The Vampire Diaries 4.19 "Pictures Of You" REVIEW

TV REVIEW The face of the enemy

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The Vampire Diaries 4.19 “Pictures Of You” TV REVIEW

Episode 4.19
Writers: Caroline Dries & Neil Reynolds
Director: J Miller Tobin

THE ONE WHERE Elena is resistant to all attempts to dehumanise her, and decides the best way to defeat Silas is to kill Bonnie. Rebekah tries to spend a day as a human to prove to Elijah that she should have the cure. Klaus sneers a lot and tricks everybody.

VERDICT If, a couple of years back someone had told that one day, the best thing about an episode of The Vampire Diaries would be Elena, you would probably have told them to get real. But after two episodes in a row where Elena has been by far the best reason to watch the show, you may have to dig into that humble pie.

The catch is, of course, that while watching off-switch Elena‘s cut a bitchy swathe through Mystic Falls is great fun, she hasn’t exactly got much competition in the screen-hogging department at the moment. The Silas plot has been dragging on so long now, you wish somebody would flush the bloody cure down the loo just to piss him off. Similarly, Bonnie’s transformation into Dark Willow lost momentum episodes back, while Stefan and Damon seem to reverting to stroppy jealous brothers mode. And the whole “Rebekah tries to be human” plot is so woefully contrived and unsubtle (lesson: never rely on Matt to be the moral compass in a plotline, because his needle points due snore-th) it’s slightly embarrassing to watch. Shame, really, because Rebekah has had some great episodes recently.

All of which means there’s a irony at the heart of the show at the moment. Off-switch Elena is such a great, watchable character you don’t want her to change back. She’s steadfastly – and refreshingly – refusing to adhere to that old scriptwriter’s cliché that love conquers all (thank God, because it doesn’t). She’s outraging her old friends by casually mentioning she hopes that Jeremy stays dead (“Can you imagine if my brother came back to the living? He'd spend every waking hour trying to get my humanity back."). And she’s developing a great line in put downs (“I thought you were going to bring Jeremy back,” she tells Bonnie, “but it turned out you were just a brainwashed crazy person. So technically, you’re a walking reminder of all the horrible things that have happened to me.”) By the time she decides that her best course of action is killing Bonnie you half hope she might succeed.

But the dramatic engine of the show means the Salvatore’s have to keep trying to find ways to bring back drippy old Elena. Giving up would change the show into something else entirely. Arguably after four years that might be a good thing, but can you really see that happening? Elena as the new Katherine for the next four or five years? Damon and Stefan hanging around as damage limitation safeguards? It’s not going to happen. The ’shippers would melt the internet.

Luckily the writers have found a way out that’s not too cheesy and quite logical. Plan C: scare Elena back to humanity. Bonnie could kill her if she remains a monster; to save herself and to regain her friend’s trust she’ll have to let all those feelings flood back. Expect lots of tears, but at least it won’t end with a soppy kiss. Hopefully.

Aside from Elena, only Klaus and Elijah really make any impact, Klaus because of his devious trick to get Silas the cure, and Elijah because of his marvelously understated rebuttals to Klaus’s over-the-top rants: “It’s such a hollow little life that you lead, Niklaus.”

Another episode with great moments of bitchiness, then, but not an awful lot else.

GRATUITOUS SHIRTLESS SCENES Erm, none. Wonder if that explains the following?

RATINGS At time of writing this was the least-viewed episode of The Vampire Diaries ever in the USA with just 2.14 million viewers tuning in live. However, the show is also becoming one of the CW’s biggest hits on internet services like Hula . All this will sound very familiar to Doctor Who fans…

KLAUS MUG SHOT OF THE WEEK We couldn’t decide between these two, so let us know which one you would have voted for. Both classic Klaus-faces, though.

BUDGET BUSTING It’s not ever made clear exactly who’s paying for this Friends’ Ball event, but they must have cash to burn if all those flat screen TVs are anything to go by. It a pure “TV idea" – something the scriptwriters think is cool, but you’d only usually get at posh Hollywood parties, not in small town America.

SPORTS REPORT Damon and Stefan seem to practicing for a new Olympic Sport – Exposition Ball. Each player has to catch the ball in turn, then tell their opponent something their opponent already knows but which the spectators may not if they didn’t watch the last match, before throwing the ball back to the opponent who must then do the same thing. This carries on until one of the player accidentally says something interesting. (Still, it beat the old Vampire Diaries mobile phone manoeuvre.)

VICTIM APRIL When he first appeared way back in the early years of Buffy The Vampire Slayer , Jonathan was nicknamed “Victim Johnny” by fans, because that seemed to be his main function in any episode. In which case, we’re rechristening April as Victim April for the same reason. Although you suspect the writers of The Vampire Diaries aren’t being quite so tongue-in-cheek as the writers of Buffy ; April is just a useful storytelling tool. It’d be nice to see her finally go postal soon, though…

MUSICAL MISFIRE Any plus points for naming an episode after a song by The Cure are taken away for using a drippy cover version on the soundtrack instead. The music karma quotient falls further into deficit for the dreadful track underpinning Stefan’s failed attempt to seduce off-switch-Elena. It’s actually quite a well-written, well-acted little scene, full of nuances and knowing longueurs… or it would be if it wasn’t drowned by some atonal warbling.

KLAUS READS HIS NEW CONTACT That letter from Katherine setting up the spin-off must rate as the most unimaginative way to introduce a major new plot line ever. “Go to New Orleans to discover something new…”

Matt: “We want to help you.”
Elena: “What are you going to do? Get me a job at the Grill?”

Dave Golder

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

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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.