Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Heart of Darkness (2012)

Stolen lives, stolen kisses, and stolen moments

Just when you think the show couldn’t possibly top itself anymore, it does again, and in grand fashion.  Did we really anticipate that Stefan would push Elena into Damon’s unsuspecting arms?  Did we ever imagine that Esther would return only to drop dead at her daughter’s feet and then take possession of her body?  Did we ever foresee that Alaric and Esther would team up as the evil-duo out to kill every last vampire on the planet?  Well, maybe that is alt-Alaric and we should not judge him so harshly.  But this episode certainly delivered some nice twists and turns, and one smoldering hot kiss.

Really, what should we talk about first?  I know everyone wants to skip ahead to the jaw-dropping hot scene with Elena and Damon, but there was so much going on this episode.  Tyler returned, Jeremy got his memories back, Matt kept Rebekah distracted, Esther returned, Klaus and Stefan had a nice stand-off, Rose-the-ghost explained adult love to Jeremy, Stefan pushed the envelope trying to break Alaric, Tyler and Caroline hooked-up and maybe broke-up over a drawing Caroline kept from Klaus, and, oh yeah, Elena is more confused than ever about how she feels about Damon — and the last remaining white oak stake finally surfaced (assuming Klaus destroyed the one he confiscated from Stefan).  And I nearly forgot, Esther took possession of Rebekah’s body in order to get her hands on that stake.

With so much going on, it is startling to realize that this episode held several great scenes where the characters actually talked to each other and shared a moment.  Esther and Rebekah had a moment before Esther collapsed at Rebekah’s feet.  Stefan and Klaus discussed their detente.  Kol worked out his differences with Damon — albeit using a baseball bat.  Jeremy and Rose had some time to talk.  Damon and Elena took a few precious moments to try to connect on a new physical and emotional level.  Matt shared a moment bonding with Rebekah.  And Tyler and Caroline took some time to catch up too.  Even Stefan and Alaric got a chance to chat, both before and after Evil Alaric made an appearance.  It was a busy episode with stolen moments.  It was as if everyone felt the pressure of taking the time to communicate with each other while they could, for tomorrow could bring back the usual state of chaos when there is no time to talk and reflect.

Technically, the kiss between Damon and Elena was not a stolen kiss, but it certainly felt illicit and forbidden — and all the more desirable because of it.  Stefan may have given his permission and blessing to Elena to figure out how she feels about Damon, but he probably didn’t think that would include physical contact.  For he would surely know that a spark is all it would take to ignite a roaring fire of passion between them.

As for stolen lives, that is all about poor Rebekah.  Her mother stole her body and now seeks to steal her life.  All Rebekah ever wanted was to be loved for who she was, and she never really found that.  With Klaus always hovering and setting such a terrible example, Rebekah lived a thousand years as a petulant child seeking only to satisfy her cravings and whims.  She never sought an adult relationship, and as a result did not forge true bonds of friendship and love.  As a result, her life has been abbreviated and cut-short for a millennium.  She may have never really saw with clarity what was really missing, but she certainly felt it.  However, her mother saw everything.  Imagine having your mother watch over your life for such a long period of time and shaking her head with despair.  No wonder Esther was only too happy to hijack Rebekah’s body.  It was her way of setting her daughter free from the unsatisfying, unhappy life Rebekah was cursed by.

This episode was supposed to be a look into the “heart of darkness,” but instead, it reminded us that life is short.  We watched stolen kisses, stolen moments and a stolen life and only felt sadness at how fleeting it all is.

Points of Interest

1.  Aren’t we all just dying to find out if Tyler really has successfully broken the sire-bond with Klaus.  The fact that Tyler has been able to force himself to change over a hundred times on his own should help take away that innate gratefulness he felt to Klaus.  But the question remains, is the bond truly broken?

2.  Evil Alaric is kind of fun.  It might be a nice change to keep him around for awhile to spice up things.  He has brought back the unpredictability and the fact that he teamed up with Esther is awesome. They make a dastardly wicked duo.

3.  Where on Earth is Elijah?  Surely, he is due to make an appearance soon.  We miss him!  But if he and Katherine are out there somewhere spending some quality time together, then all is forgiven.  Those two star-crossed lovers need some time to rediscover what they may once have had.

