Oh decade dances — this was the one to end them all. Trickling stars, hideous chandeliers, wonderful 1920s costumes, bromances new and old . . . it should have been a magical night, but “dangerous dance karma” meant there was an unstoppable ghost witch on a mission to ruin everything.
Loopholes: To state the obvious, this is a show with a strong supernatural element, and I have always been happy to play along. Suspension of disbelief? Not a problem. I accept that vampires, witches, werewolves, ghosts, and magic objects exist. What makes this show great is that its supernatural world makes enough sense that the human stories told within that world resonate; they are believable. It’s incredibly difficult to create a world and stick to its rules, while constantly telling new stories, pushing characters into new places, and expanding the mythology. The Vampire Diaries has had a knack for giving us the unexpected in a way that made past events click together. Pieces of the puzzle were always fitting together in a way we didn’t predict, but which made a world of sense once revealed.
But when the supernatural world feels manipulated, governed by storytelling convenience rather than a kind of internal logic, then it’s hard (for me) to feel, to believe in, the human consequences that result from it. While I accept that sometimes vampires won’t use their super hearing or super speed — there’s always a ‘foggy moment’ or two in an episode — this season, there have been more wha? moments than in the past. For example, one of my personal pet peeves is Sage’s ability to read another vampire’s mind, an incredible talent for vampires which was dropped after that one episode and which I doubt we’ll see again. (I hope we won’t see it again…) It was too powerful a device to be sustainable; it would crush so many storytelling opportunities. (Like, in the last episode, why not have Stefan or Damon or Klaus read Evil Alaric’s mind and find out where the stake was, then send a human into the cave to get it?) And in Do Not Go Gentle, the over-reliance on magic, twisting of rules, and convenience of Esther came to a head for me. See foggy moments below for some of the things that seemed off. The confused plotting made it hard for me to react to the emotional aspects of the story.
But I don’t want to overshadow the final (or penultimate) chapter of one of my favorite characters, Alaric Saltzman — history teacher, day drinker, father figure, dreamboat, and co-captain of team beer and blood. RIP to the good side of Ric. In his relationships with the Gilbert kids and with Damon, Alaric had found a family — and that is such a keystone to this show. Whether blood-related or not, the importance of loved ones is paramount. As Bonnie says to Jaime, her friends are the most important things in the world. The gang comes together for their candlelight vigil in the old cemetery in a way we don’t often see on this show; usually death is swift and unexpected here. But for Alaric, there was time to say sad goodbyes — and personally I don’t know that I’m ready to really say goodbye until this vampire chapter is over. Matt Davis is fantastic at playing the rampaging psycho, but my heart is, of course, with his Alaric. And his final moments — looking at the gang assembled outside the Salvatore crypt, saying goodbye to Jer and Elena, and his stoic tear at the end with Damon — were heartbreaking. It’s a shame there won’t be opportunity for this kind of emotional moment from Matt Davis as Alaric in the future. (Assuming there isn’t a he’s-good-again twist on the horizon.) And it’ll be torture for his loved ones to see him resurrected as pure hatred and violence.
Esther’s machinations had another, unplanned effect: Klaus has rediscovered the purpose he had at the beginning of season 3: to build a hybrid army that will protect him from any threat his ghost-witch mama can throw his way. That spells an extra dose of trouble for the doppelganger — should Klaus and Elena survive this upcoming battle with Alaric, since they are both targets.
Outside the crypt, Meredith tells Damon that though Alaric says he wants to be alone, that’s not really true: what he actually wants is to be with his best friend. It’s an insight into another of the keystones of this show: isolation is sometimes more terrifying than the monsters of Mystic Falls. And in Do Not Go Gentle, we’re reminded of the unshakable bonds that exist: between siblings, friends, lovers, and family — in the widest definition of the word. It’s what makes that exchange between Stefan and Elena in the gym resonate: none of them is alone, not even in the darkest, most despairing moment. And perhaps, since peace has proven so elusive, that is really all that anyone can hope for.
Compelling Moment: Alaric and Damon’s final conversation, and that cork going in the empty bottle.
The “Rules”: In contrast to how Klaus left Alaric’s body in Klaus, Esther hops back into her own body with “a little magic” that requires no muttering or candles or anything. Instead of placing a protection spell on the stake itself, Esther transfers the protection spell in the Gilbert ring onto the white oak stake to make it “indestructible.” Using a ton of salt (maybe a literal ton), Esther places a magical binding circle around the school to trap the vampires. (And maybe Bonnie was trapped too? Otherwise, why didn’t she go to the old cemetery to rescue Elena and Alaric?) Klaus says that all boundary spells have a loophole. When Bonnie tries to do a locator spell to find Elena, Esther is somehow able to “fight” Bonnie, preventing her from succeeding. Esther turns Alaric into the “ultimate hunter”: he drinks the doppelganger’s blood, Esther kills him with the super stake (unclear if that is an important detail, or was just the handy weapon), and he finishes the transition when Bonnie force-feeds him her blood; the process also requires that Esther draw on “dark magic.” Newly vamped Alaric is apparently not a true immortal: in some unexplained way “when the time is right,” he will run out of the power Esther bestowed upon him and he’ll drop dead-dead.
