As Elena’s condition worsens, Stefan and Caroline team up with Enzo and the Travelers to get the cure in return for helping defeat another doppelganger. Meanwhile, Bonnie teaching Liv magic reveals a secret about Liv. Here is a recap and review of the Vampire Diaries episode “While You Were Sleeping.”
Party time. Elena dances on a bar for a sec, then criticizes her friends for not realizing earlier that Katherine impersonated her. But, this scene is only a dream. Elena wakes to find herself sealed in the abandoned dorm during spring break. She feels fine, but Stefan won’t take chances by letting her out. During a flirty phone conversation, Damon, still in the dungeon guarded by Matt and Jeremy, offers to give Elena the deets on Katherine’s activities, but doesn’t get far. Elena demands more than her blood ration, claiming she can handle it. Stefan proves her wrong by biting his wrist, which sends her into scary vamp mode. Upon discovering Katherine’s diary, Elena makes a cleansing bonfire. She envisions Katherine and Stefan’s hotel stop, except this time, Damon’s there scolding Stefan for not seeing through Katherine’s guise.
Seeking the antidote, Caroline and Enzo accidentally meet in Maxfield’s lab. Caroline calls Stefan with bad news: Elena has a different virus, and good news: they can cure it; he just needs to meet her. In an abandoned train yard, they demand the antidote from the Travelers, but this group’s leader, Sloan, reveals that the last pair of doppelgangers won’t have their full power until all others are dead. Sloan performs a spell with Stefan to locate the doppelganger – he’s a paramedic in Atlanta. Caroline volunteers to help Enzo deal with it, AKA kill him, which Stefan disapproves of.
Hanging out with coach Bonnie, Liv is super proud of her boundary spell. Bonnie asks her to set salt on fire, but despite Liv’s intense effort, she can’t. Luke, a student who’s back after his boyfriend dumped him, wakes Elena from her nightmare about Aaron. She almost turns Luke into food, but instead compels him to get Bonnie and forget. When Bonnie and Liv arrive, Elena throws a rod through Liv’s stomach so they’ll free her to heal Liv. It works. Later, Liv effortlessly lights candles around her room, where Luke chills in a corner. He’s her brother, and they know all about using magic and evading compulsion.
After taking Matt hostage, Damon is freed to see Elena, and he finally confesses to killing Aaron. Enzo bursts in with the antidote. Back in the mansion, Damon and Elena blame themselves for allowing the other to have so much power over them. They agree to end their toxic relationship, but instead end up in a liplock.
“While You Were Sleeping” was an interesting, but not necessarily exciting, episode of The Vampire Diaries. What it lacked in intensity and grand shock value, it made up for in the subtle ways in which it reimagined topics that we have become familiar with over the past several years. Overall, “While You Were Sleeping” was an average episode, filled with a mix of what the series does well and what it has struggled with, especially this season.
The most noticeable aspect of this episode was Elena’s hallucinatory sequences, a plot device that frequently receives a lot of criticism, but one that The Vampire Diaries manages to utilize fairly well, so I’ll take this opportunity to defend them. All too often in television, they’re used as ploys to masquerade as unexpected storytelling when “the powers that be” have no other play. Essentially, dreams or hallucinations are included to make the audience gasp, to catch them off guard and draw them into a fascinating situation, then catch them off guard again when it rips away the fantastical element. This is far from the case in “While You Were Sleeping” for a number of reasons.
First, they were warranted since Elena was injected with werewolf venom, and after the opening one, there was no attempt to pass them off as reality. Had she not been hallucinating, it would have been a factual error. Second, they could be viewed as a demonstration of Elena’s terror as she was trapped in submission to Katherine and unable to change what was happening. It’s as if Elena was living in a dream inside her own body. Lastly, and my personal favorite, the inclusion of these “worst fears” was an enthralling chance to remind the audience just how tragic of a situation Elena lives in. Her nightmares are her reality: Katherine controlled her life, an innocent friend died in a roundabout way because of her, and her friends were unconcerned with inexplicable changes in her behavior. She’s always been adamant about being her own independent, strong woman, and that’s what was ripped away from her.
Also a frequent occurrence during this episode was phone conversations, which I’m for the most part more critical of. Damon and Elena’s first phone call felt necessary given how Katherine as Elena sent him on a downward spiral. For the characters and for the audience, there needed to be a way for these two to accept and move beyond what happened with out risking death from a personal interaction. A phone call was the solution. Not only was the scene filled with an impressive amount of emotion for them being at a distance, but it also repaved the steps in their relationship. But the remaining calls were used primarily to take up screen time while simply informing other characters on what’s been happening. Unless the one on the receiving end has a particularly tumultuous or uncharacteristic reaction to the news, there’s no advantage in using up the time like this. The audience seems intelligent enough to connect the dots and assume the spread of knowledge happened off screen.
As we’ve seen several times this season, introducing a new character that the audience will latch onto and enjoy takes a small miracle, which didn’t seem to come to fruition with Wes or more so with Aaron – whose death Elena was obsessed with in this episode and yet his time on the series and character development didn’t justify this severe attachment. In contrast, both Liv and Luke have vibrant presences despite their brief appearances. Their general poise and confidence is admirable. While Bill Forbes may have been the series’ first gay character, the establishment of Luke as the series’ first peer-accepted and not antagonistic gay character was such a smooth move. There wasn’t the slightest hesitation; he was introduced as who he is because that’s simply who he is. It was not done for the sake of making a statement or gaining a diversity merit badge.
Given that this series thrives on attempting to go the unexpected route, eliciting genuine shock from the audience has become increasingly difficult. I may be in the minority on this, but Liv and Luke caught me off guard this episode, which I only moderately enjoyed since the reason was due to misleading information. Having been depicted as a newbie to magic, Liv’s reveal that she’s powerful and in control was a twist done for the sake of a twist. I felt slightly cheated that we were given false information so we wouldn’t figure out their secret.
The Travelers’ agenda to track down and kill the remaining version of Silas/Stefan could potentially provide a juicy storyline for Caroline in these next few episodes since she, along with Bonnie and Matt, have been sidelined for a while. Even though the series is based on the interactions between Elena and the Salvatore brothers, past seasons seem to have contained a more balanced spread between the triangle and the supporting characters than this season has. Elena’s rocky relationships with the Salvatores have lost their initial appeal now that both sides have been explored more than once. I feel that there’s not much new to uncover, so I hope this would-be screen time is instead diverted to those characters I miss seeing involved in the grand plot.