Arabian (arabian) wrote,
Arabian
arabian

3.22 - 'The Departed' (The Vampire Diaries)

Alright, here I am with the episode write-up for the season 03 finale. I have some issues, but I've come to a very good place overall. You may be wondering why and how... if so, step inside for a long read. :) (There are references to Julie Plec's vague outlines for season 04.)

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't upset that we're not going to get Human!Elena and Damon. However, I've been doing a LOT of thinking about everything over the last few days, and I've been reminded of what I wrote about "The Murder of One."

Expectations are a bitch. It's really as simple as that. Even without the episode preview that featured the close moment between Damon and Elena, and the still of Elena seemingly rescuing Damon -- which with lighting and low video quality looked like they could be from two different scenes, I still had an expectation that the gang, or at least Stefan, Elena and Alaric, would rescue Damon. I hoped that it would be a reverse of the Stefan rescue in "Let the Right One In," which led me to expect much more than what we got. I had this expectation that the rescue would occupy enough of the episode because whenever anyone else in the gang is kidnapped and/or tortured (Stefan, Caroline, Elena) and others are aware of it, there is a high level of urgency and much discussion and airtime devoted to rescuing said person who's been kidnapped. But, yeah, expectations are a bitch, especially when they don't really track with the reality of the show.

The same thing happened here, but instead of an expectation about one episode, it was an expectation that was nurtured over the course of the entire season. And I held onto this expectation even when there were definite signs that I was missing the bigger picture (Elena still loving Stefan despite everything) because *I* didn't want her to love Stefan. I was ignoring my own oft-repeated mantra that you don't choose who you love. Elena loves Damon even though she doesn't want to, because when the heart makes its choice, you have no say in the matter. The same applies to Stefan and Elena, but because I don't ship them, and I don't like them, I didn't, couldn't see that. I was analyzing the Damon/Elena aspects of the story, and mostly glossing over any positive Stefan/Elena aspects because I didn't want to even imagine any version of a positive outcome for them.

Now I feel like I've gone through the five stages of grief, and I reached acceptance yesterday afternoon, and once I got there, I started looking at the entire season through the intended lens, instead of what my expectation led me to (in retrospect, delusionally believe, i.e., that Elena would fall in love with Damon, get over Stefan and be ready to move on only with Damon, while Stefan found love elsewhere). I went into the season EXPECTING this to be THE season for Damon and Elena. I realize now that such wasn't the intention; it was about bringing Damon and Elena closer to even out the playing field between the brothers. Because of the development of the Elena and Damon relationship, she is now conflicted, but right now, she's still at the point in her life where she would choose Stefan.

At the end of season 02, it wasn't even a question of a choice. Yes, she cared about Damon, and she was sad about losing him, but it was about friendship in her mind. However, now it's about more, and she knows this. She's accepted that something between them exists that she wasn't willing to see, acknowledge and accept in season 02. Now it's about something much more than friendship, and now there is a choice to be made. A choice that would have been inconceivable to her six months ago, because it was Stefan, always Stefan, Damon wasn't even in the game.

Elena told Damon that it would always be Stefan at the beginning of season 02. Damon repeated those words back to her on his deathbed at the end of season 02, and she didn't, couldn't deny it. However, at the end of season 03, when Damon repeated those words again, she told him that she didn't know about always, only what she was feeling in that moment right now. That's a HUGE difference in attitude, and WHY we had the Damon/Elena growth in season 03. In "The Return," it was "I care about you, but I love Stefan, it will always be Stefan." Here, yes, she told him again that she cared about him, but she loved Stefan and he said "always, Stefan" and she DENIED that certainty. Elena couldn't say that always now, because she realizes now that she doesn't know that it will always be Stefan, she just knows that right now it is. This ties back to "Our Town" when Elena told Damon that what was happening between them wasn't right, and he said it was right, just not "right now."

So he knew then that it wasn't right now. And Elena is accepting that. It's not that the something between them isn't there; it's not that it's not right ... they are just not right now. "Right now" it's Stefan ... but not always. (Yes, yes, there would be nothing beyond the right now due to the circumstances, but Elena's emotional state -- who do I need to see before they are gone from my life forever? -- is what is at play here. And right now, it's Stefan.) Yes, even with Damon being gone from her life forever. Because Stefan's life was on the line too. And she loves him, and they haven't been together *together* in six months. So yes, she's going to choose to be with Stefan in that moment ... because, right now, she knows that she loves him.

