Believing Stefan killed Maggie, Enzo takes him, Elena, and an entire coffee shop hostage to exact the truth, but it’s Damon who actually holds the answers. Meanwhile, the Travelers test a hypothesis and get one step closer to their goal. Here is a recap and review of the Vampire Diaries episode “Man on Fire.”
Stefan and Elena’s coffee house study date is interrupted by Bonnie, who’s unconcerned with the prospect of her death when the Other Side disintegrates. Enzo barges in and takes the vamps and witches hostage, having already compelled the other patrons to ignore him. Enzo shows a photo of Maggie’s head ripped off in 1960. Stefan denies being the ripper then, so Liv gives him and Elena crushing headaches. Luke’s life is in danger, so Liv’s in Enzo’s pocket. Flashback to JFK election night, 1960. Maggie runs into Stefan snacking on someone. Stefan warns her to stay away, then vamps out and goes in for a bite.
With Bonnie in a chokehold, Stefan confesses and gets a stake in the stomach. Hearing Enzo’s murder voice, Damon becomes concerned and goes to Sheriff Forbes for information. Damon realizes Stefan didn’t kill Maggie; he did. Damon arrives admitting the truth and demanding the hostages be released. Flashback to the night of Maggie’s death. Maggie lures Damon into meeting her. After mentioning the Whitmore fire, she pulls out an Augustine syringe. Damon grabs her by the throat and hoists her up, clenching his fist until her body falls to the ground without her head.
Instead of hating Damon, Enzo switches off his humanity. Stefan breaks free with Damon’s help and jumps Enzo, but Enzo runs out with Elena. She attempts to reason with him, but fails. She attempts to fight him, but that fails too. Stefan comes to the rescue, fighting Enzo until afforded the opportunity to grasp his heart. Enzo yanks his own body away, loving the trouble it’ll cause when Damon finds out Stefan killed his BFF. Stefan and Elena agree to keep Enzo’s death a secret from Damon, who’s intent on saving Enzo. Liv encourages Bonnie to tell Jeremy the truth about her impending death, but Bonnie lies to him, saying Liv has a plan. Enzo appears to Bonnie; his vendetta is just getting started.
Meanwhile, Tyler is chained in the warehouse where the Travelers gather. Marcos gives a less than rousing speech about their goal and informs the others that Sloan’s their guinea pig. She drinks Tyler’s blood, then gets her throat slit. When she wakes in transition, Marcos feeds her a cocktail of doppelganger blood and magic. The next time she wakes, she cuts her hand to reveal she’s not healing – she’s no longer a vamp, meaning the doppelganger blood succeeded in removing magic. They’re going to need a lot more blood.
“Man on Fire” served as a setup for the remaining episodes of the season as well as a stalling episode until we make it to them. There were bits and pieces of the season’s overall mythology scattered throughout that prevents this from being a true filler episode, but much of the drama in “Man on Fire” felt drawn out. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, because it was, just on a more gratuitous level than the convoluted mythology-heavy episodes of the recent past.
Moving into the last three episodes, it appears as if our heroes will be up against two forces competing against them: Enzo and the Travelers. It will be interesting to see how these two stories compete for screen time in light of the previous episode where the series regulars were fractioned into two relatively isolated groups. Rather than splitting up the main characters in a divide-and-conquer sense, I would love to see them banding together in hopeful camaraderie to give the show a greater feeling of teamwork. These characters have proven their worth at developing and enacting schemes, and this could pull Bonnie, Caroline, and Matt into the regular fold of things since they’ve been so sidelined this year.
From my perspective, the motivations of the antagonists have been weak this season, and that has reduced the intensity of any drama that occurs. From Silas just wanting to die, to the Travelers just wanting a home, the non-doppelganger characters have been living fairly safe lives (minus that one time Matt got taken over by a Traveler and Bonnie’s whole “about to die” problem); otherwise, there hasn’t been a grand force threatening true harm and evil in the way that the Mystic Falls town council, Katherine, or Klaus did in seasons past. While it’s somewhat unfair to the current stories to continually compare the season to the previous ones, this comparison simply cannot be ignored in a serialized TV show. Enzo’s revenge holds the potential to spice things up, which is why, even though he’s faulting Damon for being the vampire he wanted to foster, I’m looking forward to his seeing his vendetta unfold.
Given Liv’s lack of hope surrounding Bonnie’s impending death, it looks as if Bonnie’s fate is just short of sealed, but who knows. The number of times that Bonnie has brushed up with death or come back from it makes it difficult to take this possibility as a final one at this point in the game. However, the fact that showrunner Caroline Dries has been teasing upcoming “permanent deaths” sounds as if changes are indeed coming. One thing I hope this creates is the opportunity for genuinely sad deaths as opposed to ones done for mere shock value. When I think back on the memorable deaths of the series, the first that come to mind are Aunt Jenna and Alaric; while you knew both of those were coming shortly before they happened, it didn’t make each of them any less of an unnerving scene.
It seems that lately, especially with this episode hinging on Enzo extracting information from Stefan, plot has been replaced with violence or physical altercations or anything that’s going to make the audience gasp. Despite this, it has not given Elena, our protagonist, any more agency than she started out with. Even now with her being a vampire, her ability to defend herself is sadly lacking. In “Man on Fire,” Elena was given the chance to fight, but only briefly until Stefan came in to finish the job and Damon carried her away to safety. I know that she’s a newbie, thus weaker than many of the foes she comes in contact with, but from this female’s perspective, it’s difficult to see her as a positive example, as a protagonist that I can admire.