The Vampire Diaries Season 7 Episode 17 – TV Review
So you’re telling me that an episode not featuring all the tacked-on bullshit of this season, and pared back to mostly Damon and Stefan, is one of its best (not that it’s saying much)?
I wish TVD had figured that out sixteen episodes ago.
TL;DR Damon leads a frenzied journey to rescue a returned-to-reality Stefan; Stefan’s body is inhabited by a prolific serial killer vampire and slips away; Rayna evades the gang to go off and re-kill all the vampires now free from the Phoenix Stone; with most of the Heretics dead, the Phoenix Stone gone, and no Armory intrusions, the episode can actually breathe.
I can’t say I much missed Caroline’s presence, either.
So yeah, the lesbian vampires killed the Phoenix Stone. But all hope for Stefan is not lost, as Rayna informs Ginger that the vampires inside the stone aren’t gone: they’ve all hopped into the nearest available just-dead body. Stefan’s body is now inhabited by a vampire who isn’t Stefan, and Real Stefan has found himself in the body of a drunken bus driver who just caused a crash. Initially thinking it’s another iteration of Phoenix Stone Hell, Stefan soon figures out what’s what and flees into the wilderness. But if the cops don’t catch him, the DTs and an oncoming blizzard will. Or he’ll just break down and die like “Jo” did. Ginger, also calling upon Alaric for aid, helps Rayna use her connection to the vampires to track Stefan, and Damon puts pedal to the metal to reach him in time. “Stefan,” meanwhile, realises his time masquerading as Stefan is up and flees from Damon. Ginger and Alaric are left to chase “Stefan,” while Damon races the clock to save his brother. Damon does, and the episode ends as “Stefan,” with Ginger, Alaric, and Rayna, who vows to continue her mission to kill all the vampires, hot on his heels, returns to his old stomping grounds: he’s a college serial killer.
Is there really any pride in being a serial killer when you’re a vampire, though?
I’m surprised by how much I appreciated the stripped-back nature of the episode. Season 7 has been marred by the truckloads of new, thinly written characters chucked in to help distract from the fact that The Vampire Diaries is hobbling forward into a way, way post-script era, and without its lead actress.
And with Elena out, the core relationship left is the one between Stefan and Damon. I was irritated when the Phoenix Stone beat into Stefan’s head that Damon’s no good for him. Because that ground has been well and truly covered.
But TVD takes a page from the ever-successful The Originals playbook of brotherly relationships, and has Damon put aside his selfishness to save his brother. That’s a well that I won’t tire of them returning to.
Until I do. Because I’m fickle.
Why I hate this episode:
I’m glad to say that there are no big issues this week. So prepare for nitpicking.
Ginger is the last remaining Spice Girl, and I threatened to name upgrade her. But I won’t, yet. Because she’s such a shell of a character. She serves only two purposes as of this episode: 1) an obligatory new love interest for Stefan, and a mightily shallow one at that; and 2) to do magic whenever Bonnie’s not around. The pairing of her and Alaric is so arbitrary that the show barely makes the effort to justify it. “Oh, Jo’s body was inhabited by a Phoenix Stone vampire soul, so I’ll bring Rayna to you because…?”
Maybe she thought Caroline would be there? But why would Ginger want to do an Awkwardness Tour with Stefan’s ex-girlfriend and her new man and babies?
If Stefan’s life is no longer linked to Rayna, why not just kill her?
Oh, and Stefan decides sitting outside in the cold is the best way to endure a blizzard. I’m not sure being in the cab of his stolen ute would be much better, but at least it would reduce the shredding wind, right?
But it’s not all bad:
For a handcuffed, detoxing alcoholic, Stefan does an impressive job of literally running away from the police at the scene of the bus crash. And he’s pretty resourceful on the run.
Damon’s race to reach him is the emotional centre of the episode, and it’s that kind of brotherly commitment that TVD needs to focus on to keep this show alive. It has been foolishly relying on Damon’s commitment to Elena, but with Nina Dobrev gone, it has little impact. Yeah, it might turn into a knockoff of The Originals. But The Originals isn’t a bad show to want to imitate.
The highlight of Damon’s journey is the phone call he has to Stefan on the final leg. Stefan is about to die in the cold in the woods, and Damon drives with only a vague idea of where to find him. He tries to keep Stefan warm by encouraging him to get angry at him about what a selfish jerk he is. And Stefan does. Because Damon is. And it works, as Damon manages to recover his brother just in time. So now it’s off to get his body back before this one deteriorates and dies, Jo-style.
Damon’s inserts himself into the police manhunt operation by compelling the man in charge into thinking he’s Matt Donovan, Officer Extraordinaire. I lol’d. And once the witness who Stefan spooked comes along and Damon knows where to find Stefan (he also uses her dropped phone to call him), he sends the authorities in the wrong direction on purpose so they won’t get in the way. Clever.
Rayna doesn’t seem that bothered by vampire Ginger, anymore. So I like her odds of turning into a hero. She is only concerned with re-killing all the vampires released from the Phoenix Stone. As she points out, these aren’t nice, do-gooder vampires (except Stefan, I guess?): they are evil motherfuckers.
Which “Stefan” certainly is. The episode closes as Alaric remembers a story of a vampire mass murderer/serial killer from Memphis, which is where “Stefan” told Damon he was from before he slipped away. Ginger listens in terror, while the scene is intercut with “Stefan” arriving at a frat party and locking the unknowing partygoers inside. Alaric concludes by saying this particular killer didn’t kill his victims himself: he made them kill each other. Cool.
The excision of The Armory, Enzo, Caroline, and Bonnie from this episode was welcome. Matt pops up for a few seconds when he calls Alaric. But Alaric tells him to fuck off because he used Caroline as bait to help Rayna lure in Stefan. Well done.
Oh, and while this episode is a surprising bright spot, Rayna makes sure to visually remind us of what it feels like to watch this season.