Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Homecoming (2011)

All for a brother’s love — the price we pay to keep our family safe

Since it was a night to celebrate homecoming, it should have been a night of frivolity, youthful games and perhaps a trick or two.  Alas, when playing with vampires and wolves, life is never that dull and predictable.  This was a night of master chessmen as each of the key players moved to checkmate the king or queen of their choice.  There were so many gasp-worthy moments, but the game within a game  maneuvering was truly quite astounding to watch.  It is what THE VAMPIRES DIARIES does best:  fool us into thinking we know what is going on and then pulls the wool over our eyes and makes our heads spin.

Gotta love how Katherine is the consistent wild-card and can be used by both sides — but in the end, she is always on her own side.  Isn’t chess supposed to be a two-sided game?  What is it when you add a third player?  Is that what we should be calling the “chaos theory”?  Fortunately, Katherine is never just in the game for the chaos-factor, she always has a plan — albeit, her own plan.

So she played along with Damon and Mikael to fool Klaus, then made a side-deal with Stefan to save Damon’s life, then got Stefan to do her dirty-work by kidnapping Klaus’ entire coffined-family as leverage to keep Klaus from going after them all.  Nicely played.

Was there a clear winner in this complicated chess-game?  Mikael was the clear loser as his body burnt up in flames.  Damon and Elena felt as if they lost because Klaus is still alive, but the fact that both are still breathing says a lot.  Maybe this round does go to Katherine for keeping everyone alive and ridding themselves of the nasty, can’t-be-trusted Mikael and a dozen or so hybrids using the wolf’s bane grenades.  Katherine not only got to pay back Mikael for using her as a chew-toy when he was in need of blood to fully revive from his long-stay chained in the crypt, she got to save Stefan and Damon.  She gave Stefan the chance to earn his freedom by killing Mikael, and she made sure that Damon’s life was not forfeit if Klaus died.  She also stood in for Elena and took the brunt of the stabbing by Mikael in order to throw both Klaus and Mikael off balance long enough for Damon and Stefan to play their sneak attacks.  By a long shot, the hero of the night was Katherine — now that is something we thought we’d never see.  Katherine, the hero?!

After all the games were said and done, and Katherine got to polish her nails for a job well-done, the morale of the story is the true test of love is brotherly love.  What will one do for the love of their brother?  Elena was wise to sense that Rebekah may not have been on their side when it came down to the wire with killing Klaus.  Staking Rebekah was a necessary precaution.  Bonnie also noted that the power of the love for a sibling cannot be overcome by simple outrage and anger at what they have done.

No matter what wrongs or sins a brother/family member may have committed, we always forgive them.  It’s like forgiveness and love is embedded into our genetics.  It’s why Damon and Stefan have stood by each other through thick-and-thin; it is why Elijah couldn’t ultimately kill Klaus, and why Rebekah couldn’t be trusted either.  The family bond is simply the most powerful kind of love there is — and it is what broke through Stefan’s powerful shell of indifference towards his humanity, and what compelled him to protect Damon when he didn’t have to.  It’s also one of the reasons Damon worked so hard to kill Klaus, to get his brother back.

Fascinatingly, Klaus is also driven by the need to protect his family.  He may have staked each one of his family members and placed them in coffins — but he painstakingly took those coffins everywhere he went.  He could not bear to be separated from his family for very long and wanted to ensure that he could revive them at whim whenever he wanted.  Klaus may have remorselessly killed their mother and now their father, but something about the love for a sibling feels stronger.  We shall see what lengths Klaus will go to in order to protect his remaining family.  Will he give up his wicked ways and seek redemption and forgiveness, or shall Klaus become even further unhinged and lash out at everyone to get his family back?  Perhaps Klaus should have known better than anyone the lengths one will go to protect their family.  He toyed with Stefan’s love for Damon, then with Damon’s love for Stefan, now it’s payback.  Stefan may not be as merciless.  Klaus will rue the day he compelled Stefan to turn off his humanity.  Old Stefan would never dream of hurting Klaus’ family; new Stefan could not care less.  Another nice twist of fate.

