Oh, man, it's that time of year again already? AWESOME.

So this year, I'm doing the best moments before I do the Recap of People, mostly because...this is the post that got finished first. So here we go!

As always, these are in no particular order.

1. Bill Forbes Says No (bringing out the dead)

We've seen a lot of people turn into vampires on this show. Like, a lot. And in the entire two-and-a-half-years previous, we'd never seen anyone say no to completing the transition. Until Bill Forbes.

Bill, you see, had grown up in Mystic Falls; he fashioned himself a vampire hunter, and only really accepted Caroline's new "medical condition" right at the end, after he'd been killed by the serial killer running around town and resurrected thanks to Meredith's "experimental treatment". ...which set us up quite nicely for the finale, not that we knew it then.

2. "[Alaric's] my family." (bringing out the dead)

And then Elena said what we'd all sort of been hoping since Jenna died: that Alaric wasn't just her history teacher, or a vampire hunter, or Damon's best friend. He'd been the one to keep her and Jeremy safe and together since that awful night in the woods. He was her family. And in Mystic Falls, the best kind of families aren't the ones you're related to by birth. (Salvatores aside.)

3. Klaus Fancies Caroline, No Really (dangerous liaisons)

Klaus has a lot of sides: Torturer! Guy who's good at long-term planning! Man with fairly severe family issues! Lot of facets to the guy, really. It wasn't until the "Mikaelsons" (heh) threw a Getting to Know You party for Mystic Falls that we saw a brand-new one: Guy Who Fancies Caroline Forbes. He thinks she's pretty! She makes him have facial expressions! HE DREW HER A PICTURE OF A HORSE, OKAY.

...granted, he also tried to make Tyler kill himself to get him out of the way, but is anyone surprised? Come on.

4. Tyler! Now With Brand New Hybrid Powers! (the reckoning)

--aaaaaand Klaus could totally try to make Tyler do that, because thanks to Klaus getting real tired of not knowing why all his new hybrid pals kept dying within 12 hours of being made, he did it to Tyler to force Bonnie and Co. to figure out why--which she did (witches + Elena still being alive after the sacrifice last year = exploitable loophole)! Not that that did Tyler any good.

5. Homecoming 2011 Becomes Mikael's Wake (homecoming)

Mikael wasn't what you'd call a bastion of great parenting; after all, it's partly his fault that we have vampires in the first place, but then to turn around and decide that said kids should be dead because they're vampires? When you're one yourself? Dick move, bro. Even more awkward because it's mostly motivated thanks to the whole "Klaus isn't really my son and he killed his mom" deal, which, what the hell.

So of COURSE, what with Mikael having hunted down Klaus for a thousand years, he'd find him on the most dramatic night possible: Mystic Falls High's Homecoming 2011. And, of course, since it was like twelve episodes in, Mikael wasn't going to walk away from this one. It also set the stage for the return of the Original siblings--the ones that weren't Elijah or Rebekah--and Evil!Alaric, so hats off, Sebastian Roche. You weren't around a lot, but you certainly made an impact.

6. Damon Undaggers Elijah (the ties that bind)

And then there was the time Damon basically said "Fuck it, I am in NO MOOD" and straight pulled the dagger out of Elijah, bringing back Daniel Gillies and making pretty much everyone watching the show generate little hearts in their eyes. COME BACK SOON, BEST ORIGINAL.

7. Magical Resurrection Rings, it Turns Out, Actually Have a Downside (1912)

So for a good six or so episodes, there was a serial killer running around Mystic Falls, taking out Council members and people who otherwise knew about vampires. He (or she) (it was a he, though) killed the town coroner (and Meredith's ex), Bill Forbes, and Alaric (who only survived because Elena, using her supernatural advantage as the doppelganger, finished him off). It was gross, and kind of cool, and had absolutely nothing to do with vampires--except that it totally did, because surprise! The serial killer was a split personality that Esther had helped cultivate in Alaric every time he died and popped up briefly on the Other Side!

Hilariously, this is the second time this has happened: Samantha Gilbert--yeah--had gone batshit back in 1912 and killed Zachariah Salvatore, Stefan and Damon's grand-nephew from a scullery maid that Giuseppe knocked up (and, presumably, "Uncle Zach's" ancestor, thus answering a question I've had since the pilot). I'd knock Stefan and Damon for forgetting, but neither of them was in town for very long in 1912, and let's face it, at a certain point, the piles of dead people the two of them have accrued start to blur together, you know? Not everyone has a Closet of Shame, Stefan.

