Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Do Not Go Gentle (2012)

A long goodbye ends with a hell of a twist

The journey of Alaric Saltzman has been surprising and tumultuous.  When we first met Alaric, he was a lonely vampire-hunter seeking to avenge his wife’s death. Then as he came to know our heroes of Mystic Falls, Alaric became a champion of protecting everyone and anything with a good heart, whether they were humans, vampires and werewolves.  Alas, Klaus’ very determined mother Esther had other plans.  Ever since the day that Alaric put on that blasted resurrection ring, she had been plotting to use Alaric as a weapon to strike back at her wayward children – the Originals.   Carefully coaching Alaric’s alter-ego, the darkest side of him, Esther molded and shaped him into a creature that would ruthlessly hunt down and kill the Originals.  Unfortunately, Esther failed to consult with Alaric about all this.  He was unconsciously becoming the one thing he truly feared – a monster.  To complete Alt-Alaric’s transformation into the ultimate vampire-hunter, Esther made him a vampire; and not just any vampire, but an Original.  She knew he would have to be a strong as her children if he was to combat them, and arming him with an indestructible white oak stake would not be enough.

But there is so much wrong with this plan.  Actually, it a pretty good plan and could conceivably work.  However, the wrinkle in it is that Esther failed to account for the “human factor.”  She failed to recognize that Alaric would not want to be transformed into his alter-ego and a vampire.  That was his worst nightmare – to lose his own self-identity, self-will and self-regard.  She had transformed him into someone or something else entirely.  It was not voluntary or consensual.  It was a curse that Esther inflicted upon him, robbing him of his humanity and self-control.

The second factor Esther has failed to recognize is that she did not account for the reactions of those who care about Alaric.  She has stolen a beloved friend and vengeance will be sought on his behalf.  Instead, she has just aligned everyone’s interests to one common goal:  ensuring that Alaric will be stopped before he eradicates all vampires from the planet – which would kill Stefan, Damon, Caroline and Tyler along with the Originals.

So as Alaric tried to sit back and quietly await his death, refusing to complete the transformation, we knew it was time to say goodbye.  All his friends had shown up to honor the man who had chosen the nobler path and to die with dignity.  Yet, Esther was not done yet as she took possession of Bonnie in order to force Alaric to feed and complete the transformation.  Death with dignity was not an option.  Esther’s desperate plan must succeed, or she would be forced to watch with horror for another millennium the pain her children wreaked across the planet.

It was not the death we saw coming.  We were ready to say our goodbyes to Alaric and mourn his death.  Yet even that was stolen from us as Esther ruthlessly found a way to snatch death from Alaric and condemn him to exist as one of the “undead.”   The Alaric we knew and loved is gone.  He is essentially dead as he is now imprisoned or banished within himself as his alter-ego has taken over and become an uber-vampire.  He is locked inside a creature not of his own making.  It is the ultimate horror and we weep for Alaric, who is essentially dead to us.  In his place is a monster created to kill other monsters – no matter what other collateral damage may be suffered along the way.

Points of Interest

1.  The scene where Elena and Esther debated the merits of Esther’s plan was thought-provoking.  When Elena accusatorily said, “You said you wanted to undue the evil you created, but this is just as evil.”  Esther responded, “Alaric will never be what my children became.  I have granted him enough power to complete his task and then when the time is right, he will die. . . When this is over, we will have rid the Earth of vampires once and for all.” Elena then incredulously retorted, “But you’ll be killing the good along with the bad, you’re no better than Klaus.”  To which Esther defended her position by explaining, “Am I not?  I desire a world where you and your loved ones will not suffer at the hands of vampires.”  Neither is wrong, it is just that Esther’s way of achieving a better world is as unfeeling and inhuman as her children’s perspective.

2.  Seeing how Klaus reacts to his mother’s hatred was fascinating.  Rather than dispose of her body once and for all, Klaus calmly put her back in her coffin and angrily said, “My survival will haunt you through eternity.  You will never destroy me!”  He knows that she cannot hear him through her lifeless body, but that her spirit is watching and will hear every word. Who is torturing who?

