Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Growing Pains (2012)

"The Vampire Diaries"

“The Vampire Diaries”

When choosing life, choosing death, which is stronger?

For Elena Gilbert, she always wanted to die a martyr — and she got her wish. In the third season finale, she sacrificed her life to save Matt’s. But she never dreamed that she was not able to die, for the vampire blood in her system prevented that. Instead, she was given a second chance at life, just not as a human. Death was not yet ready for her as there was one left choice for her to make. Elena had to choose not life, nor death, but whether to be a vampire; for without consuming human blood, her transformation was incomplete. Thus, she still had a choice. She could still martyr herself. But in the end, the instinct to live was too strong, and Elena tasted human blood competing her transformation. But that was her choice. She could have chosen to die. She had made that choice before; yet this time she chose to live. Living as a vampire is not the same, but it is living, and Elena could still be a girlfriend, a friend, a sister and a savior.

Elena, the vampire. It has been 3 years in the making. Was it really that inconceivable that the girl rescued by a vampire would not one day become one herself? It is always easy to choose not to be a vampire when one is not at death’s door. Yet staring death straight in the face, Elena blinked. She could not bear the thought of just giving up. When she had died before, she did it to save Matt. But this time, there was no one to save but herself and she leapt at it; for the chance to watch Jeremy grow up, to be there for her friends Bonnie and Caroline, and to spend eternity with Stefan. Yet there will be days when she regrets that decision. When she has outlived the people she knew and loved. Standing over the gravestones of a generation that she should have died with. When she realizes that she will never have children of her own. When she grows weary of the constant battle for her heart by two brothers destined to love her and yet only one can have her. Eternity is a long time. Then, if not sooner, will Elena realize that perhaps she made the wrong choice.

But, for today, Elena is alive. A vampire, but alive. She can still love and be loved. She can fight and protect. She can do all those things she dreamed of doing one day. She has all the time in the world to savor it all.

Points of Interest

1. Gotta love it when Klaus (as Tyler) showed up to rescue his beloved Caroline and when Rebekah asked, “What about me?” Klaus simply replied, “Keep them busy, little sister.” The look on Rebekah’s face was priceless as she then whispered, “That’s not possible.”

2. Another noteworthy scene was later when we watched yet another pivotal reaction by Rebekah. Silently watching Stefan and Elena’s dying declarations to each other, Rebekah for the first time perhaps glimpsed real love. The fact that she remained quiet and gave them those few final moments together spoke to how much it touched her, and it was what saved Elena in the end. Astoundingly just the day before Rebekah had sought to kill Elena, yet seeing Elena and Stefan’s love broke through her hatred and gave her a reason to try to help them. There may be hope for Rebekah’s humanity yet.

3. Okay, wasn’t that ending something else?! So the newest enemy in Mystic Falls pulls a trump card and blows up himself and everyone conspiring with him with a final proclamation, “Friends, we are the beginning.” What?!!! Mind-boggling that’s for sure

What Worked

The agony and ecstasy of Elena’s choice hovered over this entire episode. In last season’s finale, Elena chose Stefan and was rushing back to him. Yet that was a decision of a human girl still caught up in her first love; and the difference a day makes. One day later and Elena is now on the brink of becoming a vampire. She has a different choice to make. It is not just choosing between Stefan and Damon; but whether to forsake her human life and embrace her vampire life. It is a decision that will have long-reaching ripple effects in her life. A human girl will choose Stefan because he is safe. He will honor her wishes, even if it means letting her die. Stefan always embodied the two things Elena craved: comfort and safety. And those are just not the words that spring to mind when thinking of Damon, the other Salvatore. Damon invokes a sense of danger, of living on the edge, of wantonness, of reveling in vampirism.

Now that Elena has chosen to be a vampire, her new life will be dictated by new needs, wants and desires. Plus, she now remembers all the encounters that Damon compelled her to forget. She remembers that she met him first; that he only wanted her to get everything she wanted out of life; and that he was willing to step-aside so that she could be with Stefan. Those actions speak of a man who is selfless — not selfish; of a man who will honor her wishes; and a man who will do anything to protect her. Elena will now be forced to see Damon as he really is, and not just the brave facade he wears around her.

The tug-of-war for Elena’s heart has only just begun.

When Elena awoke from her human death, awakening into her vampire transformation phase, Damon bitterly blamed her for her own death. She had been reckless and heartless in throwing away her life. So, as he angrily told her, “Your choice, Elena, as always,” he was emphasizing that he would not be the one to force her to complete the transformation. He would honor her wish to die because he knew that she feared becoming a vampire more than anything. While he readily admitted he would have saved her over Matt in a heart beat, but this time he would honor her decision. He would not force becoming a vampire upon her, even if it meant losing her forever

It was this moment that was pivotal for Elena. It really was the first time that she could recall that Damon truly acquiesced to her wishes about her life. That moment and realization then colored Elena’s memory as she remembered the scene in her bedroom when Damon kissed her and compelled her to forget. It was another time that Damon acted against his own self-interest in order to allow Elena to choose her own life. He had quietly told her, “I love you, Elena, and it’s because I love you that I can’t be selfish with you. Why you can’t know this. I don’t deserve you. But my brother does.” Then with a gentle kiss, he quietly said, “God, I wish you didn’t have to forget this. But you do.”