8. Damon and Evil Lexi Made Stefan The Ripper (1912)

--yeah, so Damon sort of made his brother a serial killer. Bear with me! He didn't do it alone!

After hooking up with Evil Lexi--okay, fine, "Sage", but as written, she's totally Evil Lexi, so I will be calling her that--Damon discovered that whammying ladies into fucking him was totally cool, thus making sure he was mostly an asshole until, like, 2011. And as payment for that--and I don't mean that sarcastically, Damon really did think he was helping Stefan, here--he taught Stefan to enjoy the hunt. They're predators, they're better than humans: why shouldn't they enjoy it?

Because Stefan Salvatore cannot hold his cocaine.

No, really. Stefan takes to hunting like a duck to water, the same person he'd been before Lexi taught him a different path--except now with a new and exciting pathology: getting so into it he DISMEMBERS HIS VICTIMS OH SHIT. Aaaaand then, just to make it super extra-creepy, he feels so terrible about what he's done that he REASSEMBLES THE BODIES. WHAT.

Just. You guys, it takes a lot to make Damon Salvatore fucking horrified, and Stefan managed it in a single night. That's, like, twice now.

9. "Your sister wants me to have one of our talks with you again." (the new deal)

Season 3 was tough for a lot of people. One of the toughest, arguably, was Jeremy, who, right after dealing with Bonnie dumping him for emotionally cheating on her with his dead vampire girlfriend, had to save Elena and Alaric from a hybrid Klaus had sent to the house via a crossbow bolt and cutting his head off with a meat cleaver.

For Elena, this was the last straw. And in a heartbreaking callback to season 1, when Damon took Jeremy inside to have a talk with him about Vicki, Damon sat him down--gently, for him; for anyone--and told him how it was going to be: he was going to leave Mystic Falls, and stay with family in Denver, and never think twice about it again.

Aaaaaaaand of course it didn't take, but for a few weeks, he got out. We don't celebrate it enough, on this show, when people get out. We should do that more often.

10. The Damon Salvatore Apology Hour (ghost world)

It's somehow totally unsurprising that of all the literal hundreds--no, thousands--of ghosts that could've visited him, Damon ended up with Mason Lockwood. Remember Uncle Mason? Kind of great, kind of a dick, made the mistake of dating Katherine, had his heart ripped out of his chest? Yeah, him. He seems fairly laid back about the whole thing, though; he only wants Damon to apologize for killing him--and he does, in the least believable fashion ever seen on this show. Mason, way more relaxed dead than he was alive, ends up leading Damon beneath the town where we end up learning the true history of the Originals from cave paintings. (No, seriously.)

This episode is also notable because it contains two instances of Damon apologizing to people--the second being Alaric, who was understandably pissed that Damon had killed him a couple of episodes back when he was in a mood (and, delightfully, been completely baffled that Alaric wasn't over it, like, two days later). So, having just learned his lesson with Mason, Damon apologizes to Alaric, too. Alaric calls him out on it, because he was literally right there for the Mason thing, and doesn't even bother to hide his incredulity.

"...I do a lot of things I don't have to do."
"You're gonna give me the same stupid crap-ass excuse you gave Mason Lockwood?"
"[pause] I didn't mean it with him."

And just like that, everything was okay again. BROS.

11. Ghost Lexi's Tough Love (ghost world)

So on the Mystic Falls Night of Illumination--further proof that I'm pretty sure Katherine whammied a bunch of Council members, back in the day, to have a host of bullshit events outside at night so her burgeoning vampire colony would have snacks handy--a bunch of dead people come back. And it's awesome. Caroline gets to throw down with Frederick and a bunch of rando tomb vampires; Anna and Pearl get to be together, in a scene that legitimately made me tear up. Because everything does, on this goddamn show.

The capper, though, was Lexi--Stefan's best friend and possibly the best person in his life, ever--coming back just in time to smack him around and tough love him onto the road to not being an asshole anymore. Granted, it took longer than just the one episode, but there's nothing quite as satisfying as asshole!Stefan getting his head smashed into the side of a car by his dead best friend.

