Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Know Thy Enemy (2011)

The lengths one will go to protect those they love

A year ago when first introduced, Isobel (Mia Kirshner) was a seriously bad-ass vamp.  She voluntarily became a vampire, killed without remorse, gave up her child as an infant, abandoned her husband letting him think she was dead, and took up with one of the most notorious villainess in Mystic Falls’ history.

Yet in this past week’s mind-twisting episode, Isobel was shown to be more than a selfish and self-serving heart-breaker and tormenter — she was shown to be a mother who would do anything to protect her daughter — even sacrificing her best friend to a fate worse than death and then taking her own life.

It is a rare day when we are shown that perhaps Elena’s (Nina Dobreev) parents are not the small-minded, evil-doers we thought they were.  Yet in “Know Thy Enemy,” we learned that they were not the villains after all — that role has and always will be occupied by Katherine (Nina Dobrev), who did not hesitate to offer up Elena in exchange for her own skin.  Even Elena has not been so cold — she would not have traded Katherine to save her own life — or perhaps she would have but never got the chance.

In the end it did not matter, for while Katherine believed she had offered Klaus exactly what he wanted (a way to break the Sun and Moon Curse); she had failed to see that he may want vengeance more.  All that careful scheming and Katherine only played exactly into Klaus’ hands.

It was a twist-within-a-twist.  Fortunately, Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) had never fully trusted Katherine with their own plans and, as Katherine spun her nasty web of deceit, she failed to see that there might be smarter and craftier people at play in this deadly game.

Shame on Katherine for discounting the power of a mere teenager endowed with the right kind of abilities.  In this case, Bonnie (Katerina Graham) who could channel the power of 100 dead witches and Elena, whose own very goodness, has compelled love so strong amongst her friends that they would put their own lives on the line to protect her.

Selfless love is indeed much more powerful than all of Katherine’s carefully constructed plans.  For who amongst Katherine’s so-called friends would lay down their life for her?

Points of Interest

1.  It was nice to see that they did not just leave Luka’s (Bryton James) crispy body left to rot in his apartment and that they had the decency to bury him and dispose of the body.  It was also good thinking that Bonnie had the foresight to collect all of the Martin’s grimoires.  It shows that they are all taking to think a bit more strategically and less reactionary.

2.  It was also a fun scene when Damon reassured Carol Lockwood (Susan Walters) and Sheriff Forbes (Marguerite MacIntryre) that John (David Anders) is not dead because he is wearing a Gilbert heirloom that protects the wearer from death by supernatural entity.  Also as a nice surprise, it was good to see that Damon extended John the courtesy of taking him back to the mansion to safely revive and did not just yank off his ring and let him die.  After how John nearly killed Damon, it would have been deserved payback, yet Damon was human enough to allow John to live.

What Worked

Of all the bizarre love triangles in Mystic Falls, the one involving Alaric (Matt Davis), Jenna (Sara Canning) and Isobel has been perhaps the most underplayed.  Thus, it was especially cool that it took center-stage in this week’s episode.  With Isobel showing up at the Gilbert’s front door right before the hiatus, we could only envision the hell that was going to break loose over her return.  So it was great to see that the show picked up exactly where they left off before the hiatus so that we could see Jenna’s reaction.  It was magnificently done as Jenna reacted with horror to find out that Alaric’s dead-wife was not so dead after all.  As Isobel calmly and spitefully told Jenna, “So you’re the woman who’s dating my husband,” it was as if a bucket of cold water had been thrown on Jenna.  She may not yet know about the vampires living amongst them, but just seeing a woman back from the dead was enough to make her hair stand on end.  Thus, Jenna’s emotional meltdown behind closed doors was awesome to behold — particularly watching her shatter as her world shattered around her.  Kudos to Sara Canning for such a beautiful job in that scene.

And Stefan’s biting remark to Damon, “Why don’t you call Alaric and let him know that his wife just showed up on his girlfriend’s door step,” was last nail in the coffin.  For all their efforts to protect Jenna, it was not the supernatural that shredded her heart — but rather the fact that everyone had been lying to her about Isobel being still alive.  The veil being ripped back on her life was brutal and her reaction to run away from it all felt appropriate given how wide-spread the deception.  It will be interesting to see how she reacts to next big surprise looming on the horizon.

Another person in for the surprise of her life was Katherine.  Whereas Jenna had been living in a protective cocoon of ignorance, Katherine knew exactly what was going on — or at least she thought she did.  To see how cruelly and casually she plotted to abduct and sacrifice Elena to save her own skin was surprising, but not completely unexpected.  What was surprising was that her best friend turned the tables on her.  It appeared that Isobel had been plotting along with Katherine, but when in that final moment, Klaus’ henchman took away Katherine and not Elena; it was the stroke of a brilliant double-cross.  It is not fully known if Isobel was only acting of the compulsion that Klaus placed upon her in order to get her to entrap Katherine, or if Isobel was also working on her own to protect Elena — but the end result was Isobel pulled a master con of her own.

