So, here’s the thing about Heart of Darkness – the first time I read it, I didn’t like it, partially because The Poisonwood Bible seemed so much cooler and partially because I had not yet developed my current obsession with beautiful language. Thank God the writers of this week’s episode were better English students than I was, whipping up a whole list of magical lines that explore “the horror, the horror” of giving in and/or getting exactly what you want. In honor of their genius, today’s recap will be broken up into the lines that best sum up each story of the night (bet you can’t pick just one). Here are the four paths to everyone’s “Heart of Darkness”:
Rebecca (and a little bit of Matt): “But I haven’t lived at all”
Full disclosure, I’m gonna be doing a lot of squealing over cute boys in this recap, because they all just got haircuts/finally came back from the wilderness/ have reverted to season-one levels of gloriously unfettered hotness. Matt falls into the final category (Henleys are the gifts that keep on giving), adorably aiding Caroline’s escape from dance-planning by siding with the “wrong” blonde before driving said blonde home. The scene in front of The Mikaelson Mansion was Dawson’s Creek- level cute even thought everyone involved knows Matt has ulterior motives. (Note: Yay for the Decade Dance’s Twenties theme – much better than Seventies – but the gang needs to STOP GOING TO THEM. No one has any fun, and they’realways there to kill someone). Many fans are probably tired of Rebecca’s “poor little immortal girl” shtick by this point, but the fact that she refuses to let go of opportunities to be a high-school mean girl or blush over boys belies a humanity that’s vital to understanding the Originals as people and not just the Big Bads (well, except for Kol – his angst-less take on sadism is sorta a breath of fresh air in the midst of the constant sea of emotions). TVD is first and foremost a show about loss, and of the surviving Mikaelson siblings Rebecca is the least comfortable with her role – she keeps attempting to define herself as something more than the ice-princess-only-sister, but she struggles because there is nothing left for her to become. She can never be the sister or daughter she was, a fact that underscores her scene with Esther, who forced her to trade normalcy for life and now wants to force an impossible reversal ( like an anti-Sheriff Forbes, if you’ll accept that their mother issues and Klaus/Stefan/Tyler/Matt entanglements speak to a serious symmetry between the blondes). The fact that Esther would rather possess Rebecca than fade away only epitomizes this – her daughter literally has not been in control of her body for a thousand years.
Stefan and Alaric: “He’s not you, he’s the darkest parts of you. Parts we all have.”
This is not a character combination we see very often, but that was sort of the point – after the year Stefan’s had, and the month Alaric just experienced, nobody else understands one like the other. Both have been sorting out their issues, but only really discussed them with Damon, who’s already learned to embrace his demons. In fact, the elder Salvatore’s absence gave Stefan space to illustrate 1) The brothers understand one another – Stefan can’t deal with the ambiguity of Elena’s emotions, and Damon can’t torture his best friend, so they switch crises; and 2) Group therapy is the best kind. Without Damon there to tell them they’re both going to be fine, Stefan and Alaric can drunkenly commiserate over exactly how much the path to control/sobriety/mental stability absolutely sucks. Understanding that their dark sides get results – the location of the stake is only obtained through the use of violence bringing out Alaric’s Mr. “What drives him is me” – is the first step, something Stefan communicates brilliantly with his dressing-down of Klaus: “… now that I’ve accepted it, it can’t control me. And neither can you… Unless you’re gonna stake me, why don’t you get the hell outta my house?” Everybody has been trapped/tortured in that basement, but The Salvatore boarding house is a place of healing tonight. Demons that dare enter get slayed.
Tyler and Caroline: “How much did I miss?”
