I thought that "Family Ties," the fourth episode, was great. This was due to the strength of Elena, the continued depth of the friendships, the shades of gray in the characters being revealed more and more, and finally, the adults being shown to be crafty and in the know. Those things all beautifully defined The Vampire Diaries as more than just a supernatural teenage romance. Had those things been apparent in earlier outings to the degree that they were in "Family Ties," I can't say that the episode would still earn the "great" title—maybe, maybe not—I'll never really know.
I bring this up because this episode offers up no such ambiguity. This was excellent, hands-down the best episode featured on the show so far. There were so many fabulous things about "Haunted," and I want to discuss them all. Let's start with the character that is rising higher and higher on the list of my favorite characters of all time. Of course I am talking about Damon Salvatore.
Damon, Damon, Damon… how do I love thee? This episode highlighted just about everything that makes this character so damn watchable. There is the obviousness of his looks and his charm, alongside the dichotomy of his callousness and his compassion on display. The one-liners, the humor, the fascinating relationship between the brothers, and his growing awareness of, chemistry with Elena all add up to the draw that is Damon Salvatore.
Let's start with the shallowest on the list: His looks and charm. And then let us appreciate how they were used to further the plot, while also adding a touch of comedy to the hour. One thing that I've always found just a tad bit annoying is when the truly, truly beautiful of actors (which—not too much argument I'd imagine—Ian Somerhalder is) are barely acknowledged. I mean, there is good-looking where you have the 'hot guy/girl,' etc. comments now and then, and then there is someone like Somerhalder who is damn-near supernaturally beautiful. A random reference to him being 'hot' just doesn't really cut it, in my opinion.
The Vampire Diaries is not shying away from that reality. Yes, Stefan, Matt, etc. are good-looking, but Damon? Come on! And we're seeing that acknowledgement, first from Vicki in the last episode ("You're, like, totally cool and so hot"), and now with Carol Lockwood's flirty reaction to Damon ("you have a face that's hard to forget"). However, what I really love is that the show is not only acknowledging his extreme hotness, but they're also using it to propel the plot, and inject some humor.
Whenever we've seen Damon or Stefan compel someone we get the close-up of their eyes and it's photographed in such a way to highlight their beauty. (Again, Paul Wesley is good-looking; he's just not the wonder of human genetics that is Ian Somerhalder.) So when Damon tried compulsion on Carol Lockwood, we know what we're getting… except we didn't. Carol looked at those intense, twinkling eyes of him and asked if he was OK. Hah! And then came the use of Damon's charm (and, yes, those looks)… compulsion wasn't going to work so instead he played on the flirt that he'd already started with her and got his answers the old-fashioned way. He wormed some interesting things about their council with his pretty, pretty face and smooth, incredible charm. Oh, Damon, I'm falling under your spell so hard and I *know* what you are, how could Carol Lockwood whose husband comes across as somewhat of a douche (no wonder his son is one) not?
And speaking of Damon getting what he wants the old-fashioned way, well, I was reminded of what he told Stefan after he gave Elena the vervained locket. His exact words were that he "could just seduce her the old-fashioned way") ... was that foreshadowing? Maybe, maybe not. After all, he then added "or eat her," and I doubt that is going to happen. I mean sure the show clearly has no problem with killing off main characters (Vicki is dead-dead!), but Elena Gilbert is *the* main character so I'm thinking she's safe.
Unlike Vicki. Poor, pathetic, damaged Vicki. She was dead, then undead, and now she's done. Is it bad that I'm not too upset about this? Yes, I've never made it a secret that I'm all for it, but is it bad that after it happened and beyond my first reaction (shock that they actually went there), I truly was 'YAY! She's dead!' The actuality of it happening didn't change my opinion and cause regret for wishing for her death. It happened and I am good with it. I just was not terribly fond of the character and despite feeling for what happened to her (thanks to the writing and Kayla Ewell's talent), that never changed.
Still, yeah, I was shocked. I know I did keep saying that I wanted Vicki to die, but I didn't actually expect it to happen, because, let's be real, that never happens. But my goodness, it actually legit happened. So YAY! No more Vicki Donovan.
