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Our show is back! The Vampire Diaries returns with a particularly high body count and brings us closer to Damon than we’ve ever been before — not only into his much-ballyhooed bedroom, but also as witnesses to his greatest act of kindness, the revelation of his deepest secret, and his answer to his existential crisis.
The Lady’s a Wolf: Since last we saw Jules, she tore some innocent campers limb from limb. Then she bonked a cop on the head with one of those limbs. (I love this show.) While we may never know for sure if she and Mason were actually friends, it’s clear that she takes a very different approach to being a werewolf than he did. There’s no evidence she’s remorseful for killing those people, and she took no steps to lock herself up on the full moon. She clearly privileges werewolf lives over vampires — does she care about human life? Why isn’t she more afraid of the vampires in Mystic Falls? Her confidence with Damon comes across as justified, not as bravado, and I’m curious to meet the “others” she tells Tyler are on their way. Will Mystic Falls soon count even numbers of werewolves and vamps?
For now, at least until her wolfy pals roll into MF, the greater significance of Jules’ little talk with Tyler is how it will impact the relationship between him and Caroline. Their friendship, and budding romance, is built on shared secrets and on trust; if Tyler believes that Caroline is deceiving him (which she is, although altruistically), everything that binds them together could unravel in an instant. Add to that Jules’ accusation that it was Caroline and her vampire pals who murdered Mason, and the raging side of Tyler’s personality may be directed at Caroline in the coming episodes. With both of the boys in her life, Caroline’s relationships are marred by her inability to tell the whole truth — she can only be partially honest with Tyler or with Matt, and that limitation threatens to destroy what she has with them. Like Tyler, Matt trusts Caroline but he sees that there’s something she isn’t telling him, the something that’s keeping them apart. (Besides Dana.)
Caroline’s mixed feelings for her suitors makes for great television; she tells Matt she loves him and clearly means it (her teary eyes get me every time), but she also responds rather favorably to Tyler’s advances before realizing the implications of their kiss. Their love triangle is believable, complicated, and compelling. She doesn’t want to betray Matt, but it’s undeniable that there’s something between her and Tyler. It’s a tricky situation to navigate, especially since Matt and Tyler are so close . . . almost like brothers. Okay, yes, I’m about to make a point of comparison here about the potential future of Elena, Stefan, and Damon, the characters whose romantic plotlines fans are, generally speaking, more invested in. While I’m not suggesting that the Caroline-Matt-Tyler story is simply emotional preparation for viewers in case Elena one day struggles with a similar situation, I think we as fans of the show (in particular those deeply into the romantic storylines) can keep one thing in mind when we ponder the characters’ futures: Caroline’s two romances have been handled with so much heart and with delicacy, especially in this episode where she’s locking lips with both. We’re fortunate that TVD has writers who take good care of their characters and who build their relationships carefully and realistically.
Death Happens: Traditionally on The Vampire Diaries, death is swift; (to use a Caroline-ism) it’s curtains for vampires, werewolves, witches, and humans suddenly and often instantaneously in almost every case. But in The Descent, Rose’s deterioration lasts a day, giving her a chance to let go of her fear of death and giving Elena and Damon the opportunity to glean wisdom from her before she’s gone. Despite Damon’s suggestion that she stop talking about the things that upset her (interesting coping mechanism, D), Rose repeatedly reflects on how she’s lived her life and the choices she’s made, some of which she sees echoed in Damon’s and Elena’s. Rose chose to spend the majority of her 500 years on the run from Klaus, driven by fear and unwilling to build a life for herself. She sees fear as Elena’s motivation behind her deal with Elijah and calls her willingness to die “giving up.” The scary-as-heck scenes of Elena evading Crazy Rose’s attack shows that Elena’s sense of self-preservation is still alive and kicking (how clever and disgusting to dig into Rose’s wound!), so is Elena’s choice to work with Elijah motivated by selflessness or fear? Is Elena admitting defeat without even fighting the battle? Upon seeing Stefan at the end of the episode, Elena isn’t upset that he’s tried to find Isobel in the hopes of discovering more about the Klaus Situation. I’m curious to see how shaken Elena’s resolve is after Rose told her to fight in spite of her fear and after Damon’s accusation that Elena is the one giving up.
