We could argue about the great deal of fanservice and audience fodder or the infinite amount of comparisons one could make to “The Body” (otherwise known as the best episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever) or whatever else, but at the end of the day, this was a pretty darn good episode of The Vampire Diaries. It’s an episode that has taken every beat and theme the show has tried to delineate throughout the season and made use of it all in this hour. It’s a lot to accomplish: making the audience actually believe that anyone is this sad over Jeremy’s death.
For one, he has died countless times now (“four… or three, I think”). Second, where was all of this mourning over anyone else that has seemingly dropped dead on the show thus far? And to be honest, the show doesn’t quite deliver on those emotional beats well. At this point, it’s the nature of the series. Unfortunately, it’s hard to swallow the idea that people are beat up this badly over Jeremy’s death. And, yes, you may have been making countless comparisons to “The Body” during the hour. But if we had to gauge this episode on those scales, we’d always be setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Season four has very much been about everyone trying to deal with death and actually acknowledging that mourning is a state people go through. The past few episodes, in particular, have been great in pointing out the faults the series has had creatively in its short run, to boot. This episode wasn’t any different. (“It’s not science!”) In fact, it took all of those details that have been making the latter half of this season a bit better than the first and upped the ante. Our characters were allowed to experience emotions — which is rare and no small feat. Jeremy’s death isn’t all for naught, even; we get an Elena who’s finally going to turn off her humanity (even if the “it’s what I want you to do” is still icky as hell) and it was glorious. This was once a series where events happened and then were forgotten in just moments that caused severe whiplash. Now, it’s a series where three episodes after someone burned to death in the kitchen, Caroline is cleaning up that mark on the floor.
Those little details are often important. People sometimes mention in the comments that we get too hung up on the day-to-day nitpicks that we happen to notice. They say that we’re not enjoying the show for what it is or we’re getting to obsessed with minute details. But those details are important, even more so for a supernatural show. If you don’t focus on it and you don’t have a good sense of continuity, then nothing in your show is believable anymore — and yes, even though the show is about vampires. Those details actually show that this is a real world and it allows us to buy into the universe much more easily than we could if we’re told this is some weird limbo where people don’t have to make “cover stories.”[*] I’m glad something like that was even brought up during the hour. How has Elena been able to discuss Jenna’s death and Alaric’s death and so on? It’s not boring: it’s fabrication for this story. There is a clear difference. And, as shown here tonight, there’s great entertainment and character-building that can be found in the minutiae of the details.
[*] Anyone feel like there’s some budget cuts happening? Two series regulars are gone. A set has been taken away. Either there are cuts, or money needed to be allocated elsewhere…which if Silas is as big as his talk is, means that the season finale might be huge.
With exception of Tyler, who has grown to be an interesting character this season, The Vampire Diaries seems to be cutting off the dead weight and making its characters… well, interesting. We have Elena who hopefully, at least, be interesting to watch on screen for several episodes to come (if the slow arc building as of late is any indication). There’s Stefan, who has been as charismatic as he’s ever been after he denounced Elena. And last but not least, we have Bonnie who one way or the other, at least has an actual storyline. We can talk about how her storyline has just been a lot of people manipulating her ad nauseam, but at least they’re giving her something to do. And to be perfectly honest, she should probably just massacre her friends. (Though I love the fact that she’s just like “Guys, no big deal. I’m just gonna kill 12 people. It’s cool.” What?)
So yes, perhaps it wasn’t the absolute best thing that has aired on television. But “Stand by Me” is a great achievement in moving forward with the series both in character-driven story, actual gravitas, and hell even continuity. Not every episode of everything can always be the acme of what we’ll ever see. But taking huge strides in eradicating all that has mucked up an already muddy story is a ginormous leap forward. And for that, it gets the highest grade possible from me.