Elena and Damon struggle to put their relationship to rest when they’re called in for Jeremy’s parent teacher conference. Working with the Travelers, Caroline and Enzo track down the last doppelganger, while Liv recruits Jeremy to work against the group. Here is a recap and review of the Vampire Diaries episode “Rescue Me.”
The doppelganger picture show continues. At Atlanta Metro Hospital, Tom Avery, rocking combed down hero hair, rushes a patient inside and saves her on the spot. Caroline and Enzo search for Tom at the hospital, only he’s been MIA for four months. Plot twist! Against Caroline’s wishes, Sloan digs deeper into the doppelganger brain connection to retrieve newer memories. Stefan sees that Tom had a date with a patient’s sister, Hazel.
Elena wakes in Damon’s bed and refuses his offer of naked breakfast. No more mistakes. While she’s waiting for Jeremy’s parent-teacher conference, Damon, chilling at the Grill, confides in amateur therapists Matt and Tyler until they’re distracted by Liv, who’s meeting Jeremy there. Tyler finds Liv hot – weird hot. Damon strolls into school just as the conference starts. Since Elena left for college, Damon is Jeremy’s primary contact and a lackluster discipliner. Jeremy’s been skipping, fighting, and cheating. Elena promises they’ll create a more stable living environment. As if.
At Hazel’s address, Caroline and Enzo run smack into her boundary spell. The witch has been kneeling and muttering since date night. Enzo takes her down. Cause of death: doorknob to the head. As Bonnie confronts Luke for eying her, Hazel appears asking Bonnie to tell Luke she failed. Meanwhile, Liv recruits Jeremy into the war between witches and Travelers. It’s about Elena – the world actually does revolve around her. A tell-tale heartbeat lures Caroline and Enzo into the basement, where they wake an unconscious Tom. Remembering her promise, Caroline begins to strangle Tom, then darts to snap Enzo’s neck instead. She compels Tom’s trust and takes him to a diner. After making sure he’s a nice guy, she compels him to have a happy life far, far away. In a sneak attack, Enzo kills Tom. The Travelers know where Maggie, his nice Augustine nurse, is.
Elena, freaked after a Damon daydream, bolts out of the classroom, only to be immobilized by Liv’s powers. Liv believes Elena’s too dangerous to live. Damon knocks out Liv, which bothers her new buddy Jeremy. More bothersome to him is that he’s expected to care about school when this has become his life. Jeremy decides to shack up with Matt and Tyler since they’ve all sworn to stop the Travelers. Elena preps to return to campus, swearing for real this time that it’s over with Damon.
Back at the Traveler’s hideout, Stefan teases a guilt-ridden Caroline about spending the day with another flirtatious British hunk and suggests they wait for the opportune moment to escape together. He knew all along she wouldn’t kill Tom because that’s what makes her her. They fall asleep in each other’s arms, but are awoken by Traveler chanting and blood drinking, which turns into fiery deaths. Bonnie receives a swarm of excruciating passing souls that allow Markos to rise from her shadow.
“Rescue Me” was an emotionally powerful episode of The Vampire Diaries for almost every character, making it thrive with an intensity that demanded the audience’s investment. It hearkened back to the good ole days when these characters’ internal problems drove the dramatic world in which they lived, instead of them being on defense against a big bad force. While the looming threat was certainly present and responsible for creating most of the situations, the episode allowed the characters’ personalities to take it from there. From Elena and Damon whirling around how to handle their interactions post-breakup, to Caroline facing the limits of what she’d do for a friend, to Stefan suffering the brain drain pain without losing faith in himself and his friend, to Jeremy accepting the reality of his atypical teen life, each storyline spun around a topic that grounded them into simple and relatable truths. As a whole, I am quite fond of “Rescue Me,” which is why I’m about to get incredibly nitpicky with it.
The Elena and Damon story felt disjointed from the rest of what was taking place for a number of reasons. First, I personally, and perhaps controversially, found their interactions to be the least appealing aspect of “Rescue Me,” and I usually enjoy their scenes together a great deal. Even though there needed to be follow up given how they broke up and then broke the bed, the way in which it was done ran my interest into the ground. My problem with their interactions was not that they were verging on uncontrollable, but that they were not a culmination of steps that led up to this episode. Other than Damon killing Aaron, the justification for their break up was all done through talk. The saying for writers, “Show, don’t tell,” exists for a reason, and as an audience member I didn’t buy their explanations. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but each one of them repeating how their relationship is “toxic” and how they’re “bad for one another” does not make me look past the fact that Elena has finally accepted her life and enjoyed it again, and Damon wants to be a better person because of her.
If the point the writers were trying to make was that their relationship consumes them to the extent that it causes them to fall into oblivion regarding the dangers happing around them, it sure did not come across. And if that wasn’t the point, it should have been in order to tie their story into the rest of the episode. I would have bought “the relationship is a distraction from fighting evil” explanation for a break up, even though I wouldn’t have liked it, per se. Simply having Elena or Damon acknowledge in the end that they should have been doing something about Caroline’s murder mission and Stefan’s torture situation would have sufficed, but they never even mentioned it.
