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Vampire Diaries: As I Lay Dying

“In spite of everything, we persevere.”

After last week’s mythology-heavy episode, this week VD returned to its roots by focusing on the emotion and relationships between our heroes, rather than the weighty backstory of Originals we don’t yet know too well. Awesome.

As I watched this episode, I started to understand why I’d been so resistant to the Originals. They’re not our heroes—which is to say, they’re not our friends. I’ve written before about the aspirational community of VD: how we love this show because we feel like unseen members of the inner circle. With every Klaus-flashback and superbendy mythological rule we stepped one or two degrees away from the emotional journeys that are this show’s center.

I don’t mean to dismiss Jenna's death, as that was super-sad. But grief over her passing was only in the background in this episode: Caroline didn’t mention it in her St. Scarlett’s Day speech at the Gone With the Wind screening, and Alaric only alluded to it in passing. VD trusted us to know what motivated Alaric’s anger toward Damon and Elena’s easy forgiveness of Damon.

Alaric isn’t ready to forgive. Old wounds are fresh now, and now that Isobel is dead, he is no longer compelled to feel okay about her death. While it feels like that happened eons ago, it might have only been a few days for Alaric—and for some of those days, his body was possessed by Klaus. Compound that with Jenna’s death, add some whiskey, and it’s unhappy days for Mystic Falls’ sexiest history teacher. Alaric’s relationship with Damon was perfectly encapsulated in their through-the-door scene. Alaric likes Damon, fights by his side, appreciates the careful way he treats Elena. But Isobel and Jenna are still between them.

On the other hand, though, Alaric didn’t lose sight of his own adulthood: when Jeremy died, he pointed out that he was “just a kid,” and it looks like he’ll be taking over parenting duties for Jenna. (Needless to say, this only make him 500% sexier in my eyes.) I hope he manages to beat the curse of parenting Elena and Jeremy, as so far every one of their parents has died a tragic and early death. They’re like the Spinal Tap of un-emancipated minors.

Elena wasn’t ready to forgive, but she knew that she would get there eventually. She also knows the horror of watching someone die with things left unsaid, so it’s understandable that she would get over the whole “you almost made me a vampire” thing. Kissing Damon was a beautiful gift when she thought he was dying. Now that he’s alive again it’s a terrible burden.

Especially in light of Stefan’s actions. Dark Stefan—or Stefanus, which is what I think we should call him—has fallen off the wagon and renewed his blood lust. He blames himself for Damon’s vampirism, and will do anything he must to save his brother and prevent Elena from having to deal with yet another loss.

Ironically, Damon realized his own complicity in becoming a vampire during his flashbacks: he made a choice, no matter how much he may have blamed Stefan for it later. His flashbacks, and especially the way he switched between past and present, Katherine and Elena, working his way through the emotional poison of the past 150 years—it was heart-wrenching. He told Elena that he loved her, too, which echoed his revelation in “Rose.” Then, he’d compelled Elena to forget how much he loved her. Now he can’t. And with Stefan gone...

The Originals were handy. Klaus’s blood saved Damon. Interestingly, Katherine made it happen: she, like Stefan, felt some responsibility for Damon’s emotional instability, loneliness, and death. When push came to shove, even Katherine came through for him. Damon’s persistent struggle is realizing that he can be a good man who is loved, if only he gives others the opportunity. I hope Katherine’s actions make him realize his potential. (Especially now that Stefan is the bad brother now.)

Meanwhile, we almost lost Jeremy. I’m glad he didn’t die, if only for Elena’s sake. (Bonnie, not so much.) And he seems to have acquired some sort of Ghost Whisperer powers, or something. Or maybe he’s haunted by undead lovers past—which does sound oddly like an unwritten Faulkner young-adult novel.

Also meanwhile, Caroline and her mom made up. Hooray!

Bites:

• Damon: “What’s the plan, Superman?” Still cheesy, even in death. (And is that yet another Smallville reference? The CW is full of them this week.)

• Alaric: “Sorry, you’ve reached somebody who is currently not operating.”

• Alaric: “I’m not allowed to help, just idly sit by while my girlfriend gets sacrificed on an altar.”

• Alaric: “Okay, give me the glass. Neither one of us is drunk enough for this conversation.”

• Damon: “I love you. You should know that.”

And Pieces:

• So, Elijah is dead. Again.

• Bianca Lawson was credited but didn’t appear. This at least the second time that’s happened, and I’m impressed by whoever negotiated her contract.

• Did Jeremy throw his laptop at Alaric?

• If this were Lost, we could all spend hours dissecting the Southern theme of the episode’s title and the GWTW screening, as well as the metaphor of moving beyond the past, being trapped by immoral urges, or haunted by specters of previous mistakes.