3.   Then who did not want to cheer when Jeremy told Bonnie, “When my sister stops hanging out with vampires, I’ll take it off”?  His resurrection ring may come at a price, but perhaps it is better than outright death.  It’s not bad logic.

What Worked

Just like the looming battle between Esther-Klaus-Alaric is coming, so is the moment in which Elena must decide which of the two brothers she will give her heart to.  After last week’s steamy, passionate kiss with Damon, it would have seemed that Elena was leading towards his direction.  Alas, this week Elena allowed herself to be persuaded to try to rekindle her relationship with Stefan.  Just like when Elena allowed Stefan to push her towards Damon, Elena allowed Caroline to push her towards Stefan.  Elena is not making decisions for herself, but instead is choosing “not to choose.”  She is just going with the flow and seeing where it takes her.

Caroline was at least firm in her belief that Stefan is the right guy for Elena when she suggested that Elena invite him to the dance.  When Elena tried to protest, “I can’t ask him on a date. I just made out with his brother,” Caroline reasoned, “All the more reason.  You’re supposed to be figuring out what you want.  That’s what Stefan wanted you to do, right?”  Caroline then added, “I’m sorry, but Stefan is your epic love and I’m not going down without a fight.”  Caroline at least has made up her mind, unlike Elena who does not want to make a choice.

Even Stefan was inordinately pleased that Elena invited him and not Damon to the dance.  He took it as a sign that Elena had chosen him, not understanding that she hadn’t – she was just trying it to see how it felt.  Though Stefan does get points for refusing to allow Elena to entangle him in her decision by coming clean about what happened on the roadtrip to Denver.  Stefan has also always been the reasoned one, the one who is eloquent with words.  Seeing Elena’s confusion about whether to tell or not tell, he assured her, “You don’t need to tell me.  When all this over, if you and I find our way back to each other, you can tell me if you want to.  Otherwise, I don’t need to know. I don’t want to know.”   It gave Elena permission to not decide at this time.  Just what she wanted to hear.

Similarly, later when Stefan found Elena packing up Alaric’s belongings at the school, he took her to the school gym to reveal how he had changed – to the place where Klaus compelled him to turn off his human emotions. So when Stefan admitted,  “I thought I hit rock bottom in the ’20’s, but after I bit you, I never wanted to feel anything ever again.  But someone kept telling me it was okay to feel.  No matter how much it hurt.  That our emotions are what makes us human, good or bad.  To never lose hope.” It was eloquent, revealing and touching.  And it was just what Elena wanted to hear:  that she had saved him — that her martyrdom and patience in waiting for him had been worth it.  Thus, when Elena said, “I don’t have anyone anymore,” Stefan took her in his arms and assured her, “You have me.”  Typical “safe Stefan.”  Stefan wants to play the white-hat hero and rescue Elena.  But what is he rescuing her from:  her indecision, her refusal to stand up for herself, her inability to be alone, or her insecurity and unwillingness to take on adult responsibilities?  She claimed to not have anyone anymore, but that devalues the relationships she has with her brother Jeremy, her best friends Bonnie and Caroline, and even Matt.  Elena, of anyone, has more people rallying around her and willing to drop everything for her – and every single one would put their lives on the line for her.  For Elena to play the “dead parents card” was uncool.  It was manipulating Stefan into a role that she wanted him in.  She likes having him as a surrogate parental protector.  Note:  she did not manipulate him into being hot and sexy, she wanted him to be caring and strong.

Also, it discounts the pivotal and crucial role that Damon has played in Elena’s life, both while Stefan was gone being Klaus’ ripper-slave and even before when Damon would rush to her aid at the drop of a hat.  For three years, Damon has also proven that he would do anything to protect and take care of Elena.  She should not try to rewrite history and regulate Damon into being a “placeholder” until Stefan returned and came to his senses about whether he wanted to resume his place in Elena’s life again.  When Stefan martyred himself to be Klaus’ slave, it was Damon who was the one picking up the pieces and doing the hard part, being there for Elena as she wept over the loss of Stefan, raged at Klaus’ cruelty, and acted as an adult when Rick went on his drinking-binges over the loss of Jenna.  Frankly, Damon has been the more consistent presence in Elena’s life since Stefan left.

