THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: “Do Not Go Gentle”
Read on for my reactions to The Vampire Diaries 3×20, “Do Not Go Gentle,” aired Thursday, April 27th, 2012:
“Rage, rage against the dying of Alaric. Do not go gently into this recap.”
Let’s honor Alaric by torturing ourselves with memories of the past, while day-drinking. I mean, that is just a normal saturday night for our favorite alcoholic history teacher slash vampire hunter, right? This is not so much a recap, as a eulogy and therapy session, so play the sad music and grab a beverage. I don’t mean to be a thunder stealer, and I will try not to make this all about me, but … I mean, it is my blog. I want to focus on the emotional aspect of this episode, and all the feelings involved, because a lot of the witch-powered plot stuff didn’t really make sense. (Esther is a plot ruiner. I remember you, “All My Children.”) Let’s focus on the good. And by “good,” I obviously mean horribly heart-breaking and life-ruining. To say that “Do Not Go Gentle” was an episode that evoked a lot of emotion in me is an understatement. I ugly cried. And ugly cried some more. Then had some pretty tears, followed by more ugly crying. Well done, Matt Davis. Well done, everyone else involved.
Alaric fans have it the worst, basically. After weeks of living in fear, what with Matt Davis’s new job, and Alaric’s new alter ego, the other shoe finally dropped. But with the way the episode ended, there is just so much confusion, and so much fear for what’s to come. We don’t have closure. No matter what happens, I feel pretty certain that I’m going to have to grieve all over again. And over again. And over again. But before the grieving, there’s all the horror of seeing my favorite character—the character who I loved because he protected people—hurt people. See him hurt characters who I also love. The Canadian promo shows Alaric holding [name redacted] hostage, for goodness sake. THE HORROR. Just so much suffering yet to come, so a cathartic cry really does nothing at this point. I live in fear. Lesson learned: your favorite character dying is not actually the worst. There is so much worse. Lesson #2: Lock your crypt door. That said, all my blubbering means that the show is doing a good job at telling a powerful story. So there’s that.
As part of coping, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and watch some season one episodes. Just to remember Alaric how he used to be, you know? You guys, do yourselves a favor and rewatch season one. It was all so sweet and touching. Remember his introduction? When he writes his name on the board? “Alaric Saltzman. It’s a mouthful, I know.” And remember that time Alaric threw away Mr. Tanner’s “Jackass” file and gave Jeremy an inspirational speech? Totally not crying now. “I’m not a violent guy by design,” Alaric says to Logan Fell before slaying him. Oh, the irony. Okay, fine. Crying forever. And did you remember that Alaric and Damon officially met at the Decade Dance in season one? And, of course, the Decade Dance in season two featured Alaric possessed by Klaus. How fitting that the Decade Dance figures so prominently in Alaric’s funeral episode. And for the Team Blood and Beer fans (aka everyone), “Unpleasantville” and “Do Not Go Gentle” really bookend that relationship nicely.
I also took a look at my early recaps, to see what I thought of Alaaaaaric back in 2009. Apparently I was a fan from day one. I know, I know, you’re shocked. But you should all know that it took until Alaric’s second episode, “The Turning Point,” for me to propose the idea that The Vampire Diaries should be renamed Alaric the Vampire Slayer. Clearly I have shown great restraint. I mean … um, I think Alaaaaaric is okay. Some people might say he’s the television incarnation of Indiana Jones, but I just don’t see it. Ahem. Hey, and remember The Super Sekrit Adventures of a Hot History Teachin’ Vampire Slayer? Simpler times.
