Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vampire Diaries Post Mortem: The Descent

After seven long weeks, The Vampire Diaries returned last night and it was a challenging episode. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected any less. By the Light of the Moon was full of angst focusing on Tyler’s painful transformation, the arrival of Jules in Mystic Falls and Elena’s deal with Elijah.

The Descent opens the morning after and it’s a brutal new day in Mystic Falls. Despite Elena’s deal with Elijah, her loved ones are far from safe. The episode’s pacing is slow, deliberate and cold. It’s a tribute to Rose’s final hours, because death by werewolf bite is hardly an instantaneous process. Worse, in fact, it is slow, insidious and painful.

One might argue all the reasons a vampire’s bite is painful to a vampire. Is it because they are combating the werewolf bite’s effect of trying to turn the already turned vampire? Is it more like the mixing of two sets of supernatural blood and saliva creates a toxic combination? The science of it, in the end, doesn’t matter. What matters is that Rose suffers.

The audience suffers alongside her.


Stefan on the Hunt

Stefan remained determined to protect Elena and spent most of the episode “away” contacting Isobel. Despite everything else Katherine did, she told him that Isobel might know something about the Originals even if none of them know what it really means to be an Original. Although Elena made a deal with Elijah, Stefan and Damon did not.

Caroline, Tyler and Matt

Tyler was grateful for Caroline’s help, but was surprised when she told him that a single bite from a werewolf could kill a vampire. Tyler isn’t taking anything at face value and is continuing to press for more information. Matt wants Caroline back and even kisses her deeply. Though Caroline still loves him and admits as much, Caroline is still determined to protect Matt from herself. It’s easy to forget that Caroline is new because she has so much control, but it wasn’t that long ago that she bit Matt and fended off Mason, not once but twice. Vampire Barbie has legs, unfortunately, Tyler is continuing his pursuit and when he kisses her, it stuns both of them with its passion and sends Caroline running again.

Jules

Let me just say, this is one she-bitch that needs to die. I get that she has her own story and that she is upset by Mason, but there is a cold, deadness in her eyes that is truly appaling. Her glee over Rose’s situation and her taunting of Damon aside, she murdered a group of campers and then a Sheriff’s deputy (I hope Mystic Falls’ sheriff’s department gets hazard pay and benefits), but it was her actions at the end of the episode that left me truly, mouth agape. She told Tyler that Caroline killed Mason, Caroline and her vampire friends.
Jules

Besides being patently untrue, it’s definitely going to be a shock to the system for Tyler who has been emotionally abused for years by his father. He doesn’t truly think he’s worthy of being loved or cared for, now to paint a target on Caroline by the merciless Jules is just plain cruel.

I really hope someone rips her head off.

Damon and Rose

I will be the first to admit that I was not a fan of Rose. She was fine in her first appearance (titled appropriately enough “Rose”), but since then, this five hundred and sixty year old vampire has spent most of her time being a victim. She didn’t fight, she ran. She didn’t struggle against attacks, she just gave in. How she survived the hunt from the Originals all those years truly does surprise me, because neither she nor Trevor were especially bright.

Rose couldn’t hold Jules away from her, yet Caroline managed that when Mason jumped her in the woods as a wolf. In the coffee shop, when Elijah smashed the glass and everyone else ran away, even the vampires who were burning, she just lay on the ground screaming. I hate weak characters, I hate it when they can’t find spine or backbone.

Rose didn’t seem to have either.

Until “The Descent.”

Damon’s actions while never terribly or overtly sweet, demonstrated a man on the edge. He was consumed by the guilt over her attack and the need to save her. Leaving Rose in Elena’s hands, he went looking for Jules. But he showed even more restraint than I thought possible not waiting to ambush her somewhere he could make it a fight. Instead, he asked for her help, but Jules told him that the unbearable pain, the dementia and the poison of the bite would make Rose rabid. The only thing to do was to stake her.

Meanwhile, Elena is struggling to care for Rose in Damon’s bedroom (who loved how that room looked? It was magnificent, kudos to the set designers). Rose was in a lot of pain and her mind wandered, twice she thought Elena was Katerina and nearly killed her. Twice Elena talked her down. Rose eventually glutted on blood in the basement, but it wasn’t enough and she stalked the house to attack Elena, Elena got away by digging her fingers into the wound and then barricading herself in Stefan’s room with the drapes drawn wide. She even armed herself with a stake.

Rose’s Last Moments

Damon arrived before any permanent harm was done, but Rose had already escaped into the night. Damon on the edge, worried about Elena and Rose both was difficult to watch. But he went hunting her and they found Rose, but only after she’d killed three people. Her horror was palpable, it seems Rose had always an aversion to killing. It makes one wonder if she chose to be turned or was turned without her consent. Although I do not think we will ever know.

Back at the boarding house, Damon comforted her and slipped into her dreams, taking her to the place that she described to Elena. It as a beautiful field, drenched in sunlight with horses lazily grazing. There Damon made Rose smile and for the first time since we met her, we saw happiness around the frayed edges of the vampire.

When her fear and pain were gone, Damon and Rose played and as she counted down to the start of their race, Damon staked her and put her out of her misery.

It was a magnificent scene, delivered in tour de force by Lindsay Cohan and Ian Somerhalder. The raw pain in Damon’s eyes as he held a dessicating Rose and later when he presented her corpse to the Sheriff were agonizing. Damon made me cry.

The Final Cuts

Elena sought to comfort Damon, but it was hardly enough and while she could see the pain on his face, she didn’t acknowledge that they’d been at odds for weeks and the absence of the scene with Rose telling Elena it was okay to love both brothers was very apparent here. I am not sure why they cut that scene, it would have made Elena’s need to reach out to Damon more palatable. As it was, when she said “We’re friends…” I actually yelled at the screen “Since when? You’ve had a hate on for a while girl!”

Elena left Damon and went home, where she discovered that Stefan had brought home John Gilbert and she did not look happy. Damon got more than a little drunk and went out for an existential crises on the road with a motorist that he ended up killing.

It seems that Rose, who knew Damon for the least amount of time, knew him better than his own brother, because it was Rose who said she desperately wanted to be human again. That she missed it and it seems that in all his agonies, so did Damon.

He only ever wanted the turn for Katherine, but that choice cost him decades and decades of misery. It was heart breaking to watch Damon struggle with his pain and anguish and the desperate realization that he doesn’t believe he can ever be the man that Elena wants him to be.

What’s worse, is that he already is, but cannot see it because he doesn’t want to feel the overwhelming emotions churning inside him.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I was actually saddened by Rose’s death. I didn’t care for the character, but there was a real beauty in the way she was written off. I am glad it was not done where Damon had to choose between Rose and Elena, Rose would have lost, but it would have made her death a choice for Elena. In the end, her death was a choice that Damon made for Rose.

He ended Rose’s suffering.

Unfortunately for Damon, I think his suffering is only beginning and the long-hard-road from all his killing, his debauchery and his bad choices is going to leave a lot of marks on the man’s soul.

What did you think of “The Descent?”

2 comments:

  1. I probably shouldn't have read this, since the show doesn't come to Australia until tonight, but I did. I don't think it'll detract from the experience. I can be prepared for my heart to bleed with Damons.

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  2. In the next episode, caroline should be with tyler but it's impossible, i think that shows that caroline is indeed a good friend. I can't wait the brand new episode The Vampire Diaries Season 2 Episode 14: Crying Wolf. Entertainment Bay

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