Foggy Moments: The fog is thick for me this week, my friends. Okay, deep breath: It seemed really unrealistic that the gang left Alaric unsupervised after going to such lengths to take care of him and lock him up in previous episodes. At the end of Heart of Darkness, he had turned into Evil Alaric and went off with Rebekah, one of their enemies, to get the white oak stake, but no one goes into high alert mode despite not hearing from him until late the next day.
Is Klaus’s mansion so large that he didn’t hear Esther and Alaric talking in the coffin room? Is the school so large that Klaus didn’t hear Caroline and Tyler talking about breaking the sire bond? Where did Esther get the dagger and ash she had Alaric use on Rebekah? Wasn’t the ash, at the very least, in Klaus’s possession?
How was Esther still alive anyway? Wasn’t she relying on the link to the Bennett witches, which was severed when Abby became a vampire? If Esther has actually had the ability to both continue living in her own body and the magical strength to perform numerous spells, then why did she take off after Damon turned Abby? Isn’t the witch house (the place where 100 witches died violently) still more powerful than the location where just one was killed?
How did Damon spend the time between popping by the hospital and arriving at the dance — why didn’t he alert the gang about Alaric earlier? Why did Damon assume that the magic cure for Alaric (Bonnie’s herbs) wasn’t working, when earlier he’d discovered that Ric wasn’t taking them (and showed the full bottle to Meredith)?
How (and when) did Esther put the ring of salt around the entire high school, unnoticed? What is Esther’s justification for messing with dark magic — further upsetting the balance of nature — to create an uber vampire vampire hunter when she already has created the “ultimate” stake, which cannot be destroyed? When did Esther decide to target Alaric for her kill-the-Originals project? In the season 1 era or more recently? The way she explained it to Elena, it seemed like she was muttering in Ric’s ear every time he died. Was she also telling him to kill council members, and if so, why? Was it just a big coincidence that in 1912 Samantha Gilbert also targeted council members when she gave in to her dark side? Esther can’t have been planning to make Alaric a vampire vampire hunter for long, because in Smells Like Teen Spirit she made a deal with Ghost-Vicki to kill Elena (to prevent Klaus from making a hybrid army) and Esther needed Elena’s doppelganger blood to turn Alaric.
How did vampires take everything from Ric? Isobel decided to become a vampire, a decision she made as a human, not under any duress. Jenna was killed by a vampire, yes — Klaus. And the “good” Alaric was already plotting to kill that one vampire with his friends. Was Alaric so susceptible to influence that a total of, what, 16 hours spent with Esther overpowered the two years he spent with getting to know vampires of all sorts?
Klaus shows up at the old cemetery and whisks away his mother’s body, and completely trusts that his enemies, who have been trying to kill him all season, are telling him the truth about what went down with Alaric? Doesn’t even pop in to take a peek at Ric?
Jaime wakes up when Bonnie has a little nightmare, but sleeps through her getting out of bed and leaving the house? Or did sleepwalker Bonnie mind-whammy him too?
Thoughts & questions before Before Sunset (EP321):
- Poor Rebekah misses all the dances.
- Was Mikael a different kind of supernatural entity than his children? Esther says that she’s going to make Alaric in a “true hunter” like her husband, and that made me think that a hunter is distinct from a vampire. I had assumed that Mikael drinking vampire blood, and not feeding on living things, was his choice, not a part of his supernatural physiology. (And he did revive after Katherine force-feed him people blood.) But Esther seemed to follow the same transition steps for Alaric as she did with the Original kids, and Mikael was created at the same time as his children, wasn’t he? How would she and Mikael have known to make him a hunter, if their children hadn’t yet proven to be killers that required hunting? Did she upgrade him later?
- Is there a way to kill a witch-ghost, or are we stuck with Esther for the rest of the series (or until all vampires are dead, whichever comes first)?
- Where did Kol go after the Mary Porter run-in? Where’s Elijah?
- Is there any way to draw the good out of vamp Alaric? If he hates both vampires and vampire sympathizers, and his hatred is “pure,” is anyone safe? Where will he begin his murderous rampage?
- When Bonnie went to the cemetery, was she possessed by Esther, or was her dream-state consciousness making the choice for her? As she said to Damon earlier in the episode, there’s always a choice — so did she make one in feeding Alaric? How badly was she hurt by his attack?
What did you think of Do Not Go Gentle? Sound off below with your likes/dislikes, theories, and predictions.
Crissy Calhoun is the author of Love You to Death: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries and Love You to Death — Season 2. She’s currently working on her season 3 companion guide. She blogs (rarely) at crissycalhoun.com and tweets @crissycalhoun.
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