Back-to-back, these realizations hit Elena hard. It confused her and gave her a lot to think about. This was not the Damon she knew, it was the Damon he kept hidden from her. When she saw Damon later she revealed, “I remember everything. One of the highlights of my transition, remembering everything that you compelled me to forget. Like how you and I met first. You were a stranger that told me that you wanted me to get everything I wanted from life. Damon, why didn’t you tell me?” But when Damon asked, “Would it have made a difference?” Elena didn’t answer him. To which Damon coldly replied, “I didn’t think so.” Elena’s vampire transformation may be complete, but she is still in transition. She has not yet figured out what her new life will entail. So clinging to her old life, Elena tried to explain, “You asked me to make a choice, so I did. . . If it had been you on the bridge last night, and not Stefan, and I had begged you to save Matt . . .” and Damon said, “I would have saved you in a heartbeat, no question,” and she resignedly concluded, “That’s what I thought. Then Matt would be dead because you couldn’t let go. Matt would be dead.”

But that is when things got interesting, Damon gave Elena an answer that she was not expecting. He said, “But you wouldn’t be. And you’d have gotten to grow up and have the life you wanted. The life you deserved. And I know I didn’t used to get that, but I do now, and I wanted that for you, Elena. And I would have gladly have given that to you and let Matt die because I am that selfish. But you knew that already. The first night we met, that’s not all you remember.” She could only stare after him as he walked away. Everything was not as she had thought. Damon’s mask had slipped and she was beginning to see another side of him. She is beginning to wonder if she ever knew him at all.

So as Elena began to reevaluate Damon and his actions, Stefan had to reevaluate his own actions. He admitted as much to Damon when Stefan said, “I made a choice that I will regret for the rest of my life. Now let me try to fix it.” Stefan had saved Matt’s life, honoring Elena’s wishes. But in the process he had forced her to make the one decision she never wanted to make: to choose between death and becoming a vampire. Choosing between human life and death was easy; Elena would choose death every time to save those she loved. But would she willingly choose to be a vampire? Watching Elena die a slow death before him as she fought for her humanity just about tore Stefan apart. Yet in the end, he caved and gave her a blood source perhaps knowing that she was unable to resist any longer. Between the blood craving and her own inability to let go, he pushed her into temptation and she took it. Stefan is going to curse the day he failed to save her instead of Matt sending her on this path to becoming a vampire — and he is going to curse even more the day he provided her with human blood completing her transformation. Stefan failed her twice in protecting her from her greatest fear: to become a vampire.

It is fascinating that choosing Stefan was the catalyst to Elena becoming a vampire. If she had picked Damon, she would have never died and never become a vampire. But by choosing Stefan, it put her on a collision course with destiny — Elena gave up her human life, and embraced a vampire life. And it was all Stefan’s fault. It was all because she chose Stefan. As she told him, “Do you even know why I was on that bridge? I was coming back for you, Stefan. I had to choose, and I picked you. Because I love you. No matter what happens, that is the best choice I ever made.” But this is just Day One. What will the next day bring? Even Stefan knew that this was just the beginning of Elena’s new life, for as he told her, “I wish I could tell you that you’ll never feel pain, that you’ll never crave blood, but you will. It will be the worst thing you’ll have ever lived through.” To which Elena responded, “But I’ll get to live. I’ll be a sister and a friend. And I’ll be with you. Forever.” We shall see what all those remaining days bring. Shall Elena always be so grateful to be a vampire? Will she wonder about the role Stefan played in her demise and resurrection? Will she ultimately blame him for her eternal damnation? These are questions that are sure to haunt her.

Looking past the Elena-Stefan-Damon drama, it was a great moment when Stefan told Matt, “Elena put your life before her own. So every morning as you get out of bed, you sure as hell better earn it,” reminding him that he should not take his human life for granted for one second. Elena may not realize what she has lost yet, but Stefan acutely recalls all that she gave up. Matt should treasure his life because of Elena’s brave sacrifice and not waste it.

Then because it was so much fun, we have to talk briefly about the Klaus-Caroline-Tyler shenanigans. As brief as it was, it was priceless watching Klaus inhabit Tyler’s body. It was even funnier that he tried to be honorable about it and was dodging Caroline’s advances — at least until he slipped up and called her “luv.” Then as realization dawned, Klaus just owned up to it saying, “That’s what I love about you. So much more than just a pretty face.” As despicable and inhuman as Klaus could be, his one soft spot was always Caroline. It is awesome to see how she still continues to bring out the best in him. Hopefully Klaus won’t vanish for too long now that his hybrid blood supply is gone. His attempts to woo Caroline are some of the best comedy in a show about tortured romance. We’ll be counting the days ’til Klaus returns — again.

What Didn’t Work

It felt too soon for Klaus to be returned to his body. It was rather fun watching him try to be Tyler and seeing how quickly people realized it was him instead. As it is, we only saw Caroline and Rebekah’s reactions. Imagine the fun to be had if he were to have tried to be Tyler around Damon, Elena and Stefan?

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“Growing Pains” was written by Caroline Dries and directed by Chris Grismer. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Joseph Morgan, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig, Torrey Devitto, Claire Holt. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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