Now that was some enjoyable television. As the first episode of the final four, Heart of Darkness sets us up for the final stretch of season 3, pulling the various plots and characters together and pushing forward to what promises to be another epic finale.
Don’t Back Down Now: What I loved most about this episode — besides, you know, the wall action — was how beautifully the two main storylines resonated with each other: Alaric and Stefan battling their repressed evil alter egos in the Salvatore dungeon while Elena and Damon tussled with her repressed feelings and the previously unacknowledged patterns of their relationship. And outside those two passionate struggles — one violent, the other romantic — we saw Tyler return from his self-imposed exile in the Appalachian mountains, feeling he may have finally got a handle on his own Mr. Hyde and freed himself from Klaus’s control. Instead of denying their dark sides (or in Elena’s case, the feelings she’s afraid of embracing), the characters dive right in, and the result is an episode pulsing with energy thanks to raw performances, beautiful song choices, and great direction to go with the well-crafted story.
Stefan chooses to stay at home and watch over Alaric, both to give Elena space to explore her feelings for his brother and because he knows that finding out the location of the white-oak stake may require “whatever it takes” (i.e., extreme violence). Just as Tyler won’t know if his sire bond to Klaus is broken until he tests it, Stefan felt that while he had regained control over his bloodlust, it still held power over him. He hadn’t exorcised it, just repressed it. Both Alaric and Stefan realize that their darkness isn’t some separate, alien force that can be denied or blamed, but a part of who they are and driven by their own hidden desires and frustrations. Neither is compelled or possessed, and they feel the only way to overcome their darkness is to first embrace it. At Alaric’s insistence, Stefan taps into his ripper instincts, which lurk just beneath the surface of “good” Stefan, and the plan works. Evilaric (thanks for the nickname, Damon!) gives up the location of the stake, and Stefan emerges from the dungeon more in control of himself. How, or if, Alaric will overcome his other self remains to be seen.
Like Damon and Elena a few states away, Stefan decides it’s time to call Klaus out on his behavior, and the result is a strangely sad conversation. Klaus admits that he doesn’t have any intention of killing Stefan, because he’s been holding out hope that the friend he once had will return. (And this was when the Klefanettes needed smelling salts.) Our big-bad villain can be so transparently needy, while still maintaining such a menacing presence. And, in a twisted way, Klaus’s hopefulness reminds me of how Elena wouldn’t give up on the Stefan she knew and loved returning to her. In a you-go-girl moment, Stefan orders Klaus out of his house, refusing to play along or be controlled any longer. Will there be any fallout from Stefan rebuffing Klaus? Is there an uneasy alliance in their future now that Esther’s plot to kill all the Originals — and consequently all vampires — is back in play?
While I loved the reunion of Caroline and Tyler, and their romp in the cave, Tyler’s reaction to Klaus’s drawing was frustrating — even if it does makes sense as something Tyler would do. Granted, Tyler has been torturing himself in the Appalachians in an effort to gain control over his own dark side, being bound to Klaus. To return home only to sense some romantic closeness between Caroline and Klaus must smack of betrayal to Tyler — but he reacts and stomps off before he actually knows what’s going on. Why doesn’t he believe what Caroline says? (And who wouldn’t keep a portrait an Original drew of you and a horse? It’s only natural.) Like Rebekah being wary of Matt’s kindness, it seems that in Mystic Falls, everyone lives in fear of betrayal and rejection — and sadly, 99% of the time, they are right to be wary. Rebekah is being distracted by Matt (though it was unclear to me why it was necessary), but there seems to be a little chemistry there despite the set-up. Could there have been a Matt-Rebekah hookup in the future, or has the Esther possession dampened that potential?
Like her big brother wanting a bestie again, Rebekah’s desire to be part of the gang is rather heartbreaking. Rebekah feels that she’s not yet lived, despite her lifespan of a thousand years. Now that she and Klaus are no longer running, she can start. She’s an incredibly powerful Original vampire who could do whatever she’d like, and what she chooses to do is organize the Mystic Falls High decade dance. And she’s worried she won’t have a date. Claire Holt continues to do a magnificent job of making Rebekah sympathetic and vulnerable without losing her bite. The Caroline-Rebekah scene was classic — in particular, their in-unison “No” to Matt’s suggestion of doing both decades — and I hope that that is a relationship that develops further. What a freaking awesome duo those two could be. Of course, all is on hold with Rebekah now that Esther has moved from her dying body into her daughter’s. It’s tragic that each earnest emotional moment Rebekah has with someone quickly turns for the worse: with Elena, she was daggered, and here with Esther, she’s possessed. As much as I’m sorry that the real Rebekah is likely to miss the carefully planned decade dance, the final reveal of Esther’s possession cleverly ties together the various threats that have been developing over the second half of season 3: Esther and Evilaric are hell-bent on destroying all vampires, and that promises an explosive battle that could force former enemies to become allies.