These times we’re in now? Not so simple. So what is the deal with Alaric? Let me recap. First, Alaric’s psyche was broken in two by the continuous deaths and resurrections he experienced. Thanks a lot, Gilbert ring. Psycho!Alaric killed two people we didn’t like, and tried to kill Meredith Fell but failed. Apparently this was because they were vampire sympathizers? I don’t know … his choice of targets is still unclear. Yeah, sympathizers are bad, but why not go for the root of the problem, if you hate vampires so much? Then Bonnie did some magic and gave Alaric some gross-tasting herbs to bind it. They were worse than tea. But Psycho!Alaric managed to gain control anyway, and hide an Original-killing white oak stake. Klaus snapped Alaric’s neck in order to get the location, and after some fight-clubb-ing with Stefan, Psycho!Alaric emerged victorious. Meanwhile, Esther gained control of her daughter Rebekah’s body. Esther then teamed up with Psycho!Alaric in a plan to kill all her children, and thus all vampires ever. While there are definitely some vampires that I’d like to see stick around (Katherine, Caroline, Elijah, and Rebekah), I couldn’t completely fault this plan altogether. Technically, getting rid of vampires altogether could be seen as a noble goal, depending on one’s perspective. In the world of this show, we have a lot of vampire characters, but you can’t help but see that they dramatically impact the body count. That said, I can find fault in Esther’s methods, which are basically the worst. But first, Esther used her witchy woo woo and Alaric’s ring to turn the last white oak stake into “the ultimate weapon, for the ultimate hunter.” This would stop the stake from going up in flames along with its victim. Good call, Esther, but it’s all downhill from there.
The next stage of the plan was for Esther to use the doppelganger’s blood to turn Psycho!Alaric into a super-powered vampire hunter. Like Mikael. So, basically, she plans to make another Original. Because it worked so well last time. Elena argues that by making Alaric into an Original, he could turn into a bigger monster than the children who Esther wants to destroy. Point to Elena. Esther explains to Elena: “He won’t. Now that he’s embraced his darkest aspect, his hatred for them will become more pure and uncompromising. In death, that hatred will be magnified.” Elena says she doesn’t know Alaric, but Esther also admits that she was the one turning Alaric into a crazy person, from the Other Side. Ugh, Esther. THE WORST. An important note: this time there would be a failsafe to the Original-creating magic. Vamp Ric will have a shelf-life. Esther explains: “I have granted him enough power to complete his task. Then, when the time is right, he will die.” The details are fuzzy though. How will Vamp Ric die? When? TV IS SUFFERING.
After Esther feeds Psycho!Alaric Elena’s blood, she kills him. Then Jeremy and Matt crash the party, stepping in to save Elena. All the vamps are trapped back at the school, so go Team Human! They brought weapons! Unfortunately, Esther uses her magic to turn their weapons against each other. In the nick of time, the sane Alaric wakes up and stakes Esther dead (but, sadly, not gone forever). Alaric saved Jeremy and Matt’s lives right there. Please remember that for later. But he’s confused and doesn’t remember anything. He wonders where his ring is.
Elena explains things to poor Alaric off-screen, in what we can imagine was a rough conversation. “Alaric, Esther turned you into an Original, specially made to hunt vampires. When you’re done making all your friends extinct, you’ll die too.” Sigh. Alaric decides not to complete the transition. He’s too worried about his dark side taking control. Jeremy is upset by this decision. (Related: honestly, I agreed with everything Jeremy did and said in this episode and he is the only character I relate to these days. XO, Jeremy. I can’t believe I used to hate you.) With Alaric planning for his death, he has time to say goodbye to everyone. Alaric and everyone he loves all have a chance to mourn his life and death, which makes the sadness that much more drawn out. True to form, Alaric takes the opportunity for some self-loathing: “After everything that’s happened, after all that I’ve done … maybe I had it coming.” Geez, if that was the way things worked, Stefan, Damon, and Klaus would be long dead. Shhhhh, you. Alaric then says his goodbyes to Elena and Jeremy and tells them to leave. When Elena blames herself, he tells her, “Taking care of you and Jeremy has been the closest I ever came to living the life I wanted.” So tragical. Crying forever.
Things get even more emotional when they go outside to see the candlelight vigil set-up ouside. (Obviously Caroline planned this, right?) All our main characters stand in the woods, framed by candle-light, presenting a beautiful tableau. We get a close-up on everyone, and this was when I really fell apart. Even Meredith was there! And Matt Davis, wow. When Alaric goes outside and sees this, he does this little smile/grimace thing that broke my heart. Like he was trying not to cry, you know? And I just burst into tears all over again.
But honestly, the saddest and most beautiful part of the episode was Jeremy and Matt’s tearful toast at The Grill. Mattie pours one out for “Mr. Saltzman,” and Jeremy responds with, “Alaric,” because Alaric was so much more than a teacher to him. And the two boys clink their shot glasses–these two lost kids who have suffered so much, and who are now the only representatives of Team Human. These two kids who both risked their lives to save Elena, and in turn were saved by Alaric, share a moment of grief. And Jeremy tries not to cry, but he can’t stop his tears, and wow. Who would think I could ever love Jeremy this much? My heart breaks for him in that silent moment. (Then Elena and Stefan try to steal Alaric’s thunder with their nonsense, and I take a break from my tears to check twitter. Blah.)