This is, I'm thinking especially after the stuffs she pulled in this episode, a very good thing. First there was how she treated Elena. It wasn't just the damn-near choking her, and the threat of future repercussions, but the way she spoke to her. Stefan can say all he wants that it was because she was on edge and all of her issues were coming into play, but that was some deep-seated anger towards Elena.
Vicki: Let's get one thing straight, you perky little bitch. You had my brother whipped for fifteen years. Fifteen years and then you dumped him. When I look at you that is all I see, just so you know. And I'm gonna see Jeremy whenever I wanna see Jeremy, because I have some fun new toys to play with, and I won't think twice about ripping your little head off. You got it?The 'bitch' was one thing, but the 'perky' modifier added a nice, personal touch to it. And then there was the whole bit about Elena's treatment of Matt, not just the break-up, but their entire relationship from Vicki's point of view. Finally, her feelings about Jeremy finished the rant off. We may have been introduced to a Vicki who was hung up on Tyler Lockwood, but the events of the Founder's party clearly shifted her focus much more onto Elena's brother. With all of her feelings blending into one extreme for those who matter to her (per Stefan), Elena being a potential obstacle to Jeremy would have made her a target for Vicki even more so had she lived. After all, it was Elena who she physically harmed (choking her); it was Elena she threatened, and it was Elena that she attacked.
I originally had wondered why Stefan had to kill Vicki, instead of just pulling her off of Elena and done something else, anything else. I mean, Damon and Stefan were able to gut-stab each other with no lasting damage, so I thought there must be another option besides death. However, thinking on the above and the fact that Stefan already knew that Vicki had hurt Elena, had threatened her, I now think he was protecting Elena from Vicki not just in that moment, but period. As I wrote above because of her established issues with Elena and her feelings for Jeremy, Elena would have likely continued to be a target for Vicki. And it's clear that Stefan's main priority is protecting Elena—never mind that she wouldn't be in danger if Stefan hadn't had "to know her."
But he did, and here she is, needing his protection… but perhaps she will no longer need it from Damon. Maybe? I think so. I could be wrong, but it felt like a shift happened between Damon and Elena (at least on Damon's end) in this episode. I mentioned above the dichotomy of callousness and compassion in Damon. It was because of Elena that we saw that compassion.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that Elena intrigues him. In "Family Ties," when Elena stood up to Damon, there was a look of interest on his face likely because he's just not used to that. I doubt it has happened because of either infatuation with, fear of him or his use of compulsion, but the latter isn't possible with Elena, she is not infatuated with him and at that time, she didn't know what he was, so there was no fear. However, now Elena *knows* that Damon is a vampire, and yet she STILL puts him in his place. I imagine that her continued defiance fascinates him.
And then a new element was added in their scene over Vicki's body. We didn't quite see Damon ruled by bloodlust or unable to control himself with Elena. However we did we see an acknowledgement from Damon that he is affected by bloodlust... with emphasis on lust. So far, this moment is the most heightened with sexual tension that I've seen with Damon and Elena. She is standing there in her cleavage-baring, sexy nurse's costume with dark red lipstick and dark hair flowing about her. She stood up to Damon, without fear, calling him out, striking him and based on what we've seen of him that just doesn't happen. In fact, it possibly has never happened from a human who knows that he's a vampire. And I think that gets to him, yes, sexually.
I think that Elena, looking as she does in that moment, fearless and with passionate fury coming off of her in sparks, turned him on. Then you have to factor in the fact that she's bleeding. We were told in this very episode that a hunger for blood heightens strong emotions. Emotions such as: "Love, lust, anger, desire...it can all blur into one urge, hunger." That's right, lust. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Considering the specific emotions listed by Stefan and knowing the dynamics of that scene, I figure that there was no other possible emotion here that could have brought out that heightened hunger in Damon. A heightened hunger that was obvious when he spoke to her very intensely, very succinctly… that was obvious in the dark glint in his eyes, in his avid expression, in his repetition of what she needed to do.
Damon: You need to leave. Your wounds are bleeding and you need to leave.
