This is an episode full of stories and exposition – so let’s get that all passed right now so we can finally get some history to all this even if the motivations are still complete mysteries.
Way back in 750BC we had the super psychic Arcadius who tried to use his powers for good and to help people. But people are awful and instead decided to brutally kill him
Fast forward a little and the same Mediterranean culture has decided to keep banishing psychics because humanity is awful. This includes the girl Sybil banished to a barren island where previously banished psychic is already there. She has survived by using her psychic gifts to pull sailors to the island where there ships are destroyed so their supplies can be claimed.
Sybil finds this morally unacceptable and instead insists they either live off what the island can provide or starve. So her sister goes…. Hunting and brings back wild boar meat.
Except she’s just pulling in more sailors. And this time she’s butchering them and bringing back the meat for them both to eat. Her sister turned Sybil into a cannibal against her will
This becomes the theme of Sybil being questioned by Stefan and even when running around Stefan’s mind showing him this story. She wants to know whether Stefan is redeemable. She wants to know if he’s the brother who forced the other into vampirism, or the brother who didn’t choose this life but was forced into this murderous lifestyle
Of course, while Sybil wants to find parallels to her own story, the Salvatore brothers are just a bit more complicated and a bit more evil than all that. Sure, Stefan was the one who turned Damon into the life of a murdering vampire (and, as Sybil points out, no Damon is not over that), but equally Stefan has been the one who has tried to find a more moral way of being a vampire only to be derailed by Damon. Basically they’re both terrible and both doomed to hell.
Back to that Hell and the story – hell isn’t a divine thing of judgement et al. We go back to ancient psychic Arcadius, brutally killed by his friends and neighbours is exposed to the utter evil as humanity. With his dying breath he uses his vast Psychic powers to banish them all to a terrible realm of judgement and punishment
Basically, he created hell and made himself the devil.
His spirit approached Sybil and her fellow siren and offered them a deal after Sybil, learning she was a cannibal, tried to commit suicide. The Sirens would live forever, feasting on human flesh – and sending the souls of evil people to Arcadius and his realm.
Having shown this to Stefan, she waves his slaughters in front of his face and doesn’t let his excuse of “it’s was a long time ago” be absolution (and we have seen a whole lot of deaths from Stefan since then so even if we accepted that excuse, it’s pretty hollow). He’s going to go to hell – unless he helps Sybil kill Arcadius, kill the devil and rescue them from hell and Sybil from service she never asked for
This is, partially, also why Damon is still following Sybill’s whims. Because she has been in his head but also because she has shown him hell and the way to avoid this is to serve Arcadius. Of course she can’t give him instructions so he’s still running around with the various subliminal things she’s put in his head trying to do what he thinks she wants
This means tracking down some artefact she wants which is apparently a Maxwell family heirloom owned by Peter Maxwell. Who is Matt Donovan’s son
Yes, they’ve managed to drag Matt Donovan back into the story despite him being eternally irrelevant. My gods look at this convoluted writing – he’s back in the story because his family happens to have an ancient siren artefact? Really? Because family heirlooms dating back thousands of years are totally all the rage in poor rural families in Virginia.
So Matt is around and apparently relevant. He saves his dad from Damon but Damon ends up escaping and getting the artefact while Matt goes off to rescue Tyler, shocked that Damon would kill Tyler because “no-one, not even Elena, would forgive him for this.”
Really? I repeat what I said last episode – since when does anyone care about Tyler? Since when was Tyler the One person no-one could stand to see die? We’ve seen bodies pile up, Damon has tried to kill Elena’s little brother, he raped, enslaved and turned Caroline, her turned Bonnie’s mother. He killed Matt’s own sister, he’s killed Matt! (damn Gilbert ring). He has threatened all of their lives repeatedly and endlessly yet no-one cares. Why is Tyler the one special corpse that no-one could forgive?
This makes no sense.
I keep mentioning the second siren and the show keeps trying to trick us that it could be Georgie since she steals Alaric’s journal and briefly imprisons Alaric in the catacomb tunnels under the armoury (Alaric knows the way out albeit it involves him having to stab his own eardrums for the sensory deprivation necessary to pass the fake wall. It probably says a lot about this show that everyone is so used to having vampire blood on tap that self-mutilation like this is seen as no biggie - - and how inured all these characters are to severe injury).
But despite her shenanigans she’s actually being used by the actual siren – Selene. Yes, Selene the nanny to Alaric and Caroline’s kids. To think if they didn’t feed her vampire blood, she’d be dead now. But Selene kills Georgie and sends her soul to hell when she fails to rescue Sybil – because Sybil doesn’t want to be rescued. Looks like Sybil’s plan of killing Arcadius is not shared by her sister
I think this is an interesting take on the afterlife for this world setting because, unlike so much of
Vampire Diaries’ canon it actually fits. After all, we’ve already seen artificially created afterlives in the past, we’ve seen ghosts held as ancestors to empower their living descendants in The Originals, we’ve seen the creation of the Other Side as an artificial afterlife for supernaturals. Magically created, powerful afterlives are a theme with The Vampire Diaries so having an ancient magical being create another one that became known as hell nicely threads into this canon. Of course, I do question how this hell and the Other Side coexisted – did the Other Side prevent all those souls going to hell because they went to magical afterlife instead. And if so, does that mean. We’ve also got to consider a number of dead, obviously evil, people in The Originals (like the Original family themselves and the ancestors) who are still able to bop over to the real world and are apparently not in hell – so there’s still questions there about who goes to hell, whether we’ll see other characters who have dead be released from hell and the whole complexity about who goes to what afterlife.
It’s also interesting in a too little too late kind of way that this show is turning a lens finally on the broken morality of this show, on the evil of the characters. We’re finally looking at those who inherited the protagonist mantle from Elena and finally calling them evil.
Do I even have to say that "yay new POC main character" comes with a heavy dose of "and that character is evil and the ACTUAL DEVIL"