Vampire Diaries: The End of the Affair

“It’s never going to be the same.”

The soap-operatic long-form storytelling structure of the Vampire Diaries rarely results in episodes with a distinctive structure. “The End of the Affair,” however, is a marvel of both extended narrative and short-form parallel structure. Both of tonight’s plots focused on two people coming together to rescue someone from their complicated captors. The emotional stakes of each plot illuminate the complexity of the other. And OMG that’s Gordon Ramsey’s little brother!

Stefan, Damon, and Elena

Last week, Elena risked herself, Damon, and Alaric to hunt for Stefan in Tennessee. This week, Damon continued to indulge Elena’s urge for the self-sacrificial salvation of her favorite Salvatore brother, taking her all the way to the city of big shoulders for a little Gatsby-esque fun. Damon’s motives are increasingly complex: we know he wants Elena to love him, but he’s also willing to sacrifice himself—by being with Klaus—to keep her happy by reuniting her with Stefan. And we can’t forget that Stefan is sacrificing himself to keep Damon alive and safe.

This triangular self-sacrifice became quadrangular, too: Katherine is following Stefan and Klaus, and is feeding Damon information. To save Stefan? To appease Damon? To distract Klaus so she can sneak up on him? She knows Elena has Rebekah’s necklace—but does she know that matters?

“Stefan’s second personality home” and his diary revealed Stefan’s hidden secrets to Elena, just as Klaus’s un-compulsion re-revealed his past to Stefan. Elena is still willing to come to terms with Stefan’s dark, serial-killer past, but Stefan doesn’t feel like redemption is possible. Last time Stefan went Ripper, it took him 30 years to get over it. Stefan knows that, with every moment he stays with Klaus, and with every victim he takes, the chance of reuniting in any meaningful way with Elena becomes less and less possible. She’ll be nearing fifty when he becomes “her Stefan” again. He must lie to her about his motives and his desires to try to force her to stop wanting him.

Just as the hidden spaces of Stefan’s closet-within-a-closet revealed his past to Elena, the flashbacks illuminated the specifics for us. Unlike many fans, I’m not a huge fan of flashbacks on this show, but I really enjoyed these. Part of that enjoyment was due to my affection for the 1920s, but part was the willingness of the writers to show Stefan as a happy-go-luckily “sick freak” who loves to bring the pain.

Warning: This Paragraph Contains Allusions to Angel and Buffy.

Stefanus’s hi-jinks are very Angelic: he likes to hurt more than just to kill. Unlike Spike, he’s not just in it for the rush. He enjoys the ritzy lifestyle, and has a lovely blonde ancient vampire in his past who was resurrected by Stefan’s nemesis, with whom he has to work in order to save the people he loves. Even his victim’s name, Liam, evoked Angelus’s human self—and Stefan killed him, perhaps symbolizing that VD is willing to go even farther with Stefan’s dissipation. Maybe they’ll even go farther with the Stefanus episodes than Angel did with the Angelus episodes (inspired, let’s not forget, by a powerful creature from Angelus’s past that he had forgotten). Rebekah stabbing Klaus but knowing he wouldn’t die was also very familiar.

End Spoilery Paragraph

Despite the appeal of flapper outfits and bootlegged liquor, though, it was Damon’s concern for Elena that was the highlight of this episode for me: “I had an hour to realize what a bad idea it was to leave you here alone. Process it and move on... Are you okay? Okay, good. Get dressed. You’re all gross and road-trippy.” The writers do such a fabulous job of permitting Ian Somerhalder a complicated range of emotion, and he has done a wonderful job of making Damon complicated and distinctive. (Can you imagine anyone else in the role?) Here, he manages to jump from snarky to obviously upset with himself to snarky again—all while showing exactly how worried he was, and how he deals with that sort of self-flagellating regret with inappropriately humorous insults.

Caroline, Sheriff Forbes, and Tyler

Whereas Stefan’s relationship with his “captor” is a complicated bromantic love affair (with Klaus) and a romantic love affair (with Rebekah), Caroline’s relationship with her captor is simple: he’s her father, and he thinks that it’s love, to hate what she is and make her what he wants her to be.

Poor Caroline, who always felt like her father “got her” more than her mother did. Now, her father wants to “cure” her of her impulses with a Clockwork Orange-style aversion therapy evocative of attempts to “cure” gay people of their orientation. Daddy Bill doesn’t see the irony, even though it was made quite clear in an earlier episode that he’d left Sheriff Forbes for another man. And he doesn’t see the pain he’s causing, either. Why can’t he love Caroline like he used to? Now that she’s a vampire, she is more mature, more thoughtful, more caring, and can absolutely kick ass if needed. How can he not love that? Sick freak.

