The Vampire Diaries 4.15 “Stand By Me” TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writer: Julie Plec
Director: Lance Anderson
THE ONE WHERE Elena finally accepts that Jeremy is dead but doesn’t react well, so Damon turns her humanity off and she burns the house down. Oh, and Bonnie acts like a tit…
VERDICT Anyone else reminded of Buffy ’s “The Body”? It’s difficult not to recall Whedon’s uncompromisingly raw slice of melancholia, as both that and this episode deal with central characters having to come to terms with a loved one’s death, and not sugar coating the emotional turmoil. And while “Stand By Me” isn’t quite on the same level, it comes close on occasion, with scene of aching honesty as Elena’s self denial gives way to hysterical acceptance, and lines like, “How long has he smelled like that?” laced with both pathos and black humour.
“Stand by Me” isn’t quite a xerox. That’s partly because it doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions and continues to peddle some ripe old Vampire Diaries tropes when it may have done better laying aside the usual overwrought plotting for a week and concentrating on everyone’s reactions to Jeremy’s death alone (more on this in a while). But “Stand By Me” also has something new to offer. This isn’t just a story of coming to terms with the death of someone close; it’s more like a relative who can’t bear to let the doctors flip the off switch on a love-one’s respirator, even though it’s the only thing keeping them alive and they will never wake up. It’s about hope giving way to reality.
There’s some great acting, especially from Nina Dobrev who is more believable and sympathetic here than she’s been for quite some while. Her breakdown is harrowing to watch but not over-the-top (unlike Zach Roerig – Matt – who looks like he’s about to give birth to a chestburster). The moment she finally admits to herself, and the outside world, that Jeremy is dead (when she answers the phone to April, saying, “Jeremy can’t come to the phone right now. He’s not… I’m sorry. He’s dead”) is perfectly written and performed (though you have to feel sorry for April, reduced to the role of catalyst).
Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder are as reliable as ever; indeed, Wesley’s understated approach works perfectly here, particularly in moment when he can’t put into words what he wants to say to his brother.(opens in new tab)
(And is it too cruel to say that this is the best performance we’ve yet seem from Steven R McQueen?)
Bringing back Meredith to deliver brutally honest lines like, “If he’s left unattended soon he’ll start to bloat… his skin will discolour,” adds to the power of the episode too, ramming home that this isn’t just another of those temporary deaths so prevalent in telefantasy. The episode is at pains to say, “THIS IS IT!” to such a degree that if they ever do resurrect Jeremy, that’ll be all credibility points for the show flushed down the toilet.(opens in new tab)
The ending, with Damon switching off Elena’s humanity so that she can cope, is bold move, too, which opens up all kinds of exciting dramatic possibilities. And burning down the house, eh? Well, Elena’s succeeded where Klaus and Kol only got as far as threats. It’s exciting, gamechanging stuff. Let’s hope the show capitalises on it.
That’s the good stuff. And it’s so good you can largely ignore where the episode goes a bit wonky. But sadly not entirely. The Bonnie/Silas/Shane plot is so convoluted, exposition-heavy and reliant on Bonnie acting like a total bubble-head, it threatens to implode into a melodramatic black hole. From what we’ve been shown it’s impossible to believe Bonnie would agree to Silas’s grand plan; she would have the same objections as everybody else to a) killing more people and b) bringing back to life every supernatural monster that ever existed. Maybe we’re supposed to believe her Expression magic is clouding her judgement, but if so, it hasn’t been made obvious enough on screen. Prior to this episode she’s just seemed a little out-of-control on occasional, not totally delusional. One vision of Jeremy lying dead hardly seem motive enough to send her nutzoid. Hell, Elena had the real Jeremy lying dead in front of her and she said no to mass supernatural resurrection.
Sorry, we’re just not buying this conversion to the Dark Side. Unless it’s all a double bluff. Cross your fingers.(opens in new tab)
INAPPROPRIATE JOKE OF THE WEEK (THAT WE KNOW SOMEONE WOULD HAVE USED IN COUCH POTATO): Altogether now, “There’s some body at the door…!”(opens in new tab)
CAN YOU HEAR ME OVER THE TRICKLE OFF WATER? Are we really to believe that Stefan thinks that a bit of running water will – ahem – drown out his and Caroline’s conversation? It clearly doesn’t work, anyway, as Elena interrupts them. Then again, in some crypto-mythologies, supernatural creatures (or, indeed, magic) can’t cross running water, so maybe running water also acts as some kind of vampire white noise.(opens in new tab)
GIVE US A RING Writer/exec producer has said in interviews that there is no significance to the fact that Elena threw Jeremy’s resurrection ring to Damon. She just had to throw it somewhere.(opens in new tab)
WORST INSURANCE CLAIM SCAM OF THE WEEK Well, okay, they probably aren’t going to claim on the insurance, but they do want people to think that Jeremy died in an accidental house fire, so wandering casually out of the front door might look more than a little bit suspicious. And let’s hope CSI Mystic Falls is staffed by the dimmest forensics team ever.
TRIVIA Jeremy is the fourth main character to be killed off, following Vicki, Jenna and Alaric.
TRIVIA This is Meredith's first appearance since “The Rager” (season four, episode three). We’d actually forgotten all about her.(opens in new tab)
Rebekah: “He’s right, We can’t kill you. But that doesn’t mean we can’t tear him apart piece by piece, nerve by nerve, until the pain is so severe your brain shuts it off to give you one tiny moment of blessed relief. And then we’ll heal you and do it again, and again and again.”
You also have to love Damon’s admiring reaction:(opens in new tab)
New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four air in the UK on ITV2