Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – The Departed (2012)

Elena’s Choice: In Life and In Death

Ever since the very first moment in the series, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES has been Elena’s story. It is through her eyes that we see the world around her shift as everything she thought she knew fell away and she discovered a whole new world of possibilities. Losing her parents that fateful day on Wickery Bridge forced her grow up faster and it introduced her to the one person who would change everything for her: Stefan. She did not know initially that he was the one who rescued her from the sinking car that claimed her parents’ lives. But she felt an instant connection with him when he showed up at school that next year. From the moment he introduced himself, Elena was lost. She may not have remembered Stefan, but every cell in her body remembered him. He was her savior. He was the one who saved her life and made her life possible. Some call it muscle-memory, others call it the subconscious mind. But something in Elena’s soul rejoiced when she finally met Stefan. Yet with every blessing comes a price. Meeting and knowing Stefan, meant entering and accepting his world — the vampire world — a world where supernatural beings fought deadly battles and Elena was the prize. She was the doppelgänger and her destiny meant she could be the harbinger of death or salvation for vampires. Stefan may not have realized it when he saved her life that fateful day. He just saved a young girl that looked the spitting image of a woman he had once known and loved. Elena’s innocence and beauty beckoned him. She was as irresistible and intoxicating. And so began the grand love of Stefan and Elena.

But it was not until this episode that we found out the other half of the story: Elena’s story. She had not met just one Salvatore that night her parents died — that was the night she met Damon as well. Like his brother, Damon felt the pull to return to Mystic Falls and it is remarkable that he returned the same night Stefan did. Interestingly, Damon was lying in the road (waiting for a sign perhaps) and Elena walked up. Elena may not have any memory of that remarkable first meeting, but it left an imprint on her soul. Just like when Stefan touched her life irrevocably when he saved her from the sinking car, Damon touched Elena by granting her one wish: a love that burns within her like a raging fire.

Mind compulsion is a powerful tool, but as we have seen time and time again, it does not last forever. It does not completely erase the memories that were imprinted. It just covers them up for awhile. What brings those hibernating memories to the surface are two things, compulsion and vampirism. With Elena having been injected with vampire blood by Dr. Fell for her head injury, Elena died and reawakened as a vampire. She will now remember all those memories that Damon compelled away. She will remember that she met him first — before the car accident where Stefan saved her. She will also remember that time when Damon stole a kiss from her and then erased her memory of it. All those powerful moments and memories will rise to the surface and Elena will finally understand WHY she has been so drawn to Damon all these years, even when she was in love with Stefan. She did meet Damon first and his compulsion that she seek a love that burns within her has tugged at her heart every moment she was around him. The mind may not remember yet, but her body did.

Elena was not just cursed with being the doppelgänger and having the blood to set Klaus free from his curse and the blood to create more hybrids, Elena has been cursed to love two men. She has been torn and conflicted and not sure why Stefan and Damon had such a claim on her heart. But now we see and understand, as she will: fate had thrown a wrinkle into her life that fateful day. It claimed two lives — Elena’s parents — and gave her two to replace them in a way: Damon and Stefan. One would nurture her and one would push her, but both would protect her. One shudders to think of the Salvatore brothers as surrogate parents for Elena, but they certainly filled a gaping hole in her life. Elena was of an age when she did not need parents as much as she needed companionship and guidance; and Stefan and Damon have been there every step of the way for the past two years of her life.

So as we watched her struggle over her conflicted feelings for the two brothers, wrestling with her heart and her mind, we understood the difficult choice before her. Why should she have to choose only one, when she needed and wanted both in her life? But in the immortal words of her wise mother, Elena needed to let one of the brothers go, to be free. It was wrong to hold one captive just because she did not want to choose.

In matters of life and death, Elena has never hesitated: she would always sacrifice herself to keep her friends and family for harm. But in matters of the heart, she shied away from any painful decisions. She wanted to keep both Stefan and Damon, and we kind of hoped that she could too. Yet in the end, Elena saw that she was only inflicting pain with her indecision and was finally forced to make a choice — and she chose Stefan.

