The Vampire Diaries 5.09 “The Cell”

A tv review article by: Shawn Hill

Okay (to judge from next week’s unfortunate pun of a title), maybe this wasn’t the season of apt movie titles after all. Maybe it’s been books (that were adapted into movies?) all along? Whatever, I’m not reading the book this episode references, for there nary a trace of J-Lopez in a skintight meat suit navigating Vincent d’Onofrio’s sick surreality.

Instead, we get a butt-load of Damon flashbacks, the only saving grace of which is that instead of current Dr. Maxfield mad scientist ranting all over the place, we get poodle skirt era Dr. Whitmore’s mad scientist rants. Though he might as well be the doctor who screams “It’s alive!” for all the subtlety of this bizarre story, at least the old school vampire torturer is played by One Life to Live’s second Todd. You know, the one who was even more dark and twisted than the first Todd, who had a permanent facial scar from being a rapist? At least it’s someone that can keep up with Damon’s snark for a change.

Damon, however, isn’t quite holding up his end of things at the moment. I get it, the show has spent all season focusing on Stefan and his serial lovers and his doppelgangers and his Ripper-lite attitude, while leaving Damon rather in the shadows. But this abrupt about-face to now layer all our attention on him, by linking him to the only slightly foreshadowed Curse of the Campus Vampire: Augustine mystery is crude and clumsy.

He’s just realized the school that Elena, Bonnie and Caroline willingly attend is also the place he was once tortured fifty years ago? He somehow thought the torturers were gone because he’s been killing off family members of Dr. Todd 2 regularly ever since? He didn’t think to question why even after Jesse (vamped by Dr. Maxfield) or Megan (Elena’s roommate who suffered a vampire death) expired so mysteriously? Poppycock!

In the backstory, he makes a friend of fellow captive Enzo, who seems nobler and willing to sacrifice in order to help Damon escape. A favor Damon instantly fails to repay, being Damon. Watching this stuff is tedious despite Enzo’s sexiness, given that the two prisoners have adjoining cells with a convenient floor level window for them to bond through as they sprawl, abused and dirty on cold stone.

The same arrangement that works in present day when Elena too is captured. Damon spins a tale of protracted revenge that doesn’t track with anything we’ve seen, mostly to distract Aaron, the Whitmore scion who holds a gun on both him and Elena at one point. I don’t believe a word of it, and only dread how few questions will be answered by the end of this week’s winter-finale episode.

Also, Katherine and Caroline have been double-teaming Stefan to speed-relieve him of his PTSD, which is laughably some sort of mix with Caroline’s usually boundless optimism and Katherine’s worse since she became mortal pessimism. Why do I understand where Katherine is coming from better than Elena’s reasons for doing anything, show? That’s just weird.

Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at

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