To concentrate only on how much she does care about Damon, and derive from that anger and disappointment that she didn't choose in that moment then to go to him ignores the Stefan-side of the equation. Whether we like it or not, she DOES love Stefan. And HE was going to be gone from her life forever too. Stefan is someone that saved her soul, and helped her to live again. He's someone that she had completely given herself to, and then lost for six months, and just when maybe they were going to have a chance to get back to where they were ... he's going to die. She's never going to see him again. So it makes perfect sense that she chooses THAT someone over the one that she really does care deeply for, but is in loads of confusion about, and someone that was just a 'what if?' possibility. Having the choice of seeing the certainty or the possibility before both die ... anyone in that position is GOING to choose the certainty.

With all that said, it must also be mentioned that Elena was in full denial-girl mode in another aspect. She wasn't allowing herself to accept the reality that she wouldn't ever see Damon again. That is what she said in the phone call; she said that she would see him soon. Even though the whole point of this was that, no, she wouldn't see him ... or Stefan again. She was in denial about that reality because it hurt too much. And I can't blame her, or hate on her for that.

As for the whole aspect of the phone call in general, I wouldn't want her first declaration of love to Damon to be (a) over the phone (!) and (b) while she still very much loves Stefan. Elena telling Damon what she did was very true to them in that they were both honest with one another. Except for a very, very few instances, these two have a foundation of honesty in their relationship that is refreshing and frankly awesome. I genuinely feel that Elena saying what she did (and how) to Damon, aside from being honest, showed how much she cared for him.

Unless she wanted to lie -- which again that's not them -- there was no way to let Damon know how much she cared other than how she did. Had she not mentioned her love for Stefan, it would have been a declaration of love leading to ... okay, then why wasn't she going to him? There needed to be an honest reason as to why she wasn't going to him in his final moments. And she gave him that honesty. The fact that she was crying, that she was trying so hard to make him understand how much she did care, how hard this was for her showed just how much she cared, and that this wasn't an easy choice for her. (A choice that wouldn't have even been in play six months ago!) Yes, Stefan was her choice, but it was a hard one to make.

Furthermore, for me, had she said I love you, did Elena actually, fully realize and accept that she loved Damon, that would have been worse because it would have shown that even though she did love him, even though she KNEW that she loved him ... it STILL wasn't enough. She still loved Stefan more. However, her not realizing it, and not getting truly what she feels shows that she isn't there yet. Meaning that there is still hope that love -- real, true, forever, always love -- is coming for them, and that it will be stronger than what she feels for Stefan right now.

I do think that we would have seen her take the risk of exploring something with Damon if there had been time and death wasn't imminent. Looking at the first point, Stefan kissed Elena goodbye as he did because he really did appear as if he believed that she wasn't going to choose him, and the way Elena called his name to speak to him before he did so, it's certainly believable that she did intend to tell him that she was going to take a chance with Damon. And then the situation changed. Death was imminent. In addtion, she had just lost her anchor in Alaric which was one of the bigger selling points for Stefan. I look at it this way ... she lost her anchors (her parents) and Stefan was the one who pulled her out of the depths, literally and figuratively. She knows that he can do that for her again. It's a safe, secure place. Damon is a risk, a terrifying risk and after losing yet someone else she loves, she needed the cocoon of safety that she knows Stefan can provide. Timing is everything. And right now, timing was just not on Damon's side. Now it can be and he and Elena have a helluva long time to get to their right now... which will be always for them.

Does it hurt so from a Damon/Elena fangirl point of view that there was the very real possibility that there would be no always, but only right now? Yes, but that goes back to the honesty issue. I would prefer, and Damon would prefer that Elena be honest with him. And since that's one of the things I love about them, I can't regret that. And even with that painful honesty, it was obvious to Damon that it *was* painful for her. Compare that to, again "The Return," where he asked Katherine to be honest with him about her feelings. She was cruel about it, denying any care for him at all. Here, Elena was honest, but it was clear that her heart was breaking. And Damon knew that. He knew that despite everything, despite his past, he was worthy of her tears because she did care at least that much at this point.

