Sophy says: Okay, so I’m pretty sure nothing’s ever going to knock the Damon/Elena hug in Fool Me Once off it’s BEST HUG THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED pedestal, but this?
This comes close.
I didn’t expect to be quite so overwhelmed by it, but I guess that’s only because I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was already kind of bowled over by Elena telling Matt that she thinks Damon kind of loves Bonnie, because having her acknowledge that possibility so openly was just… staggering, really. The show always dances around this – this thing where people matter to Damon. To have Elena just cut through all the bullshit and call what he feels for Bonnie love? It was such a strange kind of relief.
It’s not that I’ve been sitting here all this time thinking how Damon clearly loves Bonnie and somebody needs to acknowledge it, for the love of god. I’ve danced around it. I’ve thought along the lines of Bonnie’s 218 “Careful, Damon…” I haven’t dared to think he could do much more than care in a roundabout kind of way.
But as soon as Elena said it I realized how right it was – how true it was to who Damon is. He doesn’t do things by halves. He loves blindly and recklessly, you know? Even if it consumes him. That’s why it’s always been a wise thing for him to keep the number of people he loves to a minimum. That’s why he has to hold back all the time with everyone.
Only he’s not holding back anymore – not now. And I couldn’t help feeling there was something magic about Elena’s words – something transformative. Because just as she broke a barrier between Damon and Bonnie sitting at the table with Matt in Mystic Falls, so Damon was about to break that barrier in the woods on an island 1200 miles away.
Elena said “He doesn’t hate her,” and then leapt straight to love. Damon said he could hug her right now and then he made it real.
And Bonnie let it happen – easily – naturally – just like he never would have thought she would – just like she never would have thought she would either.
I think Damon and Bonnie realized in that moment that they would stand, fight and die for the same people. They realized that they love the same people, and if that’s the case why shouldn’t they cut out the middle-men every once in a while and love each other?
Tragedy brings people together. It’s a cliché but it’s true. Damon and Bonnie have always been at their best in a crisis, because they can tune out all of their bristling disdain and see only the parts of each other that they respect the hell out of. Here tragedy tunes out the hate, and they see only the parts of each other they love – their mutual courage, their mutual warmth, their mutual lion-heartedness.
There are no words for how perfect this moment was. It’s going down in my all-time favourite things that have ever happened on The Vampire Diaries. I watched the scene a dozen times the day the episode aired, and every so often when I’m feeling blue I watch it again.
It’s like a fucking tonic, you guys. I mean really.
And I thought this was also clever because it was a way of having Damon express emotion about Jeremy’s death without actually expressing emotion about Jeremy’s death. It would have been a bit gross and very un-Damon for Damon to be indulging in single tears or saying how badly it hurt to lose a beloved member of Team Badass. And Jeremy was beloved to Damon however guarded he was about showing it – I think Elena’s line about how you make fun of the people you care about italicized, bolded and underlined that fact. But he’s a monster, you know? He’s not allowed to feel those things – certainly not publicly – certainly not in an episode in which other people are feeling them with so much more legitimacy.
But when he saw Bonnie there and felt so relieved that he cracked and let his ‘I am totally Alaric’s replacement’ show, I was like Oh. Because whether he understands or likes the implications of this, Damon has gone from being someone who would kill all of these kids in a heartbeat to someone who would die for all of these kids in a heartbeat.
MY FEELINGS ARE FALLING OUT EVERYWHERE I CAN’T TAKE IT.
Matt and Elena.
Sophy says: Possibly the best moment of the episode for me was when Matt walked in and saw Jeremy dead and Elena saw him seeing and couldn’t bear the truth on his face. And not just the truth – the pain. This is how Elena Gilbert functions, after all – for other people. That’s why when Matt walks in her rage abates immediately. His gaze directs hers to the bed and suddenly she’s seeing Jeremy through his eyes, and because she won’t feel her own grief, not yet, not while there’s still the barest scrap of hope to be had… she can feel Matt’s.
She rushes to him, without question. She presses her body to his, which is always, always going to be familiar, no matter how it changes. And she clings to him like she couldn’t stand up if he wasn’t there, while she assures him that everything’s going to be okay.
I mean, really, everything about it is just exquisite and heartbreaking. And you know, a lot of people used to say Zach Roerig was the weakest link in terms of acting, and I never agreed, but at the same time I could see where they were coming from. I’m pretty sure even those people would concede that he has gained some skills somewhere along the line, because part of the reason this scene packed such a punch was just the simple, sick, exhausted unfolding of the reality of that kid on the bed being dead. It’s so completely and honestly there in Zach Roerig’s face and I sincerely hope that somebody made him some kind of trophy about it.
So Elena has Meredith baled up against the wall and is vamping out and screaming at her and ranting about magic. And then she comes back to herself because Matt. Later when they’re drinking tea and he wants her to go somewhere? She’ll try because Matt.
And he takes her to the stoner pit and I’m honestly not sure whether it was a good idea or a bad one, because I could very well have imagined Elena flipping the fuck out from how much it hurt to be there. But what I thought was truly fascinating about this scene was that Matt was not there to be your classic voice of reason. I expected him to try to make her feel like she could let go and treasure the memory of Jeremy and I was a little bit on edge because you can’t ask someone to let go that soon – not Elena – not of Jeremy – not after everything they’ve been through.
But then he really didn’t ask her to let go. He actually sort of told her to hold on. And my heart clenched in my chest because I realized how truly and honestly and unavoidably this was about Matt too.
I loved that he spoke about Vicki. I love that she mattered to the conversation because she mattered to him, but also because she mattered to Jeremy. I love that Elena smiled at her memory even after everything that happened between them. I love that Matt trusted her with his hope – with the ways he still can’t help feeling like maybe it’s not over, maybe his sister is not quite gone and if she’s not quite gone she could find her way back to him again.
TVD moves at such a breakneck speed that it’s easy to forget to think about these things. But of course Matt hasn’t let go of Vicki. How could he? It’s only been something like six months since he saw her again when he never thought that could happen. And once you undo ‘never’? It’s kind of hard to… do it again. Grief isn’t easy for us humans of the real world but at least for most of us it’s clear that death is final. Denial is just denial for us and we get through it – we move through the stages and eventually we accept what we must accept. There is no slightest possibility that our loved one is ever going to claw her way out of a grave or drop a veil or even appear before us to say a last goodbye.
But in the world of The Vampire Diaries? It’s pretty hard not to think that anything is possible when so many impossible things suddenly are. How would Matt ever truly let go of Vicki? How would Elena ever truly let go of Jeremy?
They know there’s an afterlife. At least there’s an afterlife for their loved ones. And they are contactable. Sometimes they are even touchable. I really believe that if Elena were human the first thing she would have done is what Matt did in that swimming pool – died, been revived, created a link between herself and her brother. Unfortunately you can’t exactly do that when you’re a vampire, so there are no comforting, creepy ghostly interventions for her. (Though shouldn’t Matt be able to speak to Jeremy for her? What is his ghost-whisperer status these days? Someone refresh my memory.)
Maybe encouraging Elena in having false hope wasn’t such a smart thing to do. Maybe Matt shouldn’t have shared his with her. And honestly I’m surprised Damon even passed on to Stefan that Bonnie said she might be able to do something and I’m even more surprised Stefan passed that information on to Elena. But oh god, the look on her face when he said Damon had found her friend – her magic friend. It was positively orgasmic. And I don’t mean to be flippant with that. An orgasm is all the tension in your body releasing at once, right? That’s pretty much what happens here with Elena. She’s been winding herself tighter and tighter even since she stopped sobbing on the floor of that cave and sprang into action – ever since she faced the fact that there was no more action to partake in and all she could do was wait for Bonnie, who has brought her brother back from the dead once and who can surely do it again.
Because there is absolutely no way he is dead. Not when ghosts are a reality. Not when all Matt would have had to do to get Vicki back in his life was let her torch his friend.
Just knowing those things are possible makes it hard to let go, and I like that the show acknowledged that with Matt and connected it to Elena. I love that he didn’t just pat her on the head about it either – he meant it – because he gets it – and it meant something to her that he did. And at the end of this episode Elena did let go, in spectacular fashion, but I don’t expect that to be the end of her kinship with Matt.
I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of the Matt/Elena relationship. I think a lot of people underestimate Matt, period.
I’M LOOKING AT YOU, DAMON SALVATORE.
I used to feel I was very much in the minority with my Matt Donovan love. Particularly during season 2, people were very down on him, I think partly because they wanted Forwood to happen, or I guess because some people saw him as being emotionally abusive with Caroline. I’m not going to say they don’t have a point. He wasn’t perfect and he didn’t treat Caroline perfectly. He had a knack for saying nice things so they sounded almost mean. He gave up on her way, way too easy. But I did feel as though people too often took Matt’s flaws and defined him with them, whereas, say, they would take Caroline’s and Tyler’s good sides and define them with those.
I get that. It happens. I can understand people wanting Caroline with Tyler or feeling that Matt should treat her better. But it used to really grate on me when people would turn it all the way up to he’s an abuser. Because I just don’t see him that way. Never have, not even in his ugliest moments – not even when I felt the show took him to places that were unfair and out of character in order to definitively end his relationship with Caroline.
Matt, to me, has always been the very essence of the decent guy. And I think that’s why he’s one of my favourite things about TVD. Because how often do you see this set up? Main Girl and Mysterious Outsider strike up romance while Recent Ex Jock looks on. Except the jock is always glowering. He is always turning his manpain to aggression and projecting that aggression outwardly at our brand new shiny pairing. Now 9 times out of 10 he gets to stop glowering and become a good person again, once our lovebirds are safely ensconced in OTPdom and he has accepted that fact – see Kyle Valenti from Roswell, Luke Ward from The OC. But Matt Donovan was different. Matt Donovan got to be the person he always was whether Elena was dating someone new or not. He may have been heartbroken, he may have wanted Elena back, desperately, but he was kind and gentle and gentlemanly about it. He was really fucking nice to Stefan and I remember finding it refreshing – especially when he actually stopped Tyler from meting out the obligatory douchebag treatment on his behalf.
Matt was sad but he was never bitter. He was hurt but he was never mean. He was always a friend to Elena – rigorously – whether he was her boyfriend or not. And I think that makes him pretty damn special to her.
There are a lot of reasons why Elena chose to be the one to die in that car in 322. She was tired. She was really tired. It was all too much like the last time she was swooped to safety and people she loved were left behind. And she didn’t think she had a right to want to live, not like this, not if somebody else wanted it too! Basically Elena was all ‘Oh there’s only one existence-cookie left? Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. Here, you have it, Other Person.’
But then at the same time she loves Matt. She really, really loves Matt – in the bigger than your body way – in the always way. Just because that love hasn’t been romantic in the show’s run the way her love with Stefan and Damon has been, doesn’t make it any less potent or true.
Honestly, while I thought Elena would have the opportunity to stay human and live out her life, I used to daydream a Matt/Elena endgame – an open-ended one, perhaps. But I liked the idea of her coming full circle and wanting to try again with Matt. You can scoff if you like. You can tell me Elena didn’t want Matt then so why would she want him now?
Well, she doesn’t want him now, not like that. But she might – she could – or she could have if she hadn’t become a vampire and lost Jer and changed the whole course of her existence in such a way as it likely will never align with his again. When Elena was explaining to Stefan why she ended things with Matt in the pilot, she took his word – it was because it wasn’t “passionate”. But passion isn’t always what you want or need, not your whole life through. And besides I always took that statement with a grain of salt. Pilot jitters, you know? I put it down to Stefan trying to woo her by directing her mind to thoughts of how passionate it could be with him and her latching eagerly onto that because she’s a child, basically, and it’s exciting, and Matt wasn’t exciting, and she wasn’t exciting with him, because how can you really be exciting when someone has known you all their life and seen everything that has gone into making you who you are?
“Not passionate” was, in my mind, an oversimplification of the reasons things fell apart with Elena and Matt. Up until we got the 322 flashback I theorized that Elena’s parents’ death had made her afraid to return to what she knew – because Matt was so bound up in the life she was leading up to that awful moment – because Matt was so bound up in the girl she thought she could never ever be again. I still believe that played a part in the way she resolutely refused to take solace in that relationship and was determined to start something new when she met Stefan. But in 322 we discovered that she was wanting to end things with Matt before disaster struck and we discovered the true reasons why. It wasn’t about not being “passionate”. It was because Elena wasn’t ready to be loved the way Matt loved her – the white picket fence, let’s build something here and call it home way. She wanted the space and the time to build her own things. She didn’t want to be fenced in.
Damon was absolutely right in his just-like-everybody-else assessment of Elena – insofar as she was just like him because he is just like every other teenage girl in the world. She wanted passion, adventure, and even a little danger.
And that’s what she has now, with Damon – or what she was trying to have till the sire bond, Jeremy’s death and her humanity switch being off got in the way. With Damon she feels free. She feels like things are unpredictable. It’s the exact opposite of Matt, isn’t it?
And it’s not what she had with Stefan. The reason why I shrug off the talk of passion in the pilot is because it was clearly set up as a Matt = passionless, Stefan = passionate type thing, and everything we saw of the way Stefan and Elena’s relationship actually progressed gave the lie to that dichotomy. The truth is that Stefan/Elena was never particularly passionate. The truth is that it was, in a lot of ways, exactly the kind of relationship Elena might have had with Matt Donovan if he’d been new to town and unknown – sweet as he is, a little bit lonely, quiet, kind, gentle, safe.
Stefan, as he appeared to Elena initially, was very much like a brand new, shinier, somewhat more bookish, pointier-haired Matt. They are both polite, easy-going, totally invested in Elena from the word Go, and totally invested in the dream of the ordinary life with her. The only reason Stefan didn’t have his and Elena’s future all planned out for them within five minutes is because the future he would plan was impossible. Regardless, he had and has very clear ideas about who he thinks she should be and how he thinks she should live, and that has never been more apparent than in his determination to see her as a whole other person when she became a vampire, than in his eagerness to conjure a sire bond with Caroline when she didn’t behave appropriately.
Elena entered into a relationship with Stefan soberly and with purpose. He may have been mysterious, but Elena didn’t even like that. She didn’t want him to have secrets – she didn’t want him to be unpredictable. He may have been a vampire, but as she later explains to us that was something that, far from being exciting and dangerous to her, made her feel safe - because he could never die – at least not as easily as everybody else – not as easily as Matt, you know?
I’ve seen people speculate that when Damon compelled Elena to forget meeting him he also compelled her to get everything she wanted, and that that is why she fell so hard for Stefan. That doesn’t track for me, for several reasons. But first and foremost because Stefan isn’t everything Elena wanted – or at least he isn’t the everything Elena wanted that Damon was referring to. Stefan was what Elena wanted at a time in her life at a time when she needed someone – someone solid and dependable – someone she wouldn’t be too afraid with – someone she wouldn’t have too much fun with either, because getting back in the saddle is what you’re supposed to do, but actually having a good time when you hate yourself as much as Elena did then? No way. After Elena’s parents died the things she and Damon talked about weren’t just off the table, they were in the bin. What the Elena we met in season 1 wanted was not passion, adventure, danger, because those are selfish things to want – because those are the things she wanted when she left Matt at the party and her parents came to get her and died.
What Elena wanted in season 1 was a Matt Donovan who wasn’t Matt Donovan. And for all the teen-talk about being passionate and epic, that’s pretty much what Stefan was to her.
All of this is my very long-winded way of saying that what we want shifts according to who we are at a particular point in our development. Life changes us, basically. So just because Elena wanted to break up with Matt when she was 16, doesn’t mean he is forever ruled out as a suitor for her.
And I know that in terms of the show’s structure and in terms of the outrage it would likely spark with fans of the triangle, Matt probably is ruled out. But I would love it. The picket fence ending is out, maybe. But angsty grief-sex in which they try to claw back what they’ve both lost and kind of ruin each other in the process and then heal together? I could get on board with that. Plus, when I think about how seriously crazy it would make Caroline…
But then a part of me wants them to keep it nice and platonic, because people are just starting to really love Matt, you know? I don’t want fandom to bust out the pitchforks on his ass.
So all I’m going to say is that for me it’s an if not Damon, then Matt kind of a situation these days. Because I couldn’t help noting that in what is possibly the biggest episode ever for Elena’s character, in her hour of greatest need, Stefan was not present with her. I’m not saying he did anything wrong or was unkind or unsupportive, and I can see that it’s complicated by the fact that they recently split up and maybe he doesn’t know what his place is. But the fact remains that if you watched this episode knowing nothing about the show, you would probably get the impression that Stefan was just a friend of Elena’s – or a friend of Caroline’s, really, and a friend of Elena’s therefore. Whereas Elena’s particular history and chemistry with Damon and with Matt? That was obvious.
This boy, though.
