For a show that practically runs on heightened emotions, The Vampire Diaries doesn’t often go for a full-on gut punch. The show first dabbled in the consequences of mixing humans and vampires way back in early season one with Vickie, but the characters and stakes were far too new for the emotional reaction such a tragic story should garner. TVD nailed this in season two with Jenna’s tragic death, though, perfectly pacing both her actual death and the aftermath to tell a lovely, emotional story of how these characters react when a loved one dies.
These types of stories are woven into the fabric of a show like TVD, simply because of the kind of show it is, as you can’t have all of your characters in constant mortal danger without killing a few along the way. Despite this fact, the show has been surprisingly reluctant to kill any of its core or even periphery cast lately, instead eliminating much less essential characters such as Original vampire Finn. Frankly, the show was overdue for a main character killing and the type of good gut punch this brings about. Tonight’s goal was pure gut punch, and although the plot mechanics leave quite a bit to be desired, the episode delivered. Right up until it didn’t.
Alaric’s multiple personality serial killer storyline was an uneven little plot runner from the start, at times used in exciting ways to add to the general creep factor of Mystic Falls and inject some horror back into the show, but at other times limping along as almost an afterthought while more important things were dealt with. The only true constant in the story was Matt Davis, who played all aspects of his fractured psyche flawlessly. It’s a story that in hindsight was always heading toward Alaric’s eventual demise. What keeps getting me stuck is the how of it, and where it goes from here.
Esther’s reemergence as the big threat of the season just plain bothers me, and not just because she slowly made Alaric crazy and then turned him into a vampire. It bothers me because her plan is too big. Yes, big. What started out as a Fundamentalist-type desire to destroy the evil she created (a.k.a. her children) has accidentally turned into a plan that will wipe all vampires from existence. It’s too farfetched to even have a chance of succeeding, and therefore, all we’re doing is sitting around waiting to see the way it will fail. Obviously “big bad” characters are almost always destined to fail; we don’t watch a show like TVD or Buffy to see the manifestation of the end of the world; we watch it to see the hero stop the end of the world. But so blatantly rolling along with a storyline that hinges around an unworkable plan is just plain silly. The vampires aren’t going to disappear, because then there’s no more show, and to ask the audience to go along with this is frankly kind of bullshit, especially when the catalyst is an afterthought like Esther. Watching the journey of the twists and turns within this plan might be fun for a while, but the closer we get to the end, the more glaring the impossibility becomes, and therefore, the less interesting the actual bad guy turns out to be.
There’s a good chance I wouldn’t even be dwelling on this if the last scene of Bonnie completing Alaric’s transformation into a vampire hadn’t happened. Esther’s plan to use him seems completely out of left field (Was Esther just sitting around on the other side waiting for someone who wore a ring to come in contact with Klaus so she could brainwash them? Why did she have him kill all of the people on the council? Was she responsible for the earlier incident with the ring as well? Does this storyline actually make no sense?) but was perfectly in line with the style of the show, right up to and including the idea of having it happen on the night of one of Mystic Falls High’s big dances. The turning of Alaric was sad enough, but it was his killing of Esther and decision to not complete the transformation that truly brought the story home. It was really wonderfully done, a proper and achingly sad goodbye to one of the most essential cast members on the show. I watched the episode twice and was moved to tears both times by the lovely way each character is given their own moment with Alaric to say goodbye, then their own moment to grieve for him afterward. This is epitomized by the absolutely pitch-perfect scene of Damon sitting by his side, joking with him and then lifting an almost-empty bottle to him when he goes.
Everything about this nearly 15-minute sequence was wonderful, which is why what happened next was so perplexing. TVD is a show where plot momentum is king, moving forward is paramount, and lingering is not tolerated. Still, it was more than a bit jarring to have all of the emotional catharsis of Alaric’s death shred into a million pieces by his almost immediate transformation and resurrection by Esther (via a witchy sleepwalking Bonnie). The fearless pace of TVD’s plot twists is one of the reasons it is so beloved, but this feels like a time where character is paramount to plot, and where it might have been better to sacrifice a little plot momentum in order to honor a character as important as Alaric.
I might be letting a bit of my personal feelings take over here, as Alaric is one of my favorites. But as he played an integral role in the lives of so many of the main characters, I can’t help feeling like it would have just been a better idea to let his last scene be in the tomb, with his best friend and sparring partner by his side. I don’t think this feeling is necessarily wrong, but writing about this as an individual episode before we get a chance to see how the rest of Alaric’s story on the show plays out is definitely a danger. There is a good chance this entire paragraph could be rendered moot by next Thursday.
The only other big doings of this episode are the continuing saga of Elena and the boys who love her (whom she sometimes loves back). Although she spent all of last week obsessing over Damon, she’s now back to giving Stefan a chance. Their scenes together are nice and sweet and full of genuine feeling, but it all seems like so much backtracking after last week. The writers are attempting to set up Elena’s feelings for both Stefan and Damon as equal but different, but watching her go back and forth between the two in subsequent episodes isn’t really doing much for her character right now. Even if she’s in love with them both, she needs to just make a decision already; otherwise, she’s going to start to seem like kind of an asshole. Nobody likes an asshole, Elena.
So here we are. Alaric’s dead but not gone, though Esther’s spell seems to mean he’ll be gone soon. We’ve already mourned him. And now we will watch him hunt the Originals on a witch-fueled quest to eliminate the vampires as a supernatural race, while Elena decides which vampire brother she wants to be with. At the beginning of the season, I never would have pictured us here, which is either a compliment or a deep, grievous insult to the direction this season has taken. Only the final two episodes of the season will tell.
- Poor Rebekah. I hope she doesn’t dream about pincushions while she’s getting daggered all the damn time.
- Everyone’s ‘20s garb was fabulous. Special notice goes to Elena’s entire ensemble, as well as both Matt and Tyler’s hats. I do love a good hat.
- I love that Caroline is some kind of feelings detective, picking up on Matt’s potential interest in Elena and trying to snuff it immediately.
- One thing I didn’t appreciate, even though it was in character, was Damon’s snarky apology to Bonnie, followed by Stefan’s sincere one. We already know who these boys are; we don’t need their respective positions in the love triangle mapped out in every plot point.
- Elena: “I can’t ask him out on a date. I just made out with his brother.”
- Klaus: “I don’t have to prove anything, love. I am the alpha male.”
- Alaric: “Taking care of you and Jeremy has been the closest I’ve ever come to the life I always wanted.”
- Damon: “Sorry I killed you. Twice.”