One of the things that Julie Plec said in the post-finale interviews is that when they wrote "The Last Day" in season 02, they knew that it would be the last romantic Stefan/Elena episode for about a year, and so this episode was the romantic payoff for that long, hard in-between where they were separated and awful things happened. And to that I say, really? That was the pay-off? An Elena who chose Stefan almost by default? An Elena who found it heartbreakingly difficult to choose him over his brother? An Elena who, when talking to Matt about her feelings for him, spoke about the perception of love and what it should be and how that related to Stefan as opposed to Stefan himself alone, paired with saying that when she's with Damon, he consumes her? An Elena who barely reacted to the first kiss they've shared in six months? That was the emotional payoff? If that were Damon and Elena and that was my payoff, I would not be a happy camper. At all.

I've been going over the entire season in my brain from the point of view that they meant to get to Stefan/Elena at the end, and taking the Damon/Elena expectation out of it, it *does* make sense ... and yet still shows *great* promise for Damon/Elena because despite the fact that Elena never stopped loving Stefan, Damon still got under her skin and she found herself so incredibly drawn to him. Even with her loving Stefan, and determined to not feel for Damon, every season, Damon has, indeed, made major inroads into her heart. :)

Then there was that Damon/Elena flashback that showed us that Stefan was not the first one to meet her. Yes, Elena told Damon that if she'd met him first things might have been different merely to soften the blow, however, the fact that viewers were given that reality that she did meet him first means something. Because she will remember that, not so much that, yes, she met him first, but what he said when they met, how well he knew her and connected to her right away, how he knew she wasn't Katherine so quickly. That stuff will matter. And it also showed something that we know for sure, but Elena didn't, or wouldn't remember in terms of the kind of guy Damon was capable of being even when they first met. We saw as early as episode three ("Friday Night Bites"), that softer, sweeter side of Damon that Elena was able to bring out. She'll fully be aware of that now.

And add to that, DAMON got the emotional fall-out of EVERYTHING. We didn't get to see Stefan learning that he was Elena's choice, and any possible happiness or joy that would have entailed (according to Plec, Stefan didn't know he was Elena's choice, but finding out after she's turned will be incredibly bittersweet; his reunion will not be with the human girl he loves). Instead we saw Elena's tears and heartbreak over letting Damon know that she wasn't choosing to be with him right now. We didn't see Stefan find out that Elena had died, his heartbreak and devastation over that ... nope, that was off-screen when he went back to get her after saving Matt. Instead we saw Damon realize that she was dead, saw his devastation on display. We didn't see Stefan find out that Elena would be a vampire; he already knew at the end, his disclosure had happened off-screen. Instead we saw Damon find out that she would turn. It was all about Damon's reaction to what was happening to Elena, viewers being put in Damon and Elena's emotional shoes about what was happening with the other.

So even though Elena chose Stefan right now, it's telling that the season wasn't about Stefan and Elena finding their way back to each other. And the only thing that makes sense to me is that it's because it's not about Stefan and Elena's love story; they are a bump on the eventual road to Damon and Elena. Honestly, that's how I do see it even looking through the season knowing that Elena would reunite with Stefan in the end. Had this season been about Stefan and Elena finding their way back to each other, that would have made it their love story. But it's not. We never saw them recover from what happened while she was human, and we won't fully see that now because life (or rather, death) interrupted.

Julie Plec has said specifically that Stefan and Elena won't have the same relationship, all peaches and cream, etc. Stefan won't be comfortable with Elena, the vampire. That gives me great hope that we are going to get the natural dissolution of their relationship. Had she chosen Damon at the end of this season, the triangle would have continued with her still having moments, yearning for Stefan, etc. because they weren't over. Stefan and Elena have to be over before she chooses Damon or a part of Damon will always feel like the second choice.