Sophy says: Wow, as if Matt and Elena weren’t paralleled enough in this episode they had to go and give us an explicit throwback to that time Matt’s only family died (come on, Kelly doesn’t count), and it mattered to Elena, and she sat in her car sobbing alone and despairing at the way the wrong ways the world works.
Matt is such a quiet, unassuming character – he is such a quiet, unassuming guy – it’s easy to forget that he has a whole emotional life of his own. We drop in occasionally to see how he’s doing and the deal is nearly always that things hurt but he’s getting by – it’s nearly always been Elena to a T, the only differences being that he doesn’t have a supernatural destiny or a pair of Salvatores in love with him or a sibling to live for.
And I feel like over the past season or so, Jeremy became that for Matt – the little brother. Jeremy and Elena became his family. There’s a sense in which they undoubtedly always have been, on account of how he and Elena are a since babies deal. But it intensified since he lost Vicki for the second time. I feel like Matt started to love Elena in a whole new way where it didn’t hurt anymore – where he took solace in being her solace – where he was the one standing by her side on Wickery Bridge when she first started to say goodbye to the things that hurt. And then I feel like he started to make Jeremy his friend, as opposed to the kid brother of his ex-girlfriend. And I also feel like he started to make himself Jeremy’s protector. Not in the literal sense, of course. Everyone is stronger than Matt – both his ex-girlfriends – his ex-best friend – even the littlest Gilbert himself. But there are other ways to look after someone. There are other ways to be someone’s hero.
Matt spent seasons 3 and 4 making Elena and Jeremy matter to him more than ever before.
And now one is gone and I think Matt understands just as well as Damon that the other will be gone too, one way or another. Elena won’t survive this. And I think at this moment, doubled over the steering wheel in pain, Matt doesn’t know if he can survive her not surviving it.
This is, I believe, the closest we’ve ever been to Matt. I’m actually pretty sure it’s the only time we’ve ever seen him alone, from the start of the scene to the finish of it. And the scene stood out because it was placed for symbolic impact, rather than to flow with the narrative. We cut from Matt in his car, humanity overflowing, so Elena, switched off, staring at a photograph of the person she loves most and lost most recently and feeling nothing.
I feel that this is important. I feel like there might be great stuff coming for these two, all foolish dreams of a love affair aside.
“Oh, you’re home!”
Sophy says: Perfect moment is perfect. Caroline is soothing her own pain by scrubbing at the Kol-shaped burn mark on the floor when Elena walks in with a bigger pain and she’s going to need a bigger bucket about it. The way Candice faltered over “I couldn’t get the spot out,” then stopped and stared with a ‘What the hell just happened’ blankness on her face? Perfect. The tiniest headshake from Stefan to let Caroline know that yes, this was what it seemed like, and no, it was not going to be okay? Also perfect. And the fact that Elena didn’t say a word to Caroline or so much as look her way? Yeah. Perfect.
Still, I worry about the state of Elena and Caroline’s relationship. I couldn’t help but perceive a certain detachment between the two of them in this episode that went beyond the way Elena was kind of detached from everyone and everything that wasn’t Jeremy coming back or never coming back. Caroline seemed upset about the situation, but not terribly concerned with what her friend was going through. It realize it’s apples and oranges, but it still makes me sad to compare the lack of connection here to the way Elena sat on the porch with Caroline and helped her grieve when her father died.
Sophy says: All the interactions between Rebekah and Damon were perfect, which I was relieved about, having not been so enamoured of last week’s.
I loved that Rebekah was sorry that Jeremy was dead for Elena’s sake. I love that she recognized that he was Elena’s only family and protested that she wasn’t heartless. It would have been a little syrupy for her to go further than that, but it would have been out of character for her to just shrug it off like it was nothing. For better or worse she is invested in Elena’s life. If her world’s going to crumble Rebekah’s going to notice and care whether she likes it or not.
But what I loved even more was that she referred to Katherine as “the doppelganger”.
How many times have we heard people refer to Elena as the doppelganger – as though she was the copy, of course, and Katherine the original, of course – if either of them could even call themselves that. But Rebekah doesn’t see it that way. And it makes sense that she wouldn’t, after all, considering that Katherine came into her life as “the doppelganger” of Tatia. Maybe this is just a remnant of so many conversations with her mean, big brother about the one who got away – and the other one who got away, literally, who looked just like her. But it also felt like a subtle recognition of Elena as a real and valuable person in Rebekah’s world. Elena is Elena to her now. Katherine is still “the doppelganger.” It struck me. I smiled.
AND THEN SHE MARCHED OFF AFTER DAMON. AND IT WAS THE CUTEST.
Here, observe the cuteness:
I enjoyed Rebekah calling Damon out on being scared to be there when Elena’s grief hit and how it tied in with Stefan telling Caroline he didn’t want to be the one to break her out of her denial. I’ve seen each of them copping flack for feeling that way, but honestly, I can’t blame them. Seeing someone you love go through what is arguably the worst thing that can ever happen to a person is scary. I find it quite poignant that the Salvatore boys, who would slay all the dragons for Elena, shy away from the prospect of being intimate in her grief.
Not that it’s fair to suppose that’s the actual reason Damon wasn’t in Mystic Falls by Elena’s side. If he was off drowning his sorrows and failing to face his fears for her I’d feel differently. But he wasn’t. He was off getting shit done, like always.
Damon is a doer. When the house is burning down (ha) he’s going to save the furniture. He’ll get Bonnie to her hideout before she wakes up, he’ll dispense with Klaus’ body, he’ll figure out what to do about the hunter who’s in town. In all those instances, Damon did the doing and left Stefan to do the being with Elena. He has done that partly because he has always seen Stefan as the one Elena would want to do the being with and partly because he is aware of how much better he is at handling the practical side of things than his little bro.
If Bonnie needs to be found, Damon’s going to be the one to do it. It’s kind of a no-brainer, whether Rebekah gets that or not. And I think Damon really felt that Bonnie did need to be found for Elena’s sake. I think he fully believed that the most valuable contribution he could make to Elena’s well-being at this time was to deliver Bonnie to her safe and sound.
Damon joked aggressively about making a casserole for Bonnie after he turned her mother, but the thing that’s actually funny is that that’s exactly what Damon would do. Bonnie is his casserole in this episode. She is how I know that if he was a regular guy and someone he loved was grieving, he’d make them dinners and pile them into their freezer in Tupperware containers. He’d drive them to the store or sort their mail. He’d do the laundry. He’d make their bed.
Stefan is the guy who would sit beside them on the bed Damon made and touch their hand and talk about love and loss and what it all means. And I do believe the only reason he wasn’t doing that with Elena in this episode is the same reason Caroline wasn’t doing it – because it wasn’t what she needed. I don’t think so little of Stefan as to suppose keeping his distance from her physically and emotionally was all coming from a place of fear. People comforting you isn’t very helpful when you’re trying to be in denial, and Stefan wasn’t wrong in thinking denial was what Elena needed. There’s a reason it’s the first stage of grief, after all.
And there were good reasons Damon stayed behind on the island to find Bonnie. First, though it might seem impossible for anything to be worse for Elena than losing Jeremy, losing Bonnie too just might do the trick. Second, he had his own guilty little hope that she might be able to bring Jeremy back. It is very unlike Damon to fall prey to fantasies because reality is a bitch. But I guess this reality was just such a bitch to this girl that he loves so much that the possibility that he might be able to make it go away was too hard resist. And hey, it’s kind of hard not to have hope when you’re friends with a Bennett witch.
And then there’s the fact that Damon still can’t conceive of a world in which Elena would derive any particular comfort from his presence. I don’t think he’s capable of thinking of himself as on a level with Bonnie or Matt or Caroline or Stefan when it comes to being a hand to hold. He’s not enough of a whiney little emo fucker to pretend that Elena doesn’t care about him. He knows that she does – very much. But he also believes that she only “loves” him because he so desperately wants to be loved by her and she is sired to his ass. And even if the words ‘sire bond’ had never been uttered on this show, I think Damon would still have a complex about Elena’s feelings for him being born of her famous compassion. I think he would see the feelings she has for him as a sacrifice on her part, as a suppression of what she really wants in response to his need.
(He couldn’t be more wrong, of course. Damon is all about what Elena wants.)
Damon is very uncomfortable with the idea of himself as a comforter. Multiply that discomfort by a bajillion when you factor in that any success he might have in that role would be supernaturally pre-ordained.
Rebekah wasn’t wrong to call Damon out on being afraid of Elena’s pain. But she was wrong to suggest that that was the reason he was on the island instead of in Mystic Falls. Damon would never let fear trump love – never – he can be as self-defeating and as cynical as he likes – I know the truth. Damon Salvatore is all about love and he always will be. But I was pleasantly surprised that the show didn’t just let canon stand at ‘Damon’s a scaredy cat’. Normally Damon just shrugs off criticism and we are left mounting defences for him that he could so easily have mounted for himself. But in this episode he actually ended up standing up to Rebekah. She can call him out on being scared all she wants but she will not paint him as a coward. The reason he is on this island is to give Elena what she needs which is her best friend. Period.
Then Vaughn and his Robin Hood antics happened, and Damon, resourceful as he is, used Beks as his not-so-human shield and was all “Sorry, better you than me.” I saw some people noting that this is a reference to Damon’s “vixen nemesis, Miss Katherine Pierce,” and I won’t deny that the phrase does bring her “Better you die than I,” to mind. But the key difference here is that Rebekah wasn’t dying and Damon would have. That’s why it was better that Rebekah took the arrow – not because Damon prizes his own life above all others, but because she could take it and dust herself off and be with him in a jiffy. This is a complex area for Damon. Whilst he would absolutely sacrifice a random in service of his agenda, he’s also not the type to shield himself with other people. Remember how he put himself in Not!Alaric’s way to save Rebekah’s life back in 322? I don’t think this undoes that at all. Rebekah may be Damon’s “enemy” and yet somehow she’s still on his list. This goes to the heart of Damon’s relationship with humanity and how it is growing and changing. You no longer have to be loved or even liked to be worth saving. You just have to be known.
And all was well that ended well. Rebekah was up and at ‘em in no time, and ready to play badder cop to Damon’s already-bad cop. And it was the best.
“You are creepy.” “Thank you.”
And “We’ll throw him in the well, if he starves to death it’s not our fault.” Hee.
Sophy says: You thought she’d given up didn’t you?
Brothers being brothers.
Sophy says: New favourite Defan scene ever? Quite possibly.
I know that a bunch of people were pissed that Stefan didn’t actually say he’s sorry here, and then a lot of people retaliated against that by saying Damon should be the one apologizing thank you very much.
And you know? I don’t think either one of them needs to be apologizing to the other. They have both hurt each other. And maybe you could argue that this was worse or that was worse or what about that time Stefan became the ripper for Damon or what about how Damon took that high and annoying road. But Damon and Stefan aren’t interested in doing that. I think they’re a million miles past sorry, and in this moment I think they’re not even on the same continent as the one on which Stefan made a nasty joke about Damon using the sire bond to his advantage or Damon slept with Stefan’s girl a couple of days after they broke up. It’s like Damon said – none of that matters anymore. Neither of them gets to be wounded. Neither of them gets to be guilty, either.
And you know what else? I don’t even think “I’m sorry,” was what Stefan was wanting to say on that porch. In my mind, the words he couldn’t quite make come out of his mouth – the words Damon said he didn’t need to struggle with because it’s okay, he knows, he gets it – I think those words were “I love you”.
I’m not going to lie. I am a great big sap who wants Damon and Stefan to actually say those words out loud to one another before the series is out. But for now I’ll take this terribly poignant edging around the truth of what they mean to each other, and I’ll play it every Christmas. Seriously.
There is a lot that is brilliant about the writing in this episode, but the way Damon’s totally Elena-focused “She lost her brother,” sparked this feeling between them as quickly as it left his mouth was just glorious. Because maybe it’s not the same. Maybe Damon and Stefan’s relationship will never be as pure and untainted and absolute as Elena and Jeremy’s. But they are still brothers. They still, quite literally, mean the world to each other.
I’m not saying they couldn’t go on without each other. But I think they recognize that the absence of each other in the world would be the most life-altering thing either of them could live through.
And the vulnerability in their eyes here? The solid tenderness of Damon’s hand on his baby brother’s shoulder?
I AM A MESS. DON’T COME NEAR ME.
Everything that Nina Dobrev chose to be.
Sophy says: Ladies and gentlemen, Nina Dobrev.
This? The above? All of it and then some? It’s part of why it took me so long to get this recap out.
Nina truly hurt me with this episode. I fully admit to being an Elena Gilbert stan, so the things that character goes through are going to get to me regardless. But surely even the people who don’t like Elena felt a twinge of sympathy for her in this episode, right? Because Nina was just that devastating.
A lot of people have been comparing this episode to Buffy’s “The Body,” mostly unfavourably. I don’t really see the need to do that. I won’t deny that there are certain similarities between the two episodes, just as there are frequently similarities between the two shows. But there are really only so many ways you can deal honestly with death, you know? Buffy doesn’t own the sick trepidation a person feels when they inch forward to pull a shroud away from a loved one’s face. Buffy doesn’t own that awful recognition that there are some things that are beyond help and that sometimes a body is just a body. “The Body” is one of the finest things that has ever happened on television, so I would never wish to take anything away from it. But I don’t think you need to. There are quite enough differences between this episode of this show and that episode of that one to make comparisons unnecessary.
For a start, where The Body was quiet and stylized, like a long pause after an inhalation, Stand By Me feels like business as usual in terms of its structure and style. Sure, there has been extra care and attention to the way things are shot. (I realized when going through the screencaps I’d made that I was going to need to congratulate the director on the ways he’d made Elena feel small and faraway in contrast to the looming presence of Jeremy’s body as she came up the stairs and into her realization that he was gone.) But the episode doesn’t feel stylistically different from other episodes. It feels like a special episode because of the heavy, show-altering content, but not in the way this content was presented to us. And then with The Body it always felt to me like the emphasis was on the way life goes on even when it seems impossible – crude – vile. Buffy got on with things, didn’t she? She continued moving in the same direction with all the heaviness in her heart. She did all the things she was supposed to do.
Elena burned everything down and walked away.
In some ways I feel like The Vampire Diaries has less of a sense of responsibility about itself than Buffy always did. It’s less careful, more chaotic. The narrative has never been hung up on what’s right and what’s wrong. I feel like this episode really sold that, and so where The Body was terribly, terribly sad, Stand By Me was more… fucking scary.
But enough. What that tangent was all about was that whilst TVD and Buffy are different beasts and The Body and Stand By Me are different episodes, Nina Dobrev is very much to this show what Sarah Michelle Gellar was to that show. As in she is a motherfucking diamond, who would be getting them Emmys if the worst was fair.
Every single choice she made in this episode was perfect. From the panic and relief that mirrored her panic and relief in 201, to the way she backed out of the kitchen for a couple of steps after telling Stefan and Caroline she wasn’t in denial, to the wheezed scratchiness of “We need magic!”, to her small politeness at the family meeting stretching itself slowly into something thin and distant. The way she whirled around on Damon in Jeremy’s bedroom, but not with anger, only with horror, only with the need to tell someone about this horrible thing that has just happened for her in another time, in another place. The way she gasped, lifted her fingers to her mouth, then to her nose. The indignation of “How long has he smelled like this?” And then by the time she gets downstairs the shock is over and there is only this end-of-the-world viciousnessness, there is only the bottle in her hand and the match at her fingertips and the way she held her hand up and couldn’t quite look at the dead thing that isn’t her brother anymore. There is only the way nobody will ever understand what this feels like.
“You think I didn’t hear you guys talking earlier?”
It was so accusatory. And accusatory is something Elena pretty much never is.
You know, it’s funny, because fandom is often trying to school me about how self-involved and whiny Elena Gilbert is and how she doesn’t care about what the people around her are going through because her pain is always more important. It was never more apparent to me how wrong that is than when I was watching this episode. Because in this episode Elena was self-involved and whiny and not caring about what the people around her are going through because her pain is more important. And it is – and that’s why I don’t blame her.
But the fact is that a self-indulgent, wallowing, me, me, me Elena is quite a shocking sight to see, and that’s why it’s so obvious that it’s not what we see on a regular basis.
Elena spent this whole episode being angry and trying not to be. You could tell she was biting back “Just leave me alone,” when Stefan was asking her if she wanted anything. In the kitchen you could feel that she was this close to yelling at Caroline to mind her own goddamn business. Even before Meredith started talking about how her baby brother is going to get busy decomposing soon Elena was visibly irritated by her presence. When Matt wanted to answer the phone for her it pissed her off and she couldn’t help showing it just a little.
