The Heretics begin to take over Mystic Falls

The Vampire Diaries Season 7, Episode 1 (“Day One of Twenty-Two Thousand, Give or Take”)
Zach Roerig, Justice Leak, Annie Wersching, Teressa Liane, and Scarlett Hefner, The Vampire Diaries

Losing a main character is a difficult thing for a show to deal with. There is inevitably an awkward period where the characters are still dealing with how that loss affects them, but there is also the need for the show to move on. Sometimes this results in an unrealistically short grieving period. Other times shows struggle to get out of it. In this episode, The Vampire Diaries balances that line fairly well. Elena still feels very present in spirit with everyone writing to her as she requested. And characters like Damon and Bonnie are struggling to figure out how they are going to move on. At the same time though the show is setting up new and interesting storylines with a whole host of new characters.

Unlike the Season 6 premiere when everyone was dealing with Damon and Bonnie’s supposed deaths, the tone of the episode is fairly light hearted. Despite only taking place a few weeks after Elena’s coma. This is probably because Elena isn’t in a prison world somewhere. She isn’t just sitting out a few episodes, she will be in a coma for the rest of the series. But she also isn’t dead. Caroline and Stefan don’t seem that affected by Elena being gone, probably because they know that they are going to see her again. It’ll just be awhile. Also with Bonnie and Damon’s storyline primarily focusing on Elena, Stefan and Caroline are responsible for getting the plots of this season started. But what unites all of the main storylines this episode is the theme of moving forward.

There are several indications in this episode that this is a new Vampire Diaries. First the show opens and closes with scenes set three years in the future, teasing some new mysteries. In this episode’s time jumps we see Stefan go to a storage unit in Brooklyn to wake up a desiccated Damon. Stefan needs his brother’s help because somebody is after him. Damon presumably desiccated himself to make his wait for Elena more bearable. We don’t really learn anything else but this is a very different storytelling device for the show, which has never really played around with time before. It is unclear how much the events in the episode directly lead to that future other than a mysterious scar shared by future Stefan and one of the Heretics, Beau. Another sign is the scenes in Amsterdam. Damon and Alaric are drinking their way through Europe (or at least Damon is) to get over their respective sorrows, and Bonnie tags along to keep an eye on them. These scenes felt very out of place for a show that pretty much never leaves Mystic Falls.

Damon and Alaric are both failing pretty miserably in this episode to move on. Not that they shouldn’t be allowed their time to grieve, but both are dealing with it in unhealthy ways. Alaric is only pretending to get drunk with Damon and then sneaking off to see psychics that can connect him with Jo. He also has a red stone with him that we learn nothing about but seems like it will be very important. He is in denial that Jo is really dead, convinced he can bring her back. It is hard to accept that anyone is really dead in this world because there always seems to be a loophole. But there is no Other Side anymore and at least at present, there is no clear avenue by which she might come back.

Damon on the other hand has mostly accepted that he won’t see Elena for the next 60 years, but he is taking his frustrations about it out on Bonnie. I really enjoyed what they did with Damon and Bonnie in this episode. The friendship they forged last season makes it so that Damon can’t actually wish Bonnie dead. He doesn’t want to lose her either. But there is no getting around the fact that if Bonnie died, he could have Elena back. Ultimately they realize they need each other. They both cared about Elena and that shared connection will help them to start moving forward. This felt like a necessary point for the show to make so that any lingering questions about Damon’s loyalty to Bonnie can be shut down. Damon isn’t going to be trying to kill Bonnie, in fact they are going to draw strength from each other.

Meanwhile in Mystic Falls the Heretics are beginning to take over. There are six in total, though we only meet five in this episode, Valerie, Nora, Mary Louise, Beau, Malcom, and Oscar. Nora and Mary Louise are the mean girls, though Valerie can also be pretty nasty when she wants to. Beau is mute, Oscar is absent, and Malcom doesn’t even make it through the episode. This episode sets up the girls to be the much more important characters. After the three girls brutally kill two townsfolk, Caroline, Matt, and Stefan try to take them out by blowing up the house they are living in with them in it. Apparently though a bomb isn’t enough to kill a Heretic and they retaliate by massacring the crowd at the Police Academy graduation (at which Matt is a graduate). Stefan and Caroline try to make a peace treaty with Lily by giving her the town so long as they give everyone a chance to evacuate.

Unfortunately this treaty is broken almost immediately when Damon returns from Europe. He and Bonnie decide they aren’t satisfied to just bow down to Lily. They team up to kill one of the Heretics, Malcom, which was a fun new dynamic for them. I like that they carried through the change in Bonnie last season. After her experience with Kai in the prison world she emerged stronger but darker. Teaming up with Damon to kill someone to make a statement to Lily is definitely not something she would have done prior to that. It was also good to see them fighting for Mystic Falls which was initially as much of a character on this show as any person, though that has been the case less and less over the past few seasons.

This certainly wasn’t the strongest season premiere the show has ever had (that distinction probably belongs to Season 3), but it definitely eased my initial concerns a bit about what this season would look like. This show has spent the last six seasons developing so many interesting characters and relationships that they have plenty to draw from. But also seven seasons in it is refreshing to see the show trying new things like the multiple timelines. This episode actually made me appreciate Enzo’s character for the first time in a very long time. Unhappy with his inability to prove to either side that he is trustworthy, he picks one. With Lily he at least has a chance to be included as part of the family, the others will never accept him fully. If the show can continue to use these characters in interesting ways and get away from stories centered around Elena, it might just survive her departure.

Episode Grade: 7/10

Other Thoughts:

  • The return of the diary writing was an interesting choice. Despite the series title, any diary writing/voice overs were abandoned in early Season 1. They are brought back here as a way of keeping Elena alive which I am not sure is a great idea if they want the show to move on from her.
  • Caroline actually does move her life forward in this episode. She realizes she is never going to be over her mom’s death and decides to finally stop using it as an excuse to not go for what she wants, and she finally kisses Stefan.
  • We also get the scene from the Season 6 finale of Matt driving through the wrecked town (turns out it was the Heretics’ setting fire to the Police Academy graduation) and Damon looking over it all from the clock tower. Though this was some major misdirection in the last episode (Damon had nothing to do with it), it still paints the picture of vampires and the supernatural world always having power over Mystic Falls and its human inhabitants, something not lost on Matt.
  • Lily is also interested in the stone that Alaric has but she wouldn’t tell Enzo what it was for.
  • Nora and Mary Louise are the show’s first gay couple! Having grown up in the late 1800s they were never able to be public about it before. It is a small moment where they first join hands and then think better of it. Not only was this a great development for the show to finally have some LGBT representation, but also it humanizes them some, a hallmark of all the great TVD villains.
  • Nora is played by Scarlett Byrne who plays Pansy Parkinson, another catty witch, in the Harry Potter movies!
  • Body Count: This was a very bloody episode. In addition to the massacre at the graduation, Valerie, with the help of Mary Louise and Nora, kills the two people who ran her over (2). Damon, with the help of Bonnie, kills Malcom (1).

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