We were left with quite the cliffhanger last time we visited Mystic Falls. The Vampire Diaries didn’t leave us wondering if Elena had really died. We knew the Damon-blood-infused backstory, and we knew her sudden awakening meant she was on her way to becoming a vampire. The real cliffhanger was in the ripple effect that a change this magnitude might have on the series as a whole. What would it do to Elena? Would Stefan be able to live with it? What kind of vampire would she be? Will she have control issues, like Stefan in his ripper days? Will she start curling her hair and wearing lots of skin-tight leather like Katherine? And how would it affect her friends and family, and most importantly… Damon?
The season premiere began to answer a few of these questions, but it’s clear that this season is going to be a year of learning and exploration for our fledgling creature of the night.
Elena wakes up with her two trusty heroes by her side, Stefan is wracked with guilt knowing that she’ll soon wake up and find out his decision not to save her delivered a fate she thought worse than death: vampirism. Damon is understandably angry. Elena was on her way to choose Stefan when she was run off the road, and when Stefan got there to save her, he obeyed her wishes and saved Matt first, letting her fragile, human life slip away. To say Damon thinks Elena chose wrong would be an understatement.
Because Elena and Stefan can never wrap their brains around the fact that consequences befall a girl who cavorts with vampires, they’re convinced there’s a way out of her predicament. They both look to Bonnie for some sort of magical solution, and while we know this isn’t going to work, Stefan is blinded by his desire to right what he now sees as a wrong decision to save Matt before Elena.
Meanwhile, Elena’s transition is beginning to look like the hangover from hell. Every light is testing her patience, so much so that she crushes a lightbulb with her bare hands. After working her way up to sort-of kick ass Elena, who tries really hard to defend herself, this may finally be the push she needed to become the tough cookie she always fancied herself to be. And she takes that tough cookie mentality all the way to lunch, when Stefan attempt to feed her a sandwich. But when it practically makes her gag, she realizes it’s real: all she can think about is blood.
Stefan tells her about his regret while he replaces food with a midday glass of scotch. She placates him by saying that if Matt died and she survived (a sensation she knows all too well after three seasons of losing people so her life can continue) she’d be even more destroyed than she is now. Of course, that doesn’t last long, because once she uses a poorly chosen metaphor (“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”) as a way of telling Stefan not to worry about the fact that her inbetweenie day is rapidly slipping away, she pours vervain into her still open wounds, so to speak. Let’s not forget, she’s on a vampire track because her car flew off the same bridge her parents died on.
While her emotions run wild on her and her vampire hangover worsens (yeah, sunlight is hard when you’ve had one too many glasses of wine the night before, or you know, when you’re slowly becoming allergic to those rays). But then, Elena discovers a potentially positive (though slightly troublesome) benefit of her new life: She’s remembering things that she was compelled to forget. Of course, Stefan wasn’t really one to use compulsion on his lady, so the memories coming back are all Damon ones, including the night he “selfishly” told her he loved her and then wiped her memory of the event. Though we’ve all played this scene over and over again in our heads about a million times since it first happened, watching Elena see it like it was the first time gives it a whole new level of gravity. She’s starting to wonder if she made the right decision.
Bonnie is a little preoccupied with some other dark magic, so Elena’s vampire reversal seems less and less likely. Klaus is still inhabiting Tyler’s body while his own sits petrified in a coffin. Klaus demands that Bonnie put him back into his own body before she tries to help Elena, which sends us into a bit of a surreal moment: the image of Tyler acting like Klaus and grabbing a terrified Bonnie by the neck. Tyler’s gone bad before, but never quite like that. Bonnie manages to buy some time to tinker with magic to save Elena when she strikes the one chord that always works with Klaus: If this works, Klaus will still have Elena, the human blood bag for his hybrids.
And Klaus is about to encounter yet another wrench: Pastor Young is on a warpath against all those who helped to harbor supernaturals. He starts with Dr. Fell, who he advises to start looking for a new job, but it’s not long before he starts rounding up the vampires themselves. While Caroline takes a moment to get a little emotional help from Matt, Pastor Young and his thugs pick up Mayor Lockwood and Sheriff Forbes before moving on to grab Caroline and Rebekah. Luckily for Caroline, Klaus/Tyler gets a call from Mayor Lockwood, who makes his ears perk up when she says the council took Caroline. We knew Klaus’ obsession with Caroline would come to good use when he took over Tyler’s body, and what better way to present the opportunity than by having Klaus win us over by risking capture to save her from the council cavalcade… right before he tries to have sex with her using what happens to be the perfect disguise. Of course, all this sexiness is cut short when Tyler strangely says the word “love” as their makeout escalates. One false move with Caroline is all it takes for poor, misguided Klaus.
Next: Elena’s fate is sealed, and Rebekah seeks redemption.
