Damon’s past as a torture subject for the Augustine society is explored while Caroline and Katherine help Stefan defeat his PTSD. Here is a recap and review of the Vampire Diaries episode “The Cell.”
Elena interrupts Aaron’s sulking to ask for help finding Damon, who went MIA with Wes. Aaron takes her to Whitmore House and inadvertently invites her in because he owns the place. Yeah, he’s a Whitmore. Wes creeps up to inform Elena that her dad was one of their best doctors. Then he vervains her and throws her in the cell beside Damon’s. Wes fills Aaron in on the existence of vampires.
Katherine begrudgingly writes in her diary with all the sass that is Katherine Pierce, as Stefan, on suicide watch, lurks over her. She questions his ability to help her if he’s not A-okay and called for backup. Caroline arrives with the safe in tow, ordering Stefan to hop inside to confront his problem’s source. When being inside the safe just freaks him out more, Katherine joins him to force him to be a hero for someone else. It works. Right as they’re about to canoodle, Caroline opens the door, concerned about the silence. Later, Stefan confesses Katherine was right, so she puts the serious moves on him.
Damon confesses to Elena that he’s having déjà vu. They’re now stuck there because he never told anyone about this part of his past, including that his own relative cut a deal with the Whitmore of 1953 to hand Damon over in return for a payday. Last time, his friendship with Enzo, a European soldier in WWII who fell for one of Whitmore’s oblivious scientists, gave him the will to survive.
Every new year’s eve, the Augustine vamps attend the cocktail party, only they remain caged as demonstrations. Enzo hatched a plan to have one of them drink the other’s ration of blood to build strength to escape. In a very official rock, paper, scissors game, Damon wins the honor, so at the next party, he breaks free and tears through the place. In the madness, a candle stand sets the place aflame. Having to flip off his humanity to do so, Damon leaves Enzo behind to save himself.
When Aaron finds Damon and Elena, he plays the blame game to see who killed his parents. It was Damon … last summer … fulfilling his revenge plan to kill all but one Whitmore every generation. With Damon suffering a bullet to the head, Elena is taken to the lab, where she meets Enzo.
Balancing the primary information-heavy storyline with the secondary emotional one, “The Cell” was a well-rounded hour that managed to jump start one intriguing plot and seemingly end an appropriate one. An interesting episode in a different capacity than the few weeks prior, this one felt low-key in all the right ways. “The Cell” perfectly set the scene for future emotional payoffs and twisted new problems.
The flashbacks this week, in all their sepia-toned glory, were a nice addition to the reveal of information. The song “Walking After Midnight” was an amusing, subtly humorous addition to them. The bits of them that were just flashes of the torture enhanced the creepy factor of the Augustine society, while the full-fledged flashbacks kept Damon’s story time from becoming a bland monologue. Flashbacks have become an exceptional staple when dealing with traumatic pasts, but it’s still interesting to consider how the episode would have been different without them. Would the reveal of Enzo still being alive have come as more of a shock if we saw less of him, thus felt less set up for his present day appearance?
Not only did Elena’s realization that Damon’s dark side still has its fun stir up the potential for trouble in paradise, but the Augustine society’s increasing efficiency is piling on the problems for the characters and the writers. Considering no one but Wes, who’s in charge of keeping them locked up, and Aaron, who’s now severely anti-vampire, knows the whereabouts of Damon and Elena, this creates a tricky situation for their rescue. Due to Wes’ vamped-up anti-vampire vervain-spewing lab, an escape attempt seems doomed to fail, while a rescue by their friends seems like an implausible stretch. However, tight situations such as these can be places from which incredible storytelling emanates, so I look forward to see how this will unfold.
At this point, Aaron is still a difficult character to stand behind. The fact that he spent the entire episode moping about the loss of his family and friends dropped his likability factor from its already moderate rank. Don’t get me wrong, he had every right to sulk and it would be wholly unreasonable if he got over it at the drop of a hat, but since he’s a relatively new character that has yet to demonstrate a joyous side, there is nothing to grasp onto so that cares for him and feels his sadness.
Stefan’s PTSD has been handled … strangely. It’s not a topic that one automatically associates with a youth-targeted show like this, thus making its inclusion all the more notable. Aside from breaking a few glasses and the brief flashbacks, Stefan’s condition was barely explored before they seemingly fixed it. It would have been an excellent opportunity to discuss a serious anxiety disorder, without turning it into an annoyingly obvious social statement, of course, but it turned out to be something solvable by what was essentially a quick cuddling session. While I found Stefan’s PTSD storyline understandable under the circumstances he was placed in, it has felt odd as well, like it had too much untapped potential or maybe it just did not fit in with the tone of the series.
Despite my lack of thrill surrounding Stefan in this episode and the negatively critical path this review has taken, I did enjoy “The Cell” overall. There were some wonderful Katherine moments (as always). The steps that Katherine took for Stefan’s sake in this episode were a classic indication of her state of simultaneously living as a manipulator and a lover, a blend that has been less apparent since she became human, but one that still fits perfectly well. This season, Katherine has proven even more that she’s a great asset for the show.