Arabian (arabian) wrote,

7.10 - 'Hell Is Other People' (The Vampire Diaries)

As promised here is the write-up for the mid-season premiere of The Vampire Diaries. Real life travels kept it from being posted in a timely fashion, but it had nothing to do with the quality of the episode. I'm still not happy about the show being moved to Fridays, but for anyone who doesn't know, the move did not effect the ratings. (Yay!) Anyhoo, moving along... behind the cut, my thoughts.

Well. Well, well, well, that was quite a fabulous episode, now wasn’t it? Yeah. I think that was probably the best episode they’ve done since "Home." Now, this isn’t to say that there haven't been other fantastic episodes since then—because there so have been, but this was just, wowzers! So AMAZING! And, no, I’m not just saying that because the episode was 100% full of Damon Salvatore and there has never been an episode that was 100% about just one character like this before like EVAR! The closest was “500 Years of Solitude,” with Katherine. (Still a stupid idea to make your hundredth episode about a recurring character, but I digress…)

However, even that one has focus on the Damon/Elena break-up, and what happened with Elena and Katherine and the effect that Katherine had on the lives of our little group. Not to mention that she wasn’t in every scene (nor was Nina Dobrev, either as Katherine or Elena). In this one, though, Ian Somerhalder was in every scene, I’m pretty sure, folks. Even the one scene where the gang was talking about why Damon hadn’t come back as quickly and easily as Stefan had, there was Damon lying on the table, so yup, there was Ian Somerhalder in the scene.

So, in other words… lots and lots of pretty in this one. Uh huh! But seriously, I’m not going to talk about the shallow here because the episode was just too good for that. From the first pre-credits scene on… or should I say scenes. Nearly twelve minutes worth of scenes before we saw that ole familiar Vampire Diaries logo. And that was a doozy of a change for sure. Normally there is a quick and easy pre-credit scene and we're off, but this time we had the whole section with Damon and Henry going on the mission, the disastrous outcome, Damon coming upon Lily and finding out that he was in the Phoenix stone's hell before "waking up." That's a lot to take in pre-credits. And normally we have some levity, some snark to lighten the load, especially when Damon is the character that we're seeing the most of in that huge chunk of scenes. However this was a pre-vampire Damon, even a pre=Katherine Damon and instead we had in the majority of that 12 minutes a wholly earnest young man who was desperately trying to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. It was so emotionally dark and, well, human in a way that we don't often see with The Vampire Diaries. I loved it. But then I loved the whole episode. It really was a splendid effort all around.

Before I move onto to other specifics, I want first to touch upon a misconception that I've seen in quite a few places. It is that the central conceit of the episode was flawed because it boiled down to Damon having to forgive Lily. However that belief missed the point. It was not about Damon forgiving Lily because, as mentioned in these misguided reviews and posts, Lily is certainly not worthy of forgiveness nor Is Damon that one-dimensional of a character. Rather it was about Damon Salvatore allowing himself the capacity to forgive. And tying it to the first time that had ever shut down and buried a horrible thing he'd done *and* how he's been doing some horrible things again in the name of Elena was just brilliant. I want to bring up two things here. First the latter point. Let's go back more than a few episodes to the fifth of this season, "Live Through This." I wrote in my write-up for that one:

"...once he learned about Lily's part in Elena's sleeping beauty coma, he went straight into old-school Damon mode." And "I kinda disagree with Bonnie at the end there, no, Elena would not be OK-ing Damon's move there." (The 'let's let Lily be happy with Julian for a few months and then kill him horribly in front of her so she can experience some of my pain!' plan.)

That is what hell!Stefan was referring to and he was absolutely right (or rather, Damon's-inner mind was? Anyhoo...). Yes. Damon *has* been using his devastation over what happened with Elena, despite his whole I'm turning over a new leaf bit (from that very episode) based on his letter to her in the previous episode where he let her coffin go off in hiding to justify being a dick. He hasn't turned over a new leaf. Maybe had he not found out about Lily being the one to come up with the plan to do the Sleeping Beauty spell on Elena he would have stuck with it, but he did and so that plan went out the window. Therefore we've been dealing with the aftereffects of that realization since then. It's all been building, this rage, this inability to forgive, to let go of his anger. That was something that Elena had helped him ease. Remember what he told her? She was his light and without that light, he's been trapped in a world of darkness and he's just been slipping farther and farther away from that light.