So much happened this season that it’s difficult to imagine how they could top it next year. Hopefully Damon’s near-death experience will help him become slightly less tortured, and hopefully Stefanus is as fun as Angelus. Plus, Vicki and Anna as undead ghosts? Double awesome.

Four out of four Supermans.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

21 comments:

  1. Loved it.

    You know what was fun? (Or, let me spend hours dissecting the Southern theme and the GWTW screening.) :) GWTW was set in Atlanta, and so is VD. I thought that was a subtle little salute. And the two scenes of GWTW that they showed signaled what was going on with the plot. They showed the scene with massive defeat and all of the bodies first, and then they showed the scene on the road right before Rhett kissed Scarlett for the first time.

    Alaric as daddy? Let's hope he breaks the Gilbert parent curse. He's too good a character to kill off. And I really, really hope that we just saw the brothers switch places. Let's give Paul Wesley a chance to be really bad, and Ian Somerhalder a chance to be truly good. I can't wait for next season.

    I'm so glad you're reviewing this series, Josie. Four out of four Supermans from me, too.

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  2. Actually, let me amend my faulty comment. VD isn't set in Atlanta. They just film there.

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  3. Thanks for the excellent review. During the run up to the final confrontation with Klaus I wasn't too thrilled with some of the events. But this episode fixed a lot of my misgivings... and then some.

    Alaric moving into Daddyville, could be awesome if he can escape the Gilbert curse.

    Damon turning good, could be really interesting as long as he doesn't loose his snark.

    Jeremy seeing dead people, could be great with the return of characters. We already have Vicky and Anna. Perhaps there could be more including our dearly departed Jenna, the Gilbert parents we've never seen, and maybe even Jon/Sark as well?

    This season has been wonderful, and I'm amazed that this show keeps getting better.

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  4. Was that total derailment of character of Stefan or what?

    When I was watching this episode, I was really thrilled, but then I thought "frell, they just jumped the shark!".

    I know everyone was bored of good Stefan and he's cool when he's dark, but he didn't just go evil - it turned out that he was never even good in a first place!

    For two seasons, Stefan has always been the one who tried to protect the innocent. Now it seems like he was only pretending to be a do-gooder the whole time and he's really rotten inside. He agreed to be a mass murderer without much hesitation! Yeah, I know he seemed to have SOME doubts and he really wanted to save his brother, but let me ask you question: if someone told you that the only way to save someone close to you is to kill hundreds of people, would you agree? If your answer is "yes", then you're definitely a good person. Stefan was pretending to be a good guy quite effectively, though.

    One thing that amused me is that Stefan just became an amoral combination of Dean and Sam from Supernatural :). Another thing: I'm watching the show with my 13-year old sister and it's kinda disturbing that she's watching a show where two murderers are protagonists. Man, she should rather be watching "Breaking bad" with me!

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  5. By the way, I'm posting from my sister's google account, hence the number 98 in my nickname.

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  6. Thank you all for very kindly not mentioning the glaring typo in the lead quote. "In spite of all, we preserve" was even funnier/more awful in the context of the caption on the picture.

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  7. Great episode. Much more introspective than the last season's finale, which I think counteracts the past episodes quite nicely.

    Billie, at least since the show's set in Virginia, you still have the connection to the Confederacy.

    Elena should definitely keep that bottle of super awesome fixer blood- knowing Mystic Falls, it'll come in handy!

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  8. Josie- I must be full on addicted to your reviews at this point because I must have checked the site 20 times since watching VD finale on Friday off my Tivo! Was so glad to see you loved it as much as I did! But mostly I wanted to thank you for a great season of reviews, you have made me go from mildly enjoying VD to loving it! Can't wait to see what the writers bring next season and your reviews!!
    P.S. - your first stephanus reference made me really laugh because I was watching season 2 of Buffy when I read it!

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  9. Having to wait until next semester is going to kill me. I knew they would never kill Damon, and one thing was just marvellous: I think he finally got that he is worthy, that people can love him, especially when Elena told him " I like you now". Katherine coming over with the rescue was great too,especially for I felt sick of how many times people insisted on preferring Stefan over him.
    Even Alaric still hurt because of Jenna's death, when he could be blaming Damon all along, he was there for his friend. They will always have that scar over their relationship, though.
    And oh, how sweet did Damon look when he was about to die? "It's ok to love them both"! Amen, Katherine, Amen.
    Stefan reviving his blood lust was kind of scary, but understandable, now let's just wait and see how evil he will be and how Damon and Elena will make him come back. I'm so glad the series is diverting from the book, because it's getting much more interesting. And now what, Jeremy goes "The sixth sense": I see dead people! Why, oh why do we have to wait?

