'The Vampire Diaries' Review: 'For Whom The Bell Tolls'
The Vampire Diaries excels at moving farewell scenes. Bonnie’s farewell scene is different from other farewell scenes. Kat Graham’s still a regular. Bonnie’s not going anywhere. Death means absolutely nothing on this show. Bonnie means very much to Caroline, Elena, Matt, Jeremy, and old Stefan. Bonnie’s continued presence didn’t affect the scene negatively. I felt nearly as much watching the scene as I felt watching the memorial scene from season four’s “Memorial.” I’ve experienced the death of a friend. Scenes like the penultimate ring-bell for Bonnie scene is a rarity in The Vampire Diaries. The pacing is blistering, the plotting rapid, so scenes of reflection and remembrance happen, but not for 3-5 minutes like tonight. The writing’s really, really moving sometimes.
Remembrance day is being celebrated in Mystic Falls. The townspeople didn’t gather for a party, but they did gather for alcohol and hanging out at the cemeteries. Remembrance day is appropriate for what happens in the episode. Stefan can’t remember his past or the people in his present. Matt can’t remember what happens to him when he passes out. Bonnie’s actually remembered and grieved. The audience remembers that professors are evil in TVD’s Virginia. Memory’s complicated. Remembering is joyful, sad, painful, nostalgic, but it’s usually never easy. Whenever one remembers something happy or sad, one feels a pang. So it is with Stefan. Stefan’s mind was wiped by Quetsyah. His diaries tell him who he is, but he doesn’t feel who he is. Elena reveals she’s with Damon a second before they kiss on a beautiful sun-drenched day. Stefan doesn’t receive the news well.
The fear throughout the episode is Stefan engaging with his Ripper self. Bonnie’s help is essential for Stefan’s well-being and any extra in the episode. Damon distracts Stefan from the hunger with stories of their past. Stefan’s floored by the knowledge he’s killed his own father and ripped through people but a little littering is beyond reproach. Damon shows Stefan a good time. They drink, they crash cars, and Damon introduces him to Elena again. The sparks fly between the old flames. Nina Dobrev’s chemistry with Paul Wesley is amazing. I’d love to read the pages for their trip down memory lane to see how much more Wesley and Dobrev gave the material through their magnetic chemistry. What works for the characters is more than the words on the page, the blocking, and the language. It’s the body language, the expressions on their face, the light and twinkle in their eyes. I get the intoxicating effect of Elena on Stefan and Stefan on Elena because it’s intoxicating watching the two.
Stefan and Elena’s relationship always worked better than Elena and Damon. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” went back to their roots. Elena remembered Stefan bringing her atop a ferris wheel, flying her up actually, the day before the nonsense with Klaus. Elena tried to re-create how they met to help jar Stefan’s memories. Stefan’s memories didn’t jar, but he felt the energy in their connection, the pulse of their blood when together, and felt like he knew why he wasn’t a bad man with her. Elena’s effect on him is tranquil, divine, of the stuff of Elizabethan poets. Pre-amnesia Stefan’s nobility, honor, respect made him respectful of Elena’s choice. Amnesia Stefan thinks the situation sucks, feels lousy, and is completely not okay. His own brother stole his girlfriend. Stefan doesn’t go on a ripper tear. Caroline calms him down with her memories of him resisting the edge. Her memories of his resistance helps him make a healthy choice. He leaves his house, leaves his brother and ex-girlfriend behind, and decides to rely on Caroline. He trusts her. Paul Wesley and Candace Accola are great together too. I don’t like the history of amnesia in television shows. Amnesia’s almost always a bad sign; however, Stefan’s well-adjusted with amnesia. He’s got a backbone. He’s not content being the good guy, the respectful guy. He’s not mean, he’s just not taking it, and he’s letting Damon and Elena know they did wasn’t cool.
Bonnie’s death eliminates her, as of now, as an option for helping return Stefan his memories. I’m sure she will be soon. Next week’s previews indicate a new plan for Bonnie and Stefan, Jeremy’s moment of truth about Bonnie’s a significant moment in the series and the season. Bonnie’s absence shows how essential she is to the group. The writers’ decision to keep her behind the veil and on the other side is very welcome. I didn’t care for Bonnie swearing Jeremy keep her secret. Kat Graham stood around and smiled for three episodes. In this episode, she watched McQueen’s work-out--McQueen’s resembling a Greek warrior now. Magic always annoys me in any genre show. Magic’s a cop-out, a convenience, a deus-ex-machina. I dislike amnesia but I don’t want it resolved with magic. It will be, of course. Magic’s fundamental to the show. Right now, though, the absence of magic is refreshing.
Matt’s storyline won’t disappear like Stefan’s memory. The dude, Gregor, threatened Matt via video camera. Matt set up cameras around his house, all HD. I guess Rebekah and him got a bunch of money during their European vacation (Matt’s got HD cameras). I would’ve loved a scene in which he’s watching Paranormal Activity when the light goes off about doing the same. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” leaves out Silas and Nadia, which was nice after last week’s mythology-heavy and exposition-filled romp.
The title “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is taken from the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same title. Hemingway took ‘for whom the bell tolls’ from a John Donne poem, “Meditation XVII.” Donne composed it while ‘convalescing during a nearly fatal illness.’ Two lines stand out for its possible connection to the episode, specifically the penultimate scene of goodbye and grief for Bonnie. Elena sobs; it hurts her to think why her friend died. Caroline can’t think about what happened to her friend, because she doesn’t want to cry for days. Bonnie, through Jeremy, tells them what she wishes for them: happiness and normalcy. John Donne wrote, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am in involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” I think that was the root of Bonnie’s reluctance to share what happened to her. She didn’t want to see her death diminish her friends; alas, death does diminish.
-How long is Michael Trevino back for? Did he even get a line? His name’s been in the credits. I don’t know. Caroline’s soon-to-be vampire friend got killed by the evil professor. Ah, evil professors.
-TVD’s writers must’ve fallen hard for Orphan Black.
-Damon’s come a long way. He hugged Jeremy instead of killing him. He comforted Elena. He expressed a bit of regret for killing Uncle Zack. Ian Somerhalder’s embrace of Nina in the intense ‘Elena’s freaking and sobbing over Bonnie’ scene was the best hug I’ve seen given on television in 2013.
-Brett Matthews & Elisabeth R. Finch wrote the episode. Michael Allowitz directed it. Fun fact about Brett Matthews: he’s a former assistant of Joss Whedon. Michael Allowitz was the first assistant director for Cruel Intentions!