A big part of growing up is learning your actions have consequences, that every choice you make affects not only you but the people who surround you. For Elena Gilbert, it seems every choice she makes reverberates throughout the entire world of The Vampire Diaries, for better or worse (but mostly for worse). Her entire struggle this season is a consequence of her ultimate choice to sacrifice her own life for Matt’s, and every second of her supernaturally-inflicted torment in “We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes” feels like nothing more than a giant “I told you so” from the universe in return. It’s Elena’s biggest personal coming-of-age moment as a vampire, and it’s not only necessary but spectacularly rendered to boot, full of emotional nuance and real, tangible character development for both Elena and those in her orbit.
Elena’s consequence for killing vampire hunter Connor last week is to basically have all of her worst feelings about herself dragged out of her subconscious and put in the mouths of people that hate her in an attempt to get her to kill herself, like some sort of supernatural version of Heathers (well, if J.D. and Veronica were compelling people to commit suicide instead of just murdering them, and this analogy has officially gone off the rails). Whether it’s Connor, Katherine (who is a welcome presence even when she isn’t technically even there), or her mother, all of Elena’s tormentors are really just stand-ins for her own worst feelings about herself, feelings that have been growing ever since she became a vampire. Is she a monster because she killed Connor? Or is she one because she liked it? Is there really a difference?
What’s interesting about Elena’s hallucinations is how she doesn’t have the expected moment of strength within them, the moment where she rises above and decides to go on despite her torment. She’s only truly freed when Jeremy kills a vampire and is activated as the next hunter, breaking the spell. It’s a compelling choice only because even though Elena doesn’t have the strength to defeat the curse internally, she does still internalize the whole experience and use it to make perhaps the biggest choice she’s made since becoming a vampire: recognizing that she and Stefan just aren’t working right now, and that there’s something between her and Damon deserving of exploration.
No matter your feelings on the central romantic triangle, this is a hugely important moment, and the show rightly gives it the gravity necessary to make it count. Elena and Stefan’s conversation on the porch is the stuff of teen drama heaven, full of brutal honesty and an openness that the two haven’t had with each other since Elena turned. In fact, their lack of openness with each other is the crux of the whole conversation, with Elena finally admitting her evolving feelings for who she is becoming as a vampire and, in turn, her evolving feelings for Damon share part of this blame. Elena and Stefan’s delicate dance around each other since she turned was frustrating to watch, but by giving it voice here, letting it change the characters and then letting those characters recognize this change, makes the entire endeavor feel worth it in the end. The show can get bogged down in the minutia of the triangle at times, but conversations like these illustrate why, in the end, we stick around despite those various frustrations. What Elena’s declaration and subsequent breakup with Stefan means for her relationship with Damon will bear fruit in the coming weeks, but for now, it’s lovely just to know that all of these actions, all of these choices she made tonight came from a deep character place and not because it was time to shuffle the points of the triangle.
Consequence reverberated throughout the rest of the characters tonight, with both Tyler and Jeremy dealing with the consequences of Elena’s choice to kill Connor, albeit in different ways. Jeremy—besides being skewered by a knife in the neck—basically had his life completely altered by Elena killing Connor, activating him as one of the five. The full consequences of this haven’t been revealed yet, but as nothing comes without a price in this world, it will surely not be all fun invisible tattoos and killing random vamps for sport. Jeremy’s first kill, in fact, is one that affects other people immediately, when he stakes Tyler’s hybrid friend Chris in order to break Elena’s curse. Tyler’s anger over this action is perfect, especially because no one else involved seems to think it’s a big deal at all. To those involved, Chris was an expendable being, a means to an end, and a way to break Elena’s curse and save her life. To Tyler, Chris was a friend, someone Hayley saved from Klaus’ control, and a symbol of hope for what Tyler is trying to achieve with all the hybrids. Chris wasn’t onscreen enough to register as a character, but as a representative of the gang’s messed up vision of life and who is and isn’t expendable, he’s a perfect symbol. I have a feeling this knowledge is going to shape Tyler’s story this season, and it feels like it might have the potential to be great.
One thing The Vampire Diaries is doing consistently well throughout this season is slowly advancing its main plot, while still changing it up enough every few episodes to keep it fresh. When Pastor Young torched the Council in the season premiere, it didn’t feel like that plot had a chance of continuing. But the addition of Connor and then the reveal of his ties to the mysterious Professor Atticus Shane have kept this one vibrant throughout. Now that April recognized Shane and Matt put the pieces together to realize Shane is connected to Pastor Young (check out the big brains on Matt!), the real reason all of these things are descending upon Mystic Falls is about to come to light. Considering Shane’s interest in getting a hunter to complete his entire tattoo, Jeremy’s already murky fate just gets murkier by the week.
- Paul Wesley just slays every emotional scene he’s given. He’s also great at the more comedic scenes. This is why it’s so frustrating that much of his time is spent somewhere in the middle.
- Hayley is turning out to be quite the badass, between working to trick Klaus and later standing up to his face. She can stick around a while.
- All of Damon’s nods to Alaric's absence nearly killed me. Although it’s wonderful that the show recognizes what a hole he left, the wound is still fresh, you know?
- Stefan: “You’re using your calm voice today. Who’s getting killed?”
- Matt: “We live in a town where anybody who knows stuff is creepy until proven otherwise.”
- “You need to kill a vampire.” “Great, give me a stake, and I’ll kill Damon right now.