A Sashurai’s Review: The Vampire Diaries – Season 7×17 (Blizzards in Arkansas? How high above sea level are they?)

TVD 7x17

 

SUMMARY

Stefan wakes in a body and after saving people trapped in a burning bus, he comes to the realization that he’s not in hell but in the body of a deceased man who hit the bus. Damon comes across the body of Stefan and immediately begins to suspect the mind within it isn’t his brother. Valerie captured Rayna, finds Alaric, and the two help piece together what happened to Stefan when the pheonix-stone was destroyed. Stefan escapes custody from the police who believe he’s a D.U.I and eccentric. As the town searches for him, Damon converses on the phone with Valerie that Stefan’s body doesn’t have Stefan in it. After realizing who Stefan might be, Damon leaves with evil-Stefan but then when the two share the truth about Stefan, evil-Stefan flees from the car and heads toward Tennessee. Damon searches for Stefan on his own in Arkansas during an incoming blizzard. Meanwhile, Rayna escapes Valerie and Alaric and disappears. After succumbing to the effects of a human body going through alcohol withdrawl, Stefan begins withdrawing from reality. Damon eventually contacts him through a phone a woman left behind after fleeing from Stefan and finds him nearly dead on the road. Having only a few days to find Stefan’s body before Stefan dies in his human form, Alaric tells a story that the vampire inhabiting Stefan’s body belonged to a serial killer who became a vampire and massacred fraternities in Tennessee. Evil-Stefan is later seen returning to a fraternity to pick up where he left off.

 

INITIAL THOUGHTS

If Elena knew the troubles the Salvatore’s were going through, she’d be very cross with the two of them, but as it turns out, our recent debacle involving Stefan’s out of body experience and Damon’s continued trek through self-deprecation has brought this episode into a perfect storm with snow and all. Alaric’s encounter with a vampire trapped in Jo’s body was just an example with how Stefan and Damon must deal with the dilemma only this time, their resident vampire hitchhiker is very much on the side of murder and ill-intent. There’s plenty of classic Damon to showcase his consistency to narrowly hold himself accountable for his actions, but there’s a higher selling point here that I think helps really flesh out the issue these brothers have. No longer concerned with flashbacks, we’re given a very crisp and linear storyline that plays on the sympathy of anger and forgiveness much more than we’re used to seeing. Maybe the backdrop itself was a refreshing look into the psyche of these vampires, but a lot of elements worked in their favor this time around. Let’s hope the consistency proves true as we settle in on our season’s last arc.

 

THE GOOD

Some of the more successful elements of the past come from Damon and Stefan experiencing the kind of fear that they’re not always equipped to handle. Putting them in very human situations has more than once brought them to a deeper understanding about their lives and tonight, their struggles worked in the show’s favor. With the exception of Bonnie, Stefan is the only suitable character who can cut to Damon’s core and make him more than just a ranting vampire who bitches about his flaws with no solutions in mind. It’s never easy to make him see past the shroud of Elena, but the more they can do it, the more human Damon becomes. Collectively, their conflicts were aligned this time and how they helped each other worked in such a way we can still stand learning about their characters even after seven years. The brothers were in top form even though one of them was in a brittle state.

 

Transitioning off of Rayna as the villain wasn’t an easy manuever, but considering what her terminator-like goals were, it’s not hard to imagine that the bulk of her actions in the past were essentially justified ones. Whether this means we’ll encounter more than one evil vampire in other supernatural bodies remains to be seen, but they can’t just kill Stefan’s body without serious repercussions and time isn’t graciously on their side. I would expect this evil-Stefan is here to make a short impact, but I wouldn’t mind keeping this going until the end of the season.

