There are good shows, and bad shows. There are funny shows, and sad shows.
But the best shows are the ones where the writing and acting and production all come together in a way that touches the heart.
And no show does that better than “The Vampire Diaries”.
“Do Not Go Gentle” was one of those episodes that had me crying, more than once, because it pulled at my heart strings. One of the hallmarks of any good story is that you care about the people in it. You come to know them in a strange way. And when something terrible happens to them, it hurts.
The episode opens with Klaus expressing his artistic side – in oil. A very angry picture – in black. Reflective of his state of mind, no doubt. Enter Esther – in the body of Bex – holding the “last of the white oak stakes that can kill us”. Klaus takes it from her and throws it into the fire, with a satisfied grin. Then he tells her to pack her bags because they’re leaving – today – Klaus, Bex and the doppelganger, Elena.
Esther reminds him she’s the head of the dance committee – and when he says he’s not going to a dance – she also reminds him that Caroline will be there. Esther knows her son. He agrees to a last hurrah.
Damon’s on the phone with Ric – Becca’s got the stake (it’s not at Ric’s), and he wants to get out of town because he keeps blacking out. After hanging up, we see that Esther and Ric are alone with the Original family coffins. And it’s actually “bad” Ric who was on the phone with Damon – who he says is too arrogant to believe his best friend would betray him. Esther says Klaus – too – is unable to refuse his little sister, unaware he is headed to his own death.
Bex opens a coffin and inside is Esther’s body. It seems if Ric will take the dagger she’s dipped in the white oak ash, and stab Bex with it, Bex will be “dead” and Esther can be revived in her own body.
So naturally, that’s what he does.
(The plot thickens and I have to take notes to keep up.)
At the high school gym, Elena is helping Caroline decorate for the dance. Matt and Jeremy are working together hanging stars – Elena has asked Matt to please help Jeremy readjust. A new bromance? Matt’s helped get Jeremy his old grill job back. Elena says Jeremy’s having a hard time with the Ric situation – but Caroline suggests his problem might be witnessing her dalliance with Damon.
Caroline also tells her that Bonnie asked Jamie to the dance as her date. Caroline suggests Elena ask Stefan – and tells her he is her “epic” love. Clearly, Caroline is biased, and Elena calls her on it. Caroline is on Stefan’s side because he was good to her when she turned – a real friend. Damon, on the other hand…well, we all know how Damon treated Caroline when he first came to town.
So Caroline is a Stelena shipper, and she convinces Elena to ask Stefan to the dance. And he agrees. Damon overhears the conversation and makes a few, choice snarky remarks, obviously peeved at Elena’s choice of date – and then walks off to meet up with Meredith at the hospital. He tells her – and shows her – that Alaric has NOT been taking the herbs Bonnie left for him.
Meanwhile – at the cemetery – right in front of the Salvatore family crypt, no less – Esther explains that a long time ago, right on this spot, Klaus literally ripped her heart out. The violence of her death marked the ground for all time.
They enter the tomb and inside, there is the stake and a chalice (it’s never good when there’s a chalice, especially if it’s sitting inside a tomb). Esther says she needs Ric’s ring When he asks why he would give up the one thing that can protect him, she says she will give him all the protection he needs.
I’d have trouble with that. Esther’s behavior has not exactly been trustworthy up to now.
She continues to explain, and again I’m taking notes. When the last stake is used, it will burn up in the body of its first victim (remember Mikael?). If he is to be successful in killing all her children, she must bind the protective magic in his ring with the last stake. This will render the white oak indestructible (or is it re-useable?)
I had to replay this section of the episode 4 times before I got all that. Complex stuff this Esther is messing with.
Ric hands over his ring (oh no) and Esther drops it into the chalice. She chants some witchy woo over it and the ring melts. Then she takes the stake and dips it into the chalice (except now she looks more like a chemist using a mortar and pestle!) and when she raises it, the stake is covered at the large end with liquid ring! When turned pointed side down, the silver drips down the sides until the stake is coated – and looks like Hermoine Granger’s magic wand!
Esther declares it the ultimate weapon for the ultimate hunter.