But here’s the real twist: she chose Stefan based on what she knew at the time she made the choice. It was but only moments later that Elena found herself reliving that terrifying night all over again. But this time, she would not be saved by Stefan. In fact, when Elena saw him, she waved him away. She wanted Stefan to save Matt, this time. She would sacrifice herself to save her friend. But in doing so, she unknowingly shed her humanity and became the one thing she never wanted: a vampire. And her memories of Damon will be raised to the surface of her memory and her decision will be undone. For how could she choose Stefan when she now knows that she met Damon first and the wish he granted her: a love that burns within her? Whatever Elena may feel for Stefan, it is not a burning desire. She admitted as much to Matt. No, for the past two years, Stefan has been the safe choice — the one who made Elena feel safe and secure. All those raging, burning emotions have been kept hidden within her heart and only recently had Elena begun to acknowledge that Damon was the one who brought those feelings out. So with knowledge of her prior connection to Damon, Elena is more than likely to choose again — and it will be a different choice. For Elena is not just a young, teenage girl anymore; she is a vampire and all her emotions will be heightened. Thus, that burning passion for Damon will be magnified. The human Elena, who had no memories of meeting Damon before Stefan, is gone. It will be fascinating to meet this new Elena, one who must live a new life and with new choices laid out before her. She won’t need protecting anymore; she will be able to protect herself. Suddenly on equal footing, will she choose the safe choice, or will she embrace her hidden desires? Suddenly the 4th season feels a long way away!

Points of Interest

1. It was lovely to Aunt Jenna again, if only in flashback memories. The loss of Jenna is still keenly felt; especially now that Alaric is gone too. Though in theory, both could be hovering nearby if Jeremy chose to use his ghost-whispering skills more often.

2. How awesome was it that Elijah made a reappearance?! Though we’re still not sure that inviting him in the Gilbert house was the safest thing to do. But now that Elena has died again, perhaps Elijah will have to seek Jeremy’s permission to enter in the future.

3. With Alaric gone and living on the other side, I’m assuming that Sheriff Forbes and Mayor Lockwood will be quickly reinstated to their positions and that the Town Council will let them be and that no more talks of bringing Dr. Fell up with the medical board arise. Our heroes need their faithful friends and allies in critical places to keep their activities off the general populace’s radar and to prevent widespread panic.

4. Loved it when Damon complained to Bonnie, “I’m not half way out of Virginia and Elena sells our souls to the Originals?” and Bonnie replied, “It was her call.” To which Damon responded, “You know what else is her call, everything bad — ever.”

What Worked

Where to begin?! This episode was jam-packed with so much. There was the Tyler/Caroline moments; the Elena-Stefan-Damon love triangle; Damon saving Rebekah; Matt and Jeremy attempting to save Elena by getting her out of town; Alaric’s goodbye to Jeremy; and Bonnie’s clever little switcharoo with Klaus. Okay, that’s a great starting point: Klaus.

It felt so anti-climatic when Alaric staked Klaus and his body burst into flames. There was none of the usual whispered, blistering insults that Klaus had grown famous for. So it was such a relief to find out that Bonnie had saved everyone (well, Stefan, Damon, Caroline, Tyler and Bonnie’s mother) by transferring Klaus’ soul into Tyler’s body. But of all the body’s, why did it have to be Tyler’s? Was it to punish Klaus for tormenting Tyler? Was it so he would be more comfortable and at home in a hybrid vampire/werewolf? Or was it because Bonnie sensed that destiny had some how marked Caroline and Klaus in such a way that they were destined to be a part of each other’s lives in some way? It is mind-boggling to think about. But it also rather tragic. Did Bonnie create a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation where Klaus and Tyler must struggle within one body for control? Or is Tyler gone and only Klaus resides in Tyler’s body now? And how is Caroline going to feel once she finds out? Run, Bonnie, run!

So as relieving as it is that Klaus, our notoriously evil and deliciously bad villain is not gone for good, the ramifications of his continued presence occupying Tyler’s body is troubling. Will he still be a threat to Elena and the everyone else, or will Klaus finally learn to be a better man?

Whatever the circumstances, it was beautiful seeing how joyously and unhesitatingly Caroline chose to run away with Tyler — albeit after she conditioned it upon allowing her to help save her friends. When Tyler reminded her, “Stefan and Damon are going to whatever it takes to protect themselves. But this is our lives, so let me protect you,” Caroline simply smiled and said, “I will go anywhere with you, and if have to spend the rest of our lives running, I will run with you — but first I have to help our friends.” Caroline’s pure love has shone like a beacon throughout and it is what continues to draw such fine men like Matt and Tyler to her, and which tames wild beasts like Klaus. It would have been beautiful to have allowed Caroline and Tyler to have had their time on their own together and carefree for awhile. But then we would have missed them. The Klaus-aspect forces them to stay for awhile until that gets worked out.