But the council is too busy to go searching for Caroline, the escapee, for the moment. Pastor Young has Stefan and he’s making Elena a steak and trying to explain to her that everything he’s doing is what her parents would have wanted. He also pulls a classic bad guy blunder: telling his prisoner the whole plan about wanting to take out the entire vampire race by killing the Originals. Bad move, Pastor Young. The hangover monster (whose effects are increasingly like that of a horror movie, just like a real life hangover) continues to strike and the steak disgusts Elena (a slightly bloody piece of braised meat isn’t exactly fresh blood from the vein) to the point that she cracks. It’s not long before she’s caught running through a field and thrown into prison in cells alongside Stefan and Rebekah. If we didn’t know any better, we’d think Elena was destined to die without ever putting a drop of human blood to her lips as she begins to waste away in the cell. Stefan’s helplessness is crippling him, and he’s filled with guilt yet again, regretting the fact that he didn’t do what Damon would have done. Are you noticing a pattern here?
Still, Bonnie continues to try to reverse the damage (you know, the whole dying in a car accident flub) done to Elena. She has to temporarily die, go into the intermediary space between life and death, find Elena, and bring her back. Now that’s she’s playing with dark magic, she’s got the strength to pull off the impossible. Or so she thinks. Jeremy wisely thinks Bonnie’s plan is nuts, but lets her continue when she invokes the sibling love in him. He quickly seems to regret that decision when Bonnie’s face begins dripping with blood and she collapses.
Luckily, it’s not long before she finds Elena, but someone finally steps in to say “Enough with all this magical nonsense.” Elena’s been saved time and time again by magical means, and it all seems a little convenient. When Bonnie’s Grams shows up in Bonnie’s afterlife experience to stop her, it’s upsetting that Elena can’t be fixed so easily, it’s slightly refreshing. For the first time ever, she’s going to have to face the consequences of her dangerous lifestyle, and things are actually going to have to change.
But the magic part isn’t gone, altogether. Tyler/Klaus and his half-English accent stolen off a first year musical theater student show up demanding that Bonnie puts him back into his body, now that she can’t save Elena’s human form. That doesn’t work for Klaus, so he starts actually ripping Tyler’s heart out until Bonnie acquiesces. But she’s not doing it the honorable way, and the spirits begin to take it out on her Grams, which somehow makes it impossible for Bonnie to stop the spell, meaning potential danger for the newly released Tyler.
After Stefan attempts to yell at the guard until he lets Elena out, he ends up with wooden bullets in his chest and a soundtrack of Elena’s feeble breathing. Outside, Damon is using Matt’s delicious neck as bait (and catharsis for his pain over losing Elena). That doesn’t works so well and he ends up with a wooden bullet in the back while Rebekah is the one who actually ends up helping Elena. Yes, evil, vicious Rebekah, who always wins our heart and then crushes it in her mind-vice seconds later, helps save Elena, the girl she hates more than anyone. Perhaps it’s because deep down, she’s a teenage girl who just wants to believe love exists and watching Stefan and Elena’s heartfelt pre-goodbyes spoke to her.
Her simple plan allows Stefan to grab their guard, break his neck and spill his blood onto the floor just outside Elena’s cell. For what seems like an excruciatingly long 30 seconds, Elena reaches desperately for the blood, touches it, and brings the droplets to her mouth as she sheds a final tear. For once, her escape plan didn’t work. There is one escape plan, however, that did work, somehow. Without any explanation, Elena, Stefan, Rebekah are free. And while Matt is healed by Stefan – a favor which only brings up bitter memories of how keeping his life cost Elena the life she once knew – Elena and Damon finally have it out.
She tells him she remembers everything, including the fact that she met him first. She eludes to the fact that it wouldn’t change anything, but she has to take it a bit further. She asks him what he would have done if he was in Stefan’s position and he tells the truth only Damon would tell: he’d let Matt die to save her because he’s selfish. He’s so selfish, that he’d take someone else’s life to give Elena the one she wanted: a human life. And that single factor changes everything. Damon has always been selfish and destructive, but one great reason Elena’s answer had to be Stefan hearkened back to the time when Damon just couldn’t understand why she’d choose death over vampirism. Now that he gets that and Elena remembers everything, the love triangle has once again found a way to ignite even further.
Of course, it’s made even more interesting by the fact that Elena seems to have finally come to terms with the perks of being an immortal bloodsucker. She gets to be everything she loves and with the ones she loves (except for mortals like Jeremy, Matt, and Bonnie, but who’s counting?) forever. Will Damon’s sudden understanding matter, now that her horizons have been widened? And was it just me, or was Stefan putting the daylight ring on Elena’s finger oddly like every romantic movie moment involving an engagement ring?
Back at Klaus’ house, Rebekah is furious with her brother (who’s now safely returned to his body) for saving Caroline and leaving her. In what may be the beginning of a new Rebekah (one who may actually be with the good guys this time around), she spills the rest of Klaus’ doppelganger blood and fully severs her ties to her brother in one swift move.
Also complicating things for next week, in a way we can’t yet comprehend, is Pastor Young, who torches himself and his followers in a mass suicide at the very end of the episode. While we can assume that’s what the title of next week’s episode is about (“Memorial” certainly seems in order when the entire council was holed up in the house on fire), it does make us worry a bit: how can they rid themselves of such a season-making enemy so soon? And that thought is immediately followed by the truth that might not be so comforting: If the Pastor is gone, he’s going to be followed by something much, much worse.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: CW (2)]