Moving on to the second piece of their storyline in “Rescue Me.” Not only did the concern about Jeremy’s school life and unstable home environment come out of nowhere, but it also feels misplaced in the grand scheme of what the series has become. The Vampire Diaries is no longer about kids facing extraordinary challenges while growing up, but rather about them facing real world threats while having to be young adults. The existence of the parent-teacher conference consequently placed Jeremy on an immature level that did not befit his character. Jeremy has grown into a much more mature individual than he started out as and is only a year younger than Elena, not to mention he’s a trained hunter capable of fending for himself better than many adults. Having Jeremy state that school takes second place to the supernatural problems in his life felt like the writers needed to justify why he never has school-related storylines, but there was never any doubt beforehand that he’s made the right call. They’ve reached the point where having these characters in school doesn’t work for the series anymore.
Caroline and Enzo’s scenes together were bubbling with enjoyable chemistry, which is not surprising since Candice Accola has amazing chemistry with everyone. More on that in a second. Their adventures, and Enzo in general, added much needed humor to an otherwise dramatic episode. Whoever came up with having Enzo kill Hazel with a doorknob deserves a round of applause for creativity. The contrast between the two characters – Enzo enjoying himself and Caroline begrudgingly participating – was just as fascinating to watch, especially since they were both acting with the same intention: to do whatever it takes for someone they love (i.e. Maggie and Stefan).
Speaking of Caroline and Stefan, they easily stood out as my favorite part and arguably the strongest aspect of the episode. Depicting a male-female relationship that hasn’t become romantic or awkward is a tricky beast to tackle, and it has been done here exceptionally well here, not just in terms of it being mixed gender. Their trust and understanding of one another far outshines that between any other two characters on the show. Watching Caroline beg Stefan from afar to hang in there during Sloan’s brain invasion was a beautiful tug on your heartstrings and also the perfect set up for their reunion at the end. Stefan’s confidence in Caroline’s goodness and her allowing him to get away with teasing her about Klaus exemplify the depth and unique nature of their relationship.
It shocked me how quickly Tom was introduced and then killed off. Being a rather important character, his development was minimal and what was explored of his character was not enough to distinguish him from Stefan. The development with Silas this season was so drawn out in comparison, and even Amara appeared in more scenes than Tom. At the moment, it’s hard to tell if this is a pacing problem or if there’s more to be seen of Tom.
One thing that has been bothering me for a while and really came to fruition while watching this episode is that witches have formed a strong presence lately, and yet Bonnie has been essentially useless on this front in both skill and knowledge. Whatever the real reason is, it comes across as poor planning or lack of a creative way to fit Bonnie into the story. Although Bonnie has never been a fully stable and reliable force of witchiness, it’s peculiar that she’s so sidelined at the moment. Did Grams not have any notes on the Travelers? Is Abbie Bennett completely uninformed? Even Bonnie’s training sessions with Liv were minimally explored. Liv and Luke have been wonderful additions, and here’s hoping they infuse their personalities into the show for as long as possible before their probable demise. Seriously, can you think of a character that hasn’t died on this show? (Other than April, who very few people cared about.)
Since The Vampire Diaries is taking a hiatus before the last stretch of episodes, now is a good time to reflect on season five thus far. This year has appeared to be a season of doppelgangers galore that was oddly interrupted by the Augustine virus debacle. Not having the privilege of knowing how the season wraps up, perhaps Maxfield and his experiments will prove to be more relevant to the overall season, but having to wait that long for clarification indicates that the story had issues to begin with. While I don’t believe that all story payoffs should be immediate, they should also not be prolonged past the point where the viewer forgets or stops caring – and that point is near.
Delving into the history of the doppelgangers has partially been fascinating as a loyal audience member because it has continued to pay off an idea that originated early in season one (and anytime there’s more Katherine on my TV, I’m happy), but it has also been increasingly frustrating to watch. Using the idea of doppelgangers inevitably creates a never-ending storytelling well. It sounds like great plan because of the number of stories that can be pulled from the well, but it’s precisely that depth that makes it troublesome territory because of the number of stories that need to be explained for everything to make sense. In addition, it has created a season that has so strongly been driven by characters that are not the series regulars. It’s less obvious and problematic than it would be if they were not played by the series’ stars, but it has still reduced Elena and Co’s agency to control their own lives.
Even though we only received a small glimpse of Markos in this episode, his character has been giving off a bit of a Silas feel. He was this intangible, powerful force mentioned before he ever revealed himself, then he arose from blood. Luckily, his motivations have to be different from Silas’, and I’m always looking forward to learning more about a big bad. The Vampire Diaries returns April 17th with Paul Wesley’s directorial debut!