Damon finally saves Stefan from Rayna and Ambrose

The Vampire Diaries Season 7, Episode 18 (“One Way or Another”)
Paul Wesley, The Vampire Diaries

This season has had a lot of trouble with consistency and figuring out what exactly it would be after Elena departed. There has been some welcome new dynamics, Bonnie and Damon’s friendship being the obvious frontrunner. But there has also been some not so welcome new characters like Julian. Seven seasons into any show generally begins to get rough. You can’t just keep retreading old ground but you also can’t abandon the things that allowed the show to run for so many seasons in the first place. This episode however reminded us of what some of those things were.

The first is Damon getting to be the hero but in his own Damon way. After all the doubt over whether he could actually come through and save Stefan, he is finally successful. Of course he does it in a very Damon-like fashion. Compelling EMTs to keep Stefan alive while he bargains with a serial killer and forces his former best friend to help him, despite extreme reluctance. Time is running out for Stefan in the human body and if he doesn’t get put back in his real body soon he will be dead for good. The only problem is that fake Stefan, the serial killer Ambrose from the 1880s, is not eager to give it up. This results in the return of Damon and Alaric teaming up to find and defeat a bad guy. A dynamic that has been missing for far too long. Since Alaric’s daughters were born and Damon desiccated, he has lived a fairly normal, drama-free life and he likes it that way. Resist all you want Alaric, we all know it won’t last.

This episode, and the last, also remembered that when in doubt, always make Paul Wesley play the bad guy. With Ambrose in Stefan’s body, it gave us the return of “Evil Stefan” which is always welcome. Other than Season 3, the show is pretty resistant to ever making Stefan the bad guy so they have to use doppelgängers and body swaps to give Paul Wesley more fun things to do. That part is a bit unfortunate but I still enjoyed watching him as Ambrose. I don’t know if it is that Paul Wesley plays evil so well or if it is just such a fun departure from his usual character. But his evil is always sort of a funny evil. He is generally sarcastic and deadpan. Unfortunately Ambrose is pretty short-lived but hopefully we will get another glimpse of Evil Stefan before the end of the series.

Meanwhile we finally get the dots connected for Bonnie’s time jump. She checked herself into the mental health center in order to get information from another patient. The Armory has been after her for years and she doesn’t know why. She learned that Alex St. John’s sister, Virginia, was put in this facility and she hoped she would give her some answers. Through Virginia, she learns that there is a vault underneath the Armory that can only be opened by a Bennett witch. Virginia doesn’t say what is in the vault only that it can never be opened. Bonnie is unsure at this point what she wants to do. On the one hand opening it means that she can be free of them, but she also doesn’t know if she should. We know that the Armory is steeped in dark secrets and Bonnie should probably listen to this girl. Enzo worked for them for years and never really knew the whole of what they were doing. Like the anti-magic pills that kill witches in time, pills h3 has been giving to Bonnie.

Despite literally going to the ends of the Earth with him, and risking her life to save him, Valerie realizes that Stefan will never care for her the way she does for him. He is all she really has so she is willing to risk her life for him. But the same isn’t true for Stefan and now that he is free from Rayna, it is pretty clear he wants to return to Caroline. Valerie is very aware of this and so she breaks up with herself for Stefan. Thankfully Valerie is pretty positive about it and decides to use it as an opportunity to live her own life, something she hasn’t ever really been able to do. She has been tied up with Julian, Lily, and the other Heretics for over 150 years. I can’t remember if this is the actual end of Valerie’s character but it feels like it is. She was one of those characters that there was nothing particularly wrong with, but you were just never all that invested in. The show has been slowly building towards a relationship with Caroline and Stefan ever since Elena broke up with Stefan back in Season 4. As Valerie herself says, she was just a distraction.

I really enjoyed this episode, mostly for the fun parts of it but also for the plot developments. Stefan appears to be finally free of Rayna and Valerie which will hopefully allow him to get back into the game in a more interesting way. Also the new mystery of what is in the vault at the Armory is set up, which looks like it will be a Bonnie centric plot. Now we just need Candice King to come back from maternity leave because an injection of Caroline is always a good remedy for a slacking Vampire Diaries.

Episode Grade: 8.5/10

Other Thoughts:

  • Though I am not too upset for Valerie to depart, I did feel bad for her. Stefan was free of Rayna for about two minutes before he was already thinking about Caroline again.
  • Next episode will feature Damon’s attempts to get Bonnie to forgive him. At the end of this episode he shows up to see her and she literally slams the door in her face. It looks like it will be taking him some time to get his buds back.
  • Alaric and Caroline are having a small wedding. That should be a big red flag to Alaric.
  • A fun callback to the early seasons was when Damon says to Alaric, “You can go as the creepy professor pretending to be the chaperone”
  • Alaric: “I hate how good that felt”
  • Body Count: 2, Ambrose kills the two EMTs taking care of Stefan. He also kills like a hundred people at a frat party.

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