Is Lily a villain or a victim?

The Vampire Diaries Season 7, Episode 7 (“Mommie Dearest”)
Annie Wersching, The Vampire Diaries

Lily has been a complicated character for me in that I struggle to decide how I feel about her. Some episodes make me excited for what she brings to the table and at other times she feels like a drag. Her presence has helped to flesh out Damon and Stefan’s background. Her history with her sons questions the strength of the bonds of biological family versus the family we choose. She could even be a good villain at times. This is all fairly interesting, but at times it seems that the writers had very little planned plot-wise when they introduced her. She became a villain towards the end of last season but has since been pushed aside by Julian, as if he was the “big bad” all along and she is just another one of his victims. But she is not just a villain with a tragic backstory, she is more in between victim and villain.

Not that those lines have to be clear, it is certainly interesting to have someone in that in between space. This episode really grapples with that through Stefan and Damon’s differing opinions about whether she can be forgiven. Stefan sees her as a victim, someone who has been manipulated by evil men. Stefan will always fight for forgiveness and redemption in the people he cares about, it is who he is. Damon however has always struggled to forgive anyone, always seeing the worst in people. He can only see the bad she has done: she left her family and found a new one, she admitted to no longer loving them, she gave Kai the spell for putting Elena in a coma, and drove all of the residents out of Mystic Falls. What I loved about their disagreement is that both of their sides are valid and completely in character. On the one hand I see what Stefan sees, women in her time who suffered being married to abusive men had no way out. You can also see why she might have fallen for Julian, he can be charming and charismatic, making it more difficult to see his bad side. On the other hand I can also see it from Damon’s point of view. Just because you can sympathize with her doesn’t mean that she has to be forgiven for everything.

Stefan wants Lily’s help in taking down Julian, but first he has to break her blind devotion to him. He and Damon make her see the similarities between Julian and their father, Giuseppe. Both men would make excuses for their behavior saying that it was only because of their love for their family and their desire to keep them together. We see flashbacks from Stefan and Damon’s childhood which show how mean Giuseppe was. We have heard throughout the series mentions of him being mean, but it has never been this explicit. Until Lily arrived the show never dove that much into their human lives prior to meeting Katherine. It adds some depth to their backgrounds and shows that Damon was pretty protective of Stefan. He took the abuse from his father to spare Stefan. His abuse was likely the seed of their strong bond. Stefan and Damon’s devotion to each other is not born out of merely being brothers, but because of their shared experiences. They both grew up with the same abusive father, fell for the same manipulative girl, and became vampires together. Lily left them to go through all of that alone, just because she is their mother doesn’t make her family.

The less interesting part of this episode was that it confirmed Caroline’s pregnancy. Since there is no proof of her being pregnant (the test is negative) until the very end, she continuously denies the other signs like morning sickness. Alaric on the other hand is very hopeful. For him it is a chance to get back some of the family he lost. Jo can never come back, but he could still have their twins. For Caroline though it would be much more complicated. What is her role? Is she just a surrogate? Will she see them as her children? How will it affect her relationship with Stefan? In the flash forward scenes we see that she does ultimately choose to be in their lives and starts a family with Alaric, but in present day she is not ready for any of it. Though it is easy to see Caroline being a mom and doing the whole family thing, it is not something that she has ever really voiced wanting. She is one of the few who actually enjoys her life as a vampire. She has always seemed okay giving up some of those human experiences in exchange for the strength, confidence, and independence being a vampire has given her.

This episode was much better than the previous few, it actually helped me with my complicated feelings about Lily. It made the inconsistencies in her character seem more deliberate. I liked that Stefan and Damon are both given valid view points concerning her. You can’t blame Stefan for wanting to redeem his mother, but you also can’t blame Damon for not wanting to. As we get further into these last two seasons I think we will see a lot more instances where the show lets the audience decide if a character is redeemable/likable or not. Morality in this universe is a sliding scale and it is difficult to make definitive statements about anyone.

Episode Grade: 7.5/10

Other Thoughts:

  • This was like half a holiday episode. It is supposed to be Thanksgiving in both present day and the flashbacks to 1851 but it is barely relevant. Damon is eating Thanksgiving food while torturing his mom and remembering the trauma of his father making him kill and eat a turkey they had raised that Damon had grown attached to.
  • Matt is still dealing with the people they found compelled at the school. They are moved to the Grill and are then later lost. They aren’t being fed on, they are actually hooked up to saline drips and are being fed good food. This creeps him out more as he hypothesizes that they are being “fattened for the slaughter”. He is also frustrated that he is basically having to deal with this alone as Caroline and Bonnie are busy dealing with more important things.
  • Enzo and Julian getting into a literal sword fight over Lily was absurd.
  • We are also introduced to a new weapon – a sword that is associated with the Phoenix Stone, when the stone is placed in the sword it can kill a vampire, but without the stone the sword is useless.
  • Three Years in the Future: Damon and Alaric are going after whoever is after Stefan – Caroline’s broadcast was meant to lure Stefan to the news station where the person after him will be waiting for him. Damon knows this and is trying to get there before Stefan to stop him from going in He gets there and Caroline is gone and is then darted down.
  • Body Count: None!

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