What Worked

The stand-out performances of the night were by Alaric and Stefan.  With the fate of them all in Alaric’s hands, he was the man of the hour.  Alaric may see himself as a failed vampire-hunter and a washed-up drunk, but due to the invincibility ring unleashing his inner-self, the duality has made him very intriguing.  Just like when Klaus inhabited his skin for awhile to spy on everyone, Matt Davis just knows how to use his body language and cadence to make a viewer uncertain who they are watching on screen at any given time.  Is it Alaric?  Is it Klaus? Or is it Evil Alaric pretending to be Good Alaric?  Paul Wesley as Stefan has had some experience with this complex duality this season as well as he went from being Good Stefan to Ripper Stefan to Contrite Stefan to Vengeful Stefan.  It is all how these fine actors use their body language, word inflections and inner sense of self to project the different shades of persona before our eyes.  Thus, watching Stefan and Alaric in the dungeon was intriguing.  It was a dance of dualities and a test to see how far each would go.  Alaric pushing Stefan to get him to unleash his anger in order to force Evil Alaric to the conscious surface was spine-chilling.  Klaus could afford to be indelicate and just snap Alaric’s neck, but to really coax a reluctant and hiding dark-side to reveal itself took finesse.  Frankly, it was riveting and in the end, we almost wanted more.  Just to see Stefan and Alaric push each other a bit further and see how carefully each chose to reveal yet another layer to the character.  It was like turning a prism in one’s hand and marveling at the different facets.  Alas, that is another character study for another day.

Truly, the dialogue was riveting.  When Alaric said, “The thing is, he’s me.  I’m not compelled.  I’m not possessed.  There’s no humanity-switch.  What drives him is me,” and Stefan clarified, “No, he’s not you.  He’s the darkest parts of you. Parts we all have,” that sent chills down my spine.  It is not only so very true, it is very prophetic.  It acknowledges that Stefan and anyone of us could harbor a darker side that is just lurking and waiting to get out.  Then later after revving from death, Alaric took off his ring and told Stefan, “This is stupid.  Evil me or whatever you want to call him, he is not going to make an appearance.  Why would he?  I mean the best hiding place is the one where you can’t find the person who hid it. What I need is hope that my alter-ego does not have a death.  So I’m taking bets that my dark-side has a sense of self-preservation. So let’s see if he defends himself against death. You want to tap into my darkest secrets, you’re going to have to tap into yours.”  Alaric threw down the gauntlet with this statement.  But he knew the dire situation they all faced if Stefan did not push him to the edge.  This was not a battle against torture and pain, it was a battle of wills.  Stefan had to demonstrate how far he was willing to go to save everyone.  It was also cool that Alaric said it with such eloquence and insight.  Plus, was it not just a little skin-crawling to hear Evil Alaric tell Stefan, “You’re so weak.  Look at you, one of nature’s most hideous creatures, and you can’t even get that right.”  Body language, inflection, and word choice, this was not our Alaric anymore.  Bravo!

Perhaps I should include Claire Holt’s performance into the mix, since she too had to play her angry, lonely self and then as the more confident and determine version with Esther inhabiting her.  For it was a thing of beauty when she told Evil Alaric, “You see, I don’t want one Original to die, I want them all to die,” and he incredulously asked, “How the hell did you do that?”  To which she calmly replied, “It was easy to fool Nikolas, but I thought you of all people would understand.  After all, my son did use your body at one point.” This is when the light began to dawn and he slowly said, “You’re not Rebekah.”  It was a spine-tingling as she confirmed, “No, my name is Esther, and we have a great deal in common.”  As Alaric so insightfully noted earlier, the best villains are the ones who hide in plain sight, the ones you’d never suspect.  Evil Alaric hid his true nature inside Alaric; and Esther now hides inside Rebekah’s body.  How cool is that?!

