Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – The Sun Also Rises (2011)

It was one sacrifice too many as our hearts broke

It was supposed to be Elena’s (Nina Dobrev) sacrifice — the sacrifice of the Petrova doppelganger to break Klaus’ (Joseph Morgan) curse.  But, by the time the sun rose the next morning, so many lives had been lost — sacrificed not just to break a curse, but to save one human life:  Elena’s.  It was all for Elena.  Everyone was willing to die for her — just as she was willing to die for them.  But such selfless love ultimately only led to more tears and tragedy.  For as Elena lost more family and wept over more gravestones, there remained one additional grave that she does not yet know about:  Damon’s (Ian Somerhalder).

Perhaps it is not Klaus that is truly cursed, but Elena.  Klaus is virtually invincible and cares for no one.  He will live forever, with his heart intact and no regrets.  But Elena, she was born the doppelganger — the one thing in the entire universe that a hybrid vampire/werewolf needed to unleash his inner demons.  It not only made Elena a target, but everyone around her.

Just like Elena was cursed to be the key to Klaus’ freedom, Elena had been cursed to have a spirit so gentle and giving that everyone around her fell in love with her.   It seemed that everyone she came into contact only wanted her love and to protect her — which meant when it came down to the wire, each and every one of them was willing to die for her — yet could not.  For it was Elena’s blood that made her more desirable than all the gold and riches in the universe.  They certainly tried to take care of her and protect her: the Gilberts took her in and loved her as if she were their own; Jenna (Sara Canning) stepped up and tried to raise her in their absence; and even Elena’s wayward, misguided birth parents Isobel and John (David Anders) eventually could not help themselves, watching from afar and trying to do their best with their limited abilities.  Isobel (Mia Kirshner) became a vampire to infiltrate and understand the threat; while John took a more traditional Gilbert approach and became a vampire hunter.  One way or another, everyone tried their best to protect Elena.  But, in the end, destiny could not be fought or circumvented — Elena was sacrificed.

The wrinkle in destiny’s plan was Damon and John.  Damon had fed Elena his blood to ensure she would revive after death and John found a way to give up his soul so that Elena’s would remain intact as she rose from the dead.  No plan was perfect.  It meant for Damon was bit by a werewolf and John lost his life in the process.  But it was all for Elena.  They were willing to die for her and no price was too great.  A father’s love for his child and a star-crossed lover — they gave everything for her.

Will Elena appreciate the gift given to her or will she throw it away?  She has been blessed with not just one life, but two.  She lives on borrowed time bestowed by those that loved her more than life itself.  It is precious and tragic.  We weep for such a gift and the lives it cost.  Damon may not yet dead and buried, but he certainly is a dead-man walking.  When death comes knocking, it does not ask twice.

Points of Interest

1.  Matt (Zach Roerig) was finally man enough to admit that the supernatural world that Caroline (Candice Accola) now lives amongst is too much for him.  He no longer irrationally hates her and fears her, but he still chose to walk away.  It was not his burden to bear and his love for Caroline was not strong enough to want to share her inhuman life.  It was painful, but honest.

2.  Even from her latest jail cell, Katherine (Nina Dobrev) is also demonstrating a surprising amount of honesty.  That she can willingly admit that she was willing to sacrifice Jenna to spare her own life shows the smallest glimmer of a soul.  A heartless vampire can lie with ease without second thought.  That Katherine is attempting to be honest with Damon makes us wonder if she too has embarked on a journey of redemption.

3.  So while Matt still had a choice to walk away, Tyler (Michael Trevino) found he could not leave so easily.  For one, he is a werewolf and that life-altering reality is not something he can hide from; and being away from his friends and family did not exactly make his life easier either.  So as he awakened again to find he had been wounded and had terrorized yet again the one girl he truly cared about, Tyler was conflicted by it all.  So as he mournfully told Caroline, “You’re right.  I shouldn’t have come home,” she surprised him by saying, “No, you just should never left — and you shouldn’t leave again.” Uncertain he had heard her correctly, Tyler incredulously said, “You’re kidding, right?  This is the second time I’ve tried to kill you.” To which Caroline smiled and said, “Well, no friendship is perfect.”  As they tried to fathom where next to go in their crazy lives, Tyler finally told her, “Thank you, Caroline, for taking care of me,” and she softly replied, “You’re welcome.”  Caroline may miss Matt and the life of normalcy he offered, but when you are a vampire, life is not normal anymore — and Tyler understands.  Neither Caroline nor Tyler chose to have supernatural lives, so they know what they have lost.  There is a measure of comfort in having a friend to share in that unexpected journey and to commiserate and perhaps offer the hope of something more.  That is what Caroline and Tyler are to each other:  hope.  Hope for happiness, hope for better lives, hope for the future.

What Worked

This was Elena’s finest hour.  Not that she did anything right, but because she shed her last remnant of her myopic vision and saw what was truly going on.  This was not a night of selfless martyrdom; it was a night of death and mourning.  Lives were lost and it was all to save her.

Perhaps for the first time, Elena was brought face to face with the fact that she was not the only one being sacrificed.  She could martyr herself all she wanted, but her life alone was not enough.  To perfect the spell to break Klaus’ curse and release his werewolf nature, there had to be blood sacrifices of a werewolf and a vampire, along with the doppelganger.  So as Elena watched from her ring of fire and saw Jenna and Jules (Michaela McManus), the horror of what was going to happen finally hit her.  She would have done anything to spare her aunt’s life — but was powerless.