But she contained, for the most part. Because that’s what Elena does: she contains. She doesn’t lash out at people. She doesn’t make a scene. She tries for people, always. That’s why she stopped yelling at Meredith and went to soothe Matt. It’s why she went to the stoner pit with him when she didn’t want to – for his sake – because he said “Please.”
But by the time she realizes, fully, that Jeremy is dead and he is not coming back, she is no longer able to contain herself.
She snaps at Damon to do her bidding. She asks where Bonnie is because she needs her to do a parlour trick for her. She yells. She throws things. She kicks things. She makes bitter jokes about the family plot being full. She pours alcohol over her baby brother’s fast-asleep face.
She’s scaring Caroline? Sorry, she doesn’t care anymore.
This scene is Elena at her most selfish, and of course, it’s entirely appropriate that she should be selfish in these circumstances. But it was still a shock to see her be so completely present with her own pain – and not just her own pain – her anger, bitterness, hate.
And her voice when she says, “Would you, Damon?”
Shivers. Down my spine.
Likewise with her guilty little “How?” when Damon said he would help her. Because she knew how, even if she didn’t want to know. Because she needed it, even if she didn’t want to need it. And oh god, her shuddering downward cries that were almost like laughter as she looked into Damon’s eyes and faced the inevitability of relief.
And then at the end of it all she puts down the photograph of the self she used to be and her little brother who meant so much to her that she couldn’t be without him and she had to become this quiet, empty thing instead. She puts it down and she walks into the same living room where she fell apart and she is large and composed and right in front of us. She is looming now, and Jeremy is the tiny, faraway figure in the frame.
She lights the match for the second time. She turns. Her face is an angelic absence.
Absolute sheer perfection. This girl will get all the awards someday. I really believe that.
I HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT.
Sophy says: He would though.
PS. I know it’s a matter of context but does anyone else think it’s hilarious that Stefan Salvatore had a conversation with someone about other people being in denial? Hee. More on that below.
Shut up, just shut up shut up. Shut up, just shut up shut up.
Sophy says: I don’t understand Stefan in this episode. No scratch that, I do. Except he makes no sense. No wait! He makes perfect sense.
I don’t know.
I don’t actually know whether this scene is bad or good or ugly at this stage. All I know is that there’s nothing beautiful about it and since everything else that was ugly in this episode was also beautiful, I felt uncomfortable lumping this in with them. Plus, okay, I’ll admit, I just kinda needed something for the bad section.
Sometimes you have to scrape the bottom of the bad barrel with this show, you know? First world TV problems.
Let me define my concerns. I’m not objecting to Stefan being calm about things. I’m okay with that, even if initially the image of him having a cuppa over Jeremy’s death did contrast sharply with the image of him blubbering openly over Elena breaking up with him back in season 2.
But I get it, I do. The only people who get to break down sobbing about Jeremy the way Elena does are Bonnie and Matt and that is as it should be. And note that they both did it away from Elena – Matt in the privacy of his car, Bonnie on the damn island with only damn Shane to see. They would never dare intrude on Elena’s pain even if they have so much of their own. And so of course neither would Damon, Stefan or Caroline.
So my problem isn’t that Stefan isn’t wailing or gnashing his teeth. My problem is actually that he’s having the audacity to grieve at all.
I’m sorry but it just bothered me that he made Jeremy’s death about him on the day it was only supposed to be about Elena. Nobody else did that. Not even Matt and Bonnie had the nerve to communicate their pain over Jeremy to someone, even if they couldn’t hold their emotion back. Who knows, maybe if Caroline had gotten through to Tyler she would have filled him in on how much she was hurting, but I doubt it. It would have been all about how afraid of what this would do to Elena.
Stefan is the only one who openly declared that he was hurt by Jeremy’s death personally, and given that he didn’t seem to give too much of a damn about his well-being a few episodes ago, that just feels a bit rich.
Look, okay, I’m going to have to go into all caps…
HE MADE IT ABOUT HIM. IT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABOUT HIM. IT WAS NOT ABOUT HIM. AND HE MADE. IT. ABOUT. HIM.
And even the advice Meredith gives him? It’s about him. It’s all about how Elena’s denial is so hard for him, and all he can do for himself is brace for impact.
Just… worlds of no.
And that’s not even the only problem I have with this. The other problem I have with this is either logistical or a damning commentary on who Stefan is and the way he presents himself to others.
Stefan says that he’s been around for a couple of centuries and you’d think with the amount of people that he’s “seen die”, it would hurt less each time.
Meredith smiles fondly, sympathizes, identifies. I suppose this is because she is not aware that all of these people Stefan has “seen die” are people he has eaten the heads off of.
I’m sorry but this was just tacky as fuck. We have a doctor, who devotes her life to saving people and in the course of that work sees too many of them die… comparing her lot with a serial killer who in the course of his serial killing also sees lots of people die.
I’M SORRY, BUT WHAT IS THIS?
I’m not going to pretend that Stefan doesn’t feel pain about causing the deaths of so many people. I’m sure that he does. But surely it’s supposed to be the guilty kind of self-loathing pain that you don’t complain to others about! Not the kind you get tea and sympathy for.
This is why this fell into the bad category. Because it just seems like plain old bad writing. This isn’t how the show intends to portray Stefan is it? They want me to watch this scene and reflect on how sensitive he is, right?
I don’t even know anymore.
Because this fits far too well with the rest of Stefan’s character development. He’s always been consumed with the need to define himself as better than that other murderer who shares his last name, you know? Remember how he told Caroline it was his supercallafragilistic compassion that made him kill people? And remember how in 314 he told Elena how much killing all those people hurt him? Remember how in 402 he held a freaking memorial service and grieved unashamedly alongside all these kids – exactly the kind of innocent kids he’s probably eaten plenty of in his day. And now here he is, just like old times, focusing on his pain about all the carnage he’s caused, pretending that when he kills someone it’s just the same as when he didn’t.
I struggle with this. I do. I struggle with it because whilst it all adds up in terms of what I see on the show, I still can’t believe that it’s the message the show wants to send about Stefan. Not that it would be a bad message to send, by any means. If we were building this season towards Stefan’s rather colossal character flaws being exposed and acknowledged, I’d be ecstatic. And not because I’m a bitchy Damon/Elena fan who wants him to be kicked while he’s down. But because it might give us some clarity with his character – it might give us some honesty. And I fully believe that the day they let Stefan be a fuck-up and be acknowledged as a fuck-up is the day people will start cheering for him.
Damon snapped Jeremy’s neck because he was upset. Damon is the most consistently popular character on this show. It’s all about the journey, and the fact is that after three seasons Stefan still doesn’t have one.
And maybe this is it, but I’m loath to trust in that. Because it’s Elena’s big grief episode, right? That’s not the time to highlight the self-absorbed, delusional sides to Stefan Salvatore. That’s when the best in him is supposed to come out – and it does, elsewhere, particularly in his scene with Damon.
So I’m trying to rationalize this.
I’m trying to tell myself that Stefan isn’t talking about the people he killed, but I’m not sure that really makes it any less gross and I’m also not sure it makes any sense anyway. Because who has Stefan “seen die” apart form the people he’s made die?
We know that he’s spent the past couple of centuries being the ripper and not being the ripper. Whereas Damon is characterized as having had a pretty vibrant social life comprising a whole host of randoms who pop up occasionally on the show (Bree, Sage, Scary Mary, Charlotte, yeah okay it’s basically all chicks, but whatever, he’s a manwhore, deal with it), Stefan has very much been characterized as a lonely figure. Before he remembered Klaus and Rebekah all signs pointed to Lexi being his best and only friend. It’s just not plausible that oh hey wait, there were a whole bunch of other people Stefan has loved and lost during that time.
There’s his dad, sure, but, you know, he killed him. And then there’s Lexi. And yes, she died, and no Stefan didn’t kill her, but it was only? What? A year and a half ago in the show’s timeline?
So it just doesn’t make sense to me for Stefan to characterize himself as this 200 year old creature who’s mourned so many people it should be easy by now. And yet I really don’t think the show wants me to see Stefan as a giant poser hypocrite muscling in on Elena’s grief for no good reason.
So I’m left thinking this is just bad writing. I’m left thinking this is just the writers treating Stefan like the middle child who gets other people’s hand me downs whether they quite fit him or not. And that makes me sad.
And hey wait, I’m still not done with the ways that line missed the mark. Because there’s also the fact that what Stefan says here implies that these supposed randoms that he has seen die over the years – people he doesn’t know – people he couldn’t have loved – people he has never mentioned – are the same to him as Jeremy is. This hurts the same as that. The way he sees it, it would make sense for those deaths to have prepared him for this one. And there’s something horribly trivializing about that.
I’m not going to pretend Stefan should be devastated by Jeremy’s death. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think he has ever had much of a personal relationship with him. But I just don’t believe that his epic love for Elena wouldn’t make it hurt a thousand times more than any other death that had come before, excepting maybe Lexi’s.
In conclusion, I hate this scene and I also don’t buy it. Because I may criticize Stefan plenty, but I actually don’t think this little of him.
And sadly it’s not the only scene I have a problem with. I need someone to help me out here, because I’ve been struggling to get my head around something he says to Caroline on the porch.
“Talk about denial. In my head I was so sure Elena wasn’t going to be a vampire forever. And now, without any family…”
I’m trying not to understand that line because every time I do I become very upset. Because it seems for all the world like what Stefan is saying is that without human Jeremy to love and live with Elena won’t even want to return to being a human.
And that’s just… wow. Because again, he’s making this about him, and he’s making it about him and the Elena he wants Elena to be. He’s not saying, “I’m so scared of the ways this will scar Elena”. He’s saying, “Goddamnit now she’s never going to be that girl again – the one in my head.”
I’ve just watched the scene another three times. And it really does seem like Stefan is reflecting on Elena saying maybe there only being one dose of the cure is a blessing in disguise. It seems like he’s opining that being human was not something she was hung up on for herself – it was something she would have pursued to be with Jeremy, and now, dang-it Jer is dead.
A final thought: It was pretty hilarious watching Paul Wesley and his wife try not to be in love. Torrey kept pouring adoration all over this guy she’s supposed to have never met before every time she looked at him, and Paul basically couldn’t bring himself to look directly at her more than once because if he had the jig would have been up.
Sophy says: Just be quiet, Elena.
“What’s that smell?”
Sophy says: This was a little bit horrible, wasn’t it? I thought it was kind of genius for the writers to take this opportunity to remind us that the vast majority of TVD characters are now supernatural beings, endowed with superior senses that allow them to do nifty things like smell their friends’ bodies decomposing before anyone else can.
And major kudos to the director for the shot of Stefan from inside the house. And I’m not sure whether it was intentional, but the car that drove sleekly past was a nice touch. For all I don’t want to compare this to “The Body” that was kind of their Some kid is having a music lesson moment.
“I can help you!”
Sophy says: This was harsh.
I mean it was really, really harsh. And more and more I have this feeling that Bonnie could wind up being the big deal of this season against all the Everything Is Elena And Everything Hurts odds. And I don’t mean as a plot device. I mean in the sense of having big, hulking emotional arc.
You’d think nothing could be bleaker than Elena’s darkest hour, right? Well, I wonder whether Bonnie’s darkest hour will be. Because she’s being slowly consumed on the sidelines – by Shane – by Silas – by magic – by her own many-layered grief – by her sense of responsibility.
Elena feels like everything bad happens because of her and she hates herself for it. Bonnie feels like she should be stopping all the bad things from happening and sometimes she can’t and she hates herself for it. I talked above about how it’s hard not to have hope when you’re friends with a Bennett witch – about how it makes it difficult to just let go. What if you are a Bennett witch? Surely that’s several times worse. Surely it’s several times harder to hang up your hat at the end of the day.
If Elena is all about compassion, Bonnie is all about responsibility. She is burdened with a clearer sense of right and wrong than most, but at the same time she has all the power. All of it. Everything comes at a price, sure, but Bonnie has more supernatural credit than anyone ever should. I can’t help thinking she’s going to spend big this season, and maybe that’s Shane’s fault or Silas’s fault or both of their faults. Maybe Bonnie could blame it all on them. But I doubt that she will.
Because she’s being manipulated, sure, but she’s also being tempted, and when she gives in I think she’s going to have trouble separating the two.
Katerina Graham did a terrific job with everything in this episode. I loved her “What are you saying to me?!” when Shane wasn’t cutting to the terrible, terrible chase. I loved her petulance with him when she was sobbing and he was just kind of there, being a blight on her whole fucking life. I loved the vigour with which she sprang into action when she thought Jer was there to be saved all of a sudden. “I can help you!” was heartbreaking, as was the image of her on her hands and knees, registering the fact that Jeremy was not there, that she had been deceived, that she had all the power but she was powerless to use it.
But she was too broken by that point to face the truth, which is that everything that seems like a way back to the way things were is smoke and mirrors – that there’s magic and then there are magic tricks and they are not the same thing.
And when she looked up at Shane who is really Silas and told him she’d do it – she’d do whatever he wanted – anything – everything? She was so miserable and resigned and small beneath him, and it made my heart hurt and it made my blood boil, because we all get so up in arms about Bonnie Bennett being used, don’t we? Well this is the pinnacle of it. This is the complaint about the way she is written being actively written into the show. I don’t think anybody on this show has ever been used in such a brutal, violating, all-encompassing way as Bonnie is being used this season. What Silas has done to Bonnie through Shane has been nothing short of vile. It’s been like an extended, psychological version of the blood-letting Klaus subjected Elena to last season. Just use her up – use everything that she is until there’s nothing left – until she’s limp and lost and alone and yours for the taking.
It’s hideous. And perhaps even more hideous was the amiable kind of resignation Bonnie was projecting in the Mystic Falls scenes – the faux-peace of knowing what she had to do and no longer having any say in what that might be or why.
There has been a lot of talk about Elena losing herself this season, but barely anyone has noticed the way Bonnie has been losing herself all along under their very noses.
Maybe Jeremy saw it. Maybe he would have stopped it. Maybe he was the only one.
There were two points at which I cried about Bonnie Bennett in this episode. The first was when Damon told Stefan how the whole way back on the plane she’d been going on about how they need to drop the veil between this side and the other side and she’s the one who can do it. Because it just conjured up this image of Bonnie as one of those irritating-yet-endearing kids who is so excited and proud about this amazing new idea she has that she can’t stop talking about it. That’s terribly poignant when you think about how badly this is likely going to end for her – how much it has already taken from who she is and what she stands for.
The second time I cried was when she told Matt everything was going to be okay and hopped out of his car, trudged up to her front door with her enormous rucksack on her back. Because she looked so small, you guys. She looked like such a small soldier. And my heart broke for the kid she is still supposed to be – the kid who’s planning prom, not a massacre. The kid who’s worried about her boyfriend cheating on her – not trying to raise him from the dead.
So much lost innocence, you guys. This isn’t how Bonnie’s life was supposed to be – or maybe it is – maybe she’s exactly where she needs to be, as Lucy said to her in season 2. Maybe her righteousness will win out in the end, with a little help from her friends. But for now it all hurts, so very very much.
I think it’s also worth noting that just because Elena wouldn’t drop the veil to get Jeremy back doesn’t mean Bonnie won’t do it anyway. Elena is not a necessary element here. Bonnie can and will go ahead without her – without any of them, and I don’t think any of them have confronted the reality of that yet. Silas has her big-time brainwashed now, and her grief has galvanized her to blindness. I doubt anybody’s going to be able to reach her until it’s too late.
But who knows, maybe Elena will get involved in the Drop The Veil plot now that her humanity is off. I’ll discuss this further below, but I don’t think turning your humanity off would prevent you from feeling love. Love has not been shown to be the exclusive privilege of the human being, after all. So I’d guess that not having humanity would just prevent you from feeling the parts of love that hurt. And either way, I would guess that the only thing that might be able to break through Elena’s numbness a little bit would be the buried desire to have Jeremy back in the world. So maybe her lack of empathy for the people around her will cause her to go after what she wants with a new single-mindedness. Maybe she’ll think ‘Fuck it,’ and join Team Silas.
We shall see.
I know that most people probably weren’t terribly invested in what was going on with Shane/Silas during this episode, because it was all about Jeremy and Elena and the grief and the emotional shit hitting the reality fan. But I feel the need to give a shout-out to David Alpay for his performance in this episode. He was just phenomenally good. When he first appeared with Bonnie in the woods I remember side-eyeing the fact that he had used ‘herbs and berries’ to cure what looked to be a pretty darn fatal knife wound. Pretty impressive for not a witch, I thought. And how come Silas helped him with his leg and left him to help Bonnie. Something was not right.