I see this season as proof that what she feels for Damon is long-term, always, but Elena just isn't ready for that kind of love. The fact that she maintained loving Stefan through the whole season, and DID continually have those moments with him, and the fact that she DIDN'T want to fall for Damon or feel anything ... yet, she still did is incredibly telling. Her pull to Damon is that strong that she kept losing her battle to NOT feel for him. Over and over and over again. Despite loving Stefan ... she couldn't keep herself from falling for Damon. She's just not ready to deal with that. And I think that the flashbacks with Elena talking to her mom about Matt made that clear.

Originally, I was frustrated because it felt like they were equating her not loving Matt with not loving Damon. However, thinking about it more, I feel that it was about explaining not only her certainty in choosing Stefan now, but also her confusion about what she feels for Damon. Elena knows absolutely what she has with Stefan, and they never came to a natural conclusion. The parallel wasn't that she didn't know that she didn't love Matt (thus paralleling that she knows that she doesn't love Damon). The parallel was that she doesn't know what love is. Yes, her mom told her that she knew she didn't love Matt, because deep down Elena did know that she didn't feel for him as he did for her, but she just wasn't ready to deal with the repercussions of accepting that knowledge. Consider the fact that Elena didn't break up with Matt UNTIL after her parents died. Yeah, yeah, it happened that night, but the point is that it took a MAJOR event to make her sit up and figure out what she didn't know, and deal with the repercussions.

I think that the same thing will happen now. She's going to have to sit up and figure out what this thing she feels for Damon is. She figured out and accepted that she didn't love Matt, and was ready to deal with the repercussions. She didn't love him, but because she figured that she was supposed to, instead of realizing that it wasn't love, she was confused ... she didn't know if she just didn't understand what love was, not that she didn't love him. With Stefan she knows that it is love, she now has a definition. However with Damon, what she feels is different than it is with Stefan, so how can it be love? But it's something ... she just doesn't know what it is. But she does -- thus the parallel -- she's just not ready to realize and accept what she knows deep down because she's not ready to deal with the repercussions. That's the parallel I see. (And I know that paragraph was a confusing mess, but I can't figure out how to word it any more clearly, I'm sorry.)

I mean, of course, she DOES love Damon; she just doesn't understand, doesn't realize that what she feels for Damon IS love because it's so different from what she has ever believed that love is. What she feels for Damon confuses the hell out of her because it doesn't fit her neat definition. Right now, she can't handle Damon. Frankly, she's just not ready to handle Damon. I think now that that was the point of "Heart of Darkness” and what happened between them. Alas, that's where one of the writing fails of the latter half of this season came in. We needed to know that specifically.

I think had we seen the conversation with Caroline where Elena told her about happened in Denver, it would have helped tremendously to explain where Elena was coming from. That would have been a case of the viewers needing to be told something. Her telling Caroline that what happened freaked her out, that it was all too much, too overwhelming ... all of that would have made what happened in 3.22 make much more sense. We should have heard Elena talk about being consumed, her reaction to him, what she feels for him terrifying her, and that would have made sense as to why she chose the route of safety, the road she's comfortable with considering everything that was happening. But we didn't get that.

Yeah, definitely one of the definite fails in the writing and execution of the second half of the season. Don't get me wrong, there were some great episodes in that second half, but overall, especially in the last three episodes, there was some major disconnect and story not shown or told that needed to happen. The sudden defined need for Elena to make a choice was, to put it frankly, stupidly, unnecessarily and badly done. Period. I already ranted about that after last week's episode. It felt more natural in this one, but it was still a bit too much tell, and not in a good way. And, of course, the fact that Stefan has not, and likely will not ever suffer ANY FREAKING CONSEQUENCES for the things he did is beyond frustrating. Unless ... it is coming.

Yes, I've now decided to once more trust the writers. Considering that we had Rose say that Damon challenges Elena, and had Matt say that Stefan should challenge Elena, I'm at the point now where I believe that we will get there about Stefan and all facets relating to his special brand of issue-town. We'll get actual canon commentary that it's not right how Stefan so passively responds to everything-Elena (while going balls-to-the-wall for everything Damon-related). Realization will come that he needs to strike a balance that he's so far off from. This show is clearly not writing an episode by episode or season by season tale; they are doing the whole six years journey. And I've been pleased so much overall with so much, that I'm going to take a deep breath and trust that we will get there by the end of the six years because there have been too many lines, too many moments, too many things that point to the fact that she is making mistakes, Stefan is making mistakes. It's just going to be a journey that lasts longer than one season.