 

THE BAD

Like all shows with overlapping subplots, it’s not always about what they tell you., but sometimes what they don’t and until now, we still have no clue what’s been happening to Bonnie and how Stefan is involved with Penny’s death. Caroline is still missing in New Orleans absent Klaus and his siblings, and the problem with the armory is still somewhat present and it’s easily the weakest link by far considering Enzo’s connection to it. It would serve the remainder of the season well if the minor storylines surrounding the brothers were solved in sensible ways rather than casually written off like Nora and Mary-Louise were. The last thing we need is for an evil-Stefan to acquire some ancient armory trinket and assume phenomenal-scale power threatening mankind and the world. We’re not quite there yet.

 

FAVORITE MOMENT

The conversation leading Damon to find Stefan in the blizzard. That was probably one of the most endearing and sentimental moments this show has ever produced that didn’t involve setting a house on fire or a crying Elena. If they continue producing moments like those, this show would be exceptional as a consistent quality product. When Damon can force Stefan into a positively angry state of mind, that’s powerful. Stefan is notably known for his oak-like stature and stone of the brow and though I think his physical deterioration was a touch more critical than it should have been, the effect was  crucially magnificent. It’s not every day they can reminisce about being kids and it not involve horrific tragedy.

 

CHARACTER MVP

The brothers were nearly tied, but I’d say Damon narrowly collects the spot tonight. He had a certain reservation that kept his personality in check in favor of evil-Stefan’s villainy and terrible antics and how he eventually Stefan really told a great story from his point of view. When forced out of his element, he adapted without resorting to malicious methods or egotistical desires beyond his sense of solitude. He needs his brother and being evil in any way will always jeopardize that relationship even after all these years. Stefan might have won this round, but his evil-Stefan personality just didn’t sell me in his acting range, he was channeling more of what Stefan is like when he turns his emotions off.

 

ENDING THOUGHTS

If logic is sound, then most of the vampires who found dead bodies to inhabit after the stone’s destruction will likely die out in that three day span Alaric mentioned. I’m sure one or two more will locate sustainable bodies of some sort, but then we really have to turn up the villainy and make Rayna’s capture of these monsters very necessary. I’m glad the lingering heat is off of her for now.

 

If there was a category for best scene with a character emotionally dumping their thoughts through a cell-phone, this show would be nominated each and every year. And tonight’s episode would be the moment they finally won.

 

With Valerie the last of the vampire-heretics, I can safely say that it’s likely she’ll be the last to die this season. I don’t particularly want to see her go, but considering how each member has been taken out methodically this season, it stands to reason she won’t make it to season 8 mainly as a staging ground to keep the Salvatore’s grief stricken and battling on. I’d like to be wrong, but that’s one of my predictions among many I throw at this show on constant basis.

 

Very minor note here, but have you ever wondered how hungry you have to be to take a food product and stuff if in your mouth as if such speed and ferocity were necessary to keep you conscious and alive? When Stefan crammed the donut in his mouth I just laughed at the motion. He should have went further and put all the donuts in his mouth homer-style and tried talking through it. It would have made the moment more lighthearted.

 

With the stone destroyed, what will Rayna’s motivations be outside of being the walking Wikipedia for evil vampires she’s slain? Will she be neutral or does she have an agenda even though she’s down to one life? There isn’t anything wrong with keeping her character around for another season, but that also means she’d need a love interest and problems fitting into society as she was an old lady who probably wasn’t in touch with current technology and pop-culture. Then again, she could be super adept and we just don’t know.

 

OVERALL SCORE

8 out of 10. Given the write screenplay and effort to maximize the location and dilemma, a captivating episode can be born of good intentions. Tonight’s episode saw to that and brought some much needed sentiment that has been lost as of late. Complex plot-driven arcs are one thing, but character driven pieces are often the better approach as a vampire-drama can only get so fantastical before it drift into lunacy. Keeping the brothers grounded in real human relationships helps produce a successful season and as long as that is kept aware, this show will do fine. The mystery of the future has been solved and now it’s time to move forward and capitalize on Rayna’s legacy as her evil spirit vampires have returned to reality for another dose of murderous intent. Now is a great time to root for the brothers who must battle more cynical and devious vampires than they used to be. Thanks for reading.

 

 

No more words

 

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