So as John and Isobel were working behind Katherine’s back to protect Elena, so were the Salvatore brothers.  It has been reassuring and cheer-worthy that neither Stefan nor Damon has been swayed by Katherine’s charms, illusions or lies.  It was especially nice how Damon did not even waver as Katherine tried repeatedly to use her feminine wiles and sexuality to manipulate Damon. No matter how much a sex-pot she looked as she stood before him trying to wheedle out a bit of information about what he was up to, Damon was resolute and merely turned away.

So as Katherine beguilingly tried to ask, “If you’ve got a plan to combat the impending vampire doom, then do tell — seriously. . . . I delivered you a moonstone, a werewolf and a dagger to lure and kill Klaus, and right now all you have is a moonstone,” Damon refused to play into her games and chillily replied, “Let me be honest with you:  don’t mistake the fact we have not set you on fire in your sleep for trust.”  It is great to see Damon is unwavering in his newfound love.  Katherine may look exactly like Elena, and he may have once thought he was in love with her, but now knowing her true nature, Damon is determined to love the right girl — one who has a heart and who will sacrifice herself for those she loves.  Katherine is both heartless and would never dream of sacrificing herself for anyone else.  Damon has learned it is better to love a real girl, than a fake one.

Though Damon still has a wicked sense of humor, such as when he mischievously proposed that the safest place for Elena would be for her to stay at the mansion with he and Stefan — and when Stefan mockingly asked, “In the house that any vampire can enter?” Damon impishly replied that that they could both stay with her at the Gilbert house then.  Damon does not care where they are — so long as he gets to be with Elena.

Later after they realized that Klaus had beat Katherine her own game, and Damon and Stefan strategized a way to protect Elena, Stefan noted, “[Klaus] knows you’re not going to turn yourself into a vampire — and he knows that you have us keeping you safe.” To which Elena replied, “[And] he knows that I’m not going to run,” with Damon calmly adding, “Which is why we need to take some precautions — ‘cause we got played,” as he presented Elena with the property deed to the mansion; for it is the only house that Elena has complete control over on who is given permission to enter.  It would be her “safe house” — though Damon was quick to remind her, “Although I’ll be super pissed if you lock me out!”

In addition to offering up her best friend to save her daughter, Isobel also sacrificed her husband, Alaric.  It was a stunning moment when she confessed her love for him and then immediately handed him over to Klaus’ witch.  Was it the ultimate act of motherly love, or was it yet another demonstration of how cold she could be?  Or was it just another part of Klaus’ compulsion spell that Isobel so willingly handed over her husband?  Surely if Klaus needed a vessel, anyone would have done — why Alaric?  What has Alaric ever done to warrant being handed over to Klaus?  Was it only because he had the audacity to fall in love with another woman?  Or is there something special about Alaric?

Another beautifully done scene was when Isobel took Elena to the graveyard to visit her grave.  As Isobel explained that her parents had simply placed a gravestone there because her body was never found, she insightfully shared: “The Isobel they knew is dead, so maybe there’s a part of me that’s buried here — the human part — the part that I abandoned when I chose to become a vampire — the part that used to dream about the day that she’d know her daughter.  Instead, you got to meet the other part — the part that would betray her own flesh and blood.”  In one last desperate act of love and soul-seeking redemption, Isobel then whispered, “I’m so sorry, Elena, that I was such a disappointment to you” and took off her protective charm — setting herself aflame in the sunlight.  Whether it was to protect Elena or out of despair, Isobel’s sacrifice was shocking.

In the end, even John could not fathom it all as he curiously noted about Katherine and Isobel, “Two of the world’s most selfish, uncaring vampires and yet they were genuinely friends.”

Lastly, the other trump card in the making, it was cool to see Bonnie, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) and Damon team-up to locate the witches’ burial ground and test it to see if was a viable source of power so that Bonnie could stand up to Klaus when the time came.  Out of this unexpected teamwork, Bonnie not only revealed that Dr. Martin (Randy J. Goodwin) returned her powers when he died, but Damon revealed that he tried to save Emily’s life.  When Bonnie asked, “How do you know where the witches were burned?”  Damon simply replied, “Cause I tried to save her.”

In addition to showing unexpected teammanship, the trip to the witches’ burial ground also provided some fun moments of levity as Damon tried to dodge the ill-will the dead still felt towards vampires — such as when he was stuck to the floor, unable to move, and his sunlight protection ring became deactivated — or when the front door slammed in his face refusing him reentry into the house.  As Bonnie impishly noted, “The witches really don’t like you being her,” and Damon wisely said, “I think I’ll wait outside.”  No matter how much the dead witches may resent Damon for his vampire nature, by working together they all have a fighting chance against Klaus.  And as Damon told Stefan later once they realized that neither Katherine nor Isobel knew that Bonnie got her powers back — thus Klaus did not know either — “That literally makes Bonnie our secret weapon.”

What Didn’t Work

It was cruel and diabolical that Sheriff Forbes and Matt (Zach Roerig) conspired behind Caroline’s (Candice Accola) back to get her to reveal everything she knew all in effort to kill them all.  After all, would the two people closest to Caroline truly behave in such a fashion and believe that she would be better off dead?

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“Know Thy Enemy” was written by Mike Daniels and directed by Wendy Stazler. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig, Sara Canning, Matt Davis. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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