Bites

• Elena waking up to Damon in bed.

• Even if we assume that Stefan still has the lease or title to his apartment, how has it not been turned into a tacky modern condo by now?

• I lived in Chicago for a year. I cannot think of a less magical place. (I was poor, cold, and my favorite cat died.)

• As soon as I saw Gloria in the flashbacks, I said to myself: “She must be a witch.” Indeed, she is.

• Rebekah calls Klaus, “Nik.” It’s odd that they should give him two nicknames. And a little awkward.

• Sebastian Roche, who has been in both Fringe and Supernatural, was in the last nano-second of Stefan’s flashback. Does that mean we’ll get more Chicago flashbacks, or that Sebastian Roche will return as a vampire in the present? Is he the person hunting Klaus and Rebekah?

And Pieces:

• Damon: “Let’s just say he’s not there to meet Oprah.”

• Damon: “And I’m shocked! Stefan’s not a virgin?”

• Klaus: “So, a hybrid walks into the bar, says to the bartender...”
Gloria: “Stop. You may be invincible, but that doesn’t make you funny.”

• Damon: “I could still indulge in a few Daisy Buchanans of my own.”

• Klaus: “You’re right. He does have funny hair.” (A very Angelic joke.)

• Gloria: “You may be cute, but you’re still a vampire.”

• Damon: “You kill Andi one day, you save my life the next? What are you? Good? Bad?” (Is anyone else reminded of “So you’re the bad slayer now? Does that mean I’m the good slayer?”)

• Damon: “She’s not going anywhere until she’s got you checked into vampire rehab.”

• Damon: “Oh, honey, I’ve been called worse.” Nothing has ever made me laugh as hard as I did when he said that.

This was a wonderful episode. I didn't miss Bonnie, Matt, Jeremy, or even Alaric. The simplicity of the stories that were being told really gave each character a chance to shine. This expanded geography, too, is an interesting development on a show that started off being about a small town. Perhaps we're getting a sense of just how VD might deal with the inevitable college years that I assume will start next season.

Four out of four metaphorical closets.

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

12 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Vampire Diaries never sits on my DVR. Mostly because I can never predict where they're going to go, both emotionally and geographically. I keep being surprised at how monstrous they're making Stefan, and as a Buffy/Angel fan who saw a lot of the parallels you pointed out, Josie, I shouldn't have been surprised. And Ian's Damon is such a joy. How long will it take for Elena to give up on Stefan and turn to Damon?

Tyler and Mom teaming up to rescue Caroline was great. And it was so sweet of Tyler to stay there and watch over her while she's sleeping. Not Twilight at all. :)

Interesting that Tyler and Caroline's mom are certain that being a vampire doesn't make Caroline a monster, while we're learning that Stefan really was a monster.

TVNerd said...

Mrs. Forbes, and Tyler really did earn some serious points with me. Saving Caroline at gunpoint was really... um, I don't have a comparison but it was neat!

I love that Stefan basically has a completely new life, complete with fully flushed out love interest in only one episode. Klaus wasn't kidding when he said that Stefan wouldn't want to go back.

I can see Stefan struggling with his time with Elana, and measuring what he has with Rebekah by comparison. Is the love he has for her different because he was different. Are those emotions tied to the monster? Or is he still the good guy that Elana knew, just with slightly stickier hands.

Is it me or are the parallels between Spike/Damon and Angel/Stefan really cemented in this episode? I hope that means that our Damon will have a complicated affair with our Buffy/Elana.

I'm really pleased to see my favorite shapeshifter/angel has jumped shows ala Mark Sheppard. And it's a treat to learn that Klaus is afraid of him.

TVNerd

Josie Kafka said...

This comment contains Angel spoilers.

TVNerd, saving Caroline at gunpoint was sort of like Darla and Co. saving Angelus from Holtz with the crossbows and the wagon.

TVNerd said...

LOL, now that you mention it you're right!

I so do not have a problem with VD emulating Buffy. They are different enough that I'm not worried about VD becoming a clone somehow.

TVNerd

Vance said...

Billie, regarding your college years comment, I do believe that Elena graduated high school after the end of the second season. It is typical for many to graduate high school on the year that they turn 18. This should hold true for Elena unless she failed a grade. She may be one of those that decided to not attend a post-secondary institution.

Eris said...

SUCH a terrific episode! I was on the edge of my seat (metaphorically - I was watching it in bed...) the whole way through. It's so unpredictable. I love that we can never tell what twists and turns we're going to take. Klaus and Stefan have a past! That's an awesome plot development. Can't wait to see where it goes.

