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In the Throes of Debilitating Grief: #TVD Thoughts

Whirl-fire

Whirl-fire (Photo credit: Loving Earth)

Spoilers abound in this post. If you’re not caught up on the Vampire Diaries, you might want to get lost. 

Wow.

The name of the episode was Let it Burn, but in my mind, it was the Episode of Debilitating Grief. When we left off, Jeremy looked dead. Really dead.

Last night’s episode confirmed what I had already thought true; Jeremy is gone, killed by Silas. His ring couldn’t save him.

When Elena brings Jeremy’s body back to Mystic Falls, she’s hoping he’ll wake. Stefan and Caroline are discussing the fact that Jeremy being a supernatural being (a Hunter), precluded the ring’s ability to save him, but Elena has hope.

And that hope gets smashed into bits.

I’ve heard some people complaining about Elena being “whiny,” but I think she’s handled the multitude of deaths with remarkable poise. I would challenge anyone to lose not one but TWO sets of parents, a beloved aunt, a surrogate father (Alaric), and all the other friends she’s lost along the way while maintaining sanity.

It only makes sense that losing her brother, her single remaining link to humanity, would be her snapping point. Because Jeremy is dead.

The only other television show I’ve seen to handle grief in such a spectacular way was Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the episode The Body.

You see Elena crumble as she realizes Jeremy’s not going to wake up. As she realizes she can smell him beginning to decompose. That her brother is really, truly gone. I think watching last night’s episode hit me so hard because of the year or so that my family has been through. Granted, two of the people we lost were older relatives, dying at the end of a long and fruitful life. But one was reft from us violently, and there is no other emotion I’ve ever experienced that is so painful, so debilitating. That’s the kind of grief that rips your legs right out from under you. It snatches away your breath and blows a hole in your insides so ragged and deep that nothing will fill it, and there’s no way to pull the edges back together.

That’s what Elena Gilbert experienced in last night’s episode.

And Damon helped her the only way he knew how: he told her to turn it off.

Some people were bashing on his decision to do that. I think he very probably saved her life. You can’t lose that many people to violence and pain without it changing you. He gave her psyche a respite, a chance to gain some distance. Yes, she’ll have to deal with it eventually and it might be just as bad or worse. But she was about to explode.

After all that, there was more going on. Silas is up and at ’em. Katherine whisked away the cure. Rebekah finds Shane’s broken body, and it’s made clear that Silas is the one whispering into Bonnie’s head and essentially pulling her puppet strings. That alone is an interesting revelation — Silas gets his revenge on the line of witches he couldn’t control in life by controlling its most recent offspring.

This could very well destroy Bonnie. Caroline is falling apart. Stefan and Damon are watching the woman they love disintegrate in front of them, and her ten thousand yard stare as she flips the switch on her emotions is one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve seen on the show, topped in this episode only by her utter brokenness.

I found it interesting that Elena’s first act after she flipped the switch was also the exact thing she’d been about to do before she flipped it.

She burns her house down.

That act is of course rife with its own symbolism. Whether she finds the cure or not, whether she takes it or not, Elena Gilbert will never be the same girl who went off Wickery Bridge at the end of last season. Never again.

Let it burn.

What were your thoughts on last night’s episode? I felt like someone wrapped their hand around my heart and squeezed until nothing else could come out.

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When the Good Brother is Not

VampireDiaries_Bookmark_Stefan

VampireDiaries_Bookmark_Stefan (Photo credit: i heart him)

Earlier this week, I had a Twitter debate about the merits of Stefan Salvatore with my friend, her agent, and another friend who chimed in later. It took me a while to put my finger on what exactly my beef is with Stefan, because I’ve never liked his character much, and I certainly don’t like him with Elena.

Along the way, he’s been called the good brother.

And after a lot of pondering, I realized that my beef with Stefan is that he’s not that at all.

Here’s why I think that. This is of course, my subjective opinion.

He Betrayed His Brother

Before Damon got all murdery and rar, Stefan set a high standard of ugh. When the Mystic Falls council was closing in on the vampires in their midst back in 1864, Damon asked Stefan not to tell his father about Katherine. Stefan promised he wouldn’t.

Then he did. Not in as many words, but he gave it away, setting into motion his own transition and the events that would entomb twenty-seven vampires under the church for a century and a half.

Beyond that, the moment Stefan turns, the first thing he does is kill his own father. And that gets moving before he feeds. His next move is to force his brother to become a vampire against his will. I’ve always thought of that as a form of violation. Damon made a choice. Stefan violated that choice. That’s not to say that everything Damon did afterward was Stefan’s fault, but in a mythology where transitioning into a vampire magnifies whatever emotions you had pre-turn, Stefan magnified Damon’s hatred, his betrayal, and his loyalty to a vampire who had played them both.

Stefan’s Default Setting is Monstrous

When Stefan got turned into a vampire, he went all-binge, all the time. It took the Civil War and Lexi to drag his ass out of it. Every time he’s left to his own devices, he gets all super-murdery. He is almost incapable of maintaining his control. I don’t buy into the idea that he’s a good guy with a bad side, because I feel that absolves him from anything that happens when that bad side is in control of his actions.