So that was lust, OK, then, but that wasn't enough for the shift because it wasn't just about lust. In "Family Ties," Lost Girls" and in this one we saw that Elena will not cower. Her strength and courage, paired with the empathy and understanding we saw her extend to him in "Friday Night Bites," and now alongside this lust have made Elena real to Damon. Think back on what he said to his brother:
Stefan: They are people, Damon. She's not a puppet. She doesn't exist for your amusement, for you to feed on whenever you want to.His assertion about humans in general and Elena specifically, no longer appears to apply. And we know that because of the last scene. There were two things that I believe were intended to strike viewers there. The first is that Elena chose to not forget anything (even after breaking up with Stefan in the last episode) because she feels too much for him. Obviously that is important moving forward, that she is willing to accept vampirism in her life, not only for her relationship with Stefan, but also her relationship with Damon.
Damon: Sure she does. They all do. They're whatever I want them to be. They're mine for the taking.
Stefan: All right, you've had your fun. You used Caroline. You got to meet Elena, good for you. Now it's time for you to go.
Damon: That's not a problem. Because I've been invited in and I'll come back tomorrow night and the following night and I'll do with your little cheerleader whatever I want to do. Because that is what is normal to me.
Yes, she now has a relationship with Damon… that is what the final scene accomplished. I think it's clear at this point that I don't ship Stefan and Elena, so it should be no surprise that her statement that her feelings for Stefan took precedence over the horror of what knowing him has brought to her life did not make my heart flutter in the slightest. On the other hand, I was very struck by what happened with Damon (because, yes, I do ship her with him). Damon came out of the dark and chose—for the first time since we've met him—to do something for someone else. And that someone else was Elena Gilbert. This was even after he told her that she'd confused him for someone who cares. However, not much later, there he was, showing that he does in fact care… at least a little… about her. Up until now he's been all about Damon, all about what he wanted.
It's been all about his wants, his desires, his plans to make Stefan's life miserable and mess with his brother's head. Tonight, though, he chose to come to Elena, to see what she needed and he chose to compel Jeremy's painful memories away, to make Jeremy better because it was what *Elena* wanted. And there was this look on Stefan's face, just a glimmer of awareness, when he realized that. This is the beginning of the triangle that The Vampire Diaries has been promoting since before the series even began. Oh, Stefan, Stefan, Stefan… watch out.
Alrighty then, let's move onto randoms—
- This show is big about showing people brushing their teeth in Jeremy and Elena's bathroom. (The two of them and Vicki.) What's up with that?
- Also, it's weird that Elena and Jeremy share a bathroom, isn't it? How do they not have awkward (and inappropriate) run-ins a lot? It's not like they EVER lock either door to their bedrooms.
- Oh man, the look that Jeremy sent Elena when she was on his case about going to school, even with Vicki missing. It was all 'Are you serious? Whatever.' LOL!
- Damon and Stefan sorta, kinda working together to help Vicki... and then failing so spectacularly was amusing, I must admit. I love, love, love just about every and any scene with these two. The conflicting love/hate, friend/foe pattern of their relationship is so much fun to watch. This tag-team effort also highlighted the different approaches that each brother has. Damon is practical, while Stefan hopes that he can spawn harmless vampires. Both have good intentions, but their paths diverge wildly.
- Oh, Damon, he turned Vicki because he was bored? Damon! Ugh! Well, that was my first reaction… but then I remembered what I said about that very thing in the last write-up.
[…] intentions do matter and I honestly don't think that he killed Vicki (YAY!) to be ooh! evil bad guy who kills just for kicks. I think that he genuinely was trying to do better for her. In his misery—that fell upon him after seeing the picture of Katherine in Stefan's possession—I think he saw some of his older, maybe human, pain in Vicki. He told her that she was damaged, with no self-esteem and that her life was pathetic. She didn't disagree with any of that and so he—as he said—figured he knew how to help her. Boom! Dead Vicki… and then *sigh* undead Vicki.I still think that's the case based on what he saw, he said, she said before it happened. Naturally, it makes sense that Damon Salvatore is not going to up and talk about that kind of vulnerability with Vicki Donovan of all people. He's got a rep to protect, right?
