The Vampire Diaries 4.18 "American Gothic" REVIEW

TV REVIEW Bitch, bitch, bitch

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

The Vampire Diaries 4.18 “American Gothic” TV REVIEW

Episode 4.18
Writers: Evan Bleiweiss, Jose Molina
Director: Kellie Cyrus

THE ONE WHERE Everybody converges on the small Pennsylvanian town where Katherine has been hiding out. Klaus thinks he has a white oak stake in his back, and asks Caroline to yank it out with a pair of secateurs, otherwise he’ll overact everyone to death.

VERDICT Despite a great teaser sequence, a high quotient of deliciously bitchy dialogue, a memorable stabbing-by-cutlery moment and the entertainingly catty first encounter between Katherine and off-switch Elena, “American Gothic” never quite manages to escape the fact that it’s very talky, very soapy, and the overall season arc plot inches on only glacially over the course its 45 minutes.

There’s an awful lot of water treading going on, even with Katherine added to the mix. While it’s a great shock to see Elena casually kill off a waitress at the end of the episode just to prove a point, the cyclical bickering both she and we have had to put up with from Stefan and Damon means you certainly empathise with her. Elijah turns up – which is a nice surprise – but then instantly turns on Katherine because… well, she’s been acting like Katherine. Surely he knew what he was getting into? Motivations here are difficult to grasp. You just have to go with the flow, even if the flow is turning into emotional white water.

Meanwhile Klaus and Caroline have another series of will-they/won’t-they shenanigans which would be getting tedious by now even if we didn’t know that Klaus is destined for spin-off-ville without Caroline, so we know the relationship is going nowhere. Yeah, sure, it’s fun watching Caroline dig inside Klaus’s seeping wound with a pair or garden secateurs, but the “you love me because I’m naughty” shtick is wearing very thin, and the “Oh, you took my mind off the non-existent stake in my back so it’s vanished” resolution is so trite Joseph Morgan looks faintly embarrassed delivering the line.

What saves the episode is the bitchiness, and Nina Dobrev is learly having a whale of a time playing Elena and Katherine in a unique and malicious game of one-upvampship. Cleverly she’s not portraying off-switch Elena as a simple mirror of Katherine and is delineating between the two with deft skill. This is Dobrev’s episode and she grabs the opportunity with gusto. Thank God she does.

TRIVIA Amazingly, this is the first episode in which Katherine and Elena have had scenes together since season two’s “As I Lay Dying” (not counting the hallucinations in “We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes”).

SHIRTLESS From his first appearance four minutes in, Klaus spends most of rest of the episode shirtless, presumably because he doesn’t want to get blood over all his clothes. The really unusual thing about the picture above, though, is that Klaus’s painting isn’t completely crap.

KLAUS EXPRESSION OF THE WEEK As he writhed in agony from the (imaginary) white oak stake, we had so many expressions to choose from, but this was a stand-out.

MEMORIES CHEAT The excellent teaser features Rebekah and Elena coming across a woman compelled by Katherine not to remember Katherine unless she’s actually talking to Katherine (or thinks that she’s talking to Katherine in the case of her doppelganger, Elena). The scene with her memories switching on and off as she talks to Elena then Rebekah is very spooky, and slightly Philip K Dick in concept. It makes you wonder if the show could make more of how compulsion messes with people’s minds. What would happen if two different vampires compelled the same person to do conflicting things? What about an episode from the point of view of someone who’s been compelled trying to make sense of holes in their perception?

TOO MUCH INFORMATION Katherine: "Oh, and when I say friend… I mean, 'friend'.” Everyone else: “Eeeee-eewwww!” Classic moment.

BEST LINES: It’s bitch bitch this week and here are some of our favourites

Rebekah: “I want a normal life again.”
Katherine: “You mean a do-over? Well guess what. You can’t have it. The cure will only take away your immortality. Everything else you hate about yourself? You’ll still wake up with that in the morning. And you won’t even be able to compel yourself a friend.”

Damon (about Katherine’s house): “Wow, a quilt and a fish aquarium. Who the hell are you?”
Rebekah: "A very old lady with dreadful taste.”

And best of all…

Katherine: “You don’t know Katherine at all. Did it ever occur to you that you have no idea who I really am?”
Damon: “Did it ever occur to you that you’re not that deep?”

Dave Golder

New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four air in the UK on ITV2

• Read more of our reviews for The Vampire Diaries season four
• Need to find an episode review? Check out our new TV Reviews Index

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.