As for the Stefan/Elena and their issues angle, well, I've mostly come to terms with Elena not having an issue with what happened on Wickery Bridge -- although, if discussion of it comes up next season, I will NOT complain. I'm also convinced that, until told otherwise, the others don't know of all the horrible things that Stefan did. And, of course, Jeremy and Bonnie really don't appear to like him at all anymore. That's good and fair. However, Elena forgiving him and not giving him grief over what he did to her on Wickery Bridge is a personal decision, and fits with Elena's character in that she is capable of ridiculous amounts of compassion and forgiveness. But again, that's personal. What he did to Andie ... that is what sticks in my craw and always will. He cruelly, horribly killed her, and then made his reasoning behind it completely pointless by calling Elena. Grrr. I will never not be pissed about that. *sigh* So, while I do think that Stefan-realization is going to come eventually, I believe there are things that he did that he won't ever be held accountable for that he should. (ANDIE!)

This brings me to where I am at now with the show. I still love it. I still think it's the best show on television for my viewing and analytical pleasure. However, I'm no longer going to not ding them on fails, or automatically take on faith that they are heading somewhere. I'll wait it out and wait for them to prove themselves, because so much sloppy, disconnected writing in the second half has fractured my easy belief in the writing. But, like Fox Mulder, I still want to believe. Thus all of these ... words!

I *think* what happened is that Kevin Williamson was around helping to lay out the first half, not as much as he had in seasons past, but enough that his guiding hand was there because he only had The Secret Circle to contend with as well. However, he then began work on his Pilot for Fox, and I wonder if with his concentration on that and The Secret Circle, he left The Vampire Diaries in the hands of Julie Plec and the producers. Hopefully, with The Secret Circle canceled, he will be able to devote time to TVD -- at least as much as he did in the first half of season 03. (Which delivered some of my absolute favorite episodes.)

I said at the top that I'm upset that we won't get human!Elena and Damon, but I think now that it was all intended as such by the writers. As a human girl, Elena would always have chosen Stefan. And due to the structure of the show (three seasons barely equaling a year and a half), unless they did extreme time jumps, we would never have gotten to an older, more mature Elena without sacrificing the journey of Elena growing up and maturing into her love for Damon. However, as a vampire, she'll choose Damon, partially because Damon loves her, fully, completely without condition. Which based on comments in Plec's interviews about season 04 (i.e., Stefan will have issues with Elena being a vampire), means that Stefan's love *would* be conditional (connected, in part, to her humanity), whereas Damon loves her no matter what/who she is.

I'm not happy that we won't have human Elena with Damon, but that is disappointment based on my expectation of what I wanted, and nothing that was ever implicitly or even subtly implied was owed to us as part of the ongoing story. And something occurred to me: If they do decide to go the route of Elena somehow becoming human again at some point (after all, the door was opened that it's possible with Esther's plan to turn her vampire children human in order to kill them), I want Elena as a vampire to last until season 05 or even early season 06. And maybe by the time that happens, she'll be with Damon. Then having lived as both human and vampire, she'll make that choice -- having lived both possibilities -- that she wants to be become a vampire to be with Damon throughout eternity. Could happen. And that way, we'd kinda get our cake and eat it too. It could happen, totally.

Beyond that hopeful theory for the later seasons, I don't know obviously, but I'm fairly optimistic where we're heading for season 04. Do I think that it will be awful for Stefan/Elena until the fracture breaks them up? Of course not. I do think we'll have to sit through more of the Stefan/Elena twu-wuv crap, however, if they go the direction I expect I can grit my teeth and bear it because it will be the mirror to what Damon/Elena got in the first half of season 03, and will lead to the final two seasons featuring Damon and Elena. This post by loveepiclove makes an excellent case for this viewpoint. Taking into account what we know about these characters, it reasons that there will be issues if Stefan only planned on loving her for the comparatively few years he could while she was human because that touched upon what *he* wanted, while Damon loves her for eternity for who she is completely.