But that was as far as my suspicions went. I was kind of swept up in the aforementioned emotional shit and didn’t realize that when Alpay started playing Shane with a new and startling darkness, it was because he wasn’t Shane at all but Silas masquerading as Shane. Shane has always been commanding in his scenes with Bonnie, but he had never been overtly aggressive until this episode. It should have been a dead giveaway, as should the fact that Jeremy was suddenly there on the forest floor, a second after Bonnie had opted to bolt. Not even the best hypnotist can make speaking apparitions happen at the drop of a hat. And Jeremy wasn’t just an apparition. Bonnie tripped over him. That means he was solid. He was an actual body lying there on the ground.
He wasn’t Jeremy, of course, because Jeremy was back in Mystic Falls decomposing in his bed. So what was he? Silas. And all he did was change his look. To Bonnie he was Shane and then to Bonnie he was Jeremy. A stretch for a regular vampire, maybe. But believable as an extension of mind-control powers like compulsion and dream manipulation. And I’m guessing he didn’t so much go foraging for life-savers in the undergrowth as feed Bonnie his immortal life-saving blood while she was out.
Still, I didn’t get any of this till “Shane” was back in Mystic Falls revealing to Bonnie that the people Pastor Young blew up are going to stay blown up – that they’re a sacrifice so that the veil may be dropped. For a second I was a little shocked and saddened, because I had really believed Shane in the last episode when he’d said all those people would be raised. I’d really begun to have faith that he wasn’t the monster he seemed to be. But that’s when I realized, hey wait a minute, this guy isn’t even Shane – because of what he said next.
He said that the blown-up humans would pass on and be at peace, and that that was all anyone wanted. It was already clear enough who was speaking at that point – there was no need for him to hammer it home with “That’s all Silas wants.”
What Shane wants is the same as what Bonnie wants and it’s the exact opposite of that.
So Shane was not Shane but Silas. Silas knew all along that the people who died at the Young farm would not be coming back. He also knew that the three massacres weren’t about raising the dead, but about dropping the veil.
Not the same thing.
And I’ll forgive Bonnie for missing this, because she has clearly been emotionally and psychically manipulated and abused into submission. But everyone else should be asking themselves exactly what dropping the veil is really going to do.
My guess is that it’s going to do what Silas wants, and screw everyone else. And I’m guessing what Silas wants is not every supernatural creature who has died in the last 2000 years back on earth. What he wants is to be able to die and be at peace with the woman he loved. He wouldn’t take the cure and kill himself because he knew that he would end up in the mystical purgatory for supernaturals, behind the veil with Quetsiyah for the rest of eternity. As far as we know the woman he loved wasn’t even a supernatural being. She has passed on all the way to the actual other side. The only way for Silas to get to her is to destroy this mystical purgatory and then die.
So I think that’s what he’s using Bonnie to achieve. I think his goal is not to fold the supernatural dead back into our world, but rather to remove the barrier between them and the true afterlife – to let the dead be dead and free from Quetsiyah’s grasp. Because the barrier between these dead supernaturals and the world of the living is a natural one. Quetsiyah didn’t erect it. What she created was a barrier between them and the other dead. That’s what Silas wants to break down.
Having said that, it does seem that it’s possible to work things the other way. It does seem that what Matt said holds – as long as the supernatural dead are in this Quetsiyah-made holding cell, they are not irrevocably beyond our reach.
And can I just say how much I love that Quetsiyah made it. This storyline has the potential to make sense of all the ghost malarkey in season 3, and I’d be grateful if it did, because that was always one of the weakest plots of the show. When Vicki and Anna appeared to Jer I was too excited to care what the implications of it might be. But by the time Rose was chilling in the back of the car and waxing lyrical on the triangle I was rolling my eyes. Because this isn’t Ghost Whisperer, okay? This isn’t Touched by a freaking angel.
I remember being very frustrated by the idea that death was not final, because if death is not final then what the hell it? And I was equally frustrated by the idea that the show was going to tell me what happens after you die. Because I didn’t feel it was rightfully within its scope. That is a huge question. It is not for the show to answer – at least not with such wretched simplicity and ease.
But now I see that they weren’t answering it at all. The most The Vampire Diaries has ever told us about what happens after death is that Esther thinks there is peace in it. So do a lot of people in our world. But they don’t know anything. And I choose to believe that Esther didn’t know half as much as she pretended to either. After all, the only thing she has ever personally experienced is Quetsiyah’s Other Side.
For a while I was really concerned by the idea that Jenna did not get trapped in this purgatory, despite being a supernatural being when she died. And I guess the show can fanwank it the way Esther did – she was “pure” and all that. But you know what, I’m pretty sure Grams was pure, too. I’m pretty sure a whole bunch of witches that are stuck in that place never killed anyone either. And if it’s about being “pure” why haven’t a whole bunch of human pedophiles, rapists and murderers gotten stuck in the naughty corner along the way?
I’m not saying you can’t make sense of that if you want to. It’s a spell, after all, and a spell is basically a recipe. The witch can make it however she wants. But I do appreciate some logic to these things, personally, and so my preferred fanwanking is that Jenna is a supernatural and therefore Jenna is in the Questiyah-created purgatory, whether she killed anyone or not. It’s just that Esther was a big fat liar who was manipulating Elena to get her on her side. It’s not like that’s much of a stretch, given what she turned out to have been doing to Alaric all along. And given what she did to her own children.
God, I hate that woman.
Sophy says: A girl has needs, Silas. Sheesh.
“Turn it off.”
Sophy says: Okay, in a moment I’m going to be forced to start talking about the sire bond, just like I always have to talk about the fucking sire bond, just like this episode forced me to start thinking about the goddamned motherfucking thing, thereby taking me out of the game emotionally right when I should have been weeping and hugging myself and stuff. Sigh.
But first let me just say that I love Elena Gilbert with all of my heart, and that no one has suffered like she has suffered, and no I don’t mean that in an ironic Cordy/Beachless way.
NO ONE HAS SUFFERED LIKE ELENA GILBERT HAS SUFFERED. LITERALLY.
And you guys, she has tried. Every fucking time something new has wrecked her she has tried not to be wrecked all the same. Every time life has kicked her while she’s down she’s gotten back up again anyway.
But this? This is too much. This is Jeremy. This is exactly what Elena was talking about when she said that at the end of the day there is nothing more important than the bond of family.
There is nothing more important because there is nothing more necessary. There is nothing more absolutely fundamental for Elena. And now all the family is gone.
They’re all dead, you guys.
” There’s nothing here for me anymore, Stefan. Every inch of this house is filled with memories of the people that I love that have died– my mom, my dad, Jeremy, and Jenna and Alaric, John, even John. I mean, they’re all dead. Everyone is dead.”
How do you even argue with that? What do you even say? “You have me”? Someday you’ll be Bonnie’s bridesmaid? Damon has a nice bathtub?
I mean really, what in the hell do you say to someone who has been systemically tortured by the loss of every family member over the past two years? It struck me hard that Elena has lost so fucking much that she didn’t even need to mention that contentious Mother That Never Was, Isabel. You know you’ve been through a rough patch when your biological mother came back into your life and then burned herself to death in front of you and it doesn’t even rate a mention when you’re listing your woes.
There is such a thing as being destroyed. There is such a thing as being defeated. There is such a thing as hurting too much to live with it. And that is where Elena is at in this moment.
Because Jeremy was the last thing she had. Because he was so young. Because he was the one family member that she was supposed to protect rather than the other way around.
Because she loved him more than anyone in the world ever.
What did Elena love so much about Jeremy? Well, of course the answer is simply that she loved everything. She loved everything that he was and could or should or would have been. She loved his bravery. She loved his integrity. She loved his gentleness. She loved his mistakes and his failures. She loved his hugs and his floppy hair. She loved how strong he was and how small and afraid he could be too. Elena loved everything so much about Jeremy. And I feel like the show paid homage to that in this episode when they had her smile the way she did at Vicki’s name, at J + V in the middle of a heart, at what she fondly remembers as his stoner phase.
Those were dark times, but for her Jeremy was always a bright thing. He was always a beacon, just as she was for him.
That’s why every time another person got ripped away from them and it hurt so badly, they could still make it through.
Because they still had each other to fight for, just like their parents would have wanted.
The problem is that Jeremy’s death is a full stop in the long, cruel sentence that is all the other deaths.
Jeremy was so young and so good and had so much life to live and it is just not acceptable and it is just not fair. Elena misses him for so many reasons. She misses the way he always loved her no matter what and she always loved him no matter what. She misses the talents he was never allowed to develop, the friends he was never allowed to make, the woman he was never allowed to marry, the children he was never allowed to have. She misses what he meant to parents – to Jenna – to Alaric – what his whole life lived well would have meant to them. But at the end of the day the reason it’s so impossible for her to cope with the loss of Jeremy is that he was her last thing to live for.
Elena Gilbert is a nurturer by nature. She loves. She looks after. But it’s more than that: it’s about having the responsibility for somebody else. I think that is what makes Elena feel safe – that is what makes Elena feel relevant (hello, Damon). Jeremy didn’t just love Elena. He didn’t just want Elena. He needed Elena. And that meant that Elena needed to be in the world, no matter how much it hurts and no matter how hopeless things seem.
But without him? Her friends – Stefan – Damon – they all love her, but they don’t need her.
Or maybe she just doesn’t understand that they do yet.
Judging by the pain Matt was in in this episode I wouldn’t be all that surprised if losing Elena wrecked him the same way losing Jeremy wrecked her. I don’t say that because the relationships are equivalent. I say it because the loneliness is the same – the powerlessness – the purposelessness. Matt doesn’t have anybody but Elena who needs him. If she doesn’t need him anymore? If she doesn’t care about anything including whether he lives or dies? What the hell else does the guy have? I think because he’s a great big hunk of a guy and also because he’s been taking care of himself ever since we met him, people kind of forget that Matt is nearly as much of a child as Jeremy was. All the time he’s been losing people he’s been growing up, and sometimes when those things are too closely intertwined the loss grows into who you are. It fucks you up, basically. It makes you not the kind of person who can just dust themselves off and go make a new life for themselves in some other town.
Matt used to think he had a future but I doubt he does right now. I think he feels pretty damn futureless and losing Elena will only confirm that he is right in feeling that way.
Elena didn’t think about any of that in 415 and who could blame her. It’s her brother that died, after all. She loves Matt, sure, but she’s not a saint. Just like she loves Bonnie, but she’s not a saint. That’s why Elena was too consumed by her pain to notice that Bonnie is hanging by a thread here too. That’s why all she wanted from her was magic and otherwise she could just go sell crazy someplace else.
But I think when she can clear her head enough to even process what is happening with Bonnie… she won’t care on account of how she currently has no ability to care. And for reasons I will discuss below I think it’s safe to say Damon won’t simply be able to switch the caring on again. But. When it comes down to it. When Bonnie needs Elena most desperately, I think she will care whether she wants to or not. And maybe she will recognize that whether Bonnie is her actual sister or not, she is still her sister absolutely. Bonnie said that as far back as season 1, remember?
She said Elena was like her sister and she would die for her. And the feeling has always been unequivocally mutual – and not just in the sense that for most of the series Elena has kind of wanted to die for the person next to her on the bus.
Let’s face it, Bonnie is in a fuckton of danger right now. She is brainwashed and desperate and full of the kind of magic that kills without warning. She is planning a massacre. She is planning the kind of spell that melds worlds. To say things are out of hand when it comes to Bonnie Bennett is one hell of an understatement, and when it comes down to it and she’s destroying herself to bring Jeremy and her Grams and Vicki and everyone all of them have loved back? I think that will be at least as potent for Elena as it was for Stefan to see Damon’s life hanging in the balance in season 3.
Elena would die for Bonnie. I refuse to believe that she wouldn’t walk on the hot coals that are her grief for her too. It’s what I would like to see happen, anyway.
Some speculate that Damon will be the one to trigger Elena’s return to humanity, because that will redress the fact that he’s the one who flipped the switch for her. Others think it will be Stefan, because he was the one looking back at the burning house with sorrow. I don’t think it will be either. I don’t think it will be Matt or Bonnie either. I think this is going to take a village, you know? And if and when Elena does sling the burden of humanity over her shoulders again, it will be out of love for these people who are not her blood but who are her family: Bonnie, Matt, Caroline, Tyler, and yes, Damon and Stefan too.
But mostly Jeremy.
Jeremy is dead. He’s not coming back. I’m 99% certain of that now. And I have to say I am kind of floored that the show would go there. In my 405 recap I speculated that Jer was a goner, but handwaved it because the show wouldn’t be that mean to Elena.
Well I guess no one can accuse these writers of having lost their balls anymore, right? Not when Jeremy Gilbert is actually gone.
Except he’s not – not quite – not yet.
I do think that whatever spell Bonnie is doing for Silas is going to wind up having the opposite effect from the one she’d like – that is I think she’s going to be making Jeremy et al dead and gone rather than just dead, so that Silas can be dead and gone and with his non-supernatural love in the peace of the afterlife. I think the purgatory Quetsiyah created will cease to exist by the end of this season, and I think ultimately it may be Bonnie’s choice to destroy it. Because the Other Side has never been portrayed as a pleasant place, and if they can’t bring these people back the least they can do is let them move on.
But before that happens I think Bonnie may find a way to give Elena and Jeremy the goodbye they were so cruelly denied in 414. I think Elena will see Jeremy and I think he will tell her what he still needs from her, even if he isn’t there to be looked after anymore. I think he will plead with her to let him go and live her life and not destroy herself for his sake. I think we might get that ‘Be brave, live, for me,’ moment. And I think it could be the difference between an Elena who can’t feel and function at the same time and an Elena who sorta, kinda can.
Okay. Now let’s go back a bit. To the part where Damon switches Elena’s humanity off for her. Let’s discuss that.
First let me say that the scene was certainly shocking. The fact that Damon would invoke the sire bond to get Elena to flip the switch is shocking. But I’m confused by all the people who are taking it as definitive proof that the sire bond exists.
It’s about the least definitive thing that has ever happened!
Elena was in a position where it was perfectly likely that she would turn the switch off all on her own. I speculated that she would want/need to do it in the last recap. I spent the whole episode anticipating that she would do it. She fell to the floor and cried out “It hurts! Make it stop!”
There is absolutely no reason she couldn’t have simply been reminded by Damon that she had the power to do just that – to make it stop – and chosen to do it herself. No sire bond necessary.
Now if the sire bond is real, there is never going to be any way of saying for sure whether Damon influenced Elena’s decision to turn it off. Everyone who wants to give Elena a free pass can say she never made the choice for herself. Everyone who wants to hate on Damon can say everything that flows from it is his fault. Even if Elena says that she would have turned it off herself anyway, it’ll always only be a ‘probably’. And who’s to say her belief that she would have done it isn’t just the sire bond operating in that murky, subliminal way Caroline and Stefan and Damon think it operates?
If the sire bond is fake, however, it will validate my reading of this scene as the objective truth of what happened. And that would make me very happy because it is a beautiful reading, you guys. Seriously, if the bond is real this is one of the most depressing scenes in TVD history – and not in an Elena hurts, I hurt way – in a way where I’m just rolling my eyes and sighing and thinking of all the great things this season could have been. However, if the bond is fake this is one of the most stunning scenes in TVD history. And the best part? It’s all the more stunning because everyone believes there is a sire bond.
Because Elena believes there is a sire bond.
That’s why she’s able to turn it off. Because she thinks she has to. Because Damon takes the responsibility on himself so she can be free of it.
I just started crying reading that sentence, because it is that romantic to me. And you can side-eye me for talking about romance in the context of dead baby brothers, but this isn’t the flowers and candy kind, you guys. It isn’t the sexy kind either. It’s the above and beyond kind. It’s the I will always choose you kind.
Because Damon doesn’t care if he’s the bad guy. He doesn’t care if Stefan and Caroline judge him. He doesn’t care if he judges himself on all those nights he can’t sleep about this. He doesn’t care if Elena forgets all the ways she felt about him that made him feel like love wasn’t painful, pointless and overrated for those brief shining moments he let himself believe in them. He does care that she might hate him for this someday when she comes back to herself and regrets the non-person she has been. Damon was lying when he said he was fine with Elena hating him forever, and if he wasn’t he learned his lesson.
He can’t stand the idea of her hating him forever. But he’ll still risk it. For her. So that she won’t be in the kind of pain no one should ever have to be in. So that she won’t make herself gone from the world.
Because she would. She really would. There is no doubt in my mind that when Elena was tipping bourbon over her baby brother’s face and lighting matches and sobbing about the family plot being full and the fact that there was nothing left for her here, she was about as suicidal as it’s possible to get without actually being dead about it. Damon saw that. But he knew it even before he saw anything. He knew it the moment Stefan told him that Jeremy was dead in the sense of not coming back. His first response to that was a simple “She won’t survive this.”
And that’s what Damon was grappling with throughout the whole episode. He wasn’t just afraid of her grief. He was afraid of what her grief would inevitably mean: namely, that he was either going to lose her or he was going to have to make her lose herself.
