The Vampire Diaries, “The Last Day”

The insane plot developments and shocking twists come so often on The Vampire Diaries that the series has almost lulled me into a nice, cozy sleep in a way. I don’t always know what the twists are going to be, but I always know that they’re coming. Or at least I thought I did. Tonight’s episode, “The Last Day,” reminded me that The Vampire Diaries has a whole other gear of insanity that it likes to reach when the season comes to an end. There have been some fantastic cliffhangers and reveals throughout this second season, but this episode had at least three HUGE ones in it that could most certainly change the fabric of the series forever. And this is only episode 20 of the season. There are still two more episodes for Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec and the rest of the fantastic writing staff to muck up the lives of Elena, Stefan and everyone else.

For most of the season, the whole operation of Team Elena has been about protecting her from Klaus. From the struggles with the conniving Katherine and the battle over the moonstone to the detour into werewolf-dom and the killing/resurrection of Elijah, it’s all been in hopes of keeping Elena alive. What’s so great about “The Last Day” is how it allows most of the characters be resigned to the fact that most of that was all for naught. Klaus is in town and the time is right to do the sacrifice and break his personal curse. And when the oldest vampire in the history of vampires decides that it’s time he wants to also activate his werewolf side, there’s very little anyone can do about it. Elena has been a bit fatalistic all season, but at this point there’s no reason not to be. Elijah has a magic elixir that will kill her and maybe bring her back to life and there’s always the possibility of Bonnie throwing down, but Elena actually going through with the sacrifice is really the best option for the good of all. She’s willing to try the elixir, but that’s about it. Elijah’s cool with it and so is Stefan.

Unfortunately, Elijah and Stefan aren’t the only two vampires in Elena’s life and Damon isn’t going to stand for everyone’s desire to risk Elena’s life with a possible ancient elixir as back-up. He knows he go back to the Bonnie well just yet, so he introduces massive plot twist number one: He forces Elena to drink his blood. If they go through with the proposed plan, not only will she come back to life, but she’ll be a vampire. A few weeks ago, I talked about Damon’s desire to do whatever it takes to save Elena and how that would impact his relationship with her. Fortunately, the writers didn’t make Damon out to be a tremendous savior with his “by any means necessary” thinking, and instead his choice just reflects how immature and self-centered he actually is. Saving Elena is one thing, but forcing her to become a vampire to do so is purely for Damon’s sake. He loves Elena, he wants her around. It’s a little bit heroic and a little bit misguided, but I was very happy with Elena’s response to the action.

That response was delivered in one of the season’s best sequences. I’m not necessarily a major supporter of Stefan and Elena’s relationship, but I appreciate how committed the series is to it. If this were a lesser series, Elena would have already hooked up with Damon a few times and Stefan would have probably made a run or two at Caroline, but they’re both hopelessly devoted to one another and it’s cute. And it’s never been more adorable and emotionally satisfying than in their walk through the forest and to the top of a waterfall/hillside. Damon’s horrible decision forces Stefan and Elena to have the one conversation they’ve only sort of danced around since the inception of their relationship: the future. Stefan, the ever supportive beau, doesn’t push Elena towards any choice or point but really urges her to speak her mind. I really loved how the episode spent a lot of time on their little journey (especially amid an episode full of awesome and more exciting threads) that by the time they reached the top of the mountain and Elena was actually ready to admit that she never wanted to be a vampire and that she wanted so badly to make her own choices, it’s was totally and completely earned. Like I said, I’m not a massive shipper for this pairing, but Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley really, really nailed all the scenes in that sequence. Fantastic work.

Elsewhere, Damon tried his damnedest to make up for his rash decision earlier in the day. He stares down Klaus a few times, convinces Katherine to give up the location of his sacrificial vampire and werewolf (Caroline and the returning Tyler!), saves the two of them and eventually throws down a little bit with the turning Tyler. The bad news for Damon (and our second major reveal of the episode) is that his tussle with Tyler ended in a bite, which is of course deadly. He’s now on his way to a certain death. Well, except for the fact that it’s Damon and there is literally no chance in hell that this series kills off its most popular character. That of course makes the reveal less shocking or effective, but it does intrigue me because I’m curious to see how the series adds in a new wrinkle to the mythology about the werewolves to save Damon. And of course, I am very, very happy to have Michael Trevino back for the season’s endgame considering he was one of the best parts of the first half of the season.

And if that wasn’t enough, all Damon’s plotting wasn’t worth anything. In fact, his meddling actually made things even worse. After he saved Caroline, Klaus needed a back-up vampire, and just to add a little more insult to Elena’s injury, he didn’t just get one, he made a new one: Jenna. That’s right, only an episode after really figuring out the truth about the world around her, Jenna has been thrust directly into it with little chance to survive. I’d like to consider myself a savvy viewer of television, but there is no way that I expected Jenna to be turned. It’s a wild and crazy development that I’m not entirely sure of yet, but am most certainly ready to see more of. Now Klaus has everything he wants, it’s all in place. With Stefan resigned to Elena’s choice and Damon literally fighting the clock, there aren’t a lot of people remaining to save her. But obviously there are going to be at least 37 more twists before all this goes down anyway. And I can’t wait to see the final two hours.

I’ve been particularly impressed with how this season was structured. I know that I burned through all of season one very quickly over the summer, but it often felt like characters would get introduced and killed within an instant, with only some reverberations for the actions that led to those deaths/events actually happening. But this season, if we go all the way back to the premiere and think about the plots laid out in front of us, so much of that is still in-play (Katherine, the doppleganger nonsense, the moonstone). Apart from Mason Lockwood and to a lesser extent Rose, most of this season’s guest characters have stuck around for an extended period of time. Moreover, the season had a nice, clear plan wherein there were three distinctive plot pods across the first 18/19 episodes (Katherine, werewolves, Elijah/Klaus). This allowed for the creation and sustenance of mini-arcs, but also makes these final episodes even better. Great season-long plotting by the writers.

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