Plec has already outlined the bare bones of that in talking about the fourth season. Yes, Stefan/Elena will be together, but they will have problems. Her vampirism, his dealing with it, but as well, there will be the complication of Elena's feelings for Damon. That are there, and real. What I'm thinking is possibly going to happen -- which would give me my much-longed for balance -- is that we'll have Stefan and Elena together in the first half of the season.* This would be similar to Damon and Elena getting so much together-time in the first half of season 03. And then in the second half, like Damon and Elena were strained and apart, we'll get that with Stefan and Elena. This will then lead to Elena and Stefan fracturing based on their lack of working longevity (as opposed to external influences), with Elena choosing Damon at the end of season 04 -- leaving the two final seasons for the exploration of the Damon/Elena relationship. So that's two full seasons of Stefan and Elena. Two full seasons of equalizing things between them. The last two seasons being Damon and Elena. Fair balance that ends with Damon/Elena as endgame. :)

* I did want to point out that Plec said that they would be together for a little while. Before season 03, she said that Stefan would be away from Mystic Falls for a while ... that amounted to four episodes. I'm not saying that's all it will be with Stefan and Elena together, I'm just saying that "a little while" does not necessarily translate into the entire season.

I think a good sign that we are heading there could be in the premiere. I'm thinking of "The Birthday," and how there were positive Stefan/Elena scenes which DID highlight Elena's loyalty and love to Stefan. I saw that upon my first viewing of the episode, but was pissed about it and instead then focused on the Damon/Elena aspects only after a rewatch because I had delusionally convinced myself that Stefan and Elena just HAD to be over this season. I'm hopeful that we will see the opposite in 4.01, highlighting aspects of Elena's feelings for Damon even amidst some good Stefan/Elena stuff. The end of season premiere was Stefan/Elena-based (their phone call). We'll see where the end of 4.01 is based.... Hopefully, it will be more Damon/Elena based, and that could be telling indeed that we are heading to Elena finally not only loving Damon, but accepting that love.

I know that there is frustration that if all Damon did for her in season 03 specifically wasn't enough to make her love him, how will she ever? And to that I go back to my old standby that she *does* love him; she just genuinely does not know that she does. She doesn't understand that she does love him because she doesn't realize that what she feels for Damon IS love because it's so different from her current definition: Safe, secure, makes you happy. Sure, Damon makes her feel safe and secure, and he's made her happy, made her smile even amidst the crazy. However, he also consumes her, their relationship is filled with passion, fighting, disagreements, frustration, anger, etc. and those are all things that Elena doesn't associate with being in love. I kept saying that I honestly believed Elena meant it when she said "I don't know" with regards to her feelings for Damon. It confuses the hell out of her because it doesn't fit her neat definition of love. She just doesn't know, and she is young; she's just a few months past eighteen and hasn't fully matured into the woman she needs to be to be with Damon.

Throughout the second half of this season, I kept going back to the idea that we had Damon's journey in season 02, and I was expecting Elena's journey to have the same trajectory of one season, but there are a few key differences between Damon and Elena that explain why her journey would take longer for such a dramatic shift. Damon was the bad guy, he needed to drastically shift to deserve Elena, and so it needed to happen on a faster scale. Also, Damon is not the main character. Elena is, and so we naturally we'll see all the speed bumps, back and forth in greater exploration with her than we would with a lead supporting character. And, of course, Elena is just barely an adult, so she still has that process to go through a bit more of, Damon was 25 or so when he was turned. The good thing is that we have seen growth -- as I mentioned above. No, she's not there yet, but I do believe she will get there.

It will just be as a vampire that she gets there. Which, frankly, no, I'm not all that thrilled about it. I didn't want Elena to become a vampire against her will. I wanted Elena to turn because it was her choice, her choice to be with Damon for eternity. I hate that such was taken away from us. However, that is upset based on my expectation and desire, not on the story that they are telling. I've mostly thoroughly enjoyed the story that has been told the first three seasons, so I'm willing to continue that journey and believe that I certainly am capable of enjoying the story that they plan on telling, possibly even more than what I had imagined. (And there's always my hopeful theory above!)

