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The Vampire Diaries, S02E07: Masquerade; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

vampire diaries 2

Originally aired 28 Oct 2010
Written by Kevin Williamson & Julie Plec
Directed by Charles Beeson

Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder

My rating:  ★★★ stars

Plot-churning episode is enjoyable provided the viewer doesn’t ponder it too much.

With Mason now decomposing wherever the Salvatore brothers dump inconvenient bodies, Katherine is short one werewolf. Why she needs a werewolf is still unclear, but the reason seems to have something to do with the Moonstone. What exactly the Moonstone does remains unexplained, but the stone seems to have something to do with breaking the Curse of the Sun and the Moon, which also remains unexplained. The major flaw in the second season of The Vampire Diaries is this plot device, which governs the action for too long without the audience knowing what the hell is going on. The Moonstone is a MacGuffin, but it’s not a good one because the viewers have to spend time thinking about its function rather than focusing on the drama the characters go through to get it.

Katherine wants the Moonstone, and she wants a werewolf. She plans to get both at the Lockwood masquerade ball. The viewers can’t think too hard about Katherine’s plans because they only make sense if she knows things that she doesn’t know. Maybe she could surmise that the Scooby Gang 2.0 would plan to attack her, but there’s no way she could have known that Elena would not attend the ball, leaving Katherine free to crash the party disguised as Elena.

Also a mystery is why the rest of the Scooby Gang 2.0, particularly Stefan, doesn’t want to involve Elena in the plot to eliminate Katherine.

It’s these nagging plot details that prevent this episode from being a great one, but it does feature some great scenes and moments.

One such scene is Katherine’s show of force to convince the Salvatore brothers to hand over the Moonstone. In the middle of the crowded dance floor, as Stefan looks on horrified, Katherine grabs hapless teen Aimee Bradley and snaps her spine, whispering “Paralyzed from the waist down,” then snaps her neck and says simply, “Dead.”

It’s not a good day for the slutty bubbleheads of Mystic Falls. As Aimee falls victim to Katherine’s objective of getting the Moonstone, another bites the dust to fulfill her second objective—getting a new werewolf. In the second season, werewolves are presented as hard to come by. (They seem much more common in later seasons.) With this rarity, Katherine must resort to creating another wolf. All she needs is to get a carrier of the werewolf gene to kill somebody, so she uses her compulsion to give Matt an order to throw himself in Tyler’s way at the masquerade ball until Tyler kills him, activating his latent werewolf gene. In one nice exchange, Elena asks Matt if he’s going to the masquerade, and he insouciantly says, “Yeah, I have something to do.” Luckily for Matt, Caroline realizes what’s going on and knocks Matt unconscious before he can carry out Katherine’s order. Katherine, never one to be without a plan b (as was established in the previous episode, “Plan B”), has compelled a silly teenager named Sarah to carry out the plan if Matt failed. Sarah stabs Tyler, who pushes her into a desk upon which she fatally hits her head.

The lack of consequences and emotional repercussions of Sarah’s and Aimee’s deaths is indicative of one of the show’s major flaws. The series tends to minimize the impact of events if dealing with the fallout would be inconvenient to the writers. Here, the show wants to focus on Tyler’s struggle with becoming a werewolf and doesn’t seem to care about the fact that he just killed someone. In practical terms, it helps that the mayor (his mother) and the sheriff are accustomed to covering up such matters.

In the aftermath of Sarah’s death, however, Caroline and Tyler manage to share a nice connection when she reveals that she understands, perhaps better than he does, what’s happening to him.

The main plot of the episode involves Katherine’s plan to retrieve the Moonstone and the Scooby Gang 2.0’s plot to dispatch Katherine. One dramatic and entertaining set of exchanges is the negotiation between the Salvatore brothers over who gets to kill Katherine. Damon thinks that Stefan will hesitate because he’s a big wimp committed to not killing people. Stefan, on the other hand, worries that Damon won’t be able to kill her because, for nearly a century and a half that he was in love with her, he let her wear his balls as earrings .

In the confrontation scene, we learn that Damon wins the argument, but, before he can drive in the fatal stake home, Jeremy, who becomes a useful member of the SG 2.0, rushes in and reveals that Katherine has had a witch link her and Elena so that Elena will experience anything that happens to Katherine. Understandably, the Salvatore brothers must reassess their objective of killing Katherine. Katherine purrs, “You’ll hurt me? C’mon Stefan. Everything that I feel, Elena feels. So go ahead. Or better yet, kiss me, Damon. She’ll feel that too.” It’s an intriguing moment even if Dobrev overdoes the vixen a little bit.

The witch who created the spell linking the two, Bonnie’s relative Lucy, plays such a significant role in this episode that I believe the plan had been to bring her back at some point. She even tells Bonnie that she’ll see her another time. However, she’s never heard from again.

Once Lucy breaks the spell, the ensuing fight between Katherine and the brothers is well-choreographed.  The two times Katherine throws Damon across the room must have been a combination of special effects and stunt work, but they don’t appear to be so. Ultimately, the brothers do not kill Katherine, choosing instead to seal her up in the tomb beneath the church, which the episode cleverly reminds us of ahead of time in an unrelated discussion.

This episode ends the arc of Katherine as the main villain. The very end begins a new arc. As Damon mercilessly seals the tomb with Katherine inside, Katherine shouts out that Elena is in danger “because she’s the doppelgänger.” We don’t know what being the doppelgänger means, but it’s certainly not good since, just as Katherine says that, the episode cuts to a scene of Elena being kidnapped by an unknown person.

As if this episode already wasn’t full enough, we have two major developments in the romance department. 1) Elena breaks up with Stefan. Even after Katherine is on her way to being entombed, Elena tells him that she doesn’t feel safe. 2) Bonnie notices that Jeremy is not the emo, whiny, druggie mess he used to be and that, even though he’s still Elena’s little brother, he’s not so little anymore. The first development reeks of needless teen angst a la Kevin Williamson’s previous TV drama, Dawson’s Creek. After Elena and Stefan fought to be together while Katherine was threatening them in order to keep them apart, there’s no good reason for Elena to end the relationship now that that threat is neutralized. The second development was more promising. However, the series has not done a particularly good job with the secondary romances. Like Matt and Caroline, Bonnie and Jeremy were set up as a couple, but then the writers seemed to lose interest in following that relationship.

Overall, there were enough good moments and developments in this episode for me to give it a positive star-rating. It’s entertaining to watch. However, it’s not as good as it should have been for such an important episode, and it’s not among the best of the series.

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