He wanted to stay to find Bonnie because he was in denial as much as Elena was. He still had hope that there might be some way to avoid the ugly truth which was that abusing the sire bond in a big way was the only way to keep Elena safe. Not to mention the ugly truth that the littlest Gilbert was actually dead. I think Damon very much had hope that Bonnie could fix this for Elena – that the two of them could team up just like they did back in 218 and save the day. I think he had that hope right up until he got on the plane with Bonnie and she started telling him about how she was going to open the hellmouth, and then everything would be fine. That’s why he wanted Caroline to bring Stefan outside. Because he’d given him the crazy hope earlier and now he needed to take it away as quietly as possible so that they could decide how to take it away from Elena. Or maybe he was hoping they wouldn’t have to take it away, not just yet. Maybe he was hoping Elena would tell herself maybe they could drop the veil – for a little while at least – maybe she would have something to hold onto until there wasn’t quite so far to fall.
But Elena isn’t an idiot. And grief has never made her mad.
Do I think Elena Gilbert would kill twelve people to bring her brother back? Honestly, yes. Yes, I do. The irony is that I don’t think that if she was in her right mind Bonnie would let herself consider it. But I wouldn’t put it past Elena, not at this stage. I certainly think she’d at least look into whether you’re allowed to pick pedophiles, rapists and murderers as your 12.
The massacre wasn’t what made her decline Bonnie’s solution. What made her decline Bonnie’s solution was that Bonnie’s solution was basically unleashing hell on earth. 2000 years worth of supernaturals means 2000 years worth of the things that go bump in the night. It means chaos. It means Jeremys dying all over the place so that she can have hers. It means all of her friends in danger. It probably means everyone will be dead anyway.
That’s what Elena can’t do. And that’s how she knows Jeremy is dead. Because she won’t fight for him anymore. Because there is a limit to her love and it is that.
Don’t mistake me: Elena loves Jeremy as much as it is possible for one person to love another. But in the end love is not all you need. It is not everything. It can’t make her crazy no matter how much she wishes it could.
And I love that about this episode. I love the fact that the show does not glorify loss or exalt the pain of it. Elena remains Elena. The world remains the world. She won’t try to make it otherwise, even if she worries that being a good person makes her a bad person. Grief hurts. It really, really fucking hurts. But most of the time that’s all it does. We stay mercilessly who we are throughout it. If we are human beings we eat and sleep and thank people for flowers. If you are Elena Gilbert you don’t bring about the end of the world as we know it.
And sometimes you wish you could be bigger – wilder. You wish it could matter more that it hurts.
The morning my dad died I ate cereal and hated myself for it. The night Jeremy dies Elena leaves the fabric of earth and heaven and hell alone and hates herself for it.
That’s why she asks Damon if he’d do it – if he’d fuck the whole world up to get his drinking buddy back.
You guys, I really think a part of Elena wanted him to say he would. Because Damon can be relied upon to be the loose cannon, right? You can always trust him to do anything for love, even the stupid stuff. Right?
I think a part of Elena was hoping that he would say yes, yes I would, yes it’s what I want. Because then she wouldn’t have this terrible choice. Then there would only be Yes, Bonnie, Bring My Brother Back and nothing she could do about it.
Because she doesn’t even know what’s right – she doesn’t even know what she wants either. And I think in that moment it would have been so soothing for her to not have to figure it out. But Damon has figured it out. He knows this isn’t something they can do. He knows it isn’t something Elena could live with having done anymore than she can live without Jeremy and that the two of them would probably wind up dead about it anyway. And even if he did think he would do it, he can’t say it. He’s the only one who can absolve her of responsibility just by speaking his mind and that’s exactly why he’s the only one who can’t speak his mind.
Bonnie can say she’d do it all she wants. Matt can look up hopefully at the mention of his sister’s name. Stefan could say maybe it would be worth it to have Lexi back. But none of that would matter.
And because none of that would matter everyone is silent. Elena takes the floor and starts scaring Caroline. She is testing the limits of who she is. Making her friend cry. Tossing lighter fluid on all the memories she’s treasured through all the pain. On her diary. On her everyday sneakers. On her beloved brother’s sketches. On her brother’s beloved face. She’s busting the x-box and yanking the ring off, she’s making hard-edged jokes and being accusatory with Stefan, she’s throwing the bottle of bourbon into a shattered heap because Alaric’s not here to drink it so it doesn’t matter. Elena is fighting hard. She’s fighting hard to say that if they’re all gone it doesn’t matter that any of them were ever here to begin with.
She so desperately wants it not to matter. She so desperately wants to be able to burn it all to the ground.
But she can’t. That’s the thing about Elena Gilbert. She’s a good person. She doesn’t make people cry. She doesn’t throw things. She doesn’t make angry jokes. She doesn’t destroy.
That’s why she dissolves into cornered nonsense as the match burns out in her fingers, lit but undropped. That’s why when Damon catches it before it hits the ground she falls instead. Because she can’t.
She can’t calm down. She can’t go crazy either.
She just can’t.
At this point I don’t think Elena even remembers there’s such a thing as an off switch. I don’t think she has any idea there’s a way out the ways this hurts other than death. But I think even if she’d thought of it she would likely have been too afraid to embrace it – too afraid to let herself have the relief when it could end in chaos – just like dropping the veil. When it could end in her running around all over the place callously taking other people’s Jeremys away just like Katherine took hers.
I think she would feel too guilty and too afraid. But when Damon is telling her to do it? When Damon is telling her that he wants her to?
First, Elena thinks she has no choice at that point, and ironically, that makes her free to make hers. This is utter genius. Second, Elena trusts Damon. This point has been hammered home since the third season and especially in the last few episodes. She sees the good in him. She believes in his love for her.
You should know that I love you.
If he is telling her to turn it off it’s because he will take the fall for it. But more importantly, it’s because he will take the responsibility of her on himself. He will be her conscience. He will be her safety. He will not let her stray so far from who she is that she can never come back.
Because Elena may not want to ever come home and I can well understand that. But she will want to come back to herself in time.
Look, here’s the thing. People change. People grow. Sometimes people kinda mutate. But people don’t actually stop having their feelings. The off-switch is not a natural thing and when it is off Elena is not Elena. I feel very strongly about this. If you do not have emotions you are not you. End of story.
To anyone who is saying otherwise I have only one retort: Are you going to tell me that Elena Gilbert would be okay with Jeremy Gilbert being dead? If the answer is no, then you must agree that when she is switched off Elena Gilbert is not Elena Gilbert.
I am certain that Damon would understand this. I am certain that in her emotionless state he will recognize her as the different person Stefan pretended she was just by virtue of becoming a vampire. Therefore I need to see two things from the show going forward.
First, I need Damon to do everything he possibly can to contain Elena’s wildly out of character actions – the ones she might hate herself for when all of this is over. This means he will need to be hyper-vigilant with her, like some kind of psycho parent who keeps their child on a leash. Gross, I know. But the alternative is grosser. The alternative is that Damon, believing himself to be responsible for Elena switching her emotions off, has chosen any and all consequences that flow from that. Unless he intervenes. Hard.
This means no killing, obviously. If I was being really nit-picky it would mean no biting at all, because Elena has been pretty clear that biting people is something she does not want to do if she can use blood bags instead.
I’ve seen people say that Damon should just let her bite people because deep down she really wants to; that her emotions are her inhibitions and that without them she is embracing what she truly desires.
Hogwash. The id is not the sum total of who we are. Who we are is roughly speaking how the ego interacts with the id. Elena’s “inhibitions,” whether you think they’re silly or not, are as definitive of what she wants as what she, well, wants. And you know what, they’re not silly. Morals are not silly. Empathy is not silly. Self-respect is not silly. Elena Gilbert is not silly and Elena Gilbert doesn’t want to bite people no matter how good it feels in the moment.
If Damon doesn’t respect that – if he doesn’t at least try to keep Elena’s snatch/eat/erase antics to a minimum, I’ll be very disappointed in him. Because I’ll feel like he’s taken the easy way out and not been true to who Elena is and what she stands for.
Same goes for sex. If Damon has sex with Elena while she’s emotionally compromised I will be done. I’m trying to imagine circumstances in which that could happen and I wouldn’t be so angry I’d have to stop recapping the show immediately and I’m drawing a blank.
The idea is as disgusting to me as if Damon had had sex with Elena once he knew she was sired to him. And yes, that stands even if the bond is broken or put on ice because Elena no longer has a full set of feelings.
You know why? BECAUSE ELENA NO LONGER HAS A FULL SET OF FEELINGS.
As discussed above, if she doesn’t have her feelings, she is not in her right mind. What she chooses to do now might not be what she would choose to do if she had said feelings. That means that if Damon thinks ‘Oh well, she wanted to sleep with me before she turned her feelings off,’ then it’s basically the exact same thing as if he’d shagged her while knowing she was sired.
For similar reasons, it would be egregious if Stefan had sex with her. In fact, given that as things stand Damon switched Elena off, it’s his responsibility to prevent Elena from having sex with anybody at all.
Yeah, that’s right. You heard me. Damon needs to be Elena’s chastity belt, basically. I could barely type that sentence because the idea of Damon following Elena around dictating what she should do with her vagina is so offensive to me. And yet the alternative, that it is open to people to say every time she has sex with someone it is Damon raping her by proxy? The fact that even if I wouldn’t use that word I’d still be seriously squicked and it would forever taint Damon/Elena? That’s worse.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with Elena having sex. I wish Elena got to have more sex. Some grief-sex would probably do her good at some point. Heck, some mindless, switched-off sex would probably do her good too.
If Elena had clearly and unequivocally chosen to turn her emotions off herself with no supernatural help from Damon, I’d be all for her, say, showing Matt a good, miserable time. Or screwing Elijah because she can. Bring it on, I’d say. And honestly I think Damon would say much the same. I’m not going to pretend it wouldn’t hurt him to see Elena with other men, because let’s face it, he’d really rather not share her with anyone ever. But he wouldn’t hold it against her. It wouldn’t defile her in his eyes. It wouldn’t change the way he feels about her.
Maybe that’s the good thing about dating a sometime manwhore, you know? He’s never going to judge you for getting your orgasms where you can.
I would be perfectly happy with Elena sleeping with whoever. But not while it can be directly linked back to a choice Damon made for her. That is just all sorts of gross and I won’t have it.
Or I’ll have it, but only if a) Damon tries to prevent it short of literally hauling Elena off someone’s penis, and b) The sire bond is ultimately revealed to be fake.
There are two issues for me here. First, Damon’s intentions need to be, if not pure, not completely impure. That’s something that the sire bond being fake can’t clean up, because it goes to his perspective, and at this point he very much believes it’s real. Second, Elena’s agency and responsibility need to be unequivocally affirmed at some point. That’s easy. Sire bond is fake, please and thank you.
And that’s the thing. These choices are just too big. The stakes are just so high. If the sire bond is real then the writers are just copping out with Elena the same way they copped out with Stefan in season 3. It didn’t do Stefan any favours then and it won’t do Elena any now.
And Elena doesn’t need it. There are always going to be haters. There are always going to be people who will call the lead female a bitch because they can. Pandering to those people by giving Elena an out is just weak. Because she doesn’t need an out. Yes. She is a good person. But good people can do bad things – especially when bad things happen to them.
If you want to take your female lead to dark places you should damn well have the guts to take her there on her own terms. Because you know what? If you give her excuses it means you’re using her.
Nobody magicked Buffy to the places she went in season 6. She went there. She came out the other side. That’s why she is the icon she is. That’s why I think of her struggles and her suffering and her ugly sides and her beautiful sides and press my hand to my heart and fucking salute with the other.
I don’t want to have to look back on the most earth-shattering season in Elena Gilbert’s development and think ‘Sire bond’.
And I still have faith that I won’t have to, I really do. More on that later.
For now, let us return to the image of Damon dropping to the floor with Elena and taking her in his arms, letting her cling to him and telling her it’s okay – she can let herself have this – she can let herself not feel anything to feel better. Because she did want it. She wanted to stop the pain more than she has ever wanted anything in her life. If it wasn’t obvious in this scene that she knew what Damon was going to use the sire bond to help her and wanted it to happen, you also have the fact that she makes it very clear she heard everything Caroline and Stefan were talking about all day. And she was in the freaking kitchen with them when they said they were going to get Damon to use the sire bond “to convince her that everything’s okay”. She never objected. She didn’t say ‘Don’t under any circumstances violate me like that.’
Because this isn’t about Elena being violated. It’s about Elena being allowed.
There is so much about Damon that has always been permissive with Elena. I’ll discuss this in more detail below, but it’s funny to me that some people have this idea of Damon as this super controlling dick with Elena who needs to take a step back and check himself. That, to me, is not who he is at all. It’s not how their relationship works at all. It’s just that life and death situations bring out the bottom line in people, and Damon’s bottom line is that Elena will not die under any circumstances. If he has to be a super controlling dick in those circumstances, so be it. But it doesn’t mean that he wants to be.
What he wants to be with Elena is real and real means free. But the thing is that Elena has never allowed herself to be as free as she could be up to now. And I’m not talking about inhibitions or morals here, those can stay. I’m talking about pent-up guilt and self-loathing. That’s what has stopped her from being the best, happiest and freest version of herself.
That’s what has stopped her from being the girl she was briefly this season – the girl Damon loved who loved him back because she wanted to – because she could.
Damon is the person who helped Elena learn to love herself. Damon is the person who made her feel free, for the first time since her parents died. And it started long before the sire bond – before the hunter’s curse – before Wickery Bridge. It started way back when he told her to step away from her life for five minutes.
“Five minutes!” “Am I gonna be safe with you?” “Yes.”
It’s only right that he should be the one telling her to do the same thing now, when it really counts, when it’s all the relief she has left. Because Damon is how Elena lets herself be free, and he will give everything, anything, to keep her safe while she is.
And I’m not going to shy away from the ugliness of what Damon is doing here. Even if the bond is fake and Elena is in fact making this choice for herself, the fact remains that Damon thinks he is taking away her free will.
But Damon/Elena has never been anything but ugly-beautiful, has it? Damon is not a knight on a white horse for her here. He is a hand grabbing at her as she careers over a precipice. He is not a fairytale ending. He is not magic. He is science. He is the real world.
It’s okay that it’s dark. It makes the silver lining shine all the brighter. And the silver lining is that this is the most selfless thing anyone on this show has ever done. This is more selfless than death. This is Damon taking Elena’s burden onto himself. Fuck his feelings. Fuck his self-esteem and self-respect. Elena is in too much pain and he can make it stop. He can make it stop and he can stop her from hating herself about it too.
I expect Damon to take full responsibility for this, because that is the whole point of what he’s doing. I also expect him to have no responsibility in it, ultimately, because the alternative is too horrible.
Now let’s talk about exactly what he did and why he did it.
Something I thought was interesting is that Stefan was very much on board with Damon using the sire bond to “help” Elena, that he might even be characterized as the driving force behind it. And yet, when it came down to it, he wasn’t expecting Damon to make her turn her humanity off.
I have to say, I shared his surprise. I expected Damon to use the bond to get Elena to calm down, as speculated in the last recap – to get her to breathe deeply and hold his hand and know that everything was going to be okay. I thought he was going to use the sire bond to convince her that losing Jeremy was not going to destroy her, that she still had friends to give her love to and they needed her, that she would make it through this because that was what he wanted her to do.
But I guess the trouble with that is that it would have exposed the fact that the sire bond is a fake, right?
Right. (Let me have this, okay. Just let me have it while I can.)
I’m pretty convinced that that is why Damon made one feeble attempt to get Elena to calm down before going straight to ‘Turn it off,” and lavishing “It’s what I want you to do” on that. He had to choose the switch option, because what he was using the “sire bond” to tell Elena to do had to be something she could just as easily do herself. Or the game would be up!
Elena can’t make herself be okay with Jeremy’s death. She can’t make herself be calm about it. She can’t make herself get through this or feel better. But she can make herself turn the switch off and the show can make it look like Damon did it.
I really believe that’s the reason Damon doesn’t pass go/collect $200 dollars with any other commands, from the writers’ perspective. But thankfully there are also valid character-driven reasons why he would do so if I’m wrong.
Elena turning her humanity off is clean. It’s not natural, exactly, but it is something biologically available to her at this point. And because there is no picking and choosing what she feels about, it is the least Damon-y of the options. The moment he started making decisions about what she should feel and what she shouldn’t, he would literally have been playing with her personality. At this point it looks to him like the sire bond is unbreakable. And even if it can be broken in the future there’s no reason Elena would necessarily revert to her pre-bond settings. The human mind is a delicate thing, and once Damon starts poking around in Elena’s he might never be able to undo what he’s done. And that’s not right. It’s not fair. If he’d done it, it would have been the most violating thing he’d ever done to another human being, and this is a guy who compelled women to not mind that he was a vampire and abusing them so that he could have sex with them and kill them when he was done getting what he wanted.