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  10. Sefanus, haha. I'm all for it.

    How did Katherine get inside the house. I don't remember Elena inviting her inside since she got the deed to the Salvatore House. Plot hole or memory hole?

    I have mixed feelings about the ghosts of vampires past. Yay Anna, but sorry Matt I never liked Vicky.

    Bonnie survives which is at least good for one thing. Please, please do a crossover with The Secret Circle. I miss the times when Angel and Buffy were in the same continuity. Doubly now that Torchwood isn't as connected to Who as it used to be. Same writing staff, same network and same author of novels. It's like a perfect match.

    Season 2 ends, watching it all together is so good that I'm on the fence. Should I wait and watch season 3 all together in a year or the traditional way.

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  11. Patryk, that's such a tough question to answer.

    As you've been commenting on the Season Two episodes, I've been horribly aware of how jealous I am that you get to marathon through it with no breaks between episodes. Season Three is off to a strong start, so there's no risk of disappointment. But if you think you can wait, I'd wait and do them all at once.

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  12. Another awesome show i'll get to watch all together: Fringe season 3. Next on the to do list.

    Also some more notes:

    So Klaus can apparently stay alive when he kills an original with the white ash + dagger combo. And he probably could do it even before the curse was broken because he killed his entire family somehow.

    While Elijah saving Klaus in the previous episode might have felt as a minor cop-out, this episode makes up for it. If Klaus had been dead then Damon would be too. Damon being alive can make up for almost enything.

    Josie, I know the feeling. I got it when Billie was reviewing Veronica Mars season 1. I would give a lot to see it again without knowledge what happenes. How I miss that show.

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  13. I may not have commented on all of them, but I enjoy your reviews so very much. (This site does wonders helping me get the "feeling" of watching a show in real time when I'm catching up on something, as here.) I also have to say that watching this show in one hit is incredible (I've got from the pilot to here in about a week) - but there's no way I'm waiting until season three is done. It's onwards from here!

    As for Bianca Lawson, I'm fairly sure that was her voice when Bonnie was channeling Emily.

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  14. Josie,

    I just wanted to thank you for these wonderful reviews. I recently watched VD, Seasons 1 and 2 in a matter of weeks on Netflix streaming. I have really enjoyed it, and it is because of your reviews that I decided to watch it. I read a lot of reviews on Billie Doux and trust all of you to recommend good shows. Seeing VD reviewed here really made me get over my wariness about the show and jump in to watch it. It is wonderful and so are your reviews.

    I may have to wait until Season 3 comes to Netflix unless I can find away to catch up. I don't want to miss a moment and then be spoiled, so I can't start now without seeing he first half of the season. I am glad your reviews will be here when I am ready.

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  15. Suzanne, thank you so much for your lovely comment.

    One of my favorite things about reviewing VD is drawing people into this show despite its rather mundane premise. I feel like a successful proselytizer. I'm so happy that you're enjoying the show, and please know that it still hasn't lost its oomph, even halfway through Season Three.

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  16. Yeah, marathoning is definitely the way to go with this show! I started watching just two weeks ago (with episode 2, don't remember how long ago I saw the pilot, maybe a year), so I should catch up within a few episodes of season 4.

    In an odd way, this episode brought me full circle, as I caught part of this episode when it aired (would have never done such a stupid thing if I knew it was the season finale!). With just seeing Bonnie bring Jeremy back and Katherine showing up just in time with the cure for Damon, I got the impression that the show had way too much deus ex machina. Of course, now I know better!

    But that's the one drawback of marathons - it's impossible to avoid all spoilers, especially for someone who runs a TV blog! I've had the huge spoiler from the end of season three over my head the entire time I watched this - it definitely colored my opinion of several events near the end of this season.

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  17. Phew....WOW. Josie, add me to the list of "never thought I'd watch this show...read a couple of your rave reviews...decided to give it a try...and was hooked" crowd. I just finished a Season 1&2 marathon. Its been fun reading all the reviews and comments...I really have nothing to add, except (1) Where DO they find all these hot guys, I mean really?!?!? (I can say that without guilt since a few of them are firmly into their 30's now), and (2) I will miss David Anders (Sark!). His final act as Elena's Dad made me cry. On to season 3...

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  18. Well.

    Though I haven't quite recovered from the bad taste that much of the latter half of the season left me with, I can now officially say I'm glad I didn't give up after that last one.

    Things can only get better from here. Right?

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  19. I love Alaric as guardian, especially him making fun of Jeremy. The whole thing reminded me of Boy Meets World. =)

    I HATED Bonnie bringing Jeremy back from the dead! Why did we go through all the craziness to figure a way for Elena to survive if Bonnie can just bring people back from the dead!?

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