On the eve of winter’s vengeance, Damon and Stefan search for Julian who’s gone missing after Lily’s death. Nora attempts to bond with Bonnie while getting over Mary-Louise and Caroline finds difficulty in keeping her vampire tendencies in check while pregnant. A fierce struggle ensues when Stefan lures Julian back to town resulting in both brothers undergoing a dark change in their unlives.
There’s nothing like getting hit in the head with the Christmas hammer on a show like TVD. When they insert their holiday theme it saturates with enough force to nearly distract from an otherwise decent episode. Pushing aside the spirit of snow and cheer, Stefan’s revenge on Julian came with a bittersweet price that for the moment partially explains how Stefan received his scar over the heart. But in the present, what does this mean for the Salvatores and what can we expect when we return from the winter break? The end had a satisfying cliffhanger, but reaching it took some effort as we’ll dive into shortly.
In the future, Stefan packs up to find Damon and Caroline knowing it’s a trap. Valerie sees him off with a kiss showing they’re a couple. In the present, after Lily’s put to rest, Stefan hunts for Julian in a town across the states with Damon helping even though he shows reluctance of caring now that Lily is gone. Meanwhile, Bonnie and Caroline oversee a toys for tots event which Nora helps wanting to distract herself from Mary-Louise. Caroline later takes a birthing class with Alaric and begins to show signs of rage and thirst. She fights it but later has more struggles leading her to visit her mother at the cemetery looking for guidance. Stefan and Damon find a bar with dead patrons and discover Julian when he returns. Julian brings with his several vampires, some centuries old and willing to fight for him. The brothers escape but part ways when Damon has enough of Stefan’s words about forgiving Lily. With the help of Valerie, Stefan kidnaps Mary-Louise after she unsuccessfully attempts to mend with Nora. Julian is lured by this back to the Salvatore house and finds Damon who doesn’t want to fight. Julian grows violent and reveals the short sword with the phoenix stone in the pommel and that vampires who get stabbed in the heart will lose their souls inside, forced to live out their sins in perpetual hell. Julian manages to stab Damon in the heart but flees. Nora, attacks Bonnie after finding out from Julian what Stefan did and later finds Stefan at the house. She has the sword and stabs Stefan in front of Caroline.
What’s really interesting is the possibility that the future is nothing more than every vampire experiencing some joint hell within the stone. It’s probably unlikely, but it could explain the time gap with some relevance although the human characters wouldn’t be in there, unless some heretic/witch power put them all there and only Stefan really knows what’s going on. Aside from that whacky theory, I liked how the episode ended with both brothers now within the stone. It’s arguable that Stefan could still be saved because we haven’t seen his transition yet, but Damon for sure is going through his first layer of hell and that’s during his time in the south during the civil war. There’s potential here that will finally help set Damon on a better path, assuming that’s the intention here.
Caroline’s struggle was a bit expected, but it’s interesting to see how she’s managing and how it’s helping with her overall growth. That moment at her mother’s grave was a piece of solitary maturity that would have been fine without the overlaying soundtrack, but the imagery and expression she conveyed was a nice touch considering how much she misses her mother while, coincidentally Damon still despises his. Alaric is supportive and just excited his children will get to live, but he’s not necessarily the best person to help Caroline adjust because he’s just as in the dark with her magical situation as she is.
I’m not a fan of any Christmas theme episodes especially when drown you with ridiculous context. Everyone drinks egg nog, a Santa bar crawl was a hideous idea, the only thing that had merit was how Nora wanted to try and give back by assisting in the toys for tots event, which nearly started her on a decent path for change if it wasn’t for Mary-Louise’s kidnapping sparking her protective, and albeit evil nature. Not every show has to do this, but when they do it has the potential of taking away from the plot at hand and while it wasn’t a totally sink here, the holiday background just wasn’t resonating with me.
Julian’s rag-tag gang of vampires was a complete waste of time. None of them had speaking roles and they looked like bargain bin extras. Considering Julian had to spell out that he’s insane with Lily, it was counter productive to include this quartet because that seems like a sensible and precautionary thing to do when being hunted. An insane vampire would still kill a bunch of people at a bar, but he wouldn’t strategize against his enemies, he’d just attack them without provocation. Julian is a mainstay villain and I get that, but he’s over-achieving when we know he’s stronger than both brothers combined.
Just watching Damon get stabbed and then thrust into his civil war hell. There’s a build up leading to his sorrow and forgiveness over Lily but it starts with his complete disdain of his mother now and here’s the apex of where he has to face those demons. As annoying as he was this episode, his struggle will be all the more satisfying to watch as he deals with whatever sins he’s been stacking over the course of time. His look in the forest dealing with explosions and musket fire is already telling a great tale.
I didn’t want to give it to Nora because her retreat back to an evil-ish persona more or less recants her apparently genuine change throughout the episode, but fairly put, she did showcase a attitude change that was noticeable and for the most part, believable. She didn’t put up with Mary-Louise’s excuses and seemed to hit it off with Bonnie even if it was at the end and only lasted a few seconds. She’s the stronger actress between her and Mary-Louise and chose to side with the heroes based on Valerie’s story, which Mary-Louise couldn’t. It’s hard to say if she’ll bounce back from this knowing that she’s still rather soft on Mary-Louise based on her actions at the end.
No further news on Enzo’s capture by Matt. I’m not bothered by this. He can stay away for the next few episodes, although this could be a bigger arc coming depending on what Matt has planned.
Beau was also strangely absent. If they don’t solidify any kind of importance, I struggle to wonder why they put his character on this season at all. He has strength and strong loyalty, but he doesn’t talk, has no agenda of his own and isn’t really capable of growing with so little screen time. What’s the point?
Based on the future, Caroline, Stefan, Damon, Alaric, and Bonnie have been showcased with Enzo, Valerie, Tyler, and the twins as background characters. As a whole, there’s a lot of vampires in that group suggesting they could all be in that phoenix stone somehow in some twisted LOST hell. Again, it’s unlikely, but the idea of 3 years passing in normal reality just seems weirdly far fetched and doesn’t lend to any reasoning why there’s such a huge time jump. With Stefan’s wound a problem in the future, it stands to reason a lot of magic is involved in keeping him either alive, or keeping everyone in some way alive. We just don’t know yet.
Why is Mystic Falls still empty? Does it need to be empty?
6 out of 10. The hunt for Julian had a fantastic ending, but the backdrop of Christmas and a weak subplot with Nora and Mary-Louise, including the botched attempt to confront Julian at the bar didn’t help bring this season out of the low point it dropped into since last week. Caroline’s struggle to maintain balance and visit to her mother was a nice added touch that helped include the right moment to have snow was thoughtful and done with care aside from the music being too distracting from Caroline’s monologue. The climax means there’s a new arc coming that ties directly with what goes on in the phoenix stone and we’ll find out if Stefan and Damon will be able to find each other assuming Stefan is in fact trapped like Damon is. Decent episode, but not entirely that much better than last week. The next does appear promising which will focus on Damon and his demons. Thanks for reading.
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