Later that evening, Elena is dressed like flapper (looking very much like Katherine back in 1929 – except for the hair) and Stefan arrives to take her to the dance. There’s a little old-fashioned furtive looking at each other, and off they go.
Bonnie appears to be having a great time with Jamie – and good for her, because lord knows she gets no love and rarely smiles – it’s nice to see (you can hate Tweet me for that if you like! I don’t care – I like her. But then, we share a name…).
Matt looks absolutely adorable in a newsboy cap, and he’s really growing on me. I like that they are making him more and more an integral part of the whole gang, even if he’s just human. Caroline warns Matt not to get caught in the Elena-generated cross-fire. Tyler arrives – looking like a gangster from Chicago, and Matt is not pleased.
Tyler’s not going to just lay low and let Klaus move in on his girl – even if it’s dangerous. And he literally sweeps Caroline off her feet, just as Stefan and Elena arrive. The joint is rockin’ and they join in – but suddenly the music turns soft and romantic. And the conversation turns serious.
First Stefan says he’s sorry about what happened with Bonnie’s Mom, and Elena suggests that he apologize to Bonnie. Then she wants to talk about the trip to Denver and what happened between Damon and her. And Stefan doesn’t want to know.
This is one of the reasons I don’t like Stelena. No fire. All in his head, no fire in his heart. That would NOT excite me, and it’s not exactly interesting to watch it play out on screen either.
Stefan is just honored to be Elena’s date. All while “You Do Something to Me” plays in the background. (*** yawn***)
And just as I think I’m going to fall asleep, a wild-eyed Damon appears and says “We three need to talk”, and off they go, with Jeremy close behind. But he does literally run into Bonnie on the way out.
Out in the hall, Damon is suggesting that they “put Alaric out of his misery” just as Jeremy walks in on them. He turns and walks back into the dance – like Caroline, Jeremy is not exactly a Damon fan either, for equally good reason. After all, Damon killed him once!
But Damon’s reasoning is consistent. He suggests that Elena’s in danger – and we know that any time Elena’s in danger, Damon will do anything to protect her – even if it means killing his best – and only – friend. Remember his words – “I will always choose you Elena.” The man is totally devoted to Elena – consistently, no matter who or what. Elena comes first.
Elena runs after Jeremy, promising him that no one is going to hurt Alaric. Little does she know…
And who shows up behind her but Esther, telling her if Elena wants to help Alaric, she needs to come with her. Elena instructs Jeremy to get Damon and Stefan – NOW.
“I mean you no harm – but willingly or not, you will come.” Say what? Esther is the bomb at speaking out of both sides of her mouth at the same time.
And as they walk off, I’ve seen enough of the ground in the wide shots to notice that there is NO SALT. But seconds later when Jeremy reappears with Damon and Stefan, suddenly there is a quarry sized amount of salt surrounding the entire school – and keeping Damon and Stefan inside its barrier.
Then there is this whole distracting scene with Bonnie and Jamie – I like them, but I feel this whole thing slows down the action. It’s actually nice to see Bonnie getting some love from a nice, normal guy – but it’s short-lived, of course, because Damon barges in and beckons Bonnie to follow because “there’s trouble and we need you.” If I were Bonnie, I’d be so pissed at being yanked around like a toy all the time by these people – but she knows this might involve her friend Elena – to whom she can’t seem to say no.
Meanwhile, out in the cemetery, Esther is apologizing for taking Elena away from the dance but that’s the price of being the doppelganger. Her blood is a potent binding agent in spells. Elena begs Esther not to hurt Ric, but when he appears from the crypt, it’s obvious Esther is no threat to him at all. He’s “bad Ric”. But there’s something else.
Elena asks Esther what she’s doing and Esther tells her she will remake him – like her children.
Uh oh. She’s going to turn Ric into Mikael – a vampire who hunts vampires! Elena points out that there’s a danger that Ric could be even worse than her children (who we know she hates). But Esther is convinced that won’t happen because Ric has embraced his “darkest aspect.”
