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Vampire Academy: Ascension

"You can't make a world you can't envision."

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen! Too bad it’s the wrong one.

Season finales have an obligation to keep the promises made throughout the season. It doesn’t have to answer every question, but it needs to offer a satisfying conclusion even as it lays the groundwork for the future. In this case, we’re told from the pilot’s saga sell that Lissa and Rose’s friendship would spark a rebellion. The finale delivers that spark.

Lissa began the season, focused on her and her best friend’s personal happiness. Her brother Andre’s supposed death thrusts her into a political maelstrom she never wanted. Lissa became the head of the Dragomir family by default and heir to the throne, out of a sense of obligation to Andre’s legacy. Yet, she is content to follow the path the Queen and Victor have laid out for her. And even after witnessing the callousness of her fellow Royals firsthand, she is relieved when that path excludes her from the monarchy.

However, her sudden loss of status leaves her powerless when the Royal Council deliberately put her friends in danger. And seeing Victor, a man Lissa respected, sacrifice the people he supposedly cares about in pursuit of power is the final straw that convinces her to fight for the throne. Dominion should treat all of its citizens equitably, not just Royals.

Rose reaches the same place via a different path. She was never blind to the injustices and petty indignities her fellow Dhampirs have labored under for centuries. She just didn’t believe it would apply to her. If Andre became King, Lissa would have her pick of Guardians and Rose’s future as her best friend’s protector was assured. She would never have to live as a broodmare on a Commune, or worse, as a blood whore.

She soon learns that neither she nor Lissa are immune to Dominion’s inhumanity. However, where others (cough, cough, Dimitri) might have acquiesced under the weight of religious and cultural traditions, Rose rebels against a system that is so demonstrably unfair for the majority of Dominion’s citizens. It’s her disillusionment with Lissa and Dimitri that prompts her escape plans with Mason, not her willingness to fight for change.

As the two of them have grown, they have influenced the people who surround them. In Lissa, Christian has found a kindred spirit (no pun intended). They have both lost their parents, which leaves them feeling cut off from the other students, Christian because his parents are Strigoi and Lissa because she’s been named heir. In each other, they find both understanding and a measure of safety, in addition to their mutual attraction.

Lissa counterbalances Christian’s grief. If not for her, he may have given in to his desire to join his parents. Instead, his need to ensure Lissa’s safety allowed him to see his parents for what they had truly become. Now, he’s determined to make amends for the damage they caused.

As for Dimitri, he and Rose have made each other better. She is no longer the “punch first kinda girl” and he understands that sometimes following the rules is not the right thing to do. More importantly, Rose has given Dimitri hope that a better life is possible.

Their friends come to similar conclusions. By virtue of being a non-Royal in a Royal household, Mia is continuously reminded of the disparity between classes. Meredith might have let Dominion crash and burn if she’d never met Mia, but her calculus has changed. Even Jesse pretended to have a heart. Mason is the only character with no real arc. He begins and ends the season, putting Rose’s well-being above all and getting wounded for his troubles. No matter how they got there, each has decided that the status quo is untenable.

Which brings us to this episode. Each of our heroes has their own moment of crisis. A moment where they need to decide who and what they will fight and potentially die for.

Although Lissa was determined to be Queen, it was in a mythical future where she’d know how to rule. Queen Marina’s death ends any pretensions to that fantasy. Yet, unlike Tatiana, who wants the crown but has no desire to rule, Lissa cares about the people. She turns down safe passage away from St. Vladimir’s, staying to heal her people.

Christian risked being accused of heresy to atone for his part in his parents’ atrocities. Then he risked his life to put his theory into practice, saving St. Vladimir Province in the process. However, if pressed, he would probably say his hardest decision was choosing to take his place on the Royal Council rather than follow Lissa into hiding.

Unlike the others, Rose was free, content knowing that Lissa was safe in Dimitri’s care. But when Rose realizes Lissa’s in trouble, Mason is honest enough to tell her the truth. That Rose would come back to save Lissa and Dimitri was never in doubt. Neither is the fact Mason would follow. Rose’s choice is between what she wants and what she believes she must do. Mason may be a great guy, and she may love Dimitri. However, she is a Guardian, and they come first.

Dimitri ends the season as he began it, choosing duty over desire. Although the definition of duty has changed. He can protect Lissa, and by extension Rose, best by staying in Dominion and fighting on her behalf. Although he’s banking on being absolved of treason due to a lack of well-trained Guardians and the assumption Tatiana doesn’t suspect his part in Lissa’s escape. Those may be long odds.

And what of Tatiana? Despite watching her machinations throughout the season, we still know so little about her. How has she managed to corral the previously ungovernable Strigoi? Why would she want the throne and not care about ruling? And how does she move like a Dhampir? Now that she has the crown, what’s next?

Our heroes may be scattered within and without Dominion. But they are unified in purpose. It appears the rebellion has begun.

It may have had a weak start, but the season became the emotional rollercoaster we’ve come to expect from Plec and MacIntyre. Fingers crossed for season two.

4 out 5 Spirit Infused Stakes

Bits and Bites:

There were so many characters we did not actually see die, including Victor and the previously eulogized Alberta, that I feel the need to remind everyone of #10 of Billie’s Rules of Television.

Alchemists (the mysterious people in black from "Beyond the Wards") were finally mentioned by name. Maybe a certain alchemist might be introduced next season?

Dane Zecklos hiding behind a fellow council member and refusing to get in the car if Silver was there is proof that he deserved what he got.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the awkward sweetness of the hug between the Hathaways. It may have taken all season, but they finally acknowledged their mutual respect and love for one another.

I’ve shied away from comparisons to the book. The show has wildly diverged from the source material. Yet, while I’m sure there are purists out there who will disagree with me, I enjoyed the changes. For anyone who is curious, with a few notable exceptions, this season served as a prequel to the series. The first novel begins with Lissa and Rose on the run, while the finale ends there. And the accident that orphaned Lissa and caused her Spirit bond with Rose is seen through flashbacks. However, Rose’s introduction to Dimitri and Victor’s need for Lissa’s healing abilities were topics of the first book. And Dominion mythology, characters and plot points such as Lissa being accused of the Queen’s death were lifted from future books. I was down for all of it. Except for Mikhail’s death. That was plain unforgivable.


Croft: “Show them no mercy, for you will receive none.”

Christian: “I did this. This is all my fault.”

Victor: “Can you ever forgive me?”
Mia: “I’m not the one you should be asking.”

Meredith: “Christian reads those old books. I read maps, OK?”

Lissa: “I’m not ready to be queen.”
Queen: “No one ever is.”

Irene: “It is not easy to accept that for some things, there are no answers.”

Silver: “The Moroi spend their lives repressing themselves, and then they feel the need to repress everyone else.”

Dimitri: “Don’t lecture me about duty.”

Janine: “It was an honor to fight with such a skilled Guardian.”
Rose: “Me too.”

Mia: “Stay.”

Rose: “You are everything I never wanted to fall in love with.”

Lissa: “This is nothing like what we planned.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, the supernatural, and anything with a cape.

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