Also applaud-worthy was Jeremy and Matt’s plotting to kidnap and save Elena. It almost worked too. But Alaric staking Klaus’ body changed the game for everyone. Even Matt could not deny Elena the right to see the one person she wanted to see more than anything before he died. So kudos to Jeremy and Matt for daring to take a risk at pissing Elena off and keeping her safe. It’s exactly what Damon would have done too. Which is exactly what Damon told Stefan when he snapped, “You just had to let her make the choice, didn’t you?” and Stefan exasperatedly asked, “What would you have done, Damon?” To which Damon retorted, “Grabbed her, gagged her, threw her in a well. I don’t know. Anything rather than let her trust Elijah.” Then when Stefan reminded him, “You know she’s just hate you for it, right?” Damon rationalized, “Yeah, but she’s be alive and she’d hate me. Thus the eternal difference between you and me.” Sometimes when you love someone, you don’t ask them what they want — especially if they have a martyr complex — you have to save their life for them. That kind of gumption and take-charge attitude previews two very strong men. Jeremy and Matt are certainly coming into their own, and deservedly so after being pushed aside so many times because they are only human. Only human does count for something. Humans die for each other every day — and it means more that they are willing to stand and fight without super-human abilities to protect them. Both Jeremy and Matt deserve good women in their lives too that appreciate their contribution and bravery. Dear Universe: make that happen!

Okay, okay, I know the Delena fans are dying to talk about it. Let’s just jump right in. As mentioned above, Elena’s choice may have been Stefan — but that was the human Elena; vampire Elena is certainly going to make a different choice. It was foreshadowed at great length in this episode. From the moment that Stefan returned and Elena greeted him with a hug, we saw the look of pain on Stefan’s face: he knew that she had not chosen him. Later when Stefan was saying his goodbye to her that same expression was there: Stefan knew by Elena’s own body language that she had chosen his brother. So he gave her one last passionate kiss goodbye, not because he was worried that he may not live, but because it was going to be his last chance to kiss her. So it was with sadness and regret when Stefan said, “That’s just in case there is no later.” Stefan even said as much to Damon when Damon called to let him know that Klaus was dead, “An hour is not enough time to get you all the way back to Mystic Falls.” Then as Damon wryly replied, “Us and our epic goodbye’s, Stefan?” Stefan softly said, “Not us, brother. You and Elena.” In a quiet heart-beat, realization began to dawn on Damon’s face, and he regretfully said, “Well, I guess you’ll have to say goodbye for the both of us, won’t you?”

For almost the entire episode, Damon acted like he had already lost. He could afford to be chivalrous and flirtatious with Rebekah; he could give up the fight with Alaric; and he would step aside to allow Stefan and Elena to be happy. He just never really believed that Elena would ever choose him over Stefan; and he was prepared to lose the girl — again. Just like Katherine always chose Stefan over him. Yet Stefan’s words gave him hope he dared not have before.

Whereas Stefan was there with Elena and could read the inflection in her voice, the difference in her body language, her distancing and reluctance to voice the choice of her heart. Stefan knew what Elena did not yet want to admit, that it was goodbye for them. Elena doesn’t want the safe option anymore. She’s curious to know what she feels for Damon; for she already knows what it is like to be with Stefan and she doesn’t burn with the same passion for him as she once did. She doesn’t crave safety and security, she wants to burn with uncontrollable desire. Whether she wants to admit it or not.

Thus, when Matt brought Elena tea and said, “So, Stefan?” Elena tried to rationalize why she should be with Stefan by explaining, “He saved my life, you know. I never told you that. The night that my parent’s car went off the bridge, Stefan was the one that saved me.” As Matt asked, “So you feel like you owe him or something?” Elena further explained, “No, it’s not that. It’s after the accident, I kind of felt like I didn’t know how to live anymore. Like I didn’t want to. But then being with Stefan, somehow I figured it out. And that’s what love should be. You should love the person that makes you glad that you’re alive.” It was a beautiful, rational speech, but her heart didn’t seem to be in it, so Matt again asked, “So then what’s the problem?” To which Elena sighed and admitted, “The problem is Damon. When I’m with him, it just consumes me. And I know that I can’t love them both. I know that it’s wrong, but I when I choose one, I’ll lose the other — and I don’t want to lose anyone else.” Elena wasn’t making a choice with her heart, she was choosing with her head. She was choosing the safe choice.

Later when Damon prodded her, “Since I’m possibly a dead man, can I ask you a question? . . . If it was down to just him and me and you had to make a choice, who got the goodbye? Who would it be?” Elena tried to rationalize her decision again by saying, “I love him, Damon. He came into my life at a time when I needed someone and I fell for him instantly. No matter what I feel for you, I never un-fell for him.” Damon with a heavy sigh then replied, “I get it. It was always going to be Stefan.” But this is when it got interesting, Elena conditioned her choice by saying, “I can’t think about always. I can only think about right now — and I care about you, Damon, which is why I have to let you go. Maybe if you and I had met first . . .” Unsure as to whether she was still offering him hope for the future, Damon noncommittally replied, “Maybe.”

