Almost exactly a year ago, Damon Salvatore found himself at something of a crossroads. Driven by grief and helplessness, he finally confronted all of the inner demons that drove him to constant self-destruction. Since then, he’s slowly been tiptoeing away from tearing his world down and steadily working towards building it up, with the help of his newly created family unit of Stefan and Elena.
The thing is, this world he carefully built for himself was bound to crumble, leaving only the self-destruction behind, amongst the rubble. With Stefan lost in his own world of self-flagellation (and Alaric often off drinking and doing whatever else it is Alaric does when he’s not sniping at Damon), all Damon really has left to tether him is Elena. Tonight, that tether is snapped when Damon gets overprotective and inadvertently reveals his love to Elena at precisely the wrong time. Her immediate refusal—whether it is what is truly in her heart or not—is enough to send Damon screaming back into self-destruction, which in this case happens to be the arms of Rebekah, the Rebekah who wants Elena dead. It’s sexy and complicated and soapy and fun all at once, basically a perfect representation of what The Vampire Diaries does at its best. As enjoyable as Damon’s character evolution away from self-destruction has been, it certainly was a delightful surprise to see the cocky, devil-may-care, false bravado of season one Damon again.
It’s a testament to the power of that fateful final moment that it took three paragraphs for me to mention the rest of this very fine episode and the newly elevated characters that made it possible, the Originals. It’s a bit hard to believe these characters, all of whom fit into the world of Mystic Falls so perfectly, only just arrived on the scene and are already capable of carrying the majority of an episode all by themselves. TVD doesn’t get enough credit for consistently creating characters that are interesting out of the gate and then using them wisely, therefore ingratiating them to the audience quickly. This is a show where anyone can die by design; the trouble is, when it comes time for it to happen, no one is ready to see that characters go. There is no way all of the Originals will make it to the end of season three. Is it wrong I’m already sad about it?
That being said, all of the Originals made it through tonight, and they did it in style. Although Esther talked a big game to her children about forgiveness and becoming a family again, her true reason for returning (and for throwing an elaborate, 1800s-style ball on one day’s notice) is to kill the abominations she calls her family once and for all. Although I might have quibbles with her long-term plan, you have to respect a woman who throws an elaborate, gorgeous party that forces the entire cast to dance a waltz in amazing clothes simply to pull off one part of a simple plan. Esther has some style. Esther’s plan to kill her children has one little hitch, since Klaus is immortal. Her plan for getting out of this little jam requires the use of Elena’s doppelganger blood to cast a binding spell on all of her children, so when one of them dies, the rest are killed as well. The spell is completed, but the true question is if it will work. Elijah, who remains fabulous, seems far too skeptical and smart to let this happen.
The most interesting part of Esther’s plan at this point is not the binding spell, as the first iteration of anyone’s plan on this show never seems to work. What is interesting is Elena’s role in the plan and how she feels about the outcome. Proactive Elena is always my favorite Elena, but it’s getting harder and harder to see why she wants to be involved in this mess at all. Part of this hesitation on my part is the softening of Klaus’ character of late; he simply doesn’t seem like an imminent threat. Why is Elena so willing to help Esther kill these people who, for the most part, haven’t done much of anything to her? (Okay, Rebekah wants to kill her, but she can be reasoned with.) To be fair, she did have a few moments of regret, though they were quickly excused away by Stefan. Elena’s decision-making skills have always been a tad bit wobbly, but they always seemed to come out of a place of necessity. It’s the necessity that’s missing here, making it all feel a bit dirtier than is likely intended.
The aforementioned softening of Klaus continued tonight, which is a development I simultaneously fear and adore. Transitioning a villain from evil to sympathetic is always a tricky endeavor, mostly because it’s really freaking difficult to do without undermining the qualities people loved about the villain in the first place. Still, if the writers want to make it happen, pairing Klaus with Caroline is perhaps the best way to go about it, since she basically turns everything she touches into gold. The fascination Klaus showed with Caroline when healing her has turned into something more, with him flat-out attempting to romance her and confessing his interest. Caroline is the perfect foil for these emotions because Candice Accola is simply wonderful at portraying the fine line between disgust, sympathy, and flattery that would come from advances such as these. No matter what he’s done, his worldliness and curiosity intrigues Caroline in a way she can’t explain, and in a way Tyler could never manage. I don’t know if their relationship would make sense, but it certainly would be compelling, and the chemistry is there. Also, he drew her a pony! How can she resist?
- My favorite little bits from tonight were the brief moments of “slasher cam” that served as a continuation of that storyline without one bit of commentary from the dialogue. Very mood-setting and clever.
- I don’t even know what to think about Stefan and Elena these days. Their scene was quite emotional but hard to parse on an episode-by-episode analysis basis. It will probably make more sense after the entire arc is completed, so I’ll refrain from comment until then.
- We didn’t get to see much of Finn tonight, but Kol is a little bit insane. That’s fun.
- The loud music during the dance scene basically made the best scene of the episode unwatchable. Everyone was flirting with everyone, and I couldn’t hear anything. Tragedy.
- I’ve always had a soft spot for Matt, but he’s legitimately gotten awesome these last few episodes.
- “I’ve met a lot of people. And you don’t particularly stand out.”
- “I fancy you.”
- “Yeah, well, your emotions are getting in the way of our plan.”