Even now, Damon was being more of a “hero” by standing by Alaric’s side during his death vigil.  It takes real strength and courage to watch a friend die and to be there during their final minutes.  Stefan, instead, rushed off to make sure Elena was okay.  Which takes more strength, comforting Elena or sitting by a dying man during his final hours?

What is interesting is that Elena seems to be petrified of her feelings for Damon.  He is the “unknown.”  It is like playing with fire and she is afraid she’ll get burned.  But she should remember that Damon was faithful in his love for Katherine for over 160 years — until he found out that she had rejected him.  Damon, once he gives his love, it is forever, and unconditionally.  That kind of unhesitating, mad passionate, all consuming love scares Elena.  For the love she shares with Stefan is constant, but in a safe, steady way.  It is never a raging out of control fire that threatens to consume her.  Loving Stefan allows Elena to be in control of her emotions, and not out of control.  But should she have to play it safe with love?

Also looking to rewrite history are Klaus and Rebekah, who unabashedly glorify the 1920’s.  Truly, what was so special about that time period that has captured their hearts and imaginations?  Was that truly the best times of their lives — the time when Stefan was in their lives? Was he the missing piece of their lives – the lover who worshiped Rebekah, and the best friend for Klaus?  That time holds such a special place in both their hearts.  So as Klaus was trying to remind Stefan of their former friendship and brotherhood, Damon calmly interjected, “He already has a brother — not to be all territorial and all.”   But with a sweeping glance, Klaus responded, “Oh the Salvatores and their unshakable bond.  I wonder what will happen when Elena finally makes her choice? Will we see you shake just a little bit?”  Unfortunately, Klaus only knew Stefan for such a short period of time in the 1920’s.  Damon has known his brother his whole life and knows perfectly well that Stefan, for all his lapses, is at this core not going to let Elena or anyone else get between them.

Another relationship that Klaus underestimates is Tyler and Caroline’s.  Klaus feels confident that the lure of worldwide adventure will sway Caroline’s heart.  But while she may be curious about what lies outside the realm of Mystic Falls, she has already given her heart to Tyler.  Klaus does not understand love whatsoever.  His parents withheld their love and have done their best to track him down and kill him believing he is an abomination and stain on humankind.  His siblings only stand by his side out of fear.  And he has no actual friends, just those whose he can compel and through sire-bonds.  Not knowing or understanding love, it makes Klaus oblivious to its power and unshakability.  Klaus may impress Caroline, but Tyler brings out the passion in her.  A good example was when Tyler told Caroline,  “I am jealous, but I’m also competitive.  So hold on, I’m about to sweep you off your feet!” as he swept her up into his arms.  Not only is Tyler willing to do whatever it takes to keep Caroline’s affections, he is willing to die for her too.  He also volunteered that they should let Esther kill Klaus, even if it means killing Tyler too, just to protect Caroline (assuming she was not part of Klaus’ bloodline).  It is Tyler’s willingness to put her first that shows the depth of his love.  Is it any wonder that Caroline then told Tyler, “It does not matter how many times I dance with him, I love YOU.”