He goes on a massive killing spree with Klaus. He murdered heaps and heaps and heaps of people before that. Ripped them apart. It’s not fine to kill a bunch of people just because he feels bad about it later once Lexi manages to force some feels down his throat again.

My point is that without external impetus (usually Lexi, later Elena), Stefan’s base nature is to be a mass-murdering fuckhead.

Sure, he survives on squirrels and bunnies when he’s in remission, but that never lasts long, and you never know what’s going to make him snap. There is a very big difference between compartmentalizing a bad part of yourself and controlling it. Stefan has never learned real control, and I do not trust people who have such disparate sides. It’s the same reason why I could never be a big fan of Angel — a person who could snap at virtually any moment and become a psycho killer does not make a good boyfriend. Period.

Stefan made a comment to Elena in Thursday’s episode where he said, “You don’t know what I look like when I’m not in love with you.” And he’s right. Here’s the kicker — show viewers don’t really know that either. Even with all the flashbacks to before he met her, we don’t know how he behaves in present-day Mystic Falls when he’s not in love with Elena. Even through all his running amok with Klaus, he was still in love with Elena.

He Makes Supremely Selfish Decisions

Stefan does what he wants when he wants to do it. He does tend to listen more to Elena’s choices (sometimes), but many of the decisions he’s made are only to create an end that he is okay with. Which is to say, he ignores the desires of others to do what he wants, and then he gets mad when they are upset by that.

This season, Stefan decided he needed to get the cure for Elena. First, he didn’t tell Elena about it. He decided what would be best for her without consulting her. Yes, he was acting on the knowledge that she’d never wanted to be a vampire. But that doesn’t make it right. He doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that people change, and once those changes occur, they don’t change back. Even if they do succeed in curing Elena of vampirism, she will be closer to the woman she was as a vampire than the woman who chose Stefan and went sailing into the river off Wickery Bridge last year.

In choosing that path, Stefan put everyone in danger by his reckless decision to force Jeremy to kill vampires. That scene is one of the most despicable things I’ve seen Stefan do. He knows how Elena feels about her brother. And yet he blatantly uses Jeremy to his own ends.

He Cannot Take Responsibility

Feeling guilt and taking responsibility are two completely different things. Stefan feels guilt for the people he killed under Klaus’s influence (and the body count he racked up before that), but he never really takes responsibility for those things. Instead he puts the blame on others by saying he went with Klaus for Damon. Damon never asked him to do that. That was Stefan’s choice. He also puts the breakup blame on Elena when he’s the one who went off on a murder spree, tortured her and her friends (both physically and emotionally), and all but told her to run into his brother’s arms. Then when she develops feelings for Damon, he throws a temper tantrum and displays probably the best example of middle school whinging I’ve seen in a long while.

Damon didn’t do this to him. Elena didn’t do this to him. Stefan might be heartbroken, but he has no one to blame but himself and his failure to reconcile the part of himself that he wants to be (the kind, gentle, not-a-murderer) with the part of himself he keeps giving into (the ripper who tears his victims apart and reconstructs them in fancy poses). Because he has never really learned how to be a whole person, his two halves have torn him apart. And instead of having the self-awareness to realize that, he blames his ex-lover and his brother. Who, by the way, spent a whole season trying to drag his ass back from where it fell over the cliff.

In Conclusion…

You can probably guess that I don’t like Stefan. I don’t think he deserves the title of the good brother. He acts abominably in many cases, and in deeper ways than does his brother quite often. Then instead of fixing it, of learning how to deal with the warring sides of his personality, he broods about it until he snaps again. I think what irritates me is that people label him as the good brother after being only introduced to the “good side” of him, and ignoring the rest of his history and personality does not make those things vanish. He can’t even keep that good side in control without outside intervention. Without Lexi and Elena and Damon, he’d probably be dead.

 

TVD Rewatch: The Other Brother

One thing I love about rewatching a favourite show is getting to go back and relive all the moments in a new light. I think that light is called hindsight. Whether the writers planned out all the strings of interrelated events or whether some smacked them upside the head a week before production, I enjoy tracing things back.

After last week’s insanely frustrating episode of The Vampire Diaries, I immediately made Spouse continue our Season One rewatch. I didn’t have to twist his arm in too many circles — he likes the complex plotting as much as I do. Man, do they know how to cram a lot into forty two minutes.

So without further ado, I’d like to explore the character of Damon Salvatore. Specifically, his relationship with Elena Gilbert. This won’t be an exhaustive post, but it just might be the first in a series…hmm. You’ve read the sidebar. This could be an excuse for ALL THE SHIRTLESS SALVATORE PICTURES.

But before that!

Requisite SPOILER WARNING. This post will delve into all seasons of The Vampire Diaries. If you haven’t seen them and don’t like knowing what’s around the bend, bugger off. I mean that in the nicest possible way. 🙂 Love and kisses! You’ve been warned.

