The Vampire Diaries has a strange relationship with death. People die all of the time—largely because they are killed by one of the main characters—and often these deaths are treated with such blithe disinterest that the death becomes almost startling in its inconsequence. But once in a while, the show remembers the finality of death. And when it does, it always knocks the emotion of it out of the park.
Nadia is the one on the death clock after being bitten by Tyler and the entire episode is designed to complete the circle of her relationship with Katherine before she dies. As a character Nadia has been fine; a decent peripheral character portrayed perfectly well. In her death, however, she is vaulted to a place on the show far more significant than she ever actually occupied in her life. Her death is tragic, yes, but it’s tragic not because of her alone but because of her relationship to Katherine. Katherine is the one the audience has invested in for five seasons. Katherine is the one who ultimately takes something away from this, and what she takes away is gorgeously tragic.
From the second Nadia arrived on the scene, she was defined by one thing: Her quest to find her mother. It’s a quest that spanned 500 years, and in the delirious hallucinations caused by Tyler’s werewolf venom coursing through her body, we see just how much Nadia gave up just to find her mother. The show smartly shows it in starts and bits, vignettes of her quest, a quest that ultimately ended when she found Matt Donovan and finally had a solid link to Katherine. The tragedy comes in Katherine not being able to make the choice to save Nadia over herself, refusing to get the cure from Klaus for fear of outing herself as alive. She yet again failed the daughter who spent her entire life trying to find her, only to realize that everyone had already figured out her identity and she could have saved Nadia after all. Katherine made the selfish choice in the end, right up until she didn’t. By walking into the Salvatore mansion and saying goodbye to Nadia, she was knowingly walking into a trap that would end her life, and she embraced it, giving Nadia one happy memory of what their life could have been had she chosen differently all those years ago.
The story brings Katherine full circle and Nadia’s death brings genuine pathos, but what makes the pathos work is how Katherine immediately undercuts it, because of course Katherine would immediately undercut it. Katherine confessing her love for Stefan and allowing him to kill her feels a lot like giving up, but Katherine was ready to give up and cross over to the other side. She just had to twist the knife in Elena’s side one more time before she went, because otherwise how would anyone know she was really gone? The reveal that Katherine injected herself with the “Ripper” serum right before allowing Stefan to kill her—essentially taking out Elena one last time—is exactly what Katherine would do. Katherine Pierce might go, but she does not go gently. And where did she even end up going? The Other Side is obviously more complicated than we knew, as she isn’t allowed to cross over and is pulled into some sort of witchy hell by an unseen force. It looks like we’re not done with Katherine yet, which is the best possible option.
While Katherine and Nadia’s story took up the bulk of the episode, there were some nice things along the edges as well. My favorite was Caroline’s scene with Tyler where she basically took ownership of her actions and demanded he respect her enough to stop needling her about her choices with Klaus, no matter how much it hurt him. Tyler’s anger at Caroline felt perfectly justified when he first found out, but Caroline is right. No one deserves to be constantly shamed for a decision, even if it is a bad one. Caroline asserting that she’s done feeling guilty was the most she’s felt like herself in quite a while, and it was great to see.
The final piece of this puzzle is what is going to happen now that Elena is back and has to deal with the mess Katherine made of her life. Damon is obviously going to be in damage control mode, but will that even matter as Elena is ravaged by the serum coursing through her body? Wherever Katherine is right now, hopefully she’s educating someone in the art of mutual assured destruction. She’s kind of a pro.
- Wes is dead! I’ve never been so happy for this show to not generally care about death at all!
- Where’s Enzo?
- Damon is our audience surrogate this week, asking Tyler why the hell he’s even still hanging around in Mystic Falls. Why indeed, Tyler?
- It was hilarious to watch Caroline and Bonnie attempt to lure Katherine into their trap and then get foiled by her at every turn.
- Funny little runner: Liv the witch scamming on Jeremy right in front of Bonnie.
- This week, in Matt Donovan Is The Best: Flashback Matt, Matt pretending to be Gregor to appease Nadia, Matt taking the care to dispose of Nadia’s body respectfully.
- “You will definitely go down as the best night I never had.” Oh Matty Blue. Katherine loved you.