‘The Vampire Diaries’ season 7, episode 17 review: A Paul Wesley showcase with many Stefans

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The Vampire Diaries” loves to do the body swap. We’ve seen it before with Klaus, and it happens on “The Originals” so many times that it almost feels normal at this point.

Yet, there was still something about Stefan and the others searching for his true self on Friday night’s episode that was altogether different and captivating, largely because this was a different sort of fate for the character being stuck within the body of an alcoholic, someone struggling with a truly human problem and feeling the pain of that. Meanwhile, we saw a powerful killer within his own body, which of course gave us a chance to see of that rage channeled. It’s really no surprise that both Paul Wesley and showrunner Julie Plec (who directed this episode) did a great deal of press going into it, since this may be one of his best overall performances on the show. Romance and some of the lighter story took a backseat to the rawness of emotion we saw out of Stefan / “Stefan” here, and the relationship between him and his brother Damon was put further to the test.

At one point, Damon went so far in his search that he was willing to even take on the role of intimidation man, urging Stefan to come and take him on if that was precisely what he really wanted to do. After all, he’d be more than ready for him. We’re getting closer to getting the “real” Stefan back in the right body, but there’s the problem of the evil counterpart off in Memphis still wrecking havoc / killing young people.

Didn’t parts of this feel almost like an episode of “Doctor Who” meets survival horror? The show has given itself some lofty expectations as of late, and we admire them for the effort, even if it doesn’t always land.

Aside from the brothers Salvatore, Friday’s episode brought us a sad reminder (at least for one character) that Alaric may be more into Caroline than she is in him, while at the same time we also became aware that Rayna’s motives are … complicated. We wish there was a more-defined direction as to where this is going, since we do like the stories being brought to the table at this point following the time jump; we just wish that we knew what we were building to. Episode Grade: B.

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