The Vampire Diaries Season 6, Episode 16 (“The Downward Spiral”)
It has been a while since The Vampire Diaries dipped into the humanity switch well, but this is the third time we have seen this device in the series. The first of course was with Stefan when he was compelled by Klaus. We saw his darkest side where he could kill without the guilt. Then Elena turned hers off after Jeremy died and she got to escape years of grief and finally just let go. The humanity switch can be an interesting device when used well. It can provide insight into a character’s true thoughts and wants. It can also be a lot of fun. When a vampire is stripped of any fear of consequences or morality, they can do whatever they want. For a vampire that typically involves violence and using humans as pawns.
Violence has always been a major part of the show. It is inherent in any show about vampires. Though this being a CW show they generally keep it pretty tame. But with all of the well behaved vampires on the show it can be easy to forget just how violent they are. One of Caroline’s first acts as a humanityless vampire is to almost devour Liam. The only thing that stops her is the inconvenience of having to deal with his body. Caroline is enjoying not having to deal with the pain of her mom’s death, but she is also very aware of the consequences of going off the rails, even if she may want to. She knows her friends will not stop until they get her to flip it back so she tries to make a deal with them that she won’t kill anyone as long as they leave her alone. But Stefan can’t leave it alone.
Stefan is feeling incredibly guilty because he knows he could have stopped this by realizing how he felt about her just a little sooner. Now anyone she kills is on him. He ignores her demands and tries to get her to turn her emotions back on by telling her how he feels. But this only backfires on him and she compels Liam to “perform surgery” on Sarah Salvatore. Caroline has been a vampire for most of the series but she has always been in control. Seeing her finally give into her vampire nature is a reminder that no matter how seemingly human a vampire may be, they are always capable of extreme violence. And they will always see humans as lesser. Knowing that Stefan will keep trying to turn her humanity back on, Caroline threatens to kill Liam and Sarah if Stefan doesn’t turn off his humanity too. Without Stefan’s help how will they turn her emotions back on? We have already seen what Stefan is like without his humanity and having to deal with both of them isn’t going to be easy.
Even with all of the vampire violence, it is rare for the show to actually reflect on the emotional and psychological effects of such violence. But Bonnie’s return from the prison world provides that opportunity. She is struggling to readjust to life and suffering from post-traumatic stress. She wants to have the warm reunions that she waited for in the prison world, but she feels changed in a way that she can’t decide how she feels about. She is tougher and darker since that time and she isn’t wholly upset about it. Kai was incredibly violent toward her while she was in the prison world. And then he left her there while he got out. Bonnie has always tried to use her magic for good and to protect the ones she loves. She wants to be better than the vampires so she doesn’t use it for vengeance, or in anger even when she is constantly drawing the short end of the stick. But after being the one to sacrifice so much so often, she is tired. In this episode we see her using her power to fend off unwanted advances and to get back at Damon for ignoring what she wanted. Bonnie may be forever changed by the prison world and I am here for it.
I really enjoyed Caroline and Bonnie’s storylines in this episode and the fact that they are both getting such big storylines. For much of the show they have been pushed to the side in the interest of giving Elena and the Salvatores more screen time. But in these later seasons that is changed a bit. This episode also sets up more about Mama Salvatore. She faked her death when she turned into a vampire and then became a ripper. It seems it may be a genetic trait. Her body count got so high (an estimated 3000!) that the Gemini coven created the 1903 prison world just to contain her. We pretty much just see Damon learning this information, he hasn’t shared it with anyone except Bonnie yet. But we will be getting much more of Mama Salvatore very soon.
Episode Grade: 8/10
- Caroline: “Liam the guy I totally forgot existed”
- Did Liam not see all of the red flags being sent up by Caroline? He was very willing to make out with her despite how insane she was acting.
- “Relax, she can live without a spleen” I enjoyed that little call back.
- Elena breaks both of Liam’s wrists to stop him from hurting Sarah and he just passes out. I think that is the last we ever see of Liam…
- Stefan compelled Sarah not to care about vampires so that if a vampire ever found her she wouldn’t get drawn in.
- Enzo mentions to Sarah that he is rich. I know this is like an old vampire thing but I will never understand how this works. How do they all just get rich over time? I know its some economics thing I don’t understand but they could probably explain it in like two sentences.
- Body Count: None!