It is one thing to offer yourself; it is another to have others die for you too.  For Elena knew that she would live — albeit as a vampire, but death for her was not going to be permanent.  That was Damon’s gift to her.  He could not save her completely, but he found a way to ensure that her human death would not claim her for eternity.  But there was not going to any such reprieve for Jenna and Jules.  Their death would be a permanent one.  Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

So as Elena watched Jules and Jenna writhe in agony, she saw for the first time that she was not the only one being sacrificed.  For months she had been willing to give up her own life — failing to recognize that her death along was not going to be enough.  Others would have to die along with her — and they would not have the chance to come back from the dead like she would.  Instead, Jenna and Jules died in agony — all so that Klaus could live his life as a triumphant hybrid.

It was thus a horrifying shock to see reality staring her straight in the face.  Martyrdom is not noble and beautiful.  It is harsh and has devastating ripple effects.  Elena did not simply weep with grief as she stood in the graveyard burying John and Jenna.  She wept for the sacrifice they made for her — all her loving parents: the Gilberts, Jenna, John and Isobel.  Each had tried and failed, by curse and circumstance.  Elena’s curse is to be loved, desired and that everyone will die for her.

For an episode consumed with and overshadowed by an abundance of death, there were some extraordinarily beautiful and touching moments imbedded amongst it, such as when Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) held Elena, sharing in her overwhelming grief.  Elena even tried to apologize by telling Jeremy, “I’m so sorry you’ve lost so many people,” and he gently reminded her, “I still have you.”

Then as Elena read John’s letter, it was an unbelievably generous act of love in which he wrote to her:  “It’s no easy task being an ordinary parent to an extraordinary child.  I failed in that task, and because of my prejudices, I failed you.  I am haunted by how things may have turned out differently.  If I had been more willing to hear your side of things.  For me, it’s the end.  For you, a chance to grow old and do better with your own child than I did with mine.  It is for that child that I give you my ring.  I don’t ask for your forgiveness, or for you to forget, I ask only that you believe this:  whether you are now reading this as a human or as a vampire, I love you all the same, as I’ve always loved you and always will.”  Telling Elena exactly what she needed to hear in order to comfort her at such a painful, grief-stricken time was an act of love that John rarely had demonstrated so plainly.  It was generous and earned him a place in our hearts forever.  One last gift from a father who tried his best to protect his daughter — even if he seemed to get it wrong most of the time.  But to save her soul by giving up his, John not only redeemed himself, he proved to be the father that Elena ultimately needed.

Then, while Stefan (Paul Wesley) tried to take Jenna’s place at the sacrifice, it was Damon who once again found a way to steal the limelight.  He arrived just as Bonnie (Katerina Graham) began to rain down hell on Klaus, snapping Greta’s (Lisa Tucker) neck, carrying Elena’s lifeless body over to Stefan so that she would revive next to her beloved, and gently removing the stake from Stefan’s back.  It was only at Stefan’s insistence that Damon take Elena safely home, that he did — telling Elena softly, “Come back as a vampire, I’ll stake you myself — ’cause I can’t stand the idea of you hating me forever.”

In the end, Damon’s efforts may have saved Bonnie, Caroline, Tyler, Rick (Matt Davis) and Jeremy — but he couldn’t save them all.  He couldn’t save Jenna and John.  But he also knew that someone would have to pay a price to save the angel he carried in his arms — even if it was him.

Thus, later when Stefan told him, “Damon, she needs us right now.  All of us,” Damon angrily reminded him that Klaus was still alive and who knew what he would do next.  When Stefan reassuring said, “I’m not going to let Elena lose anybody else,” Damon merely replied, “I wouldn’t make any promises — Tyler Lockwood bit me.”  Even as Stefan continued to protest that they would find a cure, Damon told Stefan, “You want to do something for me?  Keep this from Elena.  Last thing she needs is another grave to mourn.”

As Damon walked through the graveyard, one could palpably feel his lonely, solitary existence weighing down upon him.  He would die alone and unloved.  Even Stefan seemed crushed by the realization of his brother’s impending demise and the loneliness he would feel without him.  The real curse of being a vampire is living long enough that everyone you know and love dies.  Stefan will at least have had Elena’s love for the duration of her lifetime, but Damon’s days were numbered and his chance at happiness had eluded him.  Yet he still chose to save as many people as he could in his last days.  This was finally the brother Stefan had always wanted, and yet fate had taken that from him too.

It was hauntingly prophetic when Damon told Katherine, “Enjoy eternity alone.”  She had sacrificed hundreds of years never daring to take a chance to love.  Thus, when she told Damon that she had survived solely because, “I didn’t let love get in the way,” it was a sad revelation.  Even Damon has finally figured out that life of any kind is nothing without love.  It is a meaningless existence that erodes the very essence of who you are without it.  Damon finally chose to pursue love and it gave his life meaning.  It is time for Katherine to do the same, or die just as alone and unloved.  Her life will have been for nothing.

What Didn’t Work

Where has Alaric been staying since Klaus released his body?  Has he been living at the Salvatore mansion or the Gilbert home?  Surely, three’s a crowd back at his apartment with Katherine compelled to stay there and Klaus popping in and out.  And now that Klaus is still alive and the compulsion is still in effect, will Rick have a new roommate in the form of a vampire who looks identical to one of his students?  Surely the Mystic Falls rumor-mill will be running overtime on that juicy nugget.  It is either time for Rick to find a new place to live or for Klaus to relocate his favorite pet.  Katherine and Rick, hmmm . . . .  Is it wrong that the idea kind of sounds intriguing?!

And how did Elijah (Daniel Gillies) manage to sneak off with Klaus without Bonnie blistering their behinds into oblivion?  The power of over one hundred witches and she cannot cast an instant locating spell or freeze them in their tracks?  Surely, she would have been prepared for a last minute double-cross.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“The Sun Also Rises” was written by Caroline Dries and Mike Daniels and directed by Paul M. Sommers. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig, Sara Canning, Matt Davis. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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