The Vampire Diaries 4.23 “Graduation” REVIEW

The Vampire Diaries 4.23 “Graduation” TV REVIEW

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Episode 4.23
Writers: Julie Plec, Caroline Dries
Director: Chris Grismer

THE ONE WHERE Elena finally decides that Damon is the vampire for her, then forcibly gives the cure to Katherine; Bonnie resurrects Jeremy, then shuffles off this mortal coil; Klaus’s graduation present to Caroline is promising not to kill Tyler; and Stefan learns that he’s Silas’s shadow self…

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VERDICT Okay, who was expecting the Mayor to turn into a giant snake? But instead of being a Buffy rip-off, “Graduation” (the “Day” is silent) turned out to be an Angel rip-off instead. No, not because it appeared to have a cameo from the Groosalugg (he’s going by the name Alexander now) but because the cliffhanger was a bit too close to the cliffhanger of Angel season three for comfort (wherein Angel is waylaid by a vengeful Connor and Justine who seal him in a metal coffin and throw it off a boat to sink down to the ocean floor). Homage? Coincidence? Rip off? You argue it out. But you’d think someone would have pointed out that after a season of The Vampire Diaries with a few too many Buffyverse parallels, producing a Xerox cliffhanger may not be the wisest move. What next? Damon moves into a hotel and starts up a detective agency?

“Graduation” is a almost the quintessential Vampire Diaries season four episode; there are a number of scenes and moments where it’s about as good as The Vampire Diaries gets, but they’re set in languid plot which the writers pick at unenthusiastically like a child forking a bit of broccoli round the plate; it keeps reminding you of Buffy ; and just when you wonder where the hell the story’s going next, there’s one hell of a twist (a half-inched twist, but totally unexpected, nonetheless).

Luckily, the good outweighs the bad, and the show concentrates on what it does best – characters. And crucially, it nails the big Damon/Elena moment with a pair of wonderfully cheesy, throat-lumpening confessionals and a punch-the-air passionate kiss. Poor old (eavesdropping) Stefan looks like he’s at a funeral, but – ever the martyr – he later tells Damon, “I’m not happy about Elena, but I’m not unhappy for you either,” and even the most ardent Delena ’shippers’ hearts must go out to him.

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Amazingly, the episode even manages to convince you that Matt would go travelling with Rebekah, the vampire who nearly killed him a season finale back (should this kind of turnaround be known as Stake-holm Syndrome?). They are actually very sweet together and even though you’d have to be especially dim (or Alexander) not to work out how Rebekah would save Matt from the motion-sensitive bomb, as a contrivance to get them to kiss, it did the job.

The big Elena/Katherine cat fight delivered as well – brutal, bitchy and bloody, with a brilliantly jawdropping conclusion: Elena force-feeds the cure to her doppelganger. It’s probably just about the cruellest thing she could have done. Not that she had much choice. And not that there’s much hint of remorse in her voice when she says, “Have a nice human life, Katherine.”

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There are also some lovely little character moments spattered throughout the episode, thanks to many departed friends making the most of their brief return to life. Alaric has the most fun, whizzing around the place and quipping like some undead superhero, while his conversation with Lexi about the nature of the afterlife is oddly endearing. Even Jeremy seem less whingey than usual.

Prize for the most-cheesy-yet-at-the-same-time-heartwarming moment, though, has to go to Klaus’s graduation present for Caroline – promising not to kill Tyler. The old romantic.

Despite all that, there’s an oddly half-hearted feel to this season finale. There are a few more vengeful “ghosts” this week, but hardly the legions you’d expect, they barely pose a threat. Alaric and Rebekah easily dispose the hunters, while Klaus deals with the witches and hybrids using a mortar board. It hardly feels like end-of-the-world stuff. And whereas in Buffy the graduation became part of the plot, here it’s just The Vampire Diaries latest social engagement of the week, and the fact all the lead characters take time out to go to it, underlines how wimpy the supernatual plot is.

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And our predictions (hopes) for Silas last review were sadly way off the mark. Oh, he’s back, sure, but not as part of some big, cunning plan – just luck: Bonnie’s death freed him. That’s a hell of a loophole (considering she was going to have to die one day, and Silas is well-proficient in the waiting game). It all feels a little humdrum and anticlimactic, despite all that gubbins about Stefan being his shadow self. And what exactly does that mean? It’s all a bit vague and woolly at the moment… A great “Gosh! Wow! Really?” moment, but one that leave you going, “But hang on…” after the credits.

Either way, it just seems to reinforce the idea that Silas is the least interesting and most prevaricating Big Bad in recent TV fantasy history. Maybe Katsia (when/if she stops being so shy) might prove a more interesting foe next season.

TRIVIA This episode has the longest ever list of guest characters on The Vampire Diaries (so far) – 11.

TRIVIA Nina Dobrev actually plays three roles in this episode – Elena, Katherine, Silas.

MISSING MOTHER How come Caroline mum was missing from the graduation ceremony? Caroline was desperate for her to be there a couple of episodes back.

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RUBBING SALT INTO WOUNDS Rebekah tells Matt that one of the places she wants to take him is a church in Italy in San Vittore, near Brienno. This was where she and Alexander were supposed to get married. Instead, Rebekah buried Alex and his sword there (“The Killer”).

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GRATUITOUS SHIRTLESS SCENE Damon does the honours, 22 minutes into the episode.

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TRACHEOTOMY OF THE WEEK Now that Katherine’s human, she could always get a job on Casualty .

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ENTRANCE OF THE WEEK Klaus does it in style, announcing his return by decapitating a witch with a mortarboard, giving a whole new meaning to academically challenged.

Damon: “You know what I really am? Selfish. Because I make bad choices that hurt you. Yes, I’d rather die than be human. I’d rather die right now than spend a handful of years with you, only to lose you when I’m too old and sick and miserable and you’re still you. I’d rather die right now than spend my last, final years remembering how good I had it and how happy I was. Because that is who I am, Elena, and I’m not gonna change. And there’s no apology in the world that encompasses all the reasons that I’m wrong for you.”
Elena: “Well, I’m… I’m not sorry either. I’m not sorry that I met you. I’m not sorry that knowing you has made me question everything. And that in death, you’re the one that made me feel most alive. You’ve been a terrible person. You’ve made all the wring choices, and of all the choices that I have made this will prove to be the worst one. But I’m not sorry that I am in love with you. I love you Damon.”

Dave Golder

New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four air in the UK on ITV2

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