Oh wait, there’s more. So, Meredith gave Alaric a sedative to help him die in his sleep, but then she talks to Damon and convinces him that Alaric wouldn’t really want to be left alone on his last night. Damon brings a bottle of bourbon inside the crypt for Alaric, and the scene is so great that I have to quote it all. Alaric: “Is this the part where you give me a dream? Rainbows and rolling green hills?” Damon: “I was drunk when I told you that.” Alaric: “Yeah, and I told you I’d use it against you.” Perfection. Damon: “Sorry I killed ya. Twice.” They both laugh. Alaric: “So I actually have to die to get a real apology from you.” Damon tells him to drink. Alaric: “Actually I’ve been thinking about cutting back.” Damon: “Yeah, this stuff will kill you.” And they both swig some more. And Alaric has tears running down his face and Damon is trying to pretend he’s not completely heartbroken, and … SOB. TV IS SUFFERING.
But oh wait, there’s more. As if all that weren’t enough, stupid Esther (ugh) goes and appears to Bonnie and a dream. And Esther (or her “sistaaaaaas”?) possess Bonnie, who makes her way to the crypt where Alaric is sleeping. Meanwhile, Alaric seems to finally pass out. And Damon is really looking the worse for wear, and he struggles with closing the bourbon bottle. TEAM BOURBON. I HATE EVERYTHING EXCEPT BOURBON, BASICALLY. Finally, he goes outside and sees Bonnie, who’s acting all weird and trancelike. She does the vampire aneurism thing, knocking Damon out, and then goes inside the tomb. Bonnie then picks up THE ULTIMATE WEAPON and … hold up, wait a minute.
Why is it still there???? Um, why is the stake just there, all accessible? I guess everyone was so busy planning Alaric’s candle-lit memorial that they didn’t notice that a weapon THAT COULD KILL THEM ALL was sitting right there. Now, I know that Elena wasn’t there when the stake was made, but she heard the rest of the plan. How did she think that Vamp Ric was supposed to kill all the Originals, if not with a white oak stake? Did anyone else wonder? Maybe look around the scene of the crime, glance at the huge and weird looking stake? “What’s this ornately designed weapon?” someone might have asked. Alas. I guess I will give the soapdishery a pass since they are mourning … but still. [EDIT: @darkmaxou pointed out that Damon put the stake in his jacket when he left the crypt, and Bonnie took it from Damon. I watched the episode several times and did not notice this, so I'm sorry. I blame the blinding tears and the dark lighting. My apologies, Scoobies, writers, etc. Damon has clearly learned from his soapdish ways.] Anyway, Bonnie uses the stake to pierce her hand, and then feeds her blood to Alaric, who starts to stir and drink. After drinking, he awakens, all vamped out and scary looking, and picks up the special stake. Dun dun dun.
What do you think this means, you guys? Normally I don’t read any recaps until I’ve written mine, but this week was different. This week I needed the support of the fandom, you know? So I’ve been reading everyone’s thoughts, and it seems like the majority feel convinced that the real Alaric is definitely dead, and people seem to expect Vamp Ric, powered by Psycho!Alaric’s damaged psyche, to be the big bad of the next two episodes. (Yes, there are only two more episode left this season!) But I have to wonder whether Alaric, the parts that we knew, are totally gone. The mythology of TVD does not support the idea of souls or demons. When someone becomes a vampire, they don’t lose their humanity, though they can try to shut it off. All the parts of their personalities are magnified, not just the worst parts. While Esther seems to think that DarkAlaric will stay in control, and be worse than ever, once he’s vamped … Esther sucks. So I’m not sold. Should we believe it, just because she says it? While his dark side is sure to get stronger, it seems to only make sense, given this show, that the human parts of Alaric are still there. And possibly the Alaric as we know could still emerge, albeit briefly.
Non-Alaric-related thoughts (yes, I have some):
- Bonnie: “Why are you still wearing your ring?! Didn’t Elena tell you?” Jeremy: “When my sister stops hanging out with vampires, I’ll take it off.” Point to Jeremy. Laughing forever. And ever.