Damon's ability to be more human didn't used to be dependent on Elena, but that's changed. In season 03's episode "Ghost World," I wrote this:

I liked A LOT that in an episode that talked about Damon, mentioned redemption, etc., and Damon making a positive choice to let someone in, be the better "man" (to Ric), it had NOTHING TO DO WITH ELENA. This helped to confirm my own personal belief that Damon is not changing or becoming better FOR Elena. I think it's BECAUSE of Elena's influence. It's like what Andie said ... love changes a person, makes them better. It's like, for me, Elena has ignited that desire that has always been in Damon to be better, but until he's ready, until he wants to, it's not going to happen. Because he's not doing it for her, he's doing it for him, he's allowing himself that belief that he can be better because he's acknowledging that the desire is there. And that desire has been brought to the forefront because of his love for Elena. But it's about *his* desire to change, and *his* choice to do so.
However, Alaric died at the end of season 03, and then Damon and Elena had their merry-go-round get together in season 04 and Stefan pulled away from Damon, and kept Damon in this bubble with Elena. And we know that Damon felt that none of her friends could understand why Elena was with him, even after Stefan accepted them together. So instead of Damon and Ric, or Damon and Stefan, or Damon and Liz, it was Damon and Elena only. So from season 04 on... it was just Damon getting validation from Elena, and little potshots from everyone else. Sure, Ric came back last season, but come on, do they even remotely act like best friends? No. Damon and Enzo have had two, maybe three scenes together. And as much as I love Damon and Bonnie... well, you read what I quoted from "Live Through This," Bonnie has been screwed with enough by other people that she's enough for playing a little revenge herself when they screw back with those she loves.

So my point is that Damon only had Elena to help guide him to be that better person for a good chunk of time. And when he finally decided to do it on his own, he found out some really, really bad information and the only person who could conceivably steer him in the right direction (Bonnie), felt the same way as he. So, yeah, he needed the reminder that Elena would *not* be down for this shit that he's been doing. Again, to quote what I said in "Live Through This." Elena would not be OK-ing Damon's move there. No way, no how. And Damon needed to come to that realization himself. He became the man that knew that himself because that is the man that Elena fell in love with.

Sure, he may have wanted to do that, but ultimately he wouldn't have because it was just easier and better for *himself* to let it go, and yes, the other party (which Damon didn't care about), but it was better for him. And that is the man, the one who was now capable and accepting of these realizations, that Elena was in love with. You go back to "Heart of Darkness," and Elena telling Damon that every time there's a bump in the road, he lashes out, he sabotages things, and he asked her what if he didn't. That was the Damon who was figuring it out, but without her, he's begun to fall back into that old pattern. This time, he's just doing so in the name of Elena.

Now back to that first point and how the show made Damon's hell the first time that he buried something horrible that he'd done. Using Henry was a brilliant masterstroke. The character was introduced in "Blood Brothers," and is affectionately remembered as the vampire. This is the first meeting between him and Damon in that episode:

Damon: Uh, Ric, we have company. {A man attacks Alaric. Alaric stabs him with wooden knuckles. Damon knocks him off of Alaric.} Boys, boys, that's enough. I know you.
Henry: Damon?
Damon: Your name is Henry. You were in the tomb.
Henry: Yes, sir. What are you doing here?
On one hand, you can say, oh this is so a retcon, but on the other looking at what happened, knowing that Damon and Henry committed this horrible act, murdering these women for protecting these men for doing something that they themselves wanted to do and then cleaned and covered it up and never spoke of it again as if it never happened. So it works that way.

What is even more awesome is that it was the episode "Blood Brothers" because it was in that episode that we got this quote from Damon that in many ways, for me at least, defines the character and it certainly sets up entirely this whole set-up here. The quote to Stefan is "Everything on this planet is not your fault. My actions, what I do, it's not your fault. I own them. They belong to me. You are not allowed to feel my guilt." When Stefan starts on his martyr act, upset about all of the people that have been hurt by Damon and it's all Stefan's fault because he's the one who made Damon turn, Damon's response is pure gold. It reveals so much about Damon as a character, who he is, what he is, and how aware he is of those very things. And in light of this episode and what we find out, it adds an even richer layer because including in that quote, which I had always seen was the realization that Damon does feel guilt, but he's chosen not to because he's just not ready to deal with that guilt and the ramifications. Now we know why, and finally, hopefully, he will be able to.

