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TV Diary | The Vampire Diaries: “Bringing Out The Dead”

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TV Diary | The Vampire Diaries – Episode 3.13 – “Bringing Out The Dead” – Original Airdate: 2/2/12

Episode Grade: B+

You have to admire a show’s willingness to blow up its status quo in its 13th episode of the season, which is most certainly what The Vampire Diaries did with “Bringing Out The Dead.” Death and family were a clear theme of this installment, with the return of Klaus’s family – and their propensity to alternately punish and forgive him – being the biggest seismic shift. The entire third season has thus far been built around the conflict between Klaus and Stefan, which lately largely focused on Stefan’s decision to hold the bodies of Klaus’s slumbering family members ransom, and “Bringing Out The Dead” seemed to put that on hold, at least for the time being. Instead, TVD shifted focus to the return of Elijah, the undaggering of Rebekah and two of Klaus’s heretofore unseen brothers (Kol and Finn) and in the episode’s biggest reveal, the contents of the mystery coffin which were shown to be Klaus’s presumed-dead mother Esther. Whereas for much of this season, Stefan has been in conflict with just one Original, he – and by extension everyone else on the show – now has a whole family of them to deal with. Their next move is unclear, beyond Esther’s assertion that she wants to be a family again, but certainly a group of Originals lurking around Mystic Falls can’t be anything but a bad thing for the town, particularly when one is as megalomaniacal as Klaus. On most shows, the writers would have been content to drag out the reunion of the family until the season’s finale, but not here. Not on TVD, a show that burns through plot like most people run through socks. And there’s something admirable in that, in the desire to keep its audience from getting bored and complacent. While the show’s fearlessness in blowing things up is to be commended, “Bringing Out The Dead” was not without some concern going forward. Without question, death as a theme and as a plot device was prevalent in “Bringing Out The Dead,” but I’m experiencing some growing trepidation about how often the show uses the fake death as a swerve. To my mind, one of the biggest problems that Heroes and, to a lesser degree, 24 had during their runs was the overuse of the fakeout death. It was a cheap ploy to create an emotional and dramatic moment without having to deal with the fallout of said death. In my opinion, it’s a large part of what doomed both shows late in their respective runs and I’m starting to worry that TVD is beginning to draw from that well too often. In some respects, I realize that’s a strange concern to raise when talking about a show that’s largely about the undead and I also realize that TVD does have certain rules in place [1] to explain some of these situations away but, honestly, how many times has Alaric actually “died” this season already? Three? Four? When a show starts playing with its audience’s perceptions like this, it only succeeds in breaking the trust the audience developed in the show over time. What happens if TVD actually does decide to eventually pull the plug on Alaric? When/if that time comes, why should the audience trust the finality of it if it actually does happen when all past evidence is to the contrary? I don’t think it’s a full-blown problem yet, but TVD is definitely skirting the line. Even as I had some reservations, Alaric’s situation in “Bringing Out The Dead” did create some strong dramatic moments for Elena [2] and dovetailed nicely with a death that did actually stick – Bill Forbes’ at the hand of an unseen assailant, presumably the same one who struck Alaric. And since Forbes initially “died” with vampire blood in his system thanks to Dr. Fell’s unorthodox treatments, he came back as a vampire [3] in a transition state, though due to his beliefs on vampires he refused to completely go through with the change and thus condemned himself to death despite Caroline’s protestations. It gave Jack Coleman a nice character-based send-off from the show – even as we’d only just met him – while giving Candice Accola a nice emotional showcase in realizing that her father was leaving for good and that she had to let him go. “Bringing Out The Dead” – in large part because of its audacity and willingness to look into the face of death – was a strong episode that seemed to hit the reset button for the rest of the season while raising some intriguing questions for the show to focus on in its remaining nine episodes.

[1] Such as the rings that both Alaric and Jeremy wear that protect them from death by supernatural means.
[2] Particularly when she and Matt found Alaric stabbed and bleeding to death in the hallway of her home, and then was forced to stab him herself since, as a doppelganger, she was technically a supernatural being thus death at her hand wouldn’t stick. It also went a long way towards solidifying Alaric’s newfound role as her de facto father.
[3] Which, frankly, came as a nice little surprise. I’d initially forgotten about how he’d been healed so his jumping back to life was a nice little surprise, albeit a short one.

*I’m definitely more interested right now in the identity of the mystery assailant who attacked Alaric and killed the medical examiner and Bill Forbes. There’s nothing like an unseen killer to pique interest and, honestly? I have no clue as to who it could be – the obvious choice is Dr. Fell but she seems a little TOO obvious, while Damon and Tyler have also been floated which makes me doubt that it’s any of those three – but I’m sure that TVD’s writers will make it make perfect sense before the story comes to its conclusion. They’ve earned that faith.
*The AV Club’s Carrie Raisler raised a very good point in her review of “Bringing Out The Dead”: The writers painted Elijah here in such a way that he could have sided with either Klaus or Damon in Klaus’s war with Stefan and it wouldn’t have felt like a cheat. That’s what a good writing staff can do for you.
*That Klaus and Elijah were both in love with the original Petrova and that she was the impetus for their being turned into vampires by their mother was a nice little revelation that shows that everything is circular and connected on TVD.
*I wonder when it’s going to get to the point that Bonnie’s going to need to go. Again, I really had trouble caring at all about the Bonnie/Abby material here, which is a result of the character being underserved for so long. It’s not like the show hasn’t taken a neglected character and made them interesting before – hello, Caroline’s season two vampire makeover – but whatever they’re doing right now isn’t working. And I wonder if anything really ever will. Might be soon time to cut the dead weight.
*I’m a sucker for meta material in the series that I watch so naturally I loved Elena’s comment that she didn’t think that Dr. Fell could be a psycho killer because she “refused to believe that (Alaric’s) luck was that tragic.” Ha.
*”Easy… I just finished renovating.”
*”You’re on speakerphone, dick.”
*”Have you asked Damon if he’s killed anyone lately?”
*”One more word about Elena and this dinner is over.”
*”Gentlemen… the worst thing for Elena Gilbert is the two of you.”
*”This is life. This is what it means to be human.”
*Episode embedded below via Hulu, as usual.


Written by jeremylikestv

February 14, 2012 at 11:00 am

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