Living Up to Expectations: I’ve said it before but, man, every Damon-Elena kiss feels like a first kiss, doesn’t it? It was an expectation-filled moment — both for the audience at home, and for Damon and Elena themselves. The trip was explicitly an explore-your-feelings experiment for Elena (and at Stefan’s behest, in what must have been an emotionally confusing conversation for her), and explore she did. Beyond the perfectly tense, passionate, fraught physicality of the scene at the motel — from Elena watching Damon (conveniently shirtless), to lying next to him, to the hand holding (be still my heart), to the up-against-the-wall make-out — what heightened their scenes was the frankness with which Damon and Elena (and Rose) discussed their relationship. Damon lays bare an essential truth about himself: he doesn’t let people see the good in him, because he doesn’t want to feel the burden of living up to anyone’s expectations — notably Elena’s. But by their Scary Mary house moment, when she pulls away from him, he has realized that there’s a flipside to that: she has expectations of him — they’re just not good. She expects that he’ll torpedo any budding romance at the first obstacle, because that’s what he’s done time and again. She has come to rely on that behavior as a way to avoid confronting her complicated feelings for Damon, and what they say about her deepest desires, who she is and what she wants. But Damon decides to thwart her expectations, to force her to finally face whatever she’s repressing and figure it out. Though it felt a little straight-from-the-writers-room, Rose’s explanation to Jeremy of why she’s rooting for Damon and Elena was particularly insightful. Will Damon be the best thing for Elena or the worst? Or will Elena opt to repair her relationship with Stefan? All I know is that I feel for the girl: even without her romantic drama, Elena’s life is complicated and dangerous and full of difficult, often impossible, choices. And it wouldn’t be The Vampire Diaries if it were any other way. Long may her life stay mesmerizingly messy.
Compelling Moment: The Elena-Damon motel sequence, from start to finish. That’s the kind of epic scene that makes real-life romance pale in comparison.
The Rules: Esther takes possession of Rebekah’s body, and the transfer happens a little differently from what we’ve seen before — a séance helped open up a channel for Emily Bennett to take over Bonnie and witches cast a spell for Klaus to possess Alaric. Here, Esther gets the shakes as she holds onto her daughter’s arms, and somehow magically jumps into Rebekah’s body. Esther-as-Rebekah is able to walk into the no-vampires-allowed cave, implying that it is the soul inside the body rather than the body itself that determines which magical rules apply. But in the case of AlariKlaus last season, he could enter the Salvatore house (then invitation-only for vampires, under Elena’s ownership) because Alaric, the body, was human. Are Esther’s magical skills coming into play here? Or have the rules of possession changed?
- Why did Damon and Elena seem surprised to find Kol lurking around Jeremy? Did Bonnie not tell them that Kol was Klaus’s watchdog? Why didn’t they tell Jeremy right off the bat that the Originals were watching him and that Damon and Elena intended to bring him home?
- Maybe I missed this part: why would Rebekah (and/or Klaus) care that Tyler is back in town? And why wouldn’t he stay at his own house? If he’s traversing the streets of Mystic Falls to get to Caroline’s house, his cover is just as blown as if he was sneaking into the Lockwood manor.
- Another nitpick: when they arrive at the motel, for whose benefit did Damon clarify that it was Elena’s idea to stay there? Ours? Jeremy was in the car with them and would’ve heard whatever conversation they had about it. Although, Jer also asks them where they are… Maybe he was snoozing? A little baked?
Thoughts & questions before Do Not Go Gentle (ep320):
- Let’s all thank Rebekah for her successful campaign for a 1920s decade dance. It is just cooler. (Also, top marks for this line: “It’s too flashy, people. It’s supposed to be a speakeasy, not the World’s Fair.”)
- I love Caroline, but boo on her for shaming Rebekah about her one hookup. She’s no more promiscuous than the rest of them, and so what if she was.
- R.I.P. Scary Mary Porter! If you were half as creepy as your house, your nickname was well earned.
- Anyone else think Kol has a funny definition of “getting even”? Damon snapped his neck, killed his brother, and humiliated him — so to get even, Kol gives Damon a beating that he’ll recover from in about 5 minutes…
- Is that the last we’ll see of Esther in Esther’s body? In past possessions (Klaus, Emily), the possessor left willingly, their purpose accomplished. Presumably Esther plans to die along with Rebekah and the rest of her children, but should Esther fail to kill the Originals (fingers crossed), how does Rebekah get rid of her?
- Bets on whether or not Tyler has actually broken his sire bond?
What did you think of Heart of Darkness? 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. When not obsessively re-watching CW shows, she works as managing editor at ECW Press in Toronto. She blogs at crissycalhoun.com and tweets @crissycalhoun.
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