The second half of this episode was so much better than the first half that the switch felt powerful and astonishing. Wow, there is a lot to discuss about this action-packed episode, which segued from a gratingly annoying story about Damon's quest for self-punishment, to a thrilling adventure that saw the exit of one villain and the memorable entrance of another!
"You made a wrong turn, brother. This isn’t some hell survivor support group." Let's be clear that I think we're all set with seeing Damon lie down in the road to catch prey. This was all well and good in the first couple of seasons, but it's been done so many times now that it needs to go away. Plus, by now, if you live anywhere near Mystic Falls and you would stop your vehicle in the middle of the road and get out, ever, for any reason, you practically deserve to be Damon's next victim.
The repetitive themes didn't end there. We had Damon again seeking to punish himself while exerting his rage on the world, but this time for his worst misdeed ever: supposedly burning Elena alive. My one remaining gripe about this episode is that they didn't resolve Elena's "death" by the end of the hour. The rest of the parts that were irritating all led up to such a sense of eventual satisfaction that they don't matter so much. However, writers, please don't make us watch Damon go any longer thinking that he did that to Elena. It's draining and depressing, and we all know she isn't really dead.
Where is Tyler? Shouldn't he be explaining that the coffin Damon torched was a fake-out and Elena is safe and sound? Soon, I hope.
So Damon's anguish tour took him straight to the absolutely obnoxious and unbearable Julian, whose baddie game was weaker than ever. He wasn't scary or threatening or charismatic, just mean and petty and whiny. After inducting Damon into his lame-o fight club and nearly granting his foe's wish to rip his heart out, Julian was stopped by Stefan and Valerie (both of whom were epically fantastic in this episode -- more on that to come). Afterwards, Damon finally confessed his horrible deed to Stefan, who promptly punched his brother in the face and went off to cry in the car (heart-wrenchingly reminding us how much Elena will always mean to him) -- before awesomely vowing to Valerie that Julian had to die.
Enzo: "You missed me! That warms my heart!"
Bonnie: "I didn’t miss you. I’m curious as to your recent whereabouts. There’s a difference." Oh my Benzo! Finally, after weeks of wondering whatever happened to Enzo after Matt packed him away in a truck with some sketchbomb hunters, he made his return at the coolest possible moment, just in time for some love/hate flirtation with Bonnie and to play an intriguing role in the emergence of the Huntress.
Finally -- a word I must use again -- we got to see Rayna, and it was well worth the wait. After a road trip with Mary Louise and Nora to track down the Huntress who'd been sending red X's out to her intended vampire prey, the ladies got quite the shock when they encountered an elderly woman, bed-ridden. Could this woman possibly be the dreaded Huntress? Bonnie was so sure that this was another Rayna that she tried to be nice and offered a cookie to the woman. Not so fast, Bon Bon! As it turned out, the older lady was indeed that Rayna, and she had no intention of staying in a hospital bed a moment longer. However, before Rayna could hurt Bonnie, someone swooped in to save the day: Enzo! Yup, this was another immensely fabulous moment in the episode.
Bonnie went to fetch Nora and Mary Louise, and when she got back, both Enzo and Rayna were gone. Enzo had taken Rayna to a sealed room where he torched her body, only for her to emerge, like a phoenix, transformed back into a young woman! A crazy-fun scene to be sure, and one that sets Rayna up to be the villain the show deserves for the rest of Season 7.
I actually love that the writers left us in suspense regarding what happened to Enzo since we last saw him. A little mystery is much-appreciated in a show that has been broadcasting its every next move of late. Well done. However, I do want to know what he got up to, what his motives are now, and what will happen with Rayna restored to youth and vampire-hunting-furor.
As for Mary Louise and Nora, they were much, much less annoying than usual in this episode. As Nora tried to use Bonnie to make her ex jealous, it became clear that there is a lot of unfinished business between her and Mary Louise. They both seem softer, more vulnerable, clear-headed, smart, and likable away from Julian.
Caroline and the vamp-blood sucking twin babies: Whoops! It looks like the babies in Caroline's womb are siphons like Valerie, and they are slowly feeding off of Caroline's blood. Valerie tried to stop this by creating a magic bracelet with new energy to satisfy the young ones, but they went right back to snacking on poor Caroline with a vengeance by the end of the episode. While quieter and more gradual than the rest of the hour, I really enjoyed this part of the story. Caroline is always so adorable and quirky, and even more so now that she has to deal with the common woes of pregnancy. After all she's gone through to bring these babies into the world, and how affectionate she feels towards them, it's sad and scary to see her faced with this latest twist. It was also interesting to see how sweet Caroline was to Valerie, grateful for her help, just to pull a total about-face once she learned Stefan was in peril from Julian. Accusing Valerie of letting Stefan go up against Julian to prove he still cares for his former lover, Caroline commanded Valerie to go help Stefan immediately. While I found her words about Valerie's motives possibly unfounded and left-field, we have to love Caroline's fierceness in establishing what needs to be done, even in the midst of all her own problems and being out of action herself. I'm sure there is some kind of solution to protect Caroline from the babies' siphoning while also keeping them safe and healthy, and am intrigued to see what it is.
Elsewhere in the episode...Matt was so normal and pleasant in this episode that I hardly recognized him in his scenes with his new lady cop love interest. However, three years from now, he's in league with Rayna and attacks Stefan outside the t.v. studio, so that was more in line with the Matt we usually get. It stands to reason that something bad happened to Penny, and Matt blames Stefan and possibly Damon too for the incident.
What did you think of this episode? Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to catch an all-new The Vampire Diaries, Friday at 8/9c on the CW.