Move over Lily, there is a new villain in town

The Vampire Diaries Season 7, Episode 6 (“Best Served Cold”)
Todd Lasance, The Vampire Diaries

I have talked a lot about what makes a great TVD villain. For me it boils down to posing a real threat, having a personal connection to the protagonists, some degree of humanization through backstory, and of course they have to be well acted. Not everyone can pull off a villain, some come across cheesy or over the top (Qetsiyah). Others just fail to ever feel all that threatening (Markos). A great TVD villain makes you feel on edge anytime they are on the screen. Some of that comes down to writing, but a lot of it is just the actor’s charisma. The right actor with the right role.

Though we saw Julian in Valerie’s flashbacks this is the first episode we see of him not through someone else’s lens. And he certainly checks many of the TVD villain boxes: he poses a real danger, he is manipulative, and he has a personal connection to the protagonists. He has been back about a day and is already harming the residents of Mystic Falls so that our heroes cannot ignore what he is doing. However, at least in this episode, he felt more like a knock-off TVD villain. They are trying, but he just doesn’t quite check all of the boxes. At least so far, we haven’t been given any backstory or attempts at sympathy. Even if his time in the Phoenix Stone was hellish, we know he was like this before he went in. I don’t know if it is the actor or the writing, but I am just not finding Julian to be a compelling villain so far. I can feel the trying by both parties and maybe that is the problem. The best villains have felt effortless. The show is just piling him on top of Lily and the Heretics, as the villain of the villains, which only makes him feel like yet another obstacle the protagonists have to face.

In this episode Julian is painted as the real threat when it comes to the Heretics. He encourages them to be violent and then pretends to be civilized with Lily. He knows how to manipulate Nora and Mary Louise to help them get what they want and thus loyalty in return. The Heretics, and Lily, on the other hand are suddenly not so bad. They want to start over and live peacefully in Mystic Falls, now that their family is fully reunited. But this begs the question of why they took over the town in the first place. Now that they have Julian they are fine? What were they fighting for? Their mission has been very inconsistent as has Lily’s loyalty to her sons. She tells Julian that killing them is not allowed. So she is happy to make them miserable but not kill them? The writers can’t seem to decide if she is a victim or a villain. She can certainly be both, but her character has been wildly inconsistent this season. In this episode she is painted as a woman being manipulated by an abusive man, a pattern for her as she also suffered from her husband’s abuse. She is protective of her estranged sons. But in previous episodes she was in a war with one of her sons and willing to hurt them if she needed. Maybe since meeting them as adults, the mother within her has slowly been creeping back in. But at this point I am just ready to be done with them all.

Stefan and Damon can agree that Julian needs to go. What they cannot agree on is exactly when is the right time to kill him. Stefan wants to kill him immediately because of what he did to Valerie, and because he took away his only chance to ever have a child. Damon however, who doesn’t know this, wants to wait to make his vengeance sweeter. He is focused on destroying Lily, make her happy and then take it away. Though it was a fun switch in character to have Stefan being the one acting on emotion and impulse and Damon being the one to try to thwart him, their fight was unnecessary. As soon as Stefan explains why he doesn’t want to wait to kill Julian, Damon gives in and agrees to help. He too lost his ability to start a family with Elena, for now, so he can sympathize with Stefan. The scenes with them at the party were fun, but this whole plot could have been avoided if Stefan hadn’t just assumed that Damon wouldn’t understand his pain.

The flash forward in this episode was also the first that made me angry and unexcited to continue towards that timeline. We learn that Caroline is engaged to Alaric. In the main part of the episode it is revealed that Caroline might be carrying Alaric’s twins. The Gemini coven put them in her womb when Jo died to protect the next generation of Gemini twins. This is probably the most ridiculously elaborate plot concocted in the show and it is only because Candice King was pregnant while filming this season, and since a vampire cannot get pregnant, they had to come up with something insane. The idea of her being Alaric’s surrogate is one thing, but then having them be in a relationship is just gross. Alaric is her former teacher and Elena and Jeremy’s guardian. Needless to say it would have been better to just hide her pregnancy, as shows do all the time.

As is probably obvious I did not care for this episode, it also didn’t make me particularly excited to go further into the season. Julian only just arrived and I am already just waiting for him to be gone. At least Stefan and Damon are united in their desire to get rid of him as quickly as possible. And of course the pregnancy storyline is just absurd. I knew Season 7 was rocky but this was probably one of the worst episodes so far this season. I know things will get better, but I struggled to find a single silver lining in this episode.

Episode Grade: 5/10

Other Thoughts:

  • We learn a bit about what happens while people are in the Phoenix Stone. They relive the same day over and over where they live a nightmare. It is designed to drive them mad but Julian stayed “sane” by knowing it couldn’t be real.
  • Bonnie and Enzo get some more flirty interaction this episode as they show up to Lily’s party at the same time and Bonnie pretends to be Enzo’s date in order to make Lily jealous. Bonnie pokes some more fun at him for it but they have a moment where it feels like there could be a spark.
  • Bonnie and Matt discover that humans are being compelled to go to the high school and become human blood bags. That scene had an actual creepy feel to it since none of them could speak or move.
  • “Faux-Jo” Bonnie is getting nickname tips from Damon.
  • Body Count: 1, Faux-Jo dies of “natural” causes.

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