The Vampire Diaries Season 4, Episode 18 (“American Gothic”)
A major question that the cure has brought up is what does an immortal life mean? How does one spend it? Those lucky enough to be spending it with their family (the Originals and the Salvatores) should be happy to have fellow immortal companions, people they love to share it with. But that also means that they have to deal with the tensions in their relationships for eternity. The older vampires on this show have spent immortality stuck in vicious circles. They repeat the same things over and over and get the same results. The immortal life hasn’t made them any wiser. They also haven’t really lived.
Let’s start with the Salvatores. They are repeating the history they had with Katherine with Elena. They have once again let a girl come in between them. Stefan wants to break the cycle and says he is going to get out of Elena’s life once she gets the cure. Of course as a viewer we know this is an empty statement because Stefan is never going to actually leave. Just as Damon was never going to leave despite the fact that he promised he would at the end of last season when Elena didn’t choose him. Letting who she picks dictate who stays and who goes is being in the circle. They need to not let her have that kind of power in their relationship. The wound in their relationship caused by Elena will heal in time, just as the one caused by Katherine did. In the end the strain in their relationship is not about Elena or Katherine, and when they start actually acknowledging that they can move on and break out of the circle.
Katherine has been running for 500 years. She has always been a survivor and that means she willing to do what it takes. She turned into a vampire in order to escape Klaus and she used Elijah to help her. She has always treated the people around her as a means of survival. She doesn’t have any real relationships, people who really care about her. She had the Salvatores but she abandoned them when she needed to leave Mystic Falls in order to survive. She has Elijah now, but she was just using him to make a deal with Klaus. However she shows that she may be capable of change when she hands the cure over to Elijah so that she can actually share trust with someone. What is the point of surviving for eternity if you are always going to be running?
All three of the Originals are in deep vicious circles. For the past 1000 years, Klaus has been stuck in a circle where he does evil things, alienates the people around him, gets lonely, seeks loyalty, and does more evil things when that loyalty is threatened. Caroline offers him a way out of it – allow Tyler to return to Mystic Falls and forgive that he tried to kill him. If he were to show this mercy he could gain a friend through kindness instead of forced loyalty. He only halfway gets there when he tells Caroline he isn’t really searching for him. Elijah is stuck along with Klaus in this circle because of his belief in redemption no matter how far someone falls. He gives Klaus a chance, Klaus does evil things, he is mad at himself for believing Klaus could change, and then he gives Klaus another chance. He loved Katherine when she was human but she has changed so much. He believes that she can be the girl she was 500 years ago and he holds onto hope for that. But when she inevitably lies to him he is hurt, will he give her another chance?
Finally, Rebekah has been stuck in the circle with her brothers as well for a 1000 years. All she really wants is someone to love her unconditionally and to have a real life. Tying herself to Klaus forced her to spend her eternity running from Mikael, after he died she hoped that it would mean that they could stop and be a family again. But Klaus cannot trust anyone, not even his own siblings, so he still seeks loyalty and power at any cost. She sees the cure has her only way to free herself from the insanity that his her family and truly live. The Originals are proof that you can live forever but never live.
The cure is now in Elijah’s hands and it is not clear what he will do with it. Who will get the cure is the big question surrounding the end of this season. At this point I still think Rebekah should be the one to get it. She has been miserable for 1000 years and she deserves a shot at happiness. But the end of this season also means the start of The Originals spin-off so their stories are really only just beginning. I will say I watched this episode after finishing the first season of The Originals and it is likely why I was so drawn to the idea of the vicious circles in this episode. Gearing up for that show is also probably why they brought Elijah back and re-enforced their relationships and character traits.
Episode Grade: B+
- Stefan giving Damon shit for letting Elena and Rebekah trick him was pretty funny. When they let actually let Paul Wesley do comedy he does it pretty well.
- Nina Dobrev also doesn’t get enough credit for how well she acts the different parts. In this episode she is not only playing Elena and Katherine but also Elena pretending to be Katherine, all of which she makes very distinguishable.
- I am mostly ready to get to the cure resolution so that we can stop with the narrative of Damon being conflicted over wanting Elena to have the cure and whether Elena will want him with the sire bond broken and her humanity back. It is getting exhausting.
- Silas made Klaus believe that he was dying when he was never really in pain. Caroline yelling at him made him realize that. Silas’s mind control abilities are much greater than anything we have seen before.
- Elijah: “Complication speaking” he can also have his comedic moments.
- Damon: “It’s like you and I falling for the same girl, it’s our thing”
- Body Count: 1, Elena snaps a waitresses neck to warn the Salvatores against trying to force the cure on her or try to bring her humanity back.