The Vampire Diaries “Hell is Other People” Review (Season 7 Episode 10)

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On the first episode back after an extended hiatus- and its first in the potentially deadly Friday night timeslot- “The Vampire Diaries” eschewed the whole flash-forward thing for an extended, pseudo-flashback, in “Hell is Other People.” I say “pseudo,” of course, because, as we know, Damon is once again trapped in an alternate reality, only this time of his own making, resulting in that much more of a hellish experience, thanks to Julian’s use of the sword and the Phoenix stone.

Though it would seem that Stefan already has been revived, if the end of the episode is any indication, Damon was stuck in his particular branch of Hell for almost the entire episode. In his, things vacillated from Civil War-era 1863 and a particularly nasty occurrence involving a family housing a couple of deserters and the present, where things were varying from bad to worse at every turn.

Indeed, with each “Groundhog Day”-style do-over, things seemingly only got worse and worse, with only one constant: mother Lily, who consistently continued to crop up time and again, just as Julian had hoped- and, to be fair, as Damon probably deserved, to a certain extent, for the undeniably nasty things he said to her since her return, not to mention on her very death bed as she shuffled off this mortal coil.

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Still, that said, after having already trapped Damon in a Hell-world previously, I am glad they got this out of the way sooner than later, rather than extending it over the course of several episodes, as they did before. All told, it was a reasonably effective endeavor, what with the increasingly horrific circumstances Damon kept finding himself in, over and over again. He might have had some of that coming, but after a certain point, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

Of course, as pointed out by Stefan in one scene, whereas he had a tendency to wallow in his pain, thus making confronting it easy enough for him, in a matter of speaking, Damon has always tended to avoid facing his own pain head-on. Unfortunately for him, the key to getting out didn’t involve side-stepping things, or attempting to find a way out on your own, but giving in to his worst fears and embracing the pain by coming to terms with it.

In his case, the biggie being forgiving his mother, and himself for the way he’d treated her, however much she had it coming to a certain extent. As also pointed out by Stefan, Elena always had a particular effect on him in that, by forgiving him for the awful things he’d done in the past, he was able to forgive himself just enough to strive to be a better person to make up for it.

But without Elena in the picture, Damon was a mess, and was falling back into his worst habits, which, as Stefan pointed out, Elena would never have allowed- and wouldn’t be too happy to find out about when she did eventually come back. In short, Damon needed to get it together, and soon, lest he be adversely affected by his experiences to the extent that there would be no coming back from them.

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In the end, it took over three months, in his case, in which Julian was up to who knows what in the meantime. Unfortunately for all concerned, as the present was part of Damon’s nightmare, when he finally really did come out of it for real, he mistook it for yet another mental “reboot” and attacked everyone concerned, including Stefan, Bonnie, a very pregnant Caroline and Matt, which is where we left the episode.

Now, obviously, they’re not going to off everyone but Damon in one fell swoop- that’s season finale, if not series finale-type stuff right there, if that, and if they actually ever did go there for real, I can’t imagine fans would be too happy with that sort of ending to the show. Ergo, I suspect that Stefan and Caroline are fine, Matt a bit more dazed but ultimately okay (though it’s probably not going to help his hate/love/hate relationship with Damon, that’s for sure), with Bonnie, as ever, taking the worst of it.

Honestly, I feel like a freaking broken record with this, but what is with this show’s near non-stop barrage of Bonnie-related torment and drama? I mean, the show-runners seemingly have it in for poor Kat Graham at nearly every turn, for at least the last few seasons. The girl just can’t seem to catch a break to save her life, am I right?

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I mean, seriously, if it’s a personal issue with the actress herself, just kill the character off already and that would be that. Maybe she could do a nice sitcom or something and put all this behind her. Unless this is some weird passive-aggressive thing similar to the one I got into in a recent TV Chat about actor Ian Somerhalder (which you can read here), a sort-of “we hate her, but we’d sooner torture her than let her go” kind of thing, which is just perverse, let’s face it.

If that’s the state the show is in, no wonder it’s in danger of getting cancelled. The thing is, it would have been all too easy for them to close up shop at the end of last season, when leading lady Nina Dobrev first jumped ship. Instead, they chose to soldier on, but it’s as if most everyone concerned seems miserable about it.

I want to think that the show-runners know where they’re headed with all this “three years in the future” thing, but you’ve got to wonder, given how crazy it all seems, what with no one character with anyone else romantically that makes a lick of sense. Honestly, it’s as if they threw a dart and just rolled with it.

My hope is that it’s the “three years in the future” thing that turns out to be the actual Hell-world, but I suppose that’s too much to wish for. Not to mention it’s a lot to ask of the fans, who have been more than a little suspect of all that’s been going on this season. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but I really hope they end this sucker strong, because this season has been all over the place, to say the least, and not in an interesting, inventive way, but in a crazy, scatter-shot, what the what is going on one.

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I’d say it was just me, perhaps, but a look around the internet shows that I’m not alone in this assessment. Yes, there are some that are on board with some of the more dubious choices the show has made as of late- witness the fact that “Damon’s Love Is For Elena” was trending on Twitter today- but I get the sense that those people are actually in the minority and the show’s propaganda machine is just trying to justify some of their more dubious choices by backing them up with airless (and possibly paid-off) commentary from those willing to shill on their behalf.

Okay, maybe that sounds a bit cynical and even a bit paranoid, but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Besides, I’ve talked to just enough people on the opposite end of the spectrum- read: those who agree with a lot of what I’m saying- to have a foundation for my doubts, so I know for a fact at this point that it’s not just me.

The sad truth is that none of us may have a say in the matter by now, regardless of what we think. My guess is that they’ve already set their course and are standing by their choice, damn the general consensus. The pro-show stuff that’s been propagating on the internet is just damage control because it’s too late to turn back now.

Truth be told, there’s something to be said for that, though. They made their choices and they’re moving forward with it, naysayers be damned. Hell, what else can they do? They’ve spent nearly the entire season setting up whatever this all is. Let’s just hope the pay-off is worth it, because if not, mark my words this show is a goner. No matter how hesitant CW is to let one of their most long-running shows go, they will if the fan uproar is loud enough. It’s not as if that move to Fridays is exactly a ringing endorsement, after all.

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So yeah, this episode was fine, all told. Somerhalder gave an effectively tormented performance and rose to the occasion of what was asked of him. His fans couldn’t have asked for more in that regard, and thematically, it made perfect sense, in terms of what we know about Damon and what his own personal Hell might be in accordance with that. I have no problem with the episode itself, just general uneasiness about where this is all headed. We shall see, I suppose.

In the meantime, let me know what you think down below in the comments section. Disagree completely? Not a problem- sound off down below. Agree with near-every word I said? That’s fine, too- show your solidarity down below as well. I’ll see you next week, and hopefully, moving forward, maybe the show will be onto something solid in earnest. One can only hope.