Before jumping off into the world of romance, compliments are in order for Stefan for pulling the rug out from under Klaus, but simply calling Klaus’ bluff.  When Stefan taunted Klaus with, “So what are you going to do now, Klaus? Are you going to kill me?”  Klaus tried to flippantly reply, “I haven’t actually decided yet.”  But not having any of Klaus’ wordplay, Stefan challenged him, “Oh, sure you have.  See you’ve had every chance and every excuse imaginable to do it, but yet you haven’t, which means you don’t want to.”  Provoked Klaus snapped, “You know something, you’re right.  See I’m still waiting for my old friend to come back and by the looks of it, he’s just beneath the surface waiting to come out and play.  Isn’t that right, Ripper?” But Stefan had the upper-hand as he firmly told Klaus, “I’ve been fighting that part of myself, thinking that if I repress it, it would go away.  But it won’t and now that I’ve accepted it, it can’t control me — and neither can you. So unless you’re going to stake me, why don’t you get the hell out of my house.”  That final stand was applaud-worthy and long over-due.  Klaus may be stronger, older, but he is not wiser.  He is a bully and petulant child who needs to hear the word “no” more often.  It is about time that Stefan learned to stand up to Klaus and discover his own power.

That being said, Stefan may have overplayed his hand when it came to Elena and Damon.  By setting Elena free and allowing her to figure out for herself how she feels about Damon, Stefan may have done the one thing he did not anticipate: his permission was seen as approval.  He pushed Elena towards Damon and that was all she needed.  She had been frozen with indecision about her feelings thinking that it was wrong and that it was a betrayal to Stefan, who she did love. But with Stefan encouraging her, Elena took tentative steps in Damon’s direction and found that her heart responded with enthusiasm and ecstasy.  She was not prepared for that awakening of emotions.  It was overwhelming, scary and unsettling.  She knows intellectually that it is not right to love both brothers, but she cannot seem to help herself.

So while Stefan’s intentions were noble as he explained to Alaric, “Elena needed to go on that road trip with Damon.  No matter what I go through to get her back, fighting my blood-lust, trying to gain control of my life again, none of that matters if she has feelings for somebody else,” but nobility does not quench a simmering fire.  Elena’s emotions have been simmering beneath the surface for over two years.  This road trip just ignited those repressed emotions and once unleashed, it will be difficult to deny them anymore.  Even Rose could see it from her ghostly-realm.  The growing bond and sexual tension between Damon and Elena has been getting stronger over the years.  So when Jeremy curiously asked Elena, “So what’s up with you and Damon?” She tried to brush him off by saying, “What do you mean? Nothing’s up.” But not buying her denial, Jeremy said, “Are you sure about that? ‘Cause even Rose said something.”

With Stefan’s blessing, Rose and Jeremy’s comments burning in her brain, and the stars aligning so that Elena and Damon are sharing a motel room, the time was ripe for the Elena to explore her feelings.  It perhaps helped that Damon strolled out of the bathroom shirtless and she took ample opportunity to assess Damon in physical form.  In a scene that would make Jane Austen blush, being privy to Elena’s open admiration of Damn, shirtless and all, gave us all a new appreciation to how strong physical attraction can be.  Then add in a level of emotional connection, and it is a wonder that there were any female fans not wondering if a cold shower was going to be needed.  Even Damon’s attention was caught as he realized that Elena was watching him with appreciation and not her usual prickly disdain.  Her look of askance beckoned him.  So when she softly him, “You never told me about that — what you did for Rose,” he replied, “It wasn’t about you.” Gently prodding, she asked, “Why don’t you let people see the good in you?”  With a sigh, he finally answered, “Because when people see good, they expect good.  I don’t want to have to live up to anyone’s expectations.”  With those words and the intertwining of their fingers, Elena reacted as if struck by lightning.  She rushed out trying to catch her breath.  When Damon followed her, she tried to protest by telling him, “Don’t.” But not willing to let this opportunity pass him by, Damon merely replied, “Why not? Elena?”  And finally, unable to bear it anymore, Elena succumbed to temptation.