- Vicki Donovan, by the way, may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but she ain't stupid. Damon shows her super-speed, two seconds later, she super-speeds away. Hah! That literally made me laugh out loud. Neither Damon nor Stefan expected that at all and yet, duh, of course she would do that. She wanted to leave and now she easily could with no need for any form of transportation. Then she got Matt to invite her in to their home and then, more craftily, got him to NOT invite Stefan in. Finally, when Stefan caught up with her at the party, she took advantage of her brother's protectiveness and antagonism towards Stefan. Once Matt reached her and Stefan, she simply complained that Stefan was bothering her. Boom! Matt then got Stefan out of her hair. She's a clever girl in her own way.
- Hah, Caroline got a witch costume for Bonnie... and she wore it! Even better! So Bonnie was dressed up as a witch, and Vicki was dressed up as a vampire. That was just perfect. I sincerely love this show.
- Speaking of Halloween outfits, aww… Matt and Elena, in their matching ones from the year before, were so cute and, yet, bittersweet. I continue to love that the show is keeping these little moments, memories, connections that illustrate the history these characters share.
- I loved how the whole costume party at the school played out. There was the feel of high school frivolity contrasted with the dark violence of vampirism. The flashing, neon lights, the different costumes, Matt, Elena, Stefan, and Jeremy all searching for Vicki amidst the revelry was so well-done. That was some excellent direction and pacing.
- I'm loving Jasmine Guy as Grams so very much! She continues her reign of awesome.
- Hmm, so the "ugly" necklace that Damon had Caroline help him swipe from the Lockwood estate belonged to a Bennett ancestor of Bonnie's... interesting. So what is going on it? Why is it now burning Damon's hand? Things that make you go hmm...
- Speaking of Damon and Bonnie... damn, is there anyone that Ian Somerhalder doesn't have chemistry with? Because he and Katerina Graham have chemistry too! Of course not as much as he and Nina Dobrev because OH MY LORD! that "you *need* to leave" scene that I spoke above about… so inappropriately hot. Yowza!
- Speaking of that scene, so Vicki attacked Elena (making it clear she really does not like her), attacked Jeremy (making it clear that it's a vampire thing), Stefan staked Vicki (instead of using another alternative, although I get why he did, why would (a) Elena realize that and (b) be okay with it)... but it's ALL Damon's fault, Elena. OK, then. Yeah, yeah, he turned Vicki but her actions (and Stefan's actions) are on them, not Damon. He may have been the main perpetrator of this nasty incident, but he was not the only one to blame. Elena! (Don't worry, I still love you.)
- And that's why I felt for her in the next scene. She had to smile at Matt, excuse the stain from his sister's attack as fake blood from "some idiot." She had to tell him that she didn't know where Vicki was, agreeing that maybe she was already home. Elena had to lie to this boy that she's known (and loved) her whole life when his sister had just been killed in protecting her. So when she was alone in her car and just broke down, my heart broke for her. Oh, Elena.
- And then there was Jeremy. The pain these two have faced in such a short period of time is nigh unbearable. Him crying and wondering why people keep dying on him to Elena was another heartbreaking moment. Oh, Jeremy.
- On that note, I like that the death of Elena and Jeremy's parents is not being glossed over or forgotten. It's only been a small handful of months, barely half-a-year, and so that pain should still be raw and real.
- Elena, Matt, Stefan, Jeremy, Vicki, Damon, Caroline, Bonnie and Tyler, I appreciate how well all but Jenna of the main characters were utilized in this episode. We saw character and plot progression in various ways through all of them (with Tyler being the least used, but still his early scenes with Vicki, Damon and Stefan helped set up Vicki's death—the climax of the episode).
- And one more for the road. Yeah, Vicki is dead-dead. A main character… damn! Is no one safe on this show? Well, presumably except for the three leads one would think. Right? They can't kill off the oh-so-beautiful Somerhalder, right!? Sure, he was super-precious as Boone—and he was still killed off on Lost—but as Damon Salvatore, he's a whole new level of outrageous hotness. Only showrunners who are crazy would let him go!
There you have it, easily the best episode of the series so far. Seriously, oh my! I'm in LOVE with this one. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Haunting, indeed. The stakes at play here are becoming more apparent and the creative team showed us the full measure of just how amazing The Vampire Diaries can be. This episode also showed just how unpredictable things can get. And, of course, (whee!)l, the bond between Damon and Elena looks like it's truly beginning to truly blossom, and Stefan is not blind to that. The triangle has begun.
So awesome! Again, I LOVED this episode.