In The Descent (which is my new favorite Damon episode), the bad Salvatore brother shows just how good he is at being the “nice guy.” Though his words don’t match his actions as he denies to Stefan and to Elena that Rose’s life matters to him, Damon takes care of Rose, he tries to get a cure out of Jules, he comforts and reassures Rose, and, in the end, he does the kindest possible thing. In a dream he’s controlling, he brings her to her favorite place, one that no longer exists in the real world, he takes away her pain, and he ends her life. Damon may be right when he earlier quips to Elena that “death happens,” but his implication that its commonness makes any one person’s death ordinary is wrong, and he knows it. As much as he refuses to acknowledge that he has feelings, he does — he feels, he cares, he hurts, and Rose’s death and Elena’s insistence that he should emote drives Damon to a breaking point. Since we first met Damon lying in the road waiting for victims, we’ve seen him slowly build up to this moment. Now lying in the road lost in his struggle between monster and man, he finally admits (albeit only to a soon-dead stranger) that he desperately misses being human, but that his efforts to be who Elena, and Stefan, want him to be fall short again and again. If he can’t be human, then shouldn’t he let his vampire instincts take over? So soon after ensuring that Rose has the most humane death imaginable, Damon chooses to give in and kill again. It may not be his best option, but it’s the easiest.
Compelling Moment: Damon biting into his existential crisis.
The Rules: A vampire bitten by a werewolf suffers from incredible pain, chills, delirium, and rabidity. Werewolves can “sniff out” vampires, and they are capable of tearing humans limb from limb.
- Was the police officer in the opening scene from Mystic Falls PD? (Sheriff Forbes doesn’t mention a missing cop or a pile of dismembered bodies to Damon.)
- Elena drinks some diluted vervain before handing over the glass to Stefan. Is Stefan no longer feeding from her? Or will he be getting a two-in-one effect — building strength from her blood and immunity to vervain?
- Did Rose hear Damon and Elena’s conversation in the hallway about how likely it is that she’d die? Seemed like they were well within vampire-hearing range.
- Did Elena forget about the doors to the patio opposite the front door of the Salvatore house? Her instincts in that chase scene were totally clever, save for this horror-movie moment of running up the stairs when she should be running out the door (to quote Ms. Sydney Prescott).
- A point of curiosity: was Rose a blood-bag feeder before she started hanging out in Mystic Falls? She says she never liked taking human life, but (in Rose) we saw Trevor tear into the human he’d compelled to kidnap Elena. Did Rose consider feeding on, compelling, and/or killing humans as a sometimes-necessary evil?
Other thoughts & questions to ponder before we get into Daddy Issues (EP213):
- Just like the old vampire trick of lying in the road to stop a passerby, werewolf Jules plays the victim with the police officer, and then attacks.
- Another magical Isobel phone number! (The first message for fans was in A Few Good Men.) I love these treats for viewers. Now if only this kind of thought went into the show’s billboard slogans . . .
- Thank you to the writers for first showing us Damon’s room not in the context of one of his sorority-girl parties but as the sick room for Rose, in a moment shared just between her and nursemaid Elena.
- “Not now, Dana.” Best Matt line ever?
- Damon hands Elena a stake as they look for Rose. In addition to arming the girl, how about some self-defense lessons (à la Angel and Cordelia, season 3)? As much as the brothers Salvatore enjoy saving Elena from harm, it would be great if she were better prepared to save herself since she’s often alone with a vamp on a murderous rampage.
- And Uncle John is back. Looking forward to see how he works with vampires to protect his estranged daughter from ritual sacrifice . . . and with no magical Gilbert ring to raise him from the dead.
What did you think of The Descent? Did you cry along with Damon? Did you cheer for the return of the monster in him? (Those are not mutually exclusive options; I certainly did both.) Sound off below with your comments, and please remember to keep them spoiler free.
Crissy Calhoun is the author of Love You to Death: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries and is writing a follow-up book that covers season 2 (due out in September 2011). When not obsessively re-watching CW shows, she works as managing editor at ECW Press in Toronto. She blogs on TVD, Gossip Girl, and other random things at crissycalhoun.com and tweets @crissycalhoun.
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