On the other hand, did anyone else get a kick out of Matt's line about how easy it was to pull Stefan out? I sure did. I also thought it was completely brilliant. As in character as it is that getting Damon out would be really, really hard, getting Stefan out would be super, super easy if it's about admitting your guilt, wallowing in your guilt, accepting your guilt and all you've done wrong. And voila! Pulling Stefan out? Like taking candy from a baby! So hilarious. So in character. Have I mentioned that I love this show?

OK, I'm just going to throw out some randoms now --

- Oh, Bonnie... I love it! She was so salty and pissed at Stefan, rightly realizing that Damon was in the situation he was in *because* of Stefan's actions. Ooh, Bonnie. Standing up for her BFF! You go, Bonnie. More than I can say for Alaric or Enzo. *sigh*

- That is my only complaint... that Enzo and Alaric should have been there waiting for Damon to wake up too. I really don't like how the Damon friendships with those two (especially Enzo) have been sidelined. Ah well.

- My strike-outs above are because I totes forgot that Enzo had been kidnapped by Matt and taken somewhere so he has a legit reason for not being there for Damon. OK, then. Sorry, show, my bad.

- One of the interesting things we saw from Damon's hell point of view is that he does realize that he can and oftentimes is a crappy friend.

- On that note, though, did you notice that in Damon's hell, he imagined that NO ONE was waiting around for him to wake up, but in reality, they ALL were waiting around (except, ugh, stupidly Alaric and Enzo!)... awww!

- When Lily asked Damon why he hated her, I actually jumped past the whole what she did to Elena since it was obviously earlier than that to the "because you left me," and so when Damon said that, I just nodded and *that* was when I started to tear up. Oh my Damon! And I was just gone when he was finally forgiving her, when he was crying, but then it was too late because she was gone. Ahh, I felt so bad for him. Then when he woke up and he was attacking every one. He wanted to go back so badly, he didn't realize what he was doing; he thought that he could just go back. He didn't realize it. I legitimately was shocked. I gasped and had my hand over my mouth like OHMYGOD! Gah! So damn good, you guys!

- Oh noes! (Except for bogwitch) Matt wasn't wearing the ring, but (and this is important!) we didn't see Damon actually kill Matt (yes, I know we saw him in the preview too, but that could be a flashback with Stefan's hell-story, so it could mean nothing). I'm holding onto hope that Damon just knocked him out. I really, really am. PRETTY PLEASE!!!

- OHMYGOD! BONNIE!, but, I'm not all that worried about her... or Alaric's babies. Because, you know, "Three Years From Now..." *sigh* It is kinda annoying and all. Because of that we know that Bonnie is fine, and the babies are fine. It takes away so much tension. Ugh, I don't like! Yes, there is the possibility that it's supposed to be some maybe future, but right now it's falling into the annoying category. Harrumph!

- Ian Somerhalder was just outstanding in this episode. Just overall, but also we got to see so many different kinds of Damon, it was fabulous. First the earnest, sweet, innocent Damon pre-hell-realization, then the halfway earnest/beginning to snark Damon, then 3/4s Damon we all know and love with a bit of the earnest, human Damon still in there, to full on snarky Damon, and then back to that sweet, earnest Damon grieving in the end. What I also found fascinating is that the Damon in the beginning of the episode did look a lot younger than the Damon at the end of the episode.

- We went one whole episode without Damon/Elena and Elena mentions. One whole episode... and then we came back and it was an onslaught of nonstop Damon and Elena feels ALL OVER THE PLACE!!! Oh, yeah, baby! LOVES! It had my heart all aflutter!

- You know, at first I was like how could Damon know about Stefan being stabbed too in his hell, but then was like, wait, the stone is magic and creates the hell, so it would know, duh, it's magic.

- I may not be an Annie Wersching fan, but she did work for me in this episode. It's probably just because I'm used to her as Lily now, but either way, it worked and for that I'm happy because I needed her to work to make this episode's gloriousness be glorious. She did, so it did. Yay!

- It's gotta be said: This episode shoulda been the mid-season finale. Totes.

- The complete and utter Damon-ness of this episode made me beyond squeeful. I honestly don't think they've ever had an episode be completely about one character like this before. It was AWESOME! Beyond.

Ahhh, no words, folks for the awesome of this episode! (OK, that's a lie as I just wrote lots of words, but you get my drift.) I really loved this one. It was so, so very good. Nay, it was great. Nay, it was awesome-sauce. I love my show so very hard.
Tags: bonnie bennett, damon salvatore, damon/alaric, damon/bonnie, damon/elena, ep discussion-tvd, ian somerhalder, matt donovan, stefan salvatore, the vampire diaries, tv

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