Elena’s mind is Elena’s. I think in getting her to simply turn it off Damon was trying to respect that. And he was also trying to respect that fact that Elena’s grief is also Elena’s.
He has no right to take that away from her. Under any circumstances. Elena’s grief over Jeremy is the most horrible and the most precious thing that she has ever owned. And Damon saw what it did to her to realize she’d missed some of it.
Remember in the bedroom when she smelled Jeremy’s body decomposing and lifted her hand to her mouth in shock? Just before she did she said, wide-eyed and trembling, that he’d been dead all this time and she –
And she didn’t know. She didn’t mourn. She wasn’t present in the loss.
And the thing is that she won’t be now, of course. But it’s only because she won’t be present in anything truly emotional. At least she won’t be walking around caring about everything else and not Jeremy. Because honestly, how grotesque would that be? An Elena who isn’t particularly ruined by her brother’s death? An Elena who goes around having all her feelings about all sorts of things except the fact that Jeremy is gone from the world?
No. Elena’s grief for her brother is sacred. Damon could not touch that. It would have been wrong. It would have been obscene.
If Elena is switched off at least her grief is still there, intact and genuine and hers, to be grappled with at a time when hopefully it might not kill her.
But if the ‘turn it off’ option is the least offensive one, I still worry that about its effectiveness. Because I struggle to see how a period of being void of emotion will help much when Elena flips the switch the other way and is hit with all the same unliveable agony she was experiencing in those moments on the Gilbert living room floor. Drug therapy calms, dulls, soothes, but it doesn’t sever emotions from us entirely. That’s how things get healed little by little underneath. It’s hard to see how Elena could do much healing underneath this, when she’s not in contact with what’s there at all.
So I think Damon’s plan to switch her back on with the sire bond at some unknowable time when she might be magically ready is kind of… dumb. But luckily, it’s not going to work out that way. I think everyone and his dog is speculating that the sire bond is going to be rendered dormant by Elena’s lack of “human feelings”, and then there are those of us who still believe it’s been fake all along and Elena turned her feelings off all by herself. Either way, it’s not going to be as easy as Damon telling Elena he wants her to feel again and presto!
The road back to humanity is going to be a long, painful and messy one for Elena, just like it was a long, painful and messy one for Damon – just like it still is. Stefan was always kind of on/off, on/off, on/off, and I think that’s why he’s never been able to heal. But Elena isn’t as good at pretending as he is. Elena is a lot more like Damon than she is like Stefan, after all.
And that’s why turning it off it might actually work as a therapeutic device. Because she’ll be letting little bits in, coping with them, raging at them, returning to her numb state, rinse, repeat, until she’s able to say she loves someone without hating the fact that Jeremy isn’t there to be loved so much more.
I mentioned drug therapy above. And it got me to thinking about how Meredith was suddenly back in this episode after an extended absence and what she did and didn’t tell and be told.
Meredith saw Elena completely devastated, hysterical and unable to cope to the point of becoming violent with her. Yet she, a doctor, did not once mention that whether Elena is a vampire or not she’s going to need a buttload of therapy, probably accompanied by a buttload of drugs to make it through this first, most suicide-happy period of grief. She didn’t tell Stefan about this great psych she knows and how they could compel him to believe in vampires and not mind about them for an hour a week. She didn’t prescribe a ton of Xanax. She was markedly undoctorly in that department and I can only think that the reason for it was so that Stefan didn’t say, “Oh thanks, but also we’re going to get Damon to sire bond her out of it.”
Because, you know, then he would have had to explain what a sire bond is and how it’s formed. And Meredith would have been all “LOL no, it wasn’t Damon’s blood.”
What? IT COULD HAPPEN?
I also couldn’t help noticing that when Elena was raging at Meredith she said she wasn’t thinking about science when she used vampire blood to heal her.
Not Damon’s blood. Now, sure, she could just as easily have said ‘vampire blood’ because she was making the point that it was supernatural. But given that people have been theorizing all over the place that the bond is fake, if it wasn’t fake, don’t you think the show would want to start blocking them? That would have been a perfect time to do it. Elena mentions in Meredith’s presence that Damon’s blood was used to turn her. Meredith makes that definitively canon by not objecting.
I know the wind would have come out of my ‘It’s a fake!’ sails. Because at this point, Meredith having used some other random vampire’s blood is looking like the only way to prove the bond’s fakeness.
The reason for this? If Damon tests the bond out on Elena in the following episodes and I’m sure he will, it likely won’t work – because Elena won’t have any impetus within herself to turn her humanity back on and without her humanity she won’t feel any obligation to do the the not-so-wrong things Damon will likely be telling her to do. But everyone will just assume that’s because, as mentioned above, it’s been broken by Elena’s lack of emotion. And even if Elena regains her emotions and is in love with Damon again and they test the bond and she doesn’t do what he says… it will still be impossible to prove that a sire bond isn’t just a one-time thing that won’t reform when broken. The only way to prove the bond is fake is to have Meredith reveal that Damon’s blood wasn’t used, because once it’s possible that the bond is “broken,” it’s never going to be certain that it wasn’t there in the first place.
Damon/Elena fans will be cheering and saying that since she fell in love with him all over again when regaining her feelings and without a sire bond it must be real. Damon/Elena haters will be coughing ‘Stockholm syndrome’ behind their hands. And I’ll be bemoaning the fact that whether Damon and Elena’s love is real or not, all of Elena’s character growth in the first 15 episodes of the season remains compromised by the possibility of a bond.
Look, you can call me desperate if you like. I won’t fault you for it. I am kind of desperate about this. And yes, I am going to go into the reasons why below. Would this be a rophydoes TVD recap without several thousand words more angsting about the sire bond? No it would not.
But one more observation about Damon telling Elena to turn her humanity off. Wouldn’t it have been more natural for the three of them to decide that someone who doesn’t have an ill-defined, potentially subliminal coercive power over Elena’s actions be the one to try to convince her to choose to turn it off for herself. Or they could have got Bonnie to do a spell. With all the stuff she can do I fail to believe she knows nothing about a supernatural narcotic of sorts that might dim the pain for Elena. Or what about an actual narcotic? Vampires can get drunk, after all. I don’t see why they can’t be dosed with valium.
And meanwhile why is it the three of them making this decision in the first place. It does frustrate me slightly that Stefan decided the sire bond should be used to help Elena, informed Damon and Caroline, who agreed, no real discussion was had about it, and Bonnie and Matt, arguably the two closest people to Elena, undeniably the two people who have known her the best for the longest time… they were cut completely out of the loop when it came to their best friend and how her pain should be managed.
I couldn’t help feeling that since Matt was the person who was most able to help Elena in this episode, he should have stayed, while Stefan took Bonnie home. I also couldn’t help feeling that Matt wouldn’t leave and neither would Bonnie – not right when Elena had understood that her brother was dead and never coming back. That’s the moment. I just refuse to believe that Matt and Bonnie would see that happen, see Elena run upstairs to the body and go home about it.
Well, okay, I could fanwank it for Bonnie, I guess, considering that she is kind of out of her mind. She fully believes that she can and should and will drop the veil, and she fully believes that that will bring Jeremy back to Elena. So while she’s in denial it’s kind of hard for her assist Elena as she comes out of hers.
And that’s actually the really sad thing about this episode. She says, as though there were only one really sad thing about this episode. I didn’t really notice it on first viewing or even on second viewing. But at some point during my third viewing it hit me pretty hard that Bonnie and Elena, ie. the people who loved Jeremy the very most, did not connect in this episode. At all.
There was no hug. There were no mutual tears. Not a hand held. Barely a glance, even.
And as horrible as that is it’s also kind of brilliant. Because I think for those two, looking at each other and truly seeing each other would be too much. Because they would see their own agony reflected back at them more clearly than if they looked in a mirror.
I think there’s a reason Bonnie and Elena were not allowed to grieve together in this episode. I think it’s going to come later, as part of Elena regaining her humanity and Bonnie finding control over her magic and her mind. I think when they do connect it’s going to be a big damn deal. And I cannot wait.
But that still doesn’t explain Matt. Why on earth would Matt not get Stefan or Caroline to take Bonnie home and stick around to be whatever Elena might or might not need? Well, the truth is it’s because he needed to be out of the picture so they could prepare for the big finish. Note that Caroline promptly went home after Elena turned it off so our main trio exiting the burning house.
I can see why they wanted that ending, but I felt they kind of short-changed Matt to get it. Although, to be fair, they did do their best to compensate with all those glorious scenes earlier in the episode and his breakdown in the car.
Other reasons to forgive all things: Elena’s face in Damon’s hands as he holds her as gently as he can and she looks up at him with this child-like desperation and this utter trust. The way her face changes as she lets go of what hurts – of what makes her who she is. The way her eyes deaden as her body calms. The way the camera pulls back to show us the two of them on the floor together and Damon turns, looks up at Stefan and Caroline who are standing tall, watching all of this.
Full marks, show. Full marks and a gold star.
And this is why I have always loved these teen vampire shows – because they have the capacity to get all the way past everything and right up close with what it means to grow up, with how we construct and deconstruct our identities, with what it is that makes us who we are or who we should be.
Because what does humanity really mean?
Buffy teased this with the question of whether Spike could be good without a soul, with the idea that he did not need a soul to want a soul. TVD has the opportunity to further here. They have the opportunity to really examine what it means to be good and just how definitive that goodness is of a good person.
What will humanity-free Elena look like? We get our first glimpse below…
Elena burns her life down.
Sophy says: Elena burned her life down. She burned her life down.
This is quite honestly the most ugly-beautiful place this show has ever gone to.
I saw this as a kind of suicide. Elena isn’t just erasing all traces of the people she has loved and lost. She’s erasing all traces of herself.
And yet at the same time she’s claiming her right to live and to live without the weight of this love on her shoulders. For the past three years Elena Gilbert has been an emotional pack-rat. No more.
And whilst there’s an unbearable sadness in watching Jeremy, his drawings, Elena’s sneakers, her journal, which is literally a catalogue of herself, burn into nothingness… there’s also catharsis. There’s a sense of letting go of things you don’t need anymore.
Damon was absolutely right when he said humanity isn’t worth anything if you don’t have anyone to love, and it represented a fundamental difference in the way the two Salvatore brothers see life and its worth. For Stefan humanity is an ideal in and of itself. It is a mantel to be worn with pride and reverence and responsibility. For Damon the only part of humanity that matters is the love. The rest? The wrapper? He’s not interested in that. Because Damon is about what is real and solid and everyday. Damon is about what works and what doesn’t.
Stefan is about what should work. He is about what should be real and solid and every day. He doesn’t compromise. At least not on being a good person.
He’s right when he says memories are important, but are they really too important? What good do they do you when there’s no one left to share them with? These are questions I am still asking myself; I don’t have the answers.
But remember how in 408 Damon watched Elena sit around a cardboard box with Jeremy, pulling out things that reminded them of people they loved? I was struck by the fact that they could mention Jenna and smile.
And you know why they could? Because they had each other to smile at. This is the thing about Jeremy and Elena. Every time they have lost someone it has failed to wreck them because they still have each other.
Elena doesn’t have him anymore so she doesn’t need the cardboard box. She doesn’t need the keepsakes. She walks out of that house in the clothes she is wearing. She takes nothing else. Not so much as a purse or a change of underwear or a set of useless keys.
If Jeremy has to burn? It all has to burn. She’s never going to want to go home again if he’s not there.
Or is she?
Let’s step away from the symbolism and look at the rights and wrongs of this situation.
I really, really, really don’t think the Salvatores should have let Elena burn the house down. And everything in it. Including her baby brother’s body. Damon, in particular, being the one to get her to turn her humanity off and also the one who supposedly has the power to influence her, should have stopped her from doing this.
To me this was the first test of how Damon is going to deal with switched off Elena, and he kinda failed it.
Look, it’s possible that Elena’s right. It’s possible she’ll never want to go home. It’s possible she’ll never wish her brother was buried in the ground with their parents. It’s possible she’ll never want Jeremy’s sketches or her mother’s books or the baby pictures from before everybody had a digital camera.
But I can’t help thinking of Katherine sitting in that tomb gazing upon a long lost drawing of her slaughtered family and smiling and shedding a tear.
And I can’t help coming back to the fact that before Damon switched Elena’s humanity off for her, she didn’t burn down the house. In times of acute distress we all think we’re going to do terrible things. We all think we want to. We cry and throw things. We insist that there is no hope. I mean, who hasn’t threatened to throw themselves out a window in their day?
That’s normal, right?
Don’t answer that.
But seriously. It was pretty clear to me that Elena’s meltdown with the alcohol and the match was a warning shot. It was her way of saying “I cannot do this,” and making people listen. And when people were listening? She wasn’t going through with it. She was talking to Stefan while the match burned down. She had ample opportunity to drop the thing, but she didn’t. She delayed, she poured her heart out, and she winced when it burned down to her fingers because she’d entirely forgotten it was there.
Damon caught the match before it hit the ground and Elena fell down instead. She cried. She pleaded with anyone and anything to make the pain stop. She didn’t light another match.
Maybe she would have if she’d had time to collect herself. Maybe that house would have burned down whether Damon invoked the sire bond or he didn’t. But we can never ever know for sure. Now I think she may have stepped outside without her ring on when the sun came up if left to her own devices and I definitely think Damon believed she would have. So by all means, stop her from killing herself. But if you’re going to do that – if the plan is for her to go through this catastrophic process of grief at some point and come out the other side – at least don’t let her obliterate all the tokens that she might treasure someday in the meantime.
I find it very hard not to see Elena burning her life down as the first of many possible acts of self-harm that Damon is responsible for if the sire bond is real. It remains to be seen how humanity-free Elena will play out and therefore it remains to be seen how much damage she may do to herself. I’m still a little unclear on what the show’s construction of ‘humanity’ is, in terms of the switch, but I would have thought it comprised all those emotions that make us different from animals, and indeed some emotions that some animals very much have.
I would say feelings of compassion and tenderness would be gone, as well as the pain that is born of those feelings. And that has me thinking of Elena as one of those kids who literally can’t feel pain – you know the ones that will gnaw their lips off and stuff, because they just don’t register what they’re doing to themselves? That’s how Elena is now. It’s not so much that she’s become someone else. Everything she is now is pure, uncontaminated Elena. But the effect is still that she will make all sorts of choices without her humanity that she would never have made in a million years with it. She can be mean to her friends – to Stefan – to Damon even – because when their brow furrows and their chest clenches it doesn’t make her brow furrow and her chest clench anymore. She can totally bite people! The look of fear in their eyes the moment before she compels them to not be afraid, the confusion as they touch the wound at their neck and struggle helplessly understand what has been done to them? It doesn’t conjure that empathy in her that it once did. It doesn’t make her feel bad. She could take someone’s Jeremy away from them if she needed to! Because it doesn’t tap straight into what it would – what it did – what it does feel like to have your own taken away.
And the trouble is that she’s not going to be able to stay switched off forever. First because the show is not going to let that happen, but second because even if they did, after a couple of hundred years you’re just pretending not to feel.
At some point Elena is going to be back in touch with her humanity, and all the things she’s done because they didn’t hurt are going to start hurting all of a sudden. Burning Jeremy’s body because it was the best way to cover up his death? Denying him a funeral and a burial? That’s going to be the first one.
It bothers me that neither Stefan nor Damon stopped her. As Damon said, it wasn’t the only cover story they had. When the town’s sheriff is firmly in your pocket there are a whole host of ways you can stop people asking questions. And in fact, in this particular situation, death by random house fire might actually be the worst possible cover story.
Because Elena told April Jeremy was dead before the Gilbert house went up in flames. And if there was any doubt about the timeline there, she told her on the home phone.
And April isn’t just any little village cutie-pie, not anymore. She knows what Elena is and she can’t be compelled as long as she has that bracelet on and hot and cold running vervain too. Is it really plausible that she wouldn’t connect cover-up arson with her dad being manipulated into blowing up all his friends? Is she likely to just walk away from this without, I don’t know, alerting the media?
I can well understand that in the agony of the moment nobody thought of this. I can also see why the show wouldn’t want that kind of house-keeping being dealt with in an episode that was all about the big emotional stuff. But so help me god, if Damon hasn’t resolved the April Young issue before the previously ons are through in 416… I guess I’ll just add it to the growing list of the way he is suddenly being stupid this season where it serves the plot.
