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The Vampire Diaries - Coming Home Was a Mistake and Detoured On Some Random Backwoods Path to Hell - Review

5 Dec 2016

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Ooookay.  Hello, fellow TVD fans and fellow stalwart survivors of Season 8!  Sorry to be running behind on these last couple of reviews, but believe me, I have plenty to say...I just wish more of it could be positive.  I don't enjoy writing negative reviews about a show I love that much.  So while I actually pretty much detested these episodes for the most part, I'm going to strive to pick out silver linings / redeeming moments wherever I can!

"Coming Home was a Mistake"

Bye bye, Ty Ty: As this episode began, the scoobies were busy mourning Tyler, which is fairly forced and awkward since he simply hadn't been around or an active part in any of their lives in quite a while.  It's not as weird as Matt suddenly being everyone's bestie/shoulder to cry on after totally hating on vampires all last season, but there we are.  

At the weird burial service for Tyler, Damon showed up with nice fresh graves dug for his old frenemies and a vendetta to monologue about.  He's just got to make his pals hate him, no matter what it takes, because Sybil demands it and he has long since given up fighting her will.  So just in case killing Tyler wasn't enough to ensure his being blackballed from the scooby society, Damon also fed Matt vamp blood and suggests killing him but doesn't really.  (Killing Tyler was just fine, but not Matt?  Really, Damon?  Scrambled priorities much?)

Actually in this episode, Damon's humanity started struggling to resurface.  Through a haze of confusion, the good in Damon was really trying to get out and flip that switch back, but Sybil was just as determined to prevent this.  Meanwhile, Stefan decided that enough was enough and came to the logical conclusion that Damon must simply be daggered until the gang could find a real solution to his predicament.  How else to protect everyone around Damon while also preserving his beautiful sarcastic face before someone is forced to kill him in self defense?  I'm totally with Stefan here.  
We learned from a note he left that Tyler was looking for the sirens (random) and had a photo of Seline.  If only the gang could connect the dots and realize that Seline the Siren is actually Caroline and Ric's nanny.  Well, Matt did, but not until the end of the episode, when Seline had already kidnapped Josie and Lizzie and hit the road to bring them to Cade.

Damon and Stefan had another, somewhat repetitive of previous episodes confrontation, but this time, Damon was a tad more vulnerable, though he still couldn't turn his humanity back on.   Therefore, Caroline helped out after being supposedly sidelined by Stefan and shot Damon down so they can put him in a nice, comfy coffin for a while.  Well done, Caroline.
Since I loved the plan of taking Damon out of commission so we could have a break from his awful, whining, character-assassinating ways for a while until we can get the real Damon back, of course this was doomed to be ruined.  Sure enough, Sybil freed Damon so he can get back to slowly, dumbly scheming to save his own skin from hell at any cost and screwing his friends over and generally acting in a wimpy, un-Damon manner that's enough to drive any fan of his character nuts. 

Saving graces?  Well...I did enjoy the Bonnie/Enzo scenes in the episode.  To get Enzo to turn his humanity back on, Bonnie set the cabin on fire and vowed to stay with him whether or not he flipped his switch back because she will never abandon him.  Since Bonnie successfully identified Enzo's achilles heel as fear of abandonment, this worked out great, though she very easily could have paid with her life.  These two continue to play so beautifully off one another and have the fantastic chemistry to make melodramatic, sweeping scenes like this come off brilliantly.

"Detoured on Some Random Backwoods Path to Hell"

Despite the "one step forward, eight hundred steps back" plotting of the previous episode, it was practically a classic from season 2 compared to the onslaught of depressing misery and head-scratching developments unfurled in this next one.  Where to begin?  Hmm, how about

The depressing Steroline part of the episode: First, Caroline gave Stefan her engagement ring back because in order to protect her girls, she just might have to kill Damon.  So she couldn't have any connections to Stefan at this time; she was all about being that mama bear on a rampage.  I totally get her no holds barred insistence on getting those girls back at any cost, and I admire her badass determination mixed with heartbreak that was on display and beautifully portrayed by Candice King thoughout the episode.  But giving the ring back seemed a step too far into unnecessarily maudlin territory.  Alas, we'd only just begun.