Damon and Stefan and Elena were heartbreaking. It's so sad - and it feels so real. That he truly might never be able to come back to her. :-( I also loved Damon's anger at himself for leaving Elena - all the emotions played across his face so quickly. Wonderful work.

Caroline! Oh poor, poor Caroline! Her Dad tried to CURE her? It's so sickening. The poor darling. I felt awful for her when she was crying in Tyler's arms at the end. At least her Mom is so supportive. And Tyler is winning all sorts of new fans with his sweetness! :-) I just hope he doesn't disappear into sweet boring boyfriend territory.

Great, great, GREAT episode. Going from strength to strength. And another awesome review - I love that you pop them up so quickly so that I'm not hanging on waiting for it! Thank you! Have to catch my breath now! And get some sleep.

Eris said...

In my gushing last night, I forgot to say this about the episode structure: The End of the Affair is a novel by Graham Greene which was made into a terrific film a few years ago by one of my favourite directors, Neil Jordan. Jordan's work is often suffused with Catholic guilt, especially over sex and the pursuit of pleasure - he also made Interview With A Vampire.

Graham Green's novels also frequently have a strong element of Catholic guilt running through them and the characters spend a lot of time struggling with their consciences. In The End of the Affair, the main character, Maurice Bendrix is still incredibly bitter over the sudden, unexpected ending of his affair with a woman named Sarah a few years earlier when Sarah's unsuspecting husband approaches him with his fears that Sarah is now having an affair. Bendrix, filled with jealousy of the new lover, begins to investigate and in the process, discovers why Sarah left him and what exactly she is doing now and why. The novel's structure is a series of non-sequential flashbacks from Bendrix's present life and investigation of Sarah back to his memories of their time together during the Blitz and her past and present through her diary, which he steals and reads.

The novel is about guilt, hate ("this is a diary of hate") and jealousy, but also about all kinds of love (sexual love, friendship, love of God, familial love) and a spiritual journey towards peace and redemption: "I hate You, God, I hate You as though You existed." It's a cracking read. And the film is excellent also - Ralph Fiennes as Bendrix, Julianne Moore as Sarah and Stephen Rea as her husband, Henry.

I don't suppose I really need to draw all the parallels to the Vampire Diaries episode - they're all right there to be seen, from the structure to the themes to the diary-reading! As it's one of my favourite novels (and one of my favourite films), I was delighted to see the way in which it connects to one of my favourite tv shows. :-)

Harry Earle said...

Oh wowowow. Consider my mind blown by VD, with help from Josie and Eris. Josie, what a fantastic review - I really appreciated the links to all the Angel/Buffy parallels. Eris I now realise the episode title is 1000x cleverer than I thought it was, and I am going to watch that film, thanks!

Samantha Gomes said...

Before reading your review Josie and Eris comment on the book/film, I thought the episode was great, but now great seems a bit too little for it. I'm definetly watching it again to catch all these parallels that I couldn't at first because I was LITERALLY on the edge of my seat watching it.
Now, a not-so-funny remark, shoudln't stefan call Damon and ask him etiher to break the necklace in small pieces or send it to him by fedex? I don't know why but it seems two originals will be back to Mystic Falls soon.
PS: I started rewatching VD and after seeing the first episode my immediate thought was, wow, when did VD become as good as it is now? How different and much better is the show now? ;)

Eris said...

@Harry Earle - thank you! Hope you enjoy the film when you get to see it. Love your Glee reviews btw. :-)

@Samantha Gomes - I know! I only started watching it almost by accident 3/4 of the way through the first season because I'd read a few reviews dismissing the first episodes as rubbish. Which they kind of are! But then after getting hooked (and confused) by the final eps of the season, I went back and watched from the start and was blown away by the improvement in quality - and it has just kept getting better and better and better! It's my current favourite show, just nudging out Supernatural.

It is very annoying that VD isn't instantly amazing though because it makes it harder to get people into the show. My best friend and I normally love the same genre shows (both big Whedonverse fans, both love Supernatural etc) and I really thought she'd like VD. But even though I warned her to just grit her teeth and bear the first few eps because it all got awesome very quickly, she just couldn't stick with it. Such a shame! I managed to successfully convert someone else though!

johanne said...

Great episode, and great review!

There's one thing I can't quite understand; Stefan knew Klaus from before, but was compelled to forget- but what about Damon? Wouldn't he remember?
I can't recall there being any signs of Damon knowing about Klaus' past when he (Klaus) came into their lives (again) in season two...

Doc said...

johanne, I know you'll never read this, but:

I don't think there's any reason for for Damon to remember Klaus; he (Damon) told Elena that at that time Stefan was being a "ripper douche" and that he (Damon) avoided Stefan in those months/years.

Slainte!