But seriously why did Damon not stop Elena from doing this? You can’t tell me that he’s respecting her agency by refusing to invoke the sire bond, because he just invoked it in order to put her in a state where she is ready, willing and able to follow through with this very action. I might feel differently if burning the house down was objectively something that needed to happen – or even something that Elena truly needed to do to feel okay. But it wasn’t. They could have just walked away. Damon could have spoken to Liz and the whole thing could have been sorted. Elena could have avoided the Gilbert house like the plague. Caroline could have called everyone to arms, packed the place up, put precious things into storage, rented the place out. There were a range of other options here, and for that reason I believe that on balance, it would have been less wrong of Damon to try to invoke the sire bond to stop her doing this, than to not.
I strongly suspect that the only reason Damon made a feeble attempt at persuading Elena not to torch the place and then stood by helplessly is simply because that would raised things the show isn’t ready to address yet, such as whether the sire bond is rendered inoperative by Elena’s humanity being off.
On that score: I wouldn’t be surprised if the sire bond doesn’t work anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if the gang surmise sagely that it must be dormant because Elena’s humanity is turned off, and she had to have “human feelings” for the bond to arise.
I’ll be waiting to get more information on what flipping the switch really does to a young vampire, but as I said above, from what I understand it wouldn’t take all Elena’s feelings away. I would have thought that things like love would still exist – Katherine loved Stefan (and arguably Damon). Stefan loved Rebekah (and arguably Klaus). Damon never wavered in his devotion to Katherine. It seems that love can be felt independently of humanity – it’s just that you only get to keep the selfish bits.
And a lot of loving Damon was all about the selfish bits of Elena. I’d expect her to still want him, even if she can’t hurt when he hurts anymore. I’d expect her to still want him to want her.
And the thing is that Elena wanted Damon when she was human. Wanting him was a large part of the “human feelings” that created the bond. If it was her compassion for him that was the key ingredient there, then the “human feelings” become universal and irrelevant to Damon and Elena’s relationship. She could just as easily be sired to Caroline, because she has always had just as much empathy for her.
And it sort of grosses me out if the bond is tied that specifically to Elena’s capacity for empathy. Because that just reinforces the notion that she’s doing Damon’s bidding to pander to his feelings – that she’s placing his interests above her own out of the goodness of her heart. That is pretty much the anti-Damon/Elena to me. And it’s pretty much the anti-Woman too.
I’m uncomfortable with the notion that desire falls into the category of vampire emotions. I’m not saying vampires can’t feel it. I’m just saying humans can feel it too. Wanting someone is very much a human feeling and it’s very much one that Elena had for Damon – one I don’t see any reason she wouldn’t still have.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t see why all the human feelings would go away, and therefore I don’t see why the bond would necessarily go away either. Of course I’ll be sitting there biting my fingernails and telling myself the writers are just stalling again. They want us all to have a shiny, new reason why the sire bond isn’t working the way it should, so they can distract us to the season finale when it’s revealed it never existed in the first place.
And now let me comment on the image of the three of them walking away from the burning Gilbert house. Obviously the burning journal is a pretty heavy symbol of the end of Stefan/Elena. When Stefan said she might want to come home, she said no, she wouldn’t. Stefan looked back one last time at everything that used to matter to the girl he loved becoming ash. Damon and Elena walked away together.
“Memories are too important.” “Yeah.”
“Some things could matter again.” “Maybe. But it seems a little unrealistic to me.”
It’s all terribly poignant. It all speaks to who the characters are. It’s lovely and sad.
But it also grated on me a little that the only way Damon and Elena are allowed to walk into their future, heads held high, is by trashing everything that has come before. By trashing everything that Elena has been before.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it really feels like the show is purposely contriving for circumstances to take Elena as far away as possible from the girl she was with Stefan before she can fully be with Damon. I remember bristling when she associated having these feelings she couldn’t hide anymore for Damon with being different herself – “darker”.
I tried to take it with a grain of salt. I tried to tell myself that Elena just didn’t know what growing up felt like yet. But when you really look at it we have a situation where but for Elena dying and becoming a vampire, but for Elena being sired to Damon, but for becoming afflicted with the hunter’s curse as a result of that, but for Jeremy dying and Damon switching her humanity off, but for everything she does between now and then starting with burning her life down…
You see what I mean? All of that has to happen before Damon and Elena can be in love and it can be real. And you can even take it back further than that. If Stefan had never gone down the ripper trail to save Damon’s life? Well, obviously Damon would be dead. But let’s pretend he wasn’t. Elena managed to spend a whole season with Damon, come to trust on him and depend on him, let him kiss her, admit it to Stefan, go to Denver and basically try to have sex with him with her clothes on… nearly all this time Stefan was treating her appallingly, even without being compelled about it. He was needlessly cruel to her.
And yet, when he came back to her, she chose him. So when you think about it, the entirety of season 3 was not sufficient to get Elena loving and wanting and choosing Damon. But it was necessary.
But for, but for, but for. I’m tired of them all. Chance always plays a role in the game of love, but with Damon and Elena it is getting too much. It is sucking the fun out of it all by sucking the honesty out of it.
This is why I cling so desperately to the sire bond being a fake-out. Because to leave me feeling anything other than depressed and icky about my ship the writers have to at least make it 100% clear that Elena fell in love with Damon somewhere between the first Miss Mystic Falls dance and the second. I’m fine with Stefan’s descent in season three as a reason why the two of them were thrown together, allowing feelings to put down roots, when maybe Elena never would have let them otherwise. I don’t give a damn whether she became a vampire first either, because becoming a vampire didn’t change who she was (as opposed to say, turning it off). I don’t have a problem with the idea that she had to be afflicted with the hunter’s curse and come through it before she could let herself have Damon, because that was a triumph – because that wasn’t Elena changing into someone who could love Damon – it was Elena finally letting herself just be the girl who already did.
But the sire bond is a no. Any supernatural influence on Elena’s feelings for Damon or her decision-making with respect to those feelings? Is a no.
And I know a lot of people think I’m being a drama queen about this (believe me, I get it, you can stop telling me.) I know a lot of people feel that the show has proven that Elena’s love for Damon developed and was realized and embraced independently of the sire bond. I have to disagree.
As far as I’m concerned exactly nothing has been proven about the sire bond – not even that it exists.
Caroline thinks the bond gives Elena a burning desire to make Damon happy. Damon think it operates like faith – maybe – that she wants to do what he wants because she thinks it’s the right thing. Stefan thinks it must have created Elena’s love for Damon because she might be attracted to him on her own, sure, but she would always be protected from acting on that by knowing how bad he is and stuff. Tyler tells us the bond affects actions, not emotions, even though that’s a nonsense in itself and simply ignores his own experience prior to the ‘Bite your girlfriend’ command. Nandi says it’s created out of human feelings but fails to specify what those might be. Shane thinks it’s just love. Elena doesn’t appear to have any opinions on the way the bond works, but is adamant that what she feels is real – and of course nothing she says on the subject can be trusted – especially since Damon told her what he wants more than anything is to know that she’s really in love with him.
These are the viewpoints that have been expressed in the show. Confusing, huh?
Some people have taken from all that that the bond totally changes Elena and makes her into whatever Damon wants her to be. These people would, for the most part, be Stefan/Elena fans who are clinging to hope that the ruination of their ship is just a bad dream. Then there are the Damon/Elena fans who are clinging to hope that the ruination of their ship is just a bad dream – people like me who think the whole thing is such an ill-established, ugly, soul-sucking mess that it can’t possibly be real.
And then there are people who think it’s clear the bond is real and clear that it operates on direct commands only and does not touch the love between Damon and Elena.
In order to avoid major ickiness and to resolve any perceived inconsistencies I’ve seen people theorize that the bond operates thus (for a fuller explanation of the following see this post by whenpeopleseegood on tumblr):
1. There must be a direct statement of want made by the sire to the sired.
2. The sired must believe that statement to be a true reflection of the actual desire of the sire.
3. The sired has “the illusion of free will,” and is able to argue where he or she does not want to do something – up to a point. (See point 2)
Under this definition, they argue, all instances of the bond being in play make perfect sense, and we don’t have to worry about the iffy stuff.
That may be so. It may be that the sire bond is real and allows the sired vampire latitude to argue so that condition 2 can be satisfied – so that they can be absolutely sure that this is what the sire wants. Elena can present her arguments against an action and make it clear that it’s something she does not want to do. And maybe Damon will back down, like he did when he let her go to help Jeremy because he wasn’t able to go himself. But maybe he won’t back down, like he didn’t when he sent her away from the lake house whether she liked it or not.
Maybe that makes sense.
But it is the most sickening thing I have ever heard. Seriously. It just. Wow. I mean.
If this is the way the bond operates it is even more bursting with misogyny than I ever thought before.
Here we have our young, female lead, who is under a supernatural compulsion to obey a man she is in a romantic relationship with because she has so many feelings for him. She is privileged with the ability to communicate what she wants to him, but only to the point where she is sure of what he wants. Once she’s fully satisfied as to what her man’s needs and desires really are, she’s done talking back and she is getting busy satisfying them.
Wow, you guys.
I just… I can’t.
I will not go to these places. I also can’t entirely go to them on a logical level. Because even if the show has “proven” to us that a direct command triggers the sire bond, that doesn’t prove it’s the only way the sire bond can be triggered. And no, neither does Elena saying sire bondy things we all actually say sometimes like how it feels like everything in her body is telling her to respect Damon’s wishes.
The biggest problem with the theory for me is the blood-bag test. The command that supposedly caused Elena to not be able to drink from blood-bags was “Be a vampire.” That’s all we saw Damon directly order Elena to do. To make this fly as an instance of the bond being triggered you need to say that Elena inferred the things Damon means by that, namely that vampires don’t hunt bambi or drink from blood-bags. The trouble with this is that vampires do drink from blood-bags. How often do we see Damon out for a snatch, eat, erase these days? Pretty much every vampire example in Elena’s life, including Damon, uses blood-bags. So how did she get from ‘be a vampire’ to ‘be unable to drink bagged blood’? Well, see, she knew that what Damon really wanted was for her to embrace vampirism, and that he felt that if she was able to feed herself any other way than from the vein she would never do that, and so she… etc. etc. etc.
The problem is that at that point she is not, like Charlotte was, responding to the naked command. She is responding to what she knows Damon wants. She is not just determining whether he wants something. She is determining exactly what he wants.
This might just wash as being order-based if Elena could only base her opinion of what the order meant on the rest of that conversation, namely that Damon told her “vampires eat people, it’s part of the natural food pyramid.” However, it’s important to note that he said that in the context of Stefan wanting Elena to go on the bunny diet. That is to say, wanting her to live on animal blood, not human blood. Nothing Damon actually said to Elena in the conversation in which he ordered her to ‘be a vampire’ was inconsistent with her being able to drink from blood-bags.
Sure, he told her his definition of being a vampire involved eating people. But I eat meat and it doesn’t mean I launch myself at cows on a regular basis. Or, you know, ever. I don’t see why “eating people” can’t equate to ‘eating people that have been processed and packed into plastic baggies for your convenience.’
This means that Elena isn’t responding to Damon’s words. She’s responding to what she perceives to be his wishes. How exactly does that work with the bond being command-based only? How is that not all kinds of murky and messy and subliminal? And of course it would be. The idea that there have to be certain words uttered for Elena to experience her bondedness discretely until a particular task is fulfilled is ridiculous to me.
And yet. Even as Elena responds to what she believes to be Damon’s underlying wishes in fulfilling the ‘be a vampire’ command, nevermind exactly what he said, she is later unable to respond to what his obvious wish is when he brings the blood-bag to her outside the memorial for Pastor Young. She is clearly distressed and he is distressed for her. At that point he quite clearly wants Elena to drink from the blood-bag, keep it down and be okay and safe. Why can’t Elena’s ideas about what Damon meant by ‘Be a vampire’ change at that point?
The only way I can make sense of this is to posit that Damon’s “Trust me, you’re going to be miserable” operated as a command in and of itself, or as part of the initial command. That’s why Elena can’t interpret his command literally and drink from blood-bags to “eat people” and be just fine, thank you. Damon told her that if she didn’t do things his way she was going to miserable, and she internalized that prophecy and lived it out.
First of all that’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard. Second it kind of torpedoes the idea that the bond affects actions and not emotions. Causing someone to be miserable, even if they have to create that misery for themselves by being unable to live their life the way they want to, is affecting their emotions.
And this is why I cannot stomach this bond being real in terms of the Damon/Elena relationship. Because if it’s real then Damon (inadvertently) caused Elena to experience misery in being a vampire, and then relieved that misery for her by being the one who didn’t want to change her, the one who told her not to be ashamed, the one who taught her how to be a vampire, the one who stood by her side on Wickery Bridge when the hunter’s curse lifted, the one who said he’d never seen her more alive, the one who made her able to drink from blood-bags again… all of that stuff is emotional. All of that stuff is a big part of how Elena embraced her love for Damon. And it was all engendered by the bond. It was all artificial. It is all inextricably tangled up in external supernatural influence.
To posit that it is not you have to say that Elena not being able to drink from blood-bags, her liking the red dress, her calming down about Jeremy, even her killing Connor, were not instances of the bond being triggered, because Damon needs to say the magic words, which are “This is what I want” – or something to that effect.
The trouble is that by that narrow definition of the way the bond operates then everything Caroline and Stefan looked at in order to come to the conclusion that Elena was sired to Damon was… not sired behaviour. The idea is that Caroline and Stefan deduced that there was a bond based on nothing… but coincidentally, yes, there is a bond, actually.
That’s just not the kind of writing that makes sense. It’s not the kind of irony you do anything but frown at.
If the sire bond is real I’ll accept it and move on, whether with the show or without. But no one will ever make me accept what is not true, namely that it has been proven to be real in show by 415. It has not been.
This raises the question: Why wouldn’t the writers definitively prove the sire bond is real, if it’s supposed to be objectively and absolutely real?
If they truly believed the blood-bag test was watertight back when they were filming 408, then the response from fandom must have shown them that they were wrong. They’ve had ample opportunity to correct the mistake by now, and the fact that they haven’t tells me that they can’t. They can tell us it’s definitely real in the media, sure. But they won’t actually tell us that it’s definitely real in-show.There is a definite disjunction there. They are keen to have us believe the thing is real, but they stop short of actually inserting definitive proof into the show. And all I can take away from that is that it’s not real and they want us to believe that it is so we’ll still be surprised when it’s not.
See what I’m saying?
If it’s real, why don’t they actually prove it? Why do they leave me with my wretched hope? Why do they leave us with what the characters speculate about the stupid thing and nothing more?
And something I object to enormously is people saying that those who have issues with the sire bond are “overthinking it”. There shouldn’t be any “overthinking” with good television. The moment you expect your viewers to look at things more simply, you are doing a disservice to your art. The show should welcome scrutiny and endeavour to withstand it, not shy away from it and say people who are questioning things just aren’t getting it. God forbid The Vampire Diaries should become another LOST.
So given that the show has not yet established that Damon and Elena’s love is bond-free, let’s look at the ways they could go about doing that.
The first possibility is that when (if!) the bond is broken by Elena losing her humanity (or by other means), she will then be able to tell us where and how and when the bond affected her while she was under its influence. This will not be good enough for me as a solution, because there isn’t any reason to trust that Elena will even know. The bond is not like a fairytale curse that takes Elena over and makes her do all sorts of non-Elena things while the real-Elena struggles beneath the surface. While the bond is operative its effects are a reality for her, and I don’t see any reason they would cease to be a reality when it stops being operative – and this is in part because the lines are so blurred by her having all these feelings for Damon that she couldn’t quite name before it took effect. She may love Damon when the bond is broken, but that proves nothing as to whether the bond was instrumental in getting her to the place where she loves Damon. She may feel nothing but the base attraction she has always felt now but intellectually “know” that she loved Damon when she had her humanity on and was bound to him. So what? What does that prove? It’s not really any more useful than Elena telling us her feelings are real all the time up to 415.
Elena is never going to be a reliable authority on the bond and the way it operates in her particular case. It’s just not possible. And even if it were, exactly how would that play out on screen? What, are they going to devote ten minutes of an episode to Elena sitting down with everyone and explaining what, in retrospect, was all her, and where she is now aware that the sire bond was influencing her in some way? Matt will make the tea? Caroline will take the minutes?
The other option is that they find an expert on sire bonds who informs them of the ways they work and assures them Elena’s love for Damon is pure. Well, okay. But unless this mythical expert is going to answer, in detail, every question fandom has about the particulars of the bond in Elena’s case, their advice is going to be worth jack to me. If they say “Don’t worry, it’s based on a direct command only, coupled with the sired vampire’s belief that that is what the sire vampire truly wants,” I’m going to cry foul just as I do when fandom suggests that as a solution. And why would I trust this supposed expert anyway? What are they going to do, bring the god of sire bonds down from sire bond heaven? Just how hokey are we going to have to get?
