with him to be herself, whereas Stefan treats her like a broken toy to be fixed. Is it just me, or did you take that realization to mean Elena’s love for Damon has nothing to do with the sire bond? She even seemed surprised by the truth as it came out of her mouth. And really, why wouldn’t anyone prefer to be with someone who accepts them for who they are and who they are evolving to be rather than tries to force them into being who they used to be? This, of course, left me wondering at the end of the episode if Damon’s desire to find her the cure will – in the long run – make him incompatible for her too?

Aside from needing to ask whether the sire bond captures or frees Elena, the question of free will really came to the fore for me with Rebecca’s compulsion of the whole group – how powerful can compulsion really be if she has to keep reminding them they’re under it when she’s asking questions? Compulsion – a supposedly supernatural binding of someone to another’s will – seems to function more like being under oath. You have to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth OR there will be consequences…which means sometimes you need to be reminded of your oath. Rebecca’s constant reminders seemed more in line with that to me than anything else. Compulsion certainly didn’t make them into submissive automatons. Something more complex is going on than the types of willful control vamps have over humans – by which it seems the human’s mind is controlled completely by the vampire’s suggestion. Here there’s a more tricky battle going on, a more subtle coercion. While it seems none of our crew were able to resist the external compulsive force by the power of their own will, it’s true that the one who can do so would be rare – but their ability to resist somewhat, to require those reminders, made me wonder if there is an ubervamp out there who could pull it off. If Tyler can break the sire bond, then maybe there are ways to break other kinds of bonds too. This of course would have great ramifications for Elena and Damon (although I would find it difficult to believe that Elena could have that force of will within her).

What we learned: Prof. Shane made April’s dad kill the council as the kick-off to his sacrifices of 12. My hunch is that Silas killed Prof. Shane’s family (how, I have no idea?!), and that’s why he wants to raise him…because then his family will also be raised. But what would that make Prof. Shane? Just how long has he been around?

If you’re good, I’ll buy you ice cream,

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