“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” Abraham Lincoln
If there was ever any doubt that Damon Salvatore is a noble man, this week’s episode puts that doubt to rest. Damon Salvatore is a heart breaker – not because he is a “lady killer” but because when he allows himself to feel, he can break your heart wide open.
If you failed to be moved to tears during this episode, you have my deepest sympathy.
This week, Damon performed a mercy killing. We suffered with him as he manipulated Rose’s final dream, and at a moment of peace and anticipation, drove a stake into her heart, ending the pain and torture of her descent.
But the tear that rolled down Damon’s cheek as he thrust the stake into Rose’s chest signaled the beginning of Damon’s own descent.
For while he is a noble man, Damon Salvatore is also a tortured soul. Observing him in his guilt and anguish, there can be no doubt that vampires can feel and thus, they can suffer – for an eternity.
Rose admitted that she never forgot what it was like to be human – that it has haunted her for over 500 years. And she told us that Damon is like her.
And he is.
“Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.” Anonymous
Rose cared enough about Damon to be honest with him, and make him be honest about himself. Rose never let Damon get away with being dishonest about his feelings. This is the source of his incredible guilt – he cared about Rose and she died because of him.
Elena also cares about Damon, but because Damon loves Elena and knows she does not return his love, he cannot bear to be honest with her. He cannot even bear her embrace as she hugs him.
I think it is valuable to look back at who Damon was in life. Damon Salvatore – the man – was a kind, compassionate, sensitive human being. Damon of the 1860’s refused to continue to participate in what he felt was an unjust war. Damon did not believe in slavery. He did not believe that one human being had the right to own another – he believed in humanity.
He valued humanity – his own and everyone else’s – and then it was taken from him.
And now we know – he misses it. He has missed it for well over 100 years – this is the source of his torture. He has feelings, but he doesn’t think he is entitled to them.
And, they hurt. Every single time Damon begins to feel something, anything, he makes a joke or gets angry – he does something to deflect the feeling. Rose told us that Damon wants to care, but when he does, he runs away. He doesn’t want to feel pain, but more than that, he doesn’t want to be reminded of what being human is like – because it’s something he no longer is and can’t ever be again.
With Rose’s death, with the pain of feeling her loss – because he did care for her – and the guilt of knowing that Jules intended him – not Rose – to be her victim, Damon finally cracks.
But instead of letting the people who care for him in on his terrible secret, he tells a total stranger on a deserted road.
He declares that he is lost – “metaphorically, existentially”. He believes he can’t help being a monster, but he desperately wants to be human because he misses it “more than anything in the world”.
He confronts his existential dilemma. He conducts a short debate with himself and his captive audience. And, believing he is a monster, and that he is beyond redemption, he gives in to his monstrous vampire impulses – the blood-lust.
There is no one there to remind him that he is worthy – that he is capable of great love (for Elena – sacrificial love), great compassion (killing Rose was an act of mercy) and great loyalty (despite everything, there is no doubt of Damon’s love for his brother, Stefan.)
And in his loneliness and despair, he descends.
“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul, and yet no one ever comes to sit by it.” Vincent Van Gogh