And now onto other aspects of the episode, and I'm going for random thoughts now. :)

- Damon is awesome. My single favorite part of the episode was his "No, no, no, no, no..." over the speaker phone during the group pow-wow. Every moment with him was awesome, good, heartbreaking, fantastic and damn funny. In other words, typical Damon. :D

- I wish that we had seen more of the reality of Ric's claim that his friendship with Damon is what made it so hard to get to his "true" self. However, it was a nice bit given there, and a sign to Damon that he was appreciated and his being Ric's friend gave them that much more time to get all their ducks in a row. And, oh my, Damon realizing that Alaric was dying, double-horrific for him, watching his friend die (a second time really), and knowing that it meant that Elena was dead as well was just so beautifully, devastatingly handled by Ian Somerhalder.

- What wasn't beautiful or devastating in any good way was the lack of emotional connection between Stefan and Damon. They believe they are going to die, gone for good and when they talk on the phone they have barely any words to say about each other, their love, their relationship? Instead it's just all about Elena? Really? Yeah, not loving that.

- I also didn't love Tyler saying that Stefan and Damon only care about themselves and not him and Caroline. Hello?! Damon literally put his life on the line (and would have died had an unexpected cure not been found) to save Tyler and Caroline's lives last season. And Stefan and Damon both put themselves on the line to save Caroline after Tyler's were-buddies tortured her. Uh huh!

- Speaking of Tyler and Caroline... uhm, where the heck is this great love for Tyler from Caroline's point of view coming from? She treated him like a friend with benefits before he left, and then was jealous over Matt while Tyler was gone, and found herself intrigued by Klaus. Sure, she cares about him, but this great AAAHHH!love between them from her end felt like it came out of nowhere for me and was on display to amp up the dramatic tension. Not impressed.

- Oh Klaus! Taking advantage of being in Tyler's body to get some macking in on Caroline. Tsk, tsk. I don't really care all that much about this surprise. I'm glad that we didn't see Klaus' body fully burn and supposedly he won't be in Tyler's body for very long. Good. I'm happy about that because, frankly, I don't think that Michael Trevino is up to playing Klaus. And I want Joseph Morgan back ASAP!

- You know all know that I love me some Elijah, but why the hell was he there? He brought ABSOLUTELY nothing to the episode. That was complete and utter fanservice. Seeing him and Rebekah connect for a bit and hug was sweet, though. Yeah.

- Not enough Rebekah. THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH REBEKAH! (Except in “Ordinary People” which featured Rebekah more than anyone else.) And I think she'll probably be a full cast member next season (yay!!!), and if so, I'd prefer if they developed some sort of prickly association between her and Damon and not just make them fuck-buddies. Firstly, I don't want that for either character, both deserve better. Secondly, REBEKAH AND MATT!!! WAAAHHH! Finally, Claire Holt and Ian Somerhalder are on the lower-radiation of the spectrum of people on the planet (read: every single one of them) that Somerhalder has chemistry with.

- I don't want Damon sexing up Meredith either, because I'd like them to genuinely become friends. Period. No sex. Just friends. And, yeah, I want Meredith to stick around because I do genuinely like her. There's just a sweetness about Torrey Devitto's performance that I enjoy.

- Bonnie is awesome. Full-stop. Period. With that said, I'm not getting all the vibes of Bonnie going evil that others have. I didn't get that from what she did in this episode. I saw her doing what just about every other character has done, making a really hard, pretty much wrong choice to save the people she loves. Ooh, and I do like that she's decided she won't be the witches' plaything anymore. You go, Bonnie!

- Also, I really, really hope that we continue to see this kind of interaction between Bonnie and Damon because their prickly brand of near-friendship filled with respect is kinda totally awesome. Now, I really don't want them to ever sleep together though because that would be so wholly and completely out of character for Bonnie. IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE! Yes, Kat Graham and Somerhalder have chemistry. (After all, she is a person on the planet.) However, anything romantic or sexual ever happening between them just does not jibe with her character, and would cause a slew of issues and problems that are so not needed. Plus, it would destroy where there relationship is at now. Which is perfect as is, in my opinion.