According to Esther, dark Ric’s hatred of vampires will “become more pure and uncompromising?” Ah – I get it. Each vampire has a characteristic that is magnified when they are turned – in bad Ric, this is apparently “vampire hatred”. Elena claims she can’t be sure of this – she doesn’t know Ric.
But Elena is wrong. Every time Ric died with that ring on, Esther was there on the other side. She spoke to him and nurtured him. She fed his hatred – vampires took from him – and now he’s going to take from them.
Esther is what has been driving Ric crazy! Yikes!
Back at the dance, “The Man I Love” is playing as Caroline dances with Tyler, and in walks Klaus – wearing an off-white suit. Now, this is a bit obvious, no? Tyler – the good guy – in the black hat, and Klaus – the evil guy – in a white suit? Really?
Tyler pretends to be compelled to allow Klaus to cut in, and Caroline erupts, asking him why he always has to prove that he’s the alpha male. Klaus’s response is perfect.
“I don’t have to prove anything, luv – I AM the alpha male.” Pure Klaus.
Klaus leads her into a dance, and tells her he’s leaving. He’d ask her to come along, but they both know she’s not ready. After an intense look, Caroline nearly laughs in his face, and he is crestfallen. In his anger, he tells her that a small town boy and a small town life won’t be enough for Caroline. Is that true, or is this Klaus wants to be true? And he leaves. Outside, he is bound by the ring of salt, and asks aloud “What is this?”
Stefan answers… “Your mother’s back.”
Now the part of this that I don’t get is – how did Klaus get into the dance? No matter!
Somewhere in the high school, Bonnie is chanting Latin over candles yet again. She is trying to break the salt barrier. Matt says people are walking right past it – he and Jeremy can leave and save Elena. Klaus grabs Jamie by the neck and threatens to kill him if Bonnie doesn’t break the spell. Stefan tells Klaus that Bonnie is helping them for the sake of Caroline and Tyler. If Klaus starts hurting the people Bonnie she loves, she will tell them all to go to hell.
In the Salvatore mausoleum, Elena is arguing with Ric as the other witch, Esther, lights candles and prepares the spell. She forces blood from Elena, and it flows from Elena’s hand into the mortar – or is it a chalice now – because Esther tells Ric to “drink”. Elena begs him not to, but he does. And when he asks if it’s finished, Esther replies “Not just yet” before plunging the “super stake” into him.
And here is where we start to hear the word choice – over and over. Funny, but I wrote about that last week.
Bonnie is going to do a locater spell to find Elena. Damon makes a half-hearted attempt to apologize for turning her mother into a vampire, but says he had no choice.
Elsewhere, Stefan is telling Caroline and Tyler that Matt and Jeremy have gone off alone to save Elena. Caroline is furious, and Stefan says they had no other choice.
Back at the mausoleum, Elena removes the stake from Alaric’s chest. Esther tells her he’ll wake soon, and may be his old self for a time. And if that happens, she can say good-bye before his transition is complete. Elena is angry and tells Esther that this is worse than turning her children into vampires. But Esther says Alaric will never be what her children became. When his task is complete, he will die.
Elena asks how that can be; if he is immortal, but Esther tells her that she has granted Ric enough power to complete his task. When it is complete, and the time is right, he will die. All Elena needs to know is that when it’s all over, the earth will be rid of vampires once and for all. Elena says that will kill the good along with the bad. She tells Esther she’s no better than her son Klaus.
And then Esther tells Elena that Jenna is at peace. Even as a vampire, Jenna was pure and did not dwell in the place that Esther inhabited on the other side. Jenna knows a peace that Esther never has.
A noise draws Esther outside, where Matt cocking the trigger of his rifle, and Jeremy with a cross-bow, demand to know where Elena is. Esther says they are foolish to risk their lives in defense of those who would kill them (what), but if that is their……choice?
And Esther spells Matt and Jeremy to aim at each other! As the struggle not to shoot at each other, Ric emerges from the crypt and stabs Esther with the “ultimate weapon”. It’s “good Ric” and he has no idea what’s happened!
Klaus tries to blame everything on Stefan. Then he tries to re-engender their friendship – which never really was a friendship. Damon breaks in – and Klaus wonders what will happen to the unshakeable bond of brotherhood the Salvatore’s have when Elena makes her “choice”.