First off, TYLER Y’ALL. Like, he and Caroline did it in the Lockwood slave cellar and I couldn’t bring myself to give a care about the kinkiness of that, such was my joy at their reunion. That said, the fact that this awful place is the site of most of their bonding moments says almost as much about their relationship as the question above. Much of Caroline’s story since she turned has been about Tyler – protecting him, rejecting him, resisting him, accepting him – and so we perceive him through her eyes. When he leaves, we only experience the waiting for his return, as opposed to witnessing him forcing a hundred transformations in the Appalachians, and he always says he’s leaving for her more than himself, though both are relevant. So when he’s brought up to speed on the intended demise of his bloodline, it’s intriguing to experience the news from his perspective, as the realization dawns that he is one too many degrees removed from Elena to be, in Damon’s eyes, worth keeping alive. The same goes for his reaction to Klaus’ drawing in Caroline’s room. Yes, we know that it was Klaus who reminded her of the benefits of immortality when the men in her life made her want to die. We know that she has the ability to appreciate the Hybrid’s attention while simultaneously rejecting everything he stands for, that she exploited his affection multiple times at great risk for the sake of her friends and her relationship. Tyler, however, only knows that once upon a time he couldn’t beat out her first love, his best friend (a fact the writers acknowledge with a beautiful beat between Caroline and Matt after the fake fight), and now he might be vying for her affections against the First Hybrid, with whom he may unwillingly possess an even more durable and insurmountable bond. Yes, Caroline missed him. No, she doesn’t know why she kept the picture. Both are the truth. But their relationship was fraught with miscommunication before the Mikaelsons came to town and overturned everyone’s dynamic, so the night of his return from changing into an animal in the freaking mountains is not a ripe time to enter emotional gray areas. Tyler is not equipped to process how much he may have missed.
Damon and Elena (and Jeremy, and Rose): “He could be the best or the worst thing for her”
I love TVD road trips, in part because a speeding car provides the perfect opportunity for spilling guts in a private location, and also because when people decide to go on the journey they are fully aware of that fact. The forced isolation is a choice, albeit often one of necessity, and to get in the car is to surrender to the process. Elena says Stefan thought she should go to Denver with Damon, but Damon rightly accuses her of knowing it too – a fair point considering their history. Goodness knows she isn’t going for Jeremy, a fact that Jeremy himself calls her out on (“What, so you can make out some more?”). Even Rose can tell, throwing shade on the situation from beyond the grave. I say all of this to highlight the fact that all season Elena’s been under the impression that the people she interacts with are unaware of her motivations, and this episode attempted to declare once and for all that she is hella obvious and needs to start considering the true ramifications of her actions. Everybody can see her flailing, and they’re getting tired of waiting for her to figure that out.
That said, the whole Denver/middle-of-“no-tel” sequence was WOW. Kol , in his brilliant viciousness, kneecapped Damon with an aluminum baseball bat because Damon as a rule must be taken out at the knees once a road trip. Jeremy and Damon’s banter is proof that their non-brother-in-law-pseudo-bromance still thrives beneath the surface. Death agrees with Ghost Rose, who was more relevant as a sassy angel over everyone’s shoulder (and Shipper On Deck) than she ever was alive. “Scary Mary” was hilarious as a concept even if we were too late to see her in action. Damon’s recollection/confession about his deceased friend’s final moments was a piece of Ian Somerhalder’s beautifully subtle acting throughout the whole series of scenes, capped perfectly with “It wasn’t about you” (We love her, but sometimes the doppleganger needs to be reminded). The “I see you seeing me seeing you eye-sexing me” silent encounter almost topped the epic ATTMO that followed, except that my mind-meld with the music supervisors chose this moment to complete and Florence + the Machine’s “Never Let Me Go” started blaring (as it damn well should) and I started screaming and circling my living room as a result. The B.S. call /emotional beatdown Damon laid down on Elena supplied the title of this recap, and can only be summed up as H.Y.F.R., because Elena needs a daily reminder that the people around her are not the same people she started the series with; that evolution is an inevitable part of life, one she is not exempt from. She must make choices and not be afraid if they actually move her forward instead of back.
My only question is, are they driving Jeremy back to Denver, or bringing him home with them? Since he and Kol became “friends” there it seems unsafe for him now, but then doesn’t he need to transfer schools and pack up his room and retrieve his dog? (We’re praying Kol didn’t use it as a demonstration of his crazy). What does this mean for Bonnie, absent this episode but most likely bringing Not-Related Jaime to The Dance next week? Making her choose between Ri’chard and McQueen is just cruel, show.
Next week: 3×20, “Do Not Go Gentle” as in “into the good night”. Who’s going to rage, rage against the dying of the light?