- Also perfect? Pretty much every moment with Matt and Jeremy, together and separately. Man, I just love these two both so much now. Love, love, love them! I love that it sure seems like if Jeremy had to pick a team, he'd go with Damon. He may have issues with him, but he does actively appear to kinda rather not like Stefan at all. And, yay, yay, Jeremy called Damon about Elena, not Stefan. Yeah, yeah, he knew that Damon and Stefan were together... BUT, it was Damon's number he dialed, not Stefan's. I will take great pleasure from that, thank you very much.

As for Matt, I loved how he continues to be such a great friend to Elena despite their past. Oh, and how he seems to be way more Team!Damon than he is Team!Stefan, which makes sense on a few levels. Stefan is the guy that Elena hooked up with after she broke up with Matt, that sting will likely always be there. Also, Damon saved his life when Tyler was going to attack him and Caroline, and stopped Kol from doing anything beyond breaking his hand. And I loved that Matt had the same point of view that Damon has about Stefan's way of "respecting" Elena's decisions... which generally lead to her almost dying. Or, you know, actually dying! The fact that such a point was brought up gives me a wee bit of hope (but certainly nothing I'm sure of) that maybe, just maybe, Stefan's way of putting Elena's positive perception of him over discussing and disagreeing with her is not 100% kosher.

- Speaking of Elena and her decision-making skills... uhm, why was it only HER decision this time whether to trust Elijah? This wasn't about Elena particularly or the whole doppelganger aspect coming into play. This was a decision that should have been made by exactly four people involved in this ragtag group that comprises The Worst Planning Committee on the Planet -- Stefan, Damon, Caroline and Tyler. You know, the people who would DIE with their bloodline-sire going up in flames. Not the cute eighteen-year old that makes THE worst decisions ever generally.

- Lastly, the flashbacks. Sadly, I feel like Jenna was wasted, and I felt zero connection between Elena and her parents. Ah well. I did like the smiling Elena waking up to a song from a few year's back, and the flashback with her, Matt and Bonnie. It gave a quick, show-not-tell glimpse into their dynamic. That was well-done. And I did love the Damon/Elena flashback for showing that she did meet him first, there was a connection from the get-go, she was charmed and intrigued by him automatically, and he quickly realized that she wasn't Katherine and still saw something special in her.

The one flashback that didn't work frustrated me because it was so beautifully filmed and acted with lovely music. Alas, there was so much stupidity on display that I couldn't appreciate those aspects of the scene. What stupidity may you ask? Well...

1. Did Rebekah just stand there on the hopeful off-chance that Elena would come driving that way? How the hell did she know that Elena was coming? Only Matt and Jeremy knew of the 'take Elena out of Mystic Falls' plan.

I take this complaint back; I'd missed it, but Elijah told her that Elena called him and told him she was coming back to town.

2. Stefan is a vampire, how come he couldn't carry both from the water? Sure, he's probably not fast underwater as he is on land, but he still has the strength.

3. Okay, fine, he couldn't carry both, then why didn't he at least rip Elena's seatbelt off? She was conscious, she could have tried to swim on her own if he had done so.

4. The fact that I believe we're supposed to think that what Stefan did in respecting Elena's wish to save Matt and not herself was heroic and romantic. Yeah, uhm, nope. You save the person you love, not their friend, even if they'll be pissed at you. Once again, Stefan put wanting Elena to have a positive perception of him over wanting Elena alive. For reals. Not romantic. Not heroic. No.

Phew! And that's it for the season. And, yes, I'm back to being positive and optimistic again despite most of my earlier, ranting posts since the finale. I've always told myself that if it can make sense-character wise to me, I'll go along for the ride. Because I was blinded by MY expectations, I couldn't see where it did make sense. After going through the five stages of grief, and having moved onto acceptance, I do now. And everything that Julie Plec has said about season 04 actually has me feeling very positive now.

So, that's my current take. I know that many won't agree, and are still upset, but I really do feel good about it all again. There are issues still (my fear that the show doesn't get that Saint Stefan isn't actually a saint), but overall, I'm pleased in retrospect and I look forward to the rest of the journey.
Tags: bonnie bennett, damon salvatore, damon/alaric, damon/elena, damon/stefan, elena gilbert, ep discussion-tvd, ian somerhalder, jenna sommers, rebekah/matt, the vampire diaries
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