Now that all that pent-up sexual tension was released it was wild and nearly uncontrollable.  Elena is finally feeling what Damon felt two years ago when he danced with her at the Miss Mystic Falls dance.  It struck him like lightning then and yet he waited for her.  Two years is a long time to wait, but given time to build, Elena could not only see Damon for who he was underneath his tough bravado, she felt desire for him.  Her heart was finally free and she wanted him.  Powerful, decisive, no hesitation.  It was a long wait, but surely Damon knows it was worth it.  He earned her love and is rewarded by her desire for him — free and unfettered by feelings she has put aside for Stefan.  Alas, just when it seemed like they were on the same page finally, an untimely interruption jolts them back into their harsh reality.  Love and exploration of feelings had to be postponed and set aside.  Even Damon looked torn about doing what he knows is right and seizing this perfect moment.  But common sense prevailed for the clock is ticking and his time with Elena could be shorter than either of them would like if he does not find out his vampire linage soon.  So while Jeremy was not certain what was going on, Elena looked empowered and pleased.

However, another bubble-bursting moment lie ahead as Elena once again shrank back from Damon when he tried to express concern for her after the attack by Kol.  Only hours before Elena had been ready to take their relationship to a whole new level, and now she was rejecting him again.  Damon’s look of pain and confusion was warranted as he asked her, “What are you doing?”  When she tried to deflect him by saying, “What do you mean?” He retorted, “Well, this trip, and you kissing me. What the hell is this?”  Reluctantly, she revealed, “Stefan thinks that I have feelings for you.”  As he then asked, “Do you?”  Elena confusedly said, “I don’t know.”  Angry, Damon snapped, “I guess you thought this little trip would help you figure that out, didn’t you? Or maybe you were hoping I’d screw it up, so I could make the decision for you.  Am I wrong?” With exasperation Elena finally answered,  “It’s what you do, Damon.  You sabotage things.  Think about it, every time there is a bump in the road, you lash out.”  With rare control, Damon pointedly asked, “What if I didn’t? What if there was no bump? .  . I’m sorry, Elena.  This time I’m not going to make it so easy for you.  This time you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.”  Not willing to push her until she made up her own mind, the detente began again. But this time, Elena knew the depths of her own desire and must come to terms with it.

It was funny to watch Rose play match-maker, albeit through Jeremy, but it was still nice that she took the time to help him understand the conflicting feelings Elena was dealing with.  To love two different men, and two brothers at that, who are so different and dangerous, it is not something any brother can truly understand.  So it was helpful that Rose explained to Jeremy,  “They had a fight.  I know you want to stop it.  Protect her from him.  But you’re young.  You don’t see what I see.  It’s not just that she makes him a better person, and she does, but he changes her too.  Damon challenges her, surprises her.  He makes her question her life, beliefs.  Stefan is different.  His love is pure and he’ll always be good for her.  Damon is either the best thing for her, or the worst.”   It doesn’t really clue us in on who Elena will ultimately choose, but it does help us and Jeremy understand that both choices are good for her in different ways.  Jeremy just needs to stand by his sister no matter who she chooses.

Finally, the best lines of the night where when Damon asked Jeremy if Rose is still hot, Rose told Jeremy, “Tell him that he’s still dripping with sex too.”  When Jeremy raised his eyebrows to this, Rose amended it to, “Fine.  Tell him I miss him. . . And tell him that I’m rooting for him and Elena.”  After all, ghosts see everything, and what Rose sees is the burning passion between Damon and Elena that grows day by day.  Heaven help anyone that gets between them!  Rose may have cast her vote for Damon, but it remains to be seen who Elena gives her heart to.

What Didn’t Work

When we last checked, Jeremy’s memories of all the supernatural stuff had been wiped-clean by a second round of compulsion from Damon before Jeremy left Mystic Falls.  Just how quickly does a reverse-compulsion work to restore memories?  It seemed like Jeremy clued in to everything pretty quickly as soon as he saw Damon and Elena arrive at the batting cages.  Mind-wiped Jeremy would have been freaking out a lot more.  It would have made a little more sense if we could have seen the reversal/reinstatement of his memories from all that has transpired in the past 3 years.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“Heart of Darkness” written by Brian Young & Evan Bleiweiss 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, Matt Davis, Torrey Devitto, Claire Holt. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

One thought on “Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Heart of Darkness (2012)

  1. This was one of the best episodes in recent weeks. I missed Elijah but I hope he isn’t off with Katherine. It was Tatia he loved, not Katherine.

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