Points of Interest

1.  Klaus does know how to throw a party.  His party planning skills are finely tuned from a thousand years of practice.  It’s just unfortunate that he is also a party buzz-kill with all his hybrids ready to strike down and feed upon the guests.  The party only looked good, when it was but a mere facade hiding the games afoot.

2.  Rebekah’s need to have the high school experience after living like a vampire-queen for nearly a millennium seems inexplicable.  It is as if Klaus and Rebekah have not matured at all.  They still exist believing they are young adults, not the ancient beings that they are.  Where is their old soul, “I’ve seen and done it all” attitude?

3.  Klaus’ hybrid army seems all threat, not action so far.  Even Damon was able to walk right up and rip one of the security hybrid’s heart out of his chest without breaking stride as he entered the party.

What Worked

This was the episode in which everyone had to look into the mirror and see who they really are deep inside.  Elena is so used to being the center of attention and at the center of the action, had to recognize her own limitations and step-aside lest she be the “weak-link” in their carefully constructed plan to take down Klaus.  She did the one thing that only she could do, she befriended Rebekah and then literally stabbed her in the back.   She gave Rebekah back Esther’s necklace and then said, “I’m so sorry.  I can’t leave anything to chance either.”

It is astounding how good Elena has gotten at staking vampires –they just never see it coming.  She has learned the art of befriending them, disarming them, and then staking them.  Even Damon was impressed as he told her, “It’s very Katherine of you.” As Elena retorted, “Way to make me feel better about myself, Damon,” he tried to make amends by saying, “It was a compliment, sort of.”

But it is a good observation.  Damon is right.  Elena is becoming more and more like her doppelganger.  Perhaps history is not only repeating by having the Petrova doppelganger fall in love with the two Salvatore brothers, but Elena is somehow predestined to think like Katherine too.  It has been debated for decades whether we are predetermined by genetics or shaped by our environment.  Will Elena be doomed to become Katherine if her life is shaped by the same factors and influenced by the same people (Stefan, Damon, Klaus, Rebekah, Elijah)? Along with the pre-coded DNA, Elena just can’t seem to escape it.

Regardless of destiny’s plan, Elena was right to have misgivings about whether Mikael, Stefan or Rebakah could be trusted.  Damon’s secret contingency plan was a great back-up, alas, the best laid plans always go awry.  Not because of betrayal, but because of love.  Elena had it half right when she told Damon, “Stefan’s right:  someone’s going to let their humanity get in the way and screw this whole thing up — and it’s probably going to be me.”  When Damon reminded her, “Elena, you just daggered somebody.  You’re going to be fine,” she protested, “Yeah, but I feel bad about it.  I care too much.  That’s the problem, Damon.  I’m the weak link.”  But it was never Elena’s humanity that they had to worry about.  Everyone could count on Elena’s humanity to make her do the right thing.  But the genius of Damon’s plan was to replace Elena with Katherine who was better at not letting her humanity get in the way.  So when Damon asked Elena, “Do you trust me?”  and she was forced to admit, “Yes,” it all fell into place.  Damon knew he had the right plan because he was not counting on Elena to do anything.  She couldn’t be the weak link.  So he calmly reassured, “Then you’ve got nothing to worry about.”  But while Damon was right to keep Elena out of the grand scheme, he failed to consider that Katherine would let her humanity sway her judgment and she then got Stefan to care enough to sway his as well.

Damon’s plan was flawless in that he counted on two vampires, who had turned off their humanity, would do exactly as he anticipated:  Stefan and Katherine were his pawns to place as he needed to.  Alas, these particular pawns chose this particular moment to choose to be human again.  Who knew?!  The plan should have worked perfectly.  It would have freed Stefan and returned him to Elena, and Katherine could have gone on her merry way free of 500 hundred years of running from Klaus.

When it came down to the wire, Katherine and Stefan cared too much about Damon to let him be sacrificed in taking down Klaus.  There was also the factor that perhaps Stefan didn’t want Damon to be the hero.  Stefan wanted to return on his own terms.  He did not want to be forced to feel his emotions again and carry the weight of his past sins.  He did not want to be chained in love to Elena.  He did not want to be beholden to his brother for saving his life.  Stefan needs to be his own man — with his humanity or without it.

