It’s funny how different television episodes can be from the promos that sell them. There’s an obvious reason why—the networks almost exclusively cut them, not the showrunners themselves—but it never ceases to amaze how often the episode they promote turns out to be completely separate in tone (and sometimes even content) from the teaser. The CW is an especially egregious offender, often creating whole storylines in promos that never actually appear in the episode. For “The Last Dance,” the promos made it seem like a non-stop action fest, filled with tasty Klaus-as-Alaric shenanigans. The episode did feature a few mighty fine shenanigans, and there was action to be had, but what is interesting is how rooted in character dynamics the end product turned out to be. Aside from a few quick action sequences, this was an hour filled with emotion and devotion, and that’s what ended up making it kind of beautiful.
Before we get to the emotions, though, we must discuss Klaus-as-Alaric. (Klauslaric? Alaraus? Klalaric?) Matt Davis has been light on story this season, as I’ve discussed previously, and tonight showed that he definitely has been missed. His Klaus isn’t over the top or particularly demonstrative, but when you’re the oldest vampire in the universe, doesn’t over the top seem a bit gauche, anyway? What his Klaus is, is terrifying: Anyone who can get Katherine to whimper like a frightened puppy definitely has some mojo. He’s not just smooth; he’s also clever, playing games with Elena and Bonnie to draw them out and potentially eliminate Bonnie’s power as a threat to him. Overall, he made every scene he was in plain old fun, and I’m looking forward to getting even more of him next week. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Alaric escapes Klaus’ possession fully intact, and that would be a shame because Matt Davis is an asset. Maybe a magic dagger will fix him?
This entire season has been about saving Elena from Klaus and her doppelganger destiny, and those loyalties are front and center this week, as Bonnie reaffirms her vow to save Elena at all costs, including her own life. Her sheer conviction is what sold the biggest twist of the episode, when instead of dying in an attempt to stop Klaus, she and Damon were secretly faking her death to throw Klaus off her trail. Perhaps I am naïve, but at no time did I suspect it was a ruse. OK, I’m definitely naïve. Still, Bonnie, Damon and especially Elena’s reaction to Bonnie’s “death” delivered the bad news like a punch in the gut. (However, it’s good she isn’t really dead, because I immediately started questioning the purpose of her “amazing” power if she couldn’t even hang in a fight for 30 seconds.) The resurgent Bonnie/Elena bond was particularly nice to see, considering she was Elena’s first non-family relationship revealed in the pilot, and their friendship has been more than rocky since then.
Beyond Bonnie and Elena, the biggest emotional meat of the episode was saved for the Stefan/Elena/Damon triangle. In the past, I have had quibbles with the idea that Damon considers Elena a viable love interest. It seemed more than arbitrary and felt like it was created simply because the brothers both once had an affinity for lookalike Katherine. Tonight, however, I finally got it. I’m not saying Elena should be with Damon over Stefan, or Stefan over Damon, but through actions (and acting) the story of Damon-loves-Elena came to life for me tonight. Everything Damon did was in selfless pursuit to save her life, without apologies or asking for anything in return. Is it possible, then, with “I will always choose you,” Elena is seeing it as well?
The one concern this does bring up is Stefan’s place in all of this, in contrast with Damon. Stefan, by design, is a more pure character, who is interested in doing what is right for more than just Elena. If he can save Elena and keep Bonnie alive as well, that’s what he is going to do. Damon, on the other hand, doesn’t have quite the same moral center, which can make his actions appear more passionate in comparison. If it comes down to saving Elena and allowing everyone else to die, what choice will Stefan make? At this point, the show seems to be implying that he would be conflicted while Damon would not. I would hope the triangle doesn’t come down to this (and I don’t believe it will), but it’s something to note for the future.
Once again, this was another extremely entertaining episode in what is shaping up to be a mightily entertaining second season. Oh, and I think I forgot to mention something. Something about the end, with Elena taking matters of defeating Klaus into her own hand and reviving Elijah from his slumber? I knew that old dagger loophole would come in handy. Elllllllliiiiiiiiijjjjjjjjjahhhhhh!
Next week: Flashbacks. My, oh my, I love a good flashback.
- You know, it’s really nice when they use the high school setting for stories, since it’s such a rich world. Still, they do it so infrequently it’s kind of jarring, in an “oh, hey, I forgot these are teenagers!” sort of way.
- Caroline and Matt are totally the Barbie and Ken version of JFK & Jackie O. Adorable.
- Speaking of Matt, he is a bit too good at wholesale deception. Naughty boy.
- Perhaps one of the finest moments of the episode was the shit eating grin from Klalaric at his own cleverness when a random high school girl gave Elena a shout-out from him at the dance. Perfection from Matt Davis, there.
- DAMON DANCING.
- “The last thing I need to do is resurrect Elijah. Man, that guy is a buzzkill.”
- “I searched for you for 500 years. Your death is going to last at least half that.”
- “I will always choose you.”