Sometimes, like I’ve done with the last few episodes, it’s interesting to talk about some of the emotional states of characters, trust and all that nonsense. But when The Vampire Diaries gives us an episode like “The Dinner Party” it’s hard not to just pump my fist with adrenaline-boosted excitement. This episode is jam-packed full of plot, which means it presents The Vampire Diaries at its best. I had to check the time remaining on my DVR two or three times because I thought certain developments were the week’s cliffhanger. Fortunately, each time I was wrong and the episode just kept going and kept smacking me in the face with its greatness.
It’s kind of weird that this episode was heavily marketed as another “big” flashback episode, because although another step into Stefan’s past did play a role here, it was far from the most interesting or exciting part of the episode. I assume those fancy flashback episodes appeal more than “Next week: Adult dinner party!,” even if I’m not really sure that should be true. In any event, while Stefan and Elena dealt with his flashback’d guilt and recovery, Damon and Alaric plotted to bring down Elijah. And because Damon and Alaric are a fantastic pairing who could most certainly sustain their own spin-off, that makes the primary narrative of this episode thrilling, kick-ass and sometimes a bit humorous as well.
One of the things Diaries does really well that doesn’t get talked a lot about is how seamlessly it seems to be able to build on its current MacGuffins with new twists or straight-up new MacGuffins. This season has transitioned from the moonstone to the dagger without making too much of a fuss and when Elena is able to discover a crap-load of new information about the dagger so that Stefan can then relay it to Damon and Alaric at the party, it doesn’t seem as obvious as it might on other series. The writers have done a good job of building up the world, the mythology and the overall structure of the series, so when characters discover new wrinkles to a big plot device every two episodes, it doesn’t feel like things are purposefully being stalled or manipulated, it’s just the crazy world these characters live in. No one has all the knowledge and with the rich diegetic history, it’s really easy to pull out something that they don’t know and it makes the history appear to be even more rich when it’s really just heavy lifting for the plot.
In any event, there were a lot of welcome developments in this episode. Even though it’s only been around for a few episodes, I was ready for something to happen with the dagger apart from Damon pulling it out every episode and re-explaining its whole purpose to a new character. Similarly, though I think Daniel Gillies has done some interesting and charming work as Elijah thus far, I’d grown just a bit tired of the repetitive conversations he’d been having with Damon about how he could snap his neck at any moment, the deal with Elena, etc. And finally, I’ve been complaining all season about how the writers haven’t really figured out what to do with Alaric in season two.
THANKFULLY, “The Dinner Party” solves every single one of these somewhat annoying issues by wrapping them all together in one hell of a story. Elijah’s infiltration into the town and into Jenna’s life added a new dimension to the character, simultaneously humanizing him and making him more deadly and cunning. Gillies plays the character even better when he’s being sly and charming to the non-suspecting people and there’s a lot of that in the firs the first half of this episode. Of course, Elijah’s burgeoning relationship with Jenna finally gives Alaric more to do than just lie to her or hang out with Damon and by the time everyone figures out that a vampire can’t use the dagger to kill an Original, Alaric finally grabs hold of the situation, surprisingly “killing” Elijah himself. I like Matt Davis and he’s been fine in the more normal version of Alaric, but seeing up snap back into kick-ass vampire mode while still trying to cover his tracks with Jenna was fantastic.
Of course, this is The Vampire Diaries and when someone dies, they rarely stay dead, though I think Alaric might have the record for on-screen resurrection. Turns out, an Original doesn’t stay dead unless you keep the danger in them, which is detail Elena and Stefan discovered too late. Well, initially too late.
What I really liked about Elijah’s death and quick return is that it wasn’t all for not, the episode really made sure that this major screw-up had an impact on the characters. Because of Damon and Alaric’s hasty plan, Bonnie loses her powers and for a second there, it looked like Elijah was ready to rip everyone apart and let Elena stab herself in the stomach so that she’d just die. It would have been really easy to kill Elijah, bring him back and then kill him again without much impact, but these writers are smarter than that. This might be a soap opera with vampires, but it’s a pretty darn smart one at that.
Similarly, when Elijah does actually get killed, it dovetails nicely with what seemed to be an isolated story about Stefan’s past. After he spends an hour or two trying to convince Elena not to just give up because there is something worth living for — something she should have already known to begin with — Elena takes more control of the whole situation and concocts a smart plan with the Salvatore brothers to ice Elijah. Sure, it’s still killing a dude, bringing him back to life and then writing in the possibility that he could LITERALLY come back at any moment — why don’t they bury him again? — but again, it’s a smart way to approach that goofy structure and cash in on a little character moment.
Those are the kind of things that make The Vampire Diaries so great in the first place.
- This episode wasn’t subtle about how it was moving away from the werewolves for awhile, but I hope that doesn’t mean we’ll be without Tyler until the finale. That’d be unfortunate.
- “Party” also featured no Caroline, which always, always makes me sad.
- Oh yeah, Katherine is now out of the tomb. I’m willing to reserve judgment on what’s going to happen with her now, but I liked her much better locked up in the tomb. Dobrev does nice work in the dual roles, I just don’t find the character that interesting. I get it, you continuously switch allegiances.
- The flashback stuff doesn’t do a whole lot for me anymore because it’s so predicated on flipping the roles between Stefan and Damon that it’s not really shocking anymore. They were well done again here, but it’s just lost some of the luster. It happens.