So when Elena comforted Damon over the spectacularly-bust plan to kill Klaus, she took his face in her hands and softly told him, “We’ll always survive this.  We always survive. Trust me.”  To which Damon mournfully replied, “We’re never getting Stefan back.  You know that, don’t you?”  It broke Damon’s heart that he could not return Stefan to Elena like he had promised.  He had failed to save Stefan and he had failed to give Elena the one thing he knew she wanted more than life itself:  Stefan.  But then Elena did the most interesting thing, she bravely told Damon, “Then we’ll let him go. Okay?  We’ll have to let him go.”  There’s an old saying:  “If you love something, set it free, and if it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.”  Elena is finally realizing that love does not chain a person to you — it does not mean they have to be with you.  Love is about freedom and choice.  She needed to give Stefan his freedom back so that he could choose.  Old Stefan gave her his heart, now new Stefan had to figure out if that is what he wanted to do.  If he comes back to her, that’s his choice.  Elena is also finally starting to see that perhaps she won’t get Stefan back, and what does that mean for her.  She is now free to choose too.  Will she make the same choice or a different choice?  Will she finally see that old-Damon has become a new-Damon out of the love he has for her?

Looking past the mirroring images of old choices versus new choices and the person who stands at the crossroads, it was oddly foreshadowing when Stefan cavalierly told Elena that he would not be the one to screw up the plan because he would be the only one not letting his humanity get in the way.  Yet, in the end, it was his humanity that stopped them from killing Klaus.

For each one of our heroes —  Stefan, Damon, Elena and Katherine —  they had to face their inner “mirror” and see what was reflected back.  Did they see someone soulless enough to not care?  Or did they see the shimmer of a soul which did care?  And which way did that sliver of humanity compel them to act?  Did they act to protect those they loved or only themselves?  The choice they made may or may not have surprised them.

Likewise, Tyler had to make a choice.  He had to align himself with his sire, Klaus, against his will.  But he defied it just enough to keep Caroline out of harm’s way.  Yet once Caroline awoke from her vervain-coma, she was not as thrilled with Tyler’s choice.  He could defy his sire-worship long enough to keep her out of the fight, but not enough to forsake Klaus entirely.  Tyler may think that his new existence as a hybrid has made him better as it offers him freedom from the pain and slavery of the full moon transitions, but he does not see that he is a slave of another kind now that he worships Klaus.  When Caroline tried to remind him, “But you don’t have any true control over yourself,” Tyler did not want to hear it.  Imagine being under a compulsion, and not even knowing how much it has stripped you of your free-will?  Caroline was right to shake her head in sadness as Tyler could not see what he had lost.  Tyler needs to take a good hard look in the mirror, and hopefully he sees a man who makes his own decisions, not those which please his master.

It is agonizingly painful to have to give up what you love most, but Elena and Caroline need to let Stefan and Tyler go to see if they come back willingly — of their own free-will.

That is the one last thing Katherine gave to Stefan.  She reawakened a sliver of his humanity, enough for him to care enough to save Damon’s life and earn his freedom from Klaus. She also gave him a reason to turn on his emotions:  rage and revenge.  To strike back at Klaus, Stefan was going to need his emotions.  Emotions make humans (and vampires) unpredictable.  Klaus prides himself on being the better chess master because he has been playing the game longer.  But he was counting on predictability factors:  Elena would sacrifice herself, Katherine would never put herself in harm’s way, Damon would never put Elena in danger, and Stefan would sit on the sidelines.  Lucky for us, the game is so much more interesting when it is unpredictable.