The next thing we see is either Elena remembering as she is drowning or as Damon is being beaten to a bloody-pulp a memory from long ago. It was the night that Damon and Elena first met, and one or both of them was just beginning to remember it. It was a lost memory being remembered. The scene was beautiful and it certainly foreshadows what lies ahead for Damon and Elena next season.

Let’s enjoy it again and appreciate how significant it is: The scene opens with Damon lying on an empty street and as he rises he sees Elena. Not certain what he is seeing, Damon says, “Katherine?” To which the girl replies cautiously, “No, I’m Elena.” After a double-take, Damon admits, “Oh you just look, I’m sorry, you just really remind me of someone. I’m Damon.” As Elena flirtatiously responds, “Not to be rude or anything, Damon. But it’s kind of creepy that you’re out here in the middle of nowhere,” he playfully says, “You’re one to talk. You’re out here all by yourself.” With a sigh, Elena retorted, “It’s Mystic Falls. Nothing bad ever happens here.” But then she revealed, “I got into a fight with my boyfriend,” and when Damon inquired, “About what? May I ask?” She replied, “Life. Future. He’s got it all mapped out.” Then when Damon curiously asked, “You don’t want it?” Elena admitted, “I don’t know what I want.” This was the moment. This is the Elena we know all too well. Indecisive and afraid to let her heart go. So when Damon gently said, “Now that’s not true. You want what everybody wants.” This time Elena was the curious one when she teasingly asked, “What? A mysterious stranger who has all the answers?” To which Damon impishly replied, “Well, let’s just say I’ve been around a long time. I’ve learned a few things.” Opening the door a bit wider to the possibilities and promise of the future, Elena threw caution to the wind and dared to ask, “So, Damon, tell me: what is it that I want?” And he predicted, “You want a love that consumes you. You want passion and adventure, and even a little danger.” Not sure what to make to this prophecy, Elena turned the tables on him and asked, “So what do YOU want?” Alas, before he could really answer, their interlude was interrupted and Damon bestowed one last gift upon her as he wiped her memory and compelled her with, “I want you to get everything you’re looking for. But for right now, I want you to forget that this happened. Can’t have people knowing I’m in town yet. Goodnight, Elena.” Then he disappeared into the night.

At this point, Damon still had dreams of rescuing Katherine and living happily ever after with her. Damon did not yet know that he had met his soul-mate in Elena and that he had granted her wish by compelling her to seek a love that would promise her passion, adventure, a little danger, and a love that would consume her. He also did not know that he is brother Stefan would be the one to rescue Elena just minutes later and that all three of their lives would become intertwined to such a degree that they would do anything for each other. The love knot had just been tied and they did not know it yet.

So as we look back over this episode, it was all about Elena’s choice: who she chose to love and who she chose to save. Two years before, Elena did not get to choose who Stefan saved, and he saved her life over the lives of her parents. This time Elena wanted Stefan to save Matt and he did. Stefan will always acquiesce to Elena’s wishes for he values free-will above all else. Whereas, Damon would have not given a second thought to Matt’s life and would have saved Elena’s. Yet life changes again for Elena Gilbert. She was willing to die in Matt’s place knowing that she had saved him. But fate had other plans and Elena revived a vampire due to the blood in her system. Elena’s choice to save Matt changed her life and in doing so, it not only revived her body, it will reawaken her buried memories of meeting Damon that night long ago. Once she remembers that she did actually meet Damon first, as well as the wish he bestowed upon her, her destiny will finally be fulfilled. Because Elena won’t be human and subjected to her human fears and insecurities anymore; she’ll be free to choose a new choice for her new life; and this time, she’ll choose Damon. It is not only foreshadowed and promised, it is destined — and pity the fool that gets in the way of destiny!

It was a beautiful episode of love and loss. But it was really the bookend to Elena’s story. It began with a girl being rescued by a boy (albeit a vampire boy) and falling in love. Yet now, that story is done and it will now be about Elena’s journey as a vampire. Her choices of her former life won’t be enough anymore. It will be a time for new choices. So there’s hope for Damon and Elena yet. Their story is about to begin.

What Didn’t Work

Gosh, this is one of those rare episodes where everything worked phenomenally. No criticisms. Let’s just bite our nails and begin the long countdown to Season 4. Is it Fall yet?!

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“The Departed” written by Brett Matthews and Elisabeth R. Finch and directed by John Behring. ‘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, Daniel Gillies. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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