And seriously, talk about an anti-climax. Random character shows up to set our minds at rest? Or maybe the gang do some research and find this great book on sire bonds by the world’s premiere sire bond expert Sir E. Bond, and they’re all like ‘Wow, he has some great credentials, he got first class honours at Sire Bond University, problem solved!’ If sire bonds are so rare how would anyone even know enough about how they work to write a fucking book or be an expert at all?
Honestly, the most solid thing would be for Bonnie to do a spell that like, highlights the bondy parts of Elena’s brain or something and print off the results and open up a sealed envelope on stage. ‘In the case of Damon and Elena’s love… it is not the sire bond!’
But if she hasn’t thought of doing that by now I guess it’s not possible or it’s not something she knows how to do. And how ridiculous would it be if she just called Elena up one day like, “Hey by the way there’s this great spell in Witch Weekly that I want to try out on you. Problem solved.”
The thing is that if you’re like me and need definitive proof that Elena wasn’t affected by the sire bond in subliminal ways in order to feel anything but confused, sad and disconnected from her arc this season and from the Damon/Elena relationship, then you need the sire bond to be fake. Because all the other options are either unconvincing, unworkably convoluted, anti-climactic or just plain embarrassing. Or all four.
I won’t pretend to know what’s going to happen here. I’m very aware that I could be wrong about everything. The sire bond might be real. The show might even have something up its sleeve that I haven’t thought of that will make me okay with that. It’s possible, the way that a cure for AIDS is possible. The way that God is possible. But from where I’m sitting right now the bond being fake is the only way to resolve this storyline with any kind of dramatic heft and emotional integrity.
So I’ll still be here hoping, until Damon successfully makes Elena try to do hand-stands and clap at the same time. Or kill Matt.
Hm, this seems like a good place to end the recap.
EXCEPT WAIT, I HAVE MORE TO SAY.
I want to talk about the reasons the sire bond exists if it does or seems to exist if it doesn’t.
I’ve seen it said that the reason for the sire bond is that Damon needed to learn a lesson about trying to control the people he loves. This seems to be borne out by his statement in 414 that he’s realized he can’t keep trying to control everything. I do not like this.
The show has been less than subtle in highlighting a key difference between Stefan and Damon and the way they love. Over and over we’ve been told that Stefan respects Elena’s choices, where Damon does not. Characters left right and centre tacitly endorsed Stefan’s approach by tacitly endorsing him as a person and as a love interest for Elena – as opposed to Damon.
And then in 322 the show put Stefan in a situation where he would take respecting Elena’s decisions to the extreme. He saved Matt instead of her. He let her die. This was huge. It was one of the most controversial choices on the show, at least in fandom, if not amongst characters on the show. A lot of people see it as entirely negative and entirely incomprehensible. Some people see it as the ultimate validation of Elena and what she stands for. I’m honestly not sure where I come down on it. I think it was right and it was also wrong.
And up to now I think that’s kind of how the show has treated it too.
The ultimate consequence that could flow from Stefan’s choice would be the natural one – Elena’s absence and Stefan’s unending grief and guilt about it. But the show kept Elena alive, of course – only as a vampire.
And not just as a vampire. As a vampire who now loves his brother – the one who would have saved her in a heartbeat no question.
That seemed to me to be the universe settling a score. Elena embracing her feelings for Damon seemed to me to be a sign that she was embracing his ideology and recognizing it as in some respects her own – keep the loved ones alive at all costs – screw the right thing when the right thing is watching the person who matters most to you die. It seemed that nobody on the show was going to hold Stefan’s choice against him – but that would be balanced by the fact that it was going to have consequences.
And I guess the sire bond is a consequence. Because if Stefan hadn’t left Elena to die she wouldn’t have become a vampire on Damon’s blood and she wouldn’t be sired. But it actually feels more like the sire bond is a buffer to the consequence. It’s a way of saying Elena would never have felt differently about him on account of his choice, if this supernatural coincidence hadn’t intervened.
It seems that when the universe taught Stefan that maybe respecting Elena’s decisions wasn’t always the right thing to do, the show felt the need to kind of render that moot by that by having the universe concurrently teach Damon that respecting Elena’s decisions is all kinds of important though. Hence the sire bond.
But the problem with this is that the sire bond is teaching Damon a lesson he really doesn’t need to learn.
It’s just not true that Stefan respects Elena’s decisions and Damon doesn’t. What is true is simply that Stefan will respect Elena’s decisions when he feels those decisions are likely to result in her death and Damon will not respect Elena’s decisions in those circumstances. But the conflict arises only about those circumstances.
The sire bond might be interesting as a platform for growth if Damon really had been a control freak in season 1 to 3 – if he’d used compulsion on Elena willy nilly or even just wished he could do so. But I never saw the slightest inclination in Damon to control Elena or to make her decisions for her except where he thought they were foolhardy and dangerous.
Damon just isn’t controlling with Elena. Or manipulative. Or judgmental. He just is not any of those things. As I mentioned above, he is especially permissive with her, in that he has never wanted her to be anything but what she is – what she chooses to be. But I’ll recognize that he has been controlling with other women in the show’s run, most especially Caroline and Andie.
So is the sire bond supposed to be teaching him a lesson about that? If it is I feel that the show has missed the mark. Because the reason why Damon treated Caroline and Andie the way he did is not because he has a problem with control or a problem with women, actually. It’s simply because he was not in touch with his humanity.
(Let’s face it, when Stefan was kind of switched off he wasn’t that nice to poor old Andie either.)
But my point is that it’s not about control, it’s about his relationship to humanity. And that’s what’s actually at the heart of Stefan letting Elena die too. That’s the real point of difference between the Salvabros. One values humanity too much, the other too little.
Stefan is so obsessed with humanity that he will let Elena die because she’s a good person. He values her compassion more than he values anything and everything else about her. That is what he honoured when he chose to save Matt – it wasn’t her agency, it was her humanity. And that is why her returning to his life as a vampire is the greatest punishment he could be dealt. He killed the thing he could love and created something he can’t. Stefan’s fixation on humanity as an ideal shoots him in the foot, over and over. And not just with Elena. With himself. He has been unable to adjust appropriately to being a vampire, because he cannot let go of the fact that he was once human. It’s one of the greatest unexplored ironies of the show, but Stefan’s prizing of humanity actually blocks him from feeling.
Damon on the other hand values humanity too little. For him, feelings are first, second, third, fourth… And principle? Eh. What’s right is of no consequence to him. What’s right for him and the people he loves? That means everything. This is why if you are somebody Damon doesn’t care about, bad things may very well happen to you. eg. Caroline, Vicki, Lexi, Jeremy – once upon a time – Andie – though he tricked himself into thinking he was kind. I could list a whole lot more names and add all sorts of burgeoning qualifications to them, but I won’t. We all get this. It’s a progression for Damon. As time has gone by he has needed to love people less and less on a personal level to be able respect their right to exist and think and act and feel as they please, like they matter just as much as he does. But will he ever come to a place where he gives a crap whether a human being lives or dies just because they’re a human being? Will he ever be the type of person who wouldn’t trade 12 randoms for someone he loves most – and without losing any sleep over it either? I doubt it.
So maybe this is where we’re going now. Maybe the sire bond wasn’t the lesson for Damon. Maybe 322 wasn’t the lesson for Stefan either, because as much as he expressed regret for letting Elena die, he’s done some of his most blind and fevered humanity-worshipping in this very season.
Maybe it’s switched off Elena that is going to be the real kicker for the brothers. We shall see.
But I will be frustrated if the writers don’t use this as an opportunity to explore the difference between humanity and, well, the state of being human. There is no doubt that Stefan needs to learn that they are not one and the same.
Damon needs to learn… what? What does Damon need to learn? I honestly don’t know. He was chugging along pretty well with his studies already before the sire bond hit. I guess you could speculate that he needs to value Elena’s humanity more and will do so when he realizes what he’s lost now that she’s switched off. But honestly the idea that Damon doesn’t get that already feels a little forced to me. You don’t spend a year and a half falling desperately in love with somebody without getting them. And if you don’t get that Elena Gilbert is a lot of things but she is very much defined by her love for the people around her and her capacity to feel their pain, then you don’t get Elena Gilbert. If the writers have Damon have any illusions about how different switched off Elena would be from actual Elena, then I’ll be left wondering whether I’ve read their intentions wrong all along. Because it will seem for all the world that all that interested Damon about Elena was that she looked like Katherine.
Bottom line, I want there to be limits on the love Damon has for Elena, because if there aren’t then he’ll be in that “unconditional love” bracket that isn’t love at all, only blind obsession. That is not to say that I want him to give up on her, ever. Quite the opposite. When it comes down to it I want him to fight tooth and nail for Elena’s humanity. Because he may not value humanity generally the way Stefan does, be he sure as hell values Elena’s – or at least the Damon I think I know does. And if he doesn’t show that? It’s going to look like Stefan is the only one who understands her.
Maybe it will only look that way to the characters, rather than to the audience, but I’ll still be frustrated as hell if we wind up back in Abby-town, and it does look like that’s a possibility.
I don’t think Stefan would have or should have figured out how gross a de-griefed Elena would be, or how miserable an Elena who still felt the grief deep down but had to be civilized about it would be. As is so often the case with Stefan I don’t think he was really thinking at all. That’s how he gets by, really. By not thinking. By not facing reality. It’s very convenient for Stefan that Damon is the one with the power to make this choice for Elena, because that way he can stand off to the side and tell himself that he would never have done what Damon did, that he would have instead used the sire bond to do… what, exactly?
It’s my belief that Stefan would have been paralyzed by the responsibility and done nothing. While Damon is there he is quite capable of telling him to help Elena. But if he wasn’t – if Stefan was the one she was sired to – I don’t think he could have brought himself in invoke the bond. Because he would have had to face the fact that there were no options that were “okay” and that maybe the worst one for him was the best one for Elena but it was still wrong.
What I’m getting to is that for Elena, in that moment when she realized how much she had lost and would never recover, she needed the pain to stop. There were two options she had to make that happen: suicide or the switch. I don’t feel I’m exaggerating when I say that Elena was suicidal. She did, after all, more or less tell us in 402 that if not for Jeremy she would consider ending it all. I think that says everything. I think that’s why Damon’s on the money when he says “She won’t survive this.”
So Elena was either going to surrender her humanity or die. Sound familiar? This is pretty much the dilemma that Stefan faced in 322. Which matters most, Elena or Elena’s goodness? He chose Elena’s goodness when he saved Matt. Here, Damon chooses Elena, just like he always said he always would, no matter what the consequences.
It’ll be interesting to see how Stefan responds to humanity-free Elena. It’ll be interesting to see whether he elects to share responsibility in the choice Damon made, or whether he’ll throw up his hands and say “I told you so.”
I’ll be watching you, Baby Salvatore.
On that subject, it’s also kind of why I have an issue with the show muddying Elena’s agency in switching her humanity off. I think ultimately she will at least claim to have made the choice for herself rather than being sire bonded into it. But the doubt will still be there. And the reason I have a problem with it is that it’s kind of sending the message that suicide would be preferable to no longer being The Good Girl – that Elena would have or should have chosen to suffer and die rather than stop empathizing all over the place.
Of course this can be fixed. If the bond is fake then Elena made the choice herself, clearly and unequivocally. But she was still enough of a good person to need to be helped to be selfish (just not coerced in any way, by any stretch of the imagination).
Ahhhhhh the sire bond. It may be real. I’ll admit that the more I’m told by others that I’m wishing for something that will not come to pass, the more I worry that they’re right. It will be devastating to me if the sire bond is real, after all, for so many reasons. But I think above and beyond everything else I will just be so disappointed in the writing.
Because what we will have is Stefan and Caroline making a very unpleasant assumption about Damon and Elena’s relationship based on non-conclusive tests, convincing Damon and Elena of it because they are so insecure and easily bullied that they don’t need solid proof of something life-altering before they’ll believe it, and being right in the end.
When the idea of Elena being sired to Damon was first raised I felt sick to my stomach. It seemed like the worst, stupidest, most contrived and ugly thing the show could do. And honestly? If the bond is supposed to be real then I still feel the same way about it. But I might at least have been able to respect the integrity of the narrative if the damn thing had actually been proven at some point. As it is, if the bond is supposed to be real, I’m just left thinking the writers were intellectually naive enough to think that the blood-bag test was definitive, and that when it was pointed out to them that it was not, they just couldn’t be bothered to fix the issue – nor could they be bothered to define how the sire bond worked or even have the characters attempt to define it.
If the sire bond is fake then all of this has the potential to be cathartic, life-affirming and ultimately rather glorious. It has the potential to provide insight into Damon and Elena’s struggles claim their place in the world – to be who they are instead of who they or others think they should be, at the same time as providing insight into Stefan and Caroline’s anxiety-born addiction to controlling the world around them and their long-ingrained habits of defining themselves by the Bad Brother and the Perfect Friend. The whole thing might even worth it in the end.
But if it’s real then I don’t see how anybody learns or grows. Because if it’s real it by-passes any questions of perception – any underlying reasons why the characters might simply want it to exist. It’ll be as simple as this: Caroline and Stefan were right. And even if the bond is broken and Elena still feels the same they will still be right. They will always be right and that means they will always be comfortable. Likewise I don’t see how Damon and Elena will get any growth out of it, because they will be victims, plain and simple. Maybe it will gain Elena some clarity in her feelings for Damon when all is said and done, but first of all, as I’ve said before, stockholm syndrome, basically, and second of all the idea that she needs this much of a supernatural leg-up to know what she wants is just icky in the extreme.
But perhaps most importantly, if it’s real then it’s all just been a poorly devised and entirely random plot device to keep Damon and Elena apart.
And random plot-based obstacles are just not worthy of my ship. One of the things that has made Damon and Elena so compelling to date was that all of the conflict and tension between them was a product of who they were. There was one teeny, tiny little external force at work, which was that Stefan became Elena’s boyfriend. From that point on everything that unfolded between Damon and Elena was completely organic and internally-born. That’s not to say that things didn’t happen that they reacted to and thereby learned about themselves and their relationship… but those things were never overtly written into the show for them and only them – or rather, against them and only them.
Stefan and Elena needed the outside obstacles to have any kind of movement in their relationship, because left to their own devices they were A Happy Couple, but also because they were both so devoted to their holding patterns. The whole point of being together was to be not dynamic together. So things had to be dynamic around them all the time. First Damon, then Katherine, then Klaus. But at least these were people with their own hearts and minds and histories. At least these weren’t random physiological tricks being played on them.
And yes, sorry guys, the sire bond is random. It is not a proof of Damon and Elena’s forever love. Loads of people have feelings for the vampire who turns them and don’t get sired. Elena isn’t sired to Damon because she loved him, she’s sired to him because she’s… sired to him. There is no actual reason for it in the show, which draws one’s attention inevitably to what the reason is out of the show. Namely that the writers felt they needed to create conflict for them.
But you know what? I still can’t get past the fact that all the conflict in the Damon/Elena/Stefan/Caroline quadrangle could have happened without the sire bond. There was plenty of scope for all the same issues to arise simply by virtue of Elena becoming a vampire, and for things to get just as messy as they did when the cure plot came up – without anyone being bonded about it. This causes me great fear, you guys. It causes me great fear that the sire bond in fact exists and was written primarily with this scene at the end of 415 in mind.
What if the sire bond is real and the whole point of the stupid thing is to get Elena’s humanity switched off so the writers can take a walk on the wild side without actually worrying about Elena’s responsibility in any of it?
Now that would be a show-ruiner for me.
I hate to think the writers would go there. But with everyone telling me lately that the sire bond is real I’m forced to think such things. Because so far there just isn’t any other reason, whether logically, thematically, for plot or for character, for this bond to exist.
But I want to end on a happy note. Well a sad note. But happy-sad?
This was a superb episode of The Vampire Diaries. I am not okay with the sire bond. It actually kind of ruined the first viewing for me entirely. I was this gloriously weepy mess all the way up until Damon said ‘Turn it off’ and Elena did and it became clear that not only was it not going to finally be proven fake and go away, there was still a possibility it could be real, and if it is it had just been used to push Elena into perhaps the biggest decision of her life.
But? This was a superb episode of The Vampire Diaries. And I think I stared to appreciate that more and more on second, third, fourth viewings. And you know, even with all of my anxiety about the overall arc this season, it’s still pretty damn amazing that a show can make me write 30,000 words about one episode.
ONE EPISODE. 30,000 WORDS.
And I know, I know, some of them probably don’t make all the sense in the world. But they were all written with love – or at least with passion.
Very excited (terrified) to see where the show goes next. RIP Jeremy Gilbert, I will miss you.
Sophy says: When The Vampire Diaries and Once Upon A Time do a crossover, Stefan will be the first to know.
Rin says she will watch The Vampire Diaries someday and come back and Rin all over this recap AND SHE WILL FUCKING WEEP HER LUNGS UP BECAUSE GILBERT CLAN.