Stefan, who was really sweet and heroic in this installment amidst an impossible situation, first had to help Enzo break away from Sybil's evil subconscious torture, which he pulled off brilliantly.  Then he had to confront Damon again and hear his brother's totally nuts latest scheme: to escape from Hell, Stefan and Damon will become Cade's new servants and the Sybil/Seline nightmare team will go into retirement.  While Damon only really seems concerned about saving himself (I'd love to think some tiny remnant of the real Damon was looking out for the girls, but I'm a little numb to it at this point), Stefan realized that if he sacrificed himself, Lizzie and Josie would be free.  The trick would be to convince Cade, a bland, British accented villain because of course he is, to take Sybil's offer of the Salvatore bros over Selene's offer to have the little girls be the new Sirens-in-training.
Luckily, Cade did choose Stefan and Damon, allowing the girls to return to their traumatized parents and follow-up exams at the armory to make sure they are okay.  Unluckily for Steroline, this pretty much cancels the #JuneWedding.  Stefan told Caroline all about his new fate, with her shocked and horrified to hear that he only has one day left of freedom before his servitude to Cade begins.  But at least Caroline still has the girls and her comforting co-parenting relationship with Alaric to lean on, right?  Hahahaha!  Not so fast.  Let's discuss...

The Depressing Caroline and Alaric part of the episode!  Alaric was understandably totally insane with worry when the girls were kidnapped, knowing he had allowed Seline to be around them all that time without ever suspecting who she was.  Even though no one could have possibly figured Seline's identity out at first, Ric's terrible frustration is completely relatable.  Unfortunately, things took an especially rough turn, even for this episode, when at a stress-induced breaking point, Alaric vowed to take the twins away once they get them back, away from Caroline, who -- as a vampire -- seems to bring darkness with her wherever she goes.  As the cherry on top of the cruel tirade sundae, Ric also mentioned that Josie and Lizzie aren't really Caroline's -- they are his and Jo's.  The word "ouch" is weak in this context.

One of the best parts of Season 8 has been the increased involvement of Alaric in the storylines.  So it's particularly painful to have a bleak scene like this come up where he said such harsh and unforgettable words when Caroline was feeling every bit as panicked and guilt-ridden as he was.

I am glad that by the end of the episode, Alaric apologized for his rant, and Matt Davis did a fabulous job in that scene.  Unfortunately (which is the watch-word for this episode), he had managed to convince Caroline that Lizzie and Josie should go away with Alaric for their own safety.

How is what happened to the girls Caroline's fault any more than anyone else's whose name is not Seline, Sybil, or Damon (in thrall of Sybil)?  What?

The simple reason for this development is that we just needed a little more misery.  Apparently, writers, apparently.

Having said all of that, a definite silver lining of this episode was Caroline's speech to Alaric telling him not to ever, ever say she is not the girls' mother again.  It was awesome and well-deserved.

Oh, wait, we are so not done yet.  It's time for...

The Depressing Cliffhanger Ending of the Episode!  Yay!  Since Matt, who was actually pretty decent (for Matt) in the earlier scenes when Stefan and Bonnie were trying to save Enzo, had decided to be Alaric's new b.f.f. as well, we got a last scene where he and Ric trap Damon.  After savagely beating his erstwhile actual best friend, Alaric prepared to stab Damon while telling him "this is for Tyler."  Really?  Because I thought it was mostly for Damon's involvement with the sirens, who kidnapped Lizzie and Josie, but okay.  Needless to say, this ending fell flat for me.  But it was really miserable, so at least we had that.

But at least there's Bonenzo.  We got some adorable and romantic Bonnie and Enzo scenes in this episode which couldn't even come close to offsetting how sad everything else was, but the scenes were still quite lovely.

Another saving grace?  I'm increasingly starting to like Sybil a bit.  Sure, the writers undercut her progress and steps towards becoming a more redeemable frenemy-type character at every turn -- like having her horrifically torture Enzo while simultaneously awesomely snipe at Selene.  I would expect nothing less based on the way things have been going.  But really, Nathalie Kelley brings an edge and a multi-layered performance to the role that, while she is a guilty pleasure sort of character, puts her miles ahead of Seline and Cade as far as this season's new villains go.
Overall thoughts: I know I almost completely crashed and burned at trying not to be overly negative here, but I still think the writers can retrieve this situation -- and they had better -- in the remaining episodes of this final season.  Last season, around the same exact time, the writing also seemed to hit some skids as we went off on a dull, Julian-centric tangent that never really clicked or led much of anywhere.  And the back half of Season 7 was by and large very good.  So I feel that there is reason to hope.

Where is all of this plotting actually going?  I continue to theorize that all of the characters we've seen die and presumably be sent to hell for killing others -- Damon, Tyler, Georgie -- will come back.  Are we going to see Hell and are our heroes going to save the unfairly condemned souls and defeat Cade?  This is my hope.

It's also so far past time for Damon to be Damon again that it hardly bears repeating.  Let's hope that he can actually be there for the rest of the episodes in the final season.  And Bonnie needs her powers back!  Have I mentioned?  

What did you think of these episodes?  Share your thoughts in the comments!  Advanced apologies if I was overly hard on them.  Tough love, people.  Be sure to catch an all-new The Vampire Diaries, Friday at 8/7c on The CW.