Katherine did the most un-Katherine thing to date we have seen her do when she told Stefan,  “I know you’ve turned off your humanity and that you don’t care, so there’s only one solution — care, Stefan.  Care enough to save Damon’s life.  Because I’m going back to this party and I’m seeing this plan through.  Klaus  will be killed and we’ll have our freedom.  But then Damon will be dead.  Your brother will be dead, Stefan — unless you care enough to do something about it.”  Sensing this was out of character for her, Stefan then curiously asked her, “You’ve wanted Klaus dead for 500 hundred years.  Why would you risk all that just to save Damon’s life?”  To which Katherine retorted, “I wasn’t just trying to save Damon’s life, Stefan.  I was trying to save yours — your humanity.”  Katherine, at least the Katherine we’ve grown to know, would never care.  She would not care that Elena died, that Damon died or that Stefan would be heart-broken.  Yet there she was pleading with Stefan to feel something, anything, just to be human again.

Later when Stefan asked her, why she did it, she admitted, “Let’s just say I liked the old you better.”  Not buying it, Stefan said, “Come on, Katherine.  You don’t care about anybody but yourself, you know that.”  It forced Katherine to reveal, “You and I both know that’s not true — I loved you.  I loved Damon too.  Humanity is a vampire’s greatest weakness.  No matter how easy it is to turn it off, it just keeps trying to fight its way back in.  Sometimes I let it.”  Perhaps Katherine’s humanity is encroaching more and more into her life, more than she would like, but what is life if not sprinkled with a little bit of humanity?  To never feel love or pain makes life a lot less interesting — and Katherine has never wanted a dull, uninteresting life.

So Katherine’s unpredictable behavior may have save Klaus, but it was not a completely altruistic act.  When Stefan called Klaus to thank him for giving him back his freedom, Stefan calmly told him,  “It came at too high of a price.  You took everything from me, Klaus.”  To which Klaus tried to assuage Stefan by saying, “Let bygones be bygones.  Trust me, resentment gets old.” Alas, Stefan was not feeling very forgiving and he replied, “You know what never gets old?  Revenge.  . . I wonder, Klaus — for someone who’s been one step ahead for a thousand years, were you prepared for this?”  Stefan stole the one thing Klaus prized above all else — his family.  Unpredictability, that’s how you win a game.

What Didn’t Work

Who benched Alaric in all the fun and games?  Surely, a man with an invincibility ring could have proved useful.  And Jeremy cannot be pining away for Anna still — he needs to make an appearance from whatever dark cave he has been hiding in.  Plus, sidelining Bonnie seemed uncalled for. She only stepped in to keep Damon and Tyler from killing each other.  Wouldn’t she have made a better bodyguard for Caroline if Tyler was so worried about his girlfriend being caught in the crossfire of the impending war between Klaus and everyone else?

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“Homecoming” written by Evan Bleiweiss and directed by Joshua Butler. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Joseph Morgan, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig, Matt Davis, Claire Holt, Sebastian Roche. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

6 thoughts on “Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Homecoming (2011)

  1. Vampires can own houses that they owned before they turned because becoming a vampire is not a real death experience. They just can’t own other buildings. Once Tyler gets invited in by his mom off-screen, he would be able to invite vampires in. Katherine got into the house because Elena lost ownership of the house.

  2. All excellent questions. Damon struck Klaus with the dagger, but not Klaus’ heart. You have to stake a vampire in the heart or it simply wounds them. When Klaus used the same dagger on Mikael, he struck Mikael’s heart, so Mikael burst into flames and died. Anyone could use the white oak dagger to kill an Original. In the case of using a non-white oak dagger with simply ashes, if a vampire used it that would have killed the vampire. Which is why Elena had to use the non-white oak dagger with white oak ash to feign Mikael’s death. As for the invitations into Tyler’s house, I’m a bit fuzzy on that detail myself.

  3. I am a bit confused! When Damon attacked Klaus and stuck the dagger in why didn’t Klaus die the way Mikeal did? Why didn’t Damon die? I thought I saw the dagger go into Klaus didn’t I? Didn’t the dagger have to be used by an original to kill another original? Or only be used by a human to kill a vampire?
    How did Klaus get into Tyler’s house if a vampire can only be invited into a house by a human who owns the house and Tyler is not human anymore. For that matter when Damon was dying how did Katherine get into the house when she was not invited in by Elena because Damon and Stefan had signed the house over to her.
    Just some things that I have been wondering about. Any answers? Thanks Laurie

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