There it is again – choice.
Bonnie emerges to tell them the spell is broken – Klaus vamps off. Stefan thanks her, but Bonnie – seemingly unaware that the spell is broken because Esther is “dead” – tells Stefan that she didn’t do it for him.
Back at the crypt, Klaus has taken Esther’s body. Jeremy joins Elena and Ric inside to tell them Damon is outside. Ric tells Jeremy that he is not going to complete the transition – his alter ego is much too dangerous – he can’t let himself turn into a vampire. Jeremy is angry at Alaric’s “choice”. He tells Elena and Jeremy to go – Damon will make sure everything happens the way Ric wants it to go.
Ric hugs Jeremy, who leaves. Elena is full of sorrow and guilt, blaming herself. But Ric tells her taking care of her and Jeremy is the closest he’s ever come to the life he always wanted. Elena hugs Ric as Jeremy did, and tears are falling, not just from her eyes, but from viewer’s eyes as well. Mine included. My eyes are full of tears as I write this.
As Elena and Ric emerge from the tomb, the gang stands in a tableau of silent solidarity to honor their friend, their teacher, their surrogate parent. This scene was just exceptional – no speaking, just silence and coming together for a man who arrived in town alone, and leaves surrounded by admiration and love. We should all have the impact in our lives that Alaric Saltzman had in Mystic Falls. The look on Rica’s face, the look of a man forcing himself to hold it together, broke my heart into a thousand tiny little pieces.
Back at the Mikael son Mansion, Klaus endangers his sister, and rages at his mother in her coffin. He is determined that her plan will fail. She will never destroy him.
Jamie has brought Bonnie home. He tells her she is amazing – but she says she’d settle for ordinary. At the Mystic Grill, Matt and Jeremy are knocking back a few, toasting Alaric – and a tear falls from Jeremy’s eye. He brushes it away, and another falls. Kudos to Steven McQueen – it is not easy to cry and still look like a man.
Elena is trying to clean out Alaric’s classroom – she’s busy distracting herself, trying not to think about the fact that her family keeps dying. Stefan asks her to come with him. They go to the gym where Klaus compelled Stefan to turn off his feelings. But he reminds Elena that she kept telling him it was OK to feel. Our emotions make us human – good or bad. Elena is feeling alone – but Stefan tells her she has him.
Outside the tomb, Meredith tells Damon – already on his way to getting wasted with booze – that she’s given Ric a sedative. Damon tells her he offered to snap Rica’s neck but he wouldn’t take him up on the offer. Meredith thanks him for giving Ric the “choice”. Damon reflects that lately his own choices have been a bit controversial. Meredith tells him not to leave Ric alone too long. Damon thinks Ric wants to be alone – but Meredith asks him “Is it really?”
Damon enters the tomb and sits down beside a Ric who is actually looking not so good.
Ric: “Is this the part where you give me a dream, rainbows and rolling green hills?”
Damon: “I was drunk when I told you that.”
Ric, laughing: “And I said I’d use it against you.”
Damon: “Sorry I killed you…twice.”
Ric: “So I actually have to die to get a real apology out of you?”
Film has a history of fine pairings in brilliant scenes that touch the heart and become classics. That is how I feel about this scene between Ric and Damon. It was just perfect. Brilliant writing incredibly well-played by two fine actors. It made me cry out loud – sobbing. And if it didn’t do the same to you, I’m sorry for you.
Esther is haunting Bonnie’s dreams, telling her to finish what Esther started. When Damon exits the tomb, he finds Bonnie – looking somewhat dazed – walking towards him. She passes him and when he tries to talk to her, she ignores him. Then she turns and gives him the “mind daggers”. She enters the tomb with the sleeping Alaric, and stabs herself with the ultimate weapon. It’s clear now that this is Esther possessing Bonnie. She force feeds Alaric her blood and he turns.
And then he bites into her neck. It’s ugly – he’s ugly. He’s the worst vampire I’ve ever seen and he’s got the ultimate stake! And there are only two episodes to go!