After a few episodes that felt off, The Murder of One shines as an example of all that makes The Vampire Diaries the show we love so very much — high stakes, excellent twists, complicated conversations, siblings bickering, a little shirtless torture, and a reminder that good whittling is hard to find. Welcome back, TVD.
The Salvatore brothers have been called self-destructive many a time, but in this episode, the poor guys have no idea that their diabolical master plan is incredibly self-destructive. When the linking spell was introduced in Dangerous Liaisons, some fans theorized that it would take out the whole vampire species, but as it turns out it is not a new spell that threatens every single vampire. It’s the bloodlines that run all the way back to the spell that created them, their family ties. The death of one of the Originals means the death of every vampire they sired. What a shocker for our Mystic Falls friends: all those times they tried to kill Klaus and his family. If they had succeeded all vampires, friend or foe, would be dead. It’s the perfect twist to raise the stakes as we head into the final four episodes of season 3.
The white oak stakes make literal the proverbial double-edged sword: what will save them from the threat of Klaus and company will also kill the vampires (and hybrid) among them. And in a less literal way, this episode also reflects on those double-edged swords; often what keeps the TVDers alive is also their greatest source of pain. Alaric’s ring has resurrected him time and again, but it’s also turned him into a killer. He can’t trust himself, he can’t be left alone (even with the help of Bonnie’s herbal psycho suppressant), and the weight of the murder, which he can’t even remember committing, is heavy on his conscience. Bonnie’s magic is a source of great strength, and she’s used it to save her loved ones many a time, but it’s also a weapon of destruction. As in this episode, Bonnie is constantly called upon to do something that she believes is wrong, something in the service of evil to prevent some immediate threat. And, of course, the prime example of this double-edged sword idea comes in the form of our beloved vampires. Their immortality has a high price: a thirst for blood, an appetite for the kill. As Caroline explains to Alaric in a scene fraught with tension, when she was first turned, she killed a stranger and she liked it. All of the vampires, including straight-edge Finn, have blood on their hands.
Even the things that should be all sunshine and roses — love, hope, and family — are a source of pain on The Vampire Diaries. For Elena, the brothers she loves have saved her life and brought her happiness, but they’ve also been the source of incredible suffering and torment for her. The vampire siblings, in particular Klaus and Rebekah and Stefan and Damon, prove time and again that those closest to you can hurt you the most. And all this messy, complicated business is what makes an episode like The Murder of One such sophisticated, compelling television drama. It’s impossible to make clear-cut decisions, like in the conflict between Stefan and Elena over whether to save Damon or proceed with the kill-Originals plot. Or just ask Elena, who isn’t capable of clearly labeling her feelings for Damon when Stefan asks her to.
What is clear (at least for some of our characters) is the belief that someone can be saved. With Alaric, Caroline is very aware of the choice she is making, to follow the Elena Gilbert Handbook rather than demand retribution for her father’s death. Rebekah does the opposite with Damon — punishing him for mistreating her. The gang as a whole sees the Originals as the exception to the Can-Be-Saved rule. (Even Elena is determined to wipe out all five Original siblings, as a result of the Abby-gets-turned incident from All My Children, “collateral damage” demanded by Elijah.) From a storytelling perspective, the gang’s need for retribution against the Original is a plot necessity. Klaus is the villain — and he knows it and relishes in it. He destroyed Well-Adjusted Stefan, he murders at will, he takes whatever he wants, and he has a lifelong need for Elena’s blood — especially now that he’s renewed his interest in making a hybrid family to replace the kin who have deserted him. In Stefan’s confrontation with Klaus, Klaus reveals just how clearly he understands the role the he plays in their lives. Stefan’s ex–best friend and worst enemy knows he’s the target for Stefan’s anger, the big bad who helps redirect attention from the multitude of lesser evils committed by the ‘good guys.’ Like Caroline says, they all have blood on their hands — even Matt Donovan who delivers the death blow to Finn and wipes out an entire bloodline of vampires. And as much as Stefan hates Klaus, he listens to him. As he tells Elena, he now realizes the truth thanks to what Klaus said and the hopelessness of his pursuit to kill the Originals: he has been wasting his time in seeking revenge, and will instead look at himself and face what he’s lost.
Another thing that made this episode so great was Ms. Bonnie Bennett. It’s such a rarity to see things from Bonnie’s perspective, to see her emotion and private moments, but in The Murder of One, we get to see the effect Klaus’s actions have on her. She’s again forced to betray her morality, to react to the threat at hand. This girl is constantly under extreme pressures — this time, happy go-lucky Jeremy is the target — and (just in the nick of time!) she breaks the linking spell under duress. While she doesn’t have a humanity switch like a vampire, she will have a breaking point. Bonnie’s come close to the edge before — when she was ready to burn Damon to death in the MFHS parking lot springs to mind. How far from the edge is she? Will she decide Klaus is right — that being “emotional” isn’t worth the cost?
In the ramp up to the season finale, the various plot threads are coming together: we don’t just have one villain to contend with but two. The secret psycho killer has a weapon that could kill an entire bloodline of vampires — and if I were Crazy Alaric, I’d be aiming for Klaus for maximum dramatic impact.
Compelling Moment: A light moment this time round — the banter among the gang as they plan their attack on Klaus and Rebekah was classic.
The Rules: Bonnie unlinks the Original kids with a spell that requires their blood. The death of Finn reveals that the bloodline of an Original is tied together: shortly after Finn is killed, Sage and her sired crony, Troy, vomit blood and then croak, along with every other descendent of a vampire sired by Finn.
- I guess Elijah gave Klaus a vial of his blood before leaving town? Or are those bros still in touch, as Klaus is with Kol, his errand boy in Mile High City?
- Klaus seems surprised Rebekah has a soft spot for the Salvatore boys, but she was madly in love with Stefan a short time ago (from her perspective), so her affection there should be no surprise. And speaking of, is Rebekah totally over Stefan, or has she just realized it’s a lost cause because of Elena?
- Why did Caroline let Alaric go home alone? Wasn’t her duty to watch him and make sure he stayed Alaric?
Thoughts & questions before Heart of Darkness (EP319):
- Did the Salvatores and Alaric keep all those wood shavings and bits from their whittling and sawing? I bet they could MacGyver another stake!
- Though Rebekah’s plan to bleed Damon until he can be compelled so she can force him to kill Elena or Damon is evil genius, she could use a little help on the torture front from her big bro. Compare the dream Katherine gave Stefan in Memory Lane, a nightmare of Elena macking on Damon, to Rebekah’s sweet rescue fantasy for Damon. Too kind, my dear Rebekah.
- “See you in physics class.” My favorite throwaway line of the episode.
- In Bringing Out the Dead, Elijah and Klaus revealed that it was the blood of the original doppelganger, Tatia, that was used to turn the Original kids. So when Mikael died, his children were safe from dying themselves, because it wasn’t his vampire blood that sired them — even though it was his big idea that invented the whole species. Does that tell us anything about Tatia? Is she still alive? Was she just used as an ingredient in a spell and never a proper vampire?
- It’s really too bad “Vampire Almanac” Slater is dead. He would be really helpful in sorting out these bloodlines.
What did you think of The Murder of One? 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.
Everyone is subject to these rules and guidelines, whether they read them or not.
If you have problems with any of the comments posted, flag them to bring them to our attention. You can do this by hovering your mouse over the comment so the 'flag' link appears. You're also welcome to contact us to let us know about any problems.
Do not flag comments you just disagree with - it wastes moderator time. The flagging system is not there to give a post a thumbs down, it's there for genuine problems.
Be excellent to each other.