- Relieved for Jeremy that he had better clothes this time around. Vast improvement over the paisley shirt-vest combo of last year.
- Was it just me, or did the dance decoration look a bit cheesy and sad? I expected better from Rebekah.
- Caroline looked amazing. But what was that random warning to Matt? And the weird looks at Matt and Jeremy bonding? It felt clumsy. And then Caroline jumping on the Stelena train? Yes, she and Stefan have always had a special bond, but the show hasn’t developed that since early season 2. A lot has happened since then. Someone who is as good at being a friend as Caroline would not be pushing her friend towards the guy who broke her heart and almost killed her. Elena has been miserable over Stefan for most of this season. Caroline knows how to be a best friend, and she is protective of her girlfriends. That little “epic love” speech felt unbelievable to me.
- Oh, and I’m getting tired of Klaus’s “I can show you the world” schtick. The speech was a nice idea at first, but get over yourself, dude. Caroline can see the world herself, when she chooses. All she needs is a guidebook, her natural charm, and possibly a little compulsion. I mean, what is that about? She’s a vampire, not an invalid. She is a very smart and capable person. Not a damsel in distress who needs to be swept off her feet and taken care of. And Tyler is a hybrid, not a typical small town boy. Given that, Ty won’t be able to stay in Mystic Falls for many years longer–aging and all. Also, I’m starting to resent the amount of time that Caroline’s story-lines this season seem to be love triangle related.
- I was so sad that Rebekah got daggered so early on in the episode. I really wanted to see her play Esther longer. I guess it made sense, however, since vampires can’t wield magic.
- Elena and Bonnie also looked amazing. In love with Elena’s dress, and A+ to Bonnie’s lipstick. And Matt’s hat? Swooning forever.
- Stefan and Klaus had a moment. Is Klaus forever destined to suffer unrequited love?
- Klaus’s temper tantrum over his mom’s body cracked me up, basically. I don’t know … the whole Klaus thing is just getting old for me.
- I think it’s important for me to remind all our characters to please speak louder while in public places, so that the vampires in other states can hear them too.
- 100% of Mystic Falls teachers are dead. Clearly the post of History teacher at Mystic Falls High rivals that of Defense Against the Arts professor at Hogwarts.
- Bonnie and Jamie were cute together. He seems nice. But it’s too bad that once again Bonnie was used as a plot device that will make everyone dislike her. Hasn’t she suffered enough? And possession? Poor Bonnie. She’s been getting possessed since season one. Isn’t there an amulet or a tattoo she could get? She should look into that.
EvilCia: You are so weak. I never cry at TV because it is ridiculous to get so invested in fictional characters.
Lucia: Oh no! This episode of The Vampire Diaries killed me and forced a resurrection, and now I have a broken psyche! And I’m not even wearing a ring. Thanks a lot, show.
EvilCia: You are such a nerd. The biggest geek ever. Shhhhh yourself.
Well, that’s all for now. If the pain gets too strong to bear, just remember Alaric sensitively passed out in an Appalachian bathtub. And don’t be scared to jump into the discussion in the comments. If you were my history students, I’d give you all “A”s for creativity, even though obviously vampires don’t exist.
Postscript: I finished writing this post late last night, except for a few edits. Then this morning I learned that my cousin Rick had passed away last night from cancer. A tragic coincidence, even down to the name. It just sucks. So I spent a lot of this morning crying again, but this time for a real person. And it made me feel like maybe I shouldn’t post this because it’s so silly and trivial. I mean, this post is pretty ridiculous, and I spent all day yesterday mourning a fictional character on Twitter, so I felt pretty horrible about myself. What about real people and real pain? I suck. But then I thought that art is supposed to reflect life–to express human truths. And we all have people in real life who we mourn, so there is always the potential for art that reflects that pain and to touch us. So, I don’t want to get too cheesy, and obviously vampires are ridiculous, and Esther’s magic is ridiculous, but I think that it is pretty special when television can reflect true human experience in such a way that it resonates with us and makes us feel. So, in addition to plot twists, and fashion, and just the plain element of fun, one of the most important reasons why I watch TV is to feel things. And I’m sure that a lot of you feel the same.