Aside from all the revelations we get down the road about who met whom when and whatnot, two huge things happen in season one for Damon and Elena’s relationship.

Before getting into those, let’s backtrack.

Damon Salvatore is immediately portrayed as the “bad brother.” He swoops into Mystic Falls with the fog and the crow and the dead co-ed campers. Sure. Naughty, naughty. He treats Caroline like she’s a steaming pile of poo he happens to like sleeping with, and he turns Vickie Donovan into a gibbering headcase — before just turning her into a vampire. After which she ends up good and staked because she was not-so-stable before, and her not-so-stability got put through the transitioning vamp magnifying glass and sizzled like an ant in the sun.

So yeah. Damon’s not the fluffy bunny vamp Stefan makes himself out to be. But you start catching glimpses early on that show there’s a lot more to Damon than sipping on bourbon and Tri Delts (though I’d like some of those shirtless Damon dance scenes to be played on repeat every Christmas, thank you).

The more you see of Damon’s rather tragic back story, the more you figure out that a lot of his behaviour stems from Serious Trust Issues. I mean, come on. His brother — who was in love with the same vamp-girl Katherine — promised not to tell Papa Salvatore about Fangy McSnookums and then turned around and did. And then when the boys both ended up in transition and Katherine was (supposedly) entombed, Damon just wanted to let himself die. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. And Stefan shoved a bleeding girl under his eager-to-sprout fangs.

Not only did Stefan initiate what was, for Damon, the loss of a woman he loved, but he made sure that Damon’s life didn’t end when he wanted it to and he’d have to spend eternity trying to get over it. Plus, he killed Papa Salvatore before Damon ever had a chance to work out the many Daddy Issues inherent in the “you’re such a failure of a son” litanies we see spew forth from ole Giuseppe.

Trust. Big thing. Damon’s biggest feels pre-transition were those of betrayal and pain, and when he got dead and started to turn, that’s what got amplified. Along with a healthy heap of loyalty for Katherine. Eat your heart out, psychology — vampire issues are a helluva lot easier to pinpoint.

Let’s skip up to season one, one episode after Elena helps Stefan double cross Damon.

She feels rotten. As well she should. It was a nasty thing to do, and she didn’t realise she was stepping in 145-year-old shite when she did it. She knows Damon has feelings for her. She knows he’s helped Jeremy recover after Vickie when he didn’t have to. And she knows she has to make it right. Call it the bad boy blind spot, but for once, she’s right. He does have more to him than badness, and she’s right to see it.

Two moments happen in “Fool Me Once” that I think pour the concrete for the entire foundation of the Elena-Damon relationship:

“I’m Trusting You.”

Elena takes a huge risk by removing her necklace. And for Damon, Damon does too.

Rewatching this season has made me ponder some things about Damon’s drive to get Katherine back, especially knowing the moments that come later — Damon meeting Elena first at the party and telling her in very tender terms that he wants her to have everything she deserves from life  before compelling her to forget — I can’t help but wonder if Katherine is already only a replacement Elena at this point. He doesn’t think he has a chance with Elena, so he wants Katherine back because it’s what he’s always wanted and he thinks it’s his only remaining chance of happiness.

Maybe I’m wrong, but Damon’s not a happy dude. His little, “We were having fun. I wanted it to be real” speech shows that. And I think Elena sees it.

This trust issue comes into play with them both so much over the seasons — and it goes both ways. In many ways, Elena trusts Damon more than she trusts Stefan, which ultimately causes the breakup two episodes back. She knows Damon loves her as she is, not as how he wants her to be.  That’s why she goes to him when she needs help with something Stefan won’t approve of, and in basic terms is why I prefer her with Damon over Stefan. (But more on THAT subject another day.)

The second huge moment happens here:

“I’m Sorry.”

Say what you will about Elena as a character, but she means it when she says it. And I love her for that. She wants Damon to be happy. She wants him to have a chance at love. She’s naive and ignorant about Katherine, but that doesn’t really matter right here.

It’s telling that she leaves Jeremy unconscious on the ground to check on Damon. Not that she cares less about Jeremy, who’s fine, if a bit battered — it’s that the circle of people she cares about has expanded to include Damon. And out of everyone in this episode, he’s probably the one with the deepest wounds.

Trying to free someone for a century and a half only to find out they weren’t in there and just ditched you? Yeah. Fucking OW.

Damon does a lot of things that betray Elena’s trust — forcing her to drink his blood, killing Jeremy without looking to see if he’s wearing his ring — big, awful, lashy-outy sort of things that fall in the unforgivable camp. But then, so does Stefan. Working with Klaus, letting Klaus control him, trying to mold Elena into his perfect vision of her — both brothers are far from earning a halo.

But this episode shows the earliest warmth in their relationship. True caring, based on trust. Damon and Elena both are growing on me as characters. In four seasons, the writers have done a tremendous job developing both.

More on that later.

What do you think of these early stages of their friendship? Do you think at this point Elena already feels attraction for Damon, or do you think it’s just platonic caring?

 

 

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