Caroline may be a girl that yearns for great things and a life bigger than it is now, but she is also incredibly sensitive to those she cares about – her friends and family matter greatly to her and she will look out for them above all else.  Her naturally protective and loving instincts are only heightened as a vampire.  So like her instincts push her towards Tyler’s love and compel her to encourage Elena back into Stefan’s arms, she also senses when one of her friends’ attentions are off track.  She noticed right away that there was something up with Matt spending a little too much time around Elena, under the guise of taking Jeremy under-wing. So she did not even hesitate to corner Matt, gaily saying, “Have I told you how amazingly awesome you are?”  Having successfully softened the blow, she then followed up with, “I know you and Elena have been getting closer lately” and as Matt curiously asked, “And your point is?”  Caroline reminded him, “One way or the other, she’s pretty much spoken for. ” When Matt then tried to protest, “Elena’s my friend, I’m just looking out for her,” Caroline softly said, “And I’m just looking out for you — because sometimes the people who love her get caught in the crossfire.”  It is not only Matt’s heart that could get hurt, but he is human and not invincible.  He is putting himself at risk more ways than one and one could be lethal.  The girl does hangout with vampires after all – which is why her own brother refuses to take off his resurrection ring.

Though it should be noted that one of the funnest parts of this episode was watching Matt and Jeremy rush off to save the day when Damon, Stefan, Caroline and Bonnie were all trapped inside the school.  Their eagerness to play their part and save Elena was charming, if slightly naïve.

Another wonderfully touching moment was watching the goodbye scene between Alaric and Damon.  One of the most unexpected and happy coincidences in the series has been the friendship that developed between Damon and Alaric: the vampire and the vampire-hunter.  Both lost, lonely souls only looking to find a purpose in this crazy life.  Their commiseration and friendship over many bottles of whiskey shall be remembered fondly.  So while Elena and Jeremy were only intent on saving Alaric, they did not understand that he would want to keep them from harm.  Elena had even reacted with horror when Damon first proposed that killing Alaric would be an act of mercy; yet it was exactly what Alaric wanted – for as he said, “I’m not going to complete the transition.  My dark side was dangerous enough as a human.  I can’t be a vampire,” and Damon understood his friend’s true desire to die rather than pose any risk to them.  The cherry on top moment was when Damon came into the crypt to check on Alaric, who asked, “Is this part where you give me a dream?”   As Damon’s lips twitched, he muttered about how he knew he’d regret having told Alaric that story while drunk.  Playing into the levity in the face of such a somber moment, Damon took the opportunity to say, “Sorry I killed you – twice.” With playful aplomb, Alaric smiled and replied, “So I have to really die to get a real apology out of you?”  This exemplified the Damon-Alaric relationship perfectly.  They always maintained their humor when things got tough and real.  It spoke to their trust and respect for each other, despite their initial differences.

Lastly, a shout-out is deserved for the latest unexpected friendship that is blossoming between Damon and Dr. Fell.  Damon has always been a bit pesky and playful when approaching Meredith, such as when he snuck up on her at the hospital to talk to her about his concerns about Rick. Sensing him rather than seeing him, she turned around to find him right there.  As she snapped, “Don’t do that.  It’s not funny,” Damon smiled and said, “Oh come on, it’s a little funny.”  That he took his concerns to her is telling.  Damon did not go to Stefan or Elena with his worries.  He sought out Meredith.  They also had a shared moment when Meredith came out of the crypt after sedating Rick and they debated the wisdom of leaving Alaric alone as per his wishes. So when she asked Damon, “Is that really what he wants?” it was a nice foreshadowing of how well Meredith has gotten to know both Alaric and Damon.   Perhaps there is a lovely friendship to be had between them, now that Alaric has become an evil, monstrous vampire.  Surely, both Damon and Meredith could use a friend at this time.

What Didn’t Work

As poignant and deserved as it was that Matt and Jeremy took a moment to toast Alaric back at the Grill, it seemed a bit out of place since both are minors and they are freely helping themselves to their employer’s liquor.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“Do Not Go Gentle” written by Michael Narducci and directed by Joshua Butler. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Joseph Morgan, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig, Matt Davis, Torrey Devitto, Claire Holt. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

2 thoughts on “Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Do Not Go Gentle (2012)

  1. I totally forgot about Matt and Jeremy being minors 🙂 There’s so much drinking in the show you forget who’s allowed and who isn’t.

  2. As far as Damon being the true hero, I agree. Let’s not forget in season two where is says let Elena hate him to Stefan. While Stefan is worried about feelings and consequences, he is the one who will keep Elena alive.

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