12. The Originals: The World's First Vampires (ordinary people)

We've been waiting for it since Katherine first mentioned Klaus waaaaaaaay back in S1, and it took two years, but we finally got the whole story on the Originals: seven children born to a man named Mikael and a witch named Esther. After losing one child and moving to the New World to start again, they lost a second--a son named Henrik--to werewolves living in the area. Rather than lose any more of his children, Mikael persuaded Esther (and her friend, Ayana, aka The First Bennett) to use their magic to make them live forever. And it did--sort of.

13. Kill One Original, Kill 'Em All (the murder of one)

We also learned the truth, in the most convoluted manner possible (thanks, witches): Esther's spell to create the Originals had a weird side-effect. You kill one Original, you kill every vampire created from his or her bloodline; kill all the Originals, rid the world of vampires forever. So that's Esther's grand plan: murdering all of her children.

...yeah, she won't be winning Mom of the year with this one.

14. After A Hundred and Fifty Years, The Salvatores Realize They Have Terrible Bro Timing (the departed)

Damon and Stefan have really good reasons not to get along. Stefan blames himself for Damon being a vampire; Damon hoves into Stefan's life about once every 10-15 years and destroys it for, you know, reasons. They've been at each other's throats almost since they died, and every brief period of stability is inevitably followed by murder attempts. That's just how they roll.

So of course, it's only on their way out of town, Klaus' body in the trunk, that they realize that this is the best they've ever gotten along literally since they died--and that it's about to be fucking tanked, because Elena has to choose between them.

Granted, they followed this up with a gentleman's agreement to avoid each other 'til Elena died so as not to make it too weird, and now Elena's a vampire so that's shot straight to hell, but. Salvatores, man.

15. Klaus "Fixes" Stefan (the reckoning)

Look: I'm all for Klaus having friends. I would prefer he not have used Elena like a blood sponge to do it, and I'm not thrilled with having to kill werewolves to do it (especially because in TVD, werewolves are kind of thin on the ground), but I can admit Klaus and Stefan being bros for one night in the 1920s was kind of great. Possibly it was the costuming. Whatever, I never claimed to be deep.

That does not, however, make up for how Klaus got his "bro" back: by whammying Stefan into turning off his emotions, thus bringing back Dickhead Cokehead Stefan, my least favorite incarnation. Not on, dude. Not on.

16. Matt Really Misses His Sister, Okay (the reckoning)

And sometimes, on a really horrible night--which, holy shit, it's awful that there's a list to choose from--the only "normal" human left in Mystic Falls temporarily kills himself to see his sister again.

17. Damon and Elena, Mackin' in a Hallway (heart of darkness)

We all knew it was coming. We were promised it, in a really roundabout way, for this season. Regardless of whether or not you agree with it, it was coming.

That did not, however, IN ANY WAY, prepare us for the scorching, ridiculous, this-is-not-even-my-thing-okay hotness of Damon and Elena macking in a mildly skeevy motel hallway, to the sounds of Florence + the Machine's "Never Let Me Go". Nor should it have, because it would have lessened the impact of the whole DUDE DID YOU NOT HEAR ME? MACKING. IN A MOTEL HALLWAY.

18. Alaric Decides Not to Transition (do not go gentle)

You watch this show long enough, it sort of becomes--you know how you can sense when the weather's changing? Or how dogs go nuts before an earthquake? Kind of like that. I had the same feeling when Klaus was in Alaric in S2, that something was going to go horribly wrong. But we dodged a bullet--Alaric was fine!--and I let myself forget the cardinal rule of TVD: Never turn your back on something, because that's when it'll start on fire.

So when Esther tried to make Evil Alaric a vampire, it just hurt worse. We'd dodged a bullet last time! Couldn't we do it again?

No. No we couldn't. And neither could Alaric. And because he'd never, ever wanted to be a vampire--amazing fanfic aside--he said no. He made the choice we'd only seen Caroline's dad make, a few weeks before, and he wasn't afraid. And Damon, who'd been there once before Stefan intervened, didn't try to stop him. He just sat down with him in the dark, and the quiet, and waited for his friend to go to sleep.

(And, of course, thanks to Esther and a bunch of dead witches, he didn't even get that. But he made the choice, which is the more important part, to me.)

19. Tyler and Klaus Play Russian Nesting Dolls (the departed)

And then, just to be a dick, we find out that Klaus gets to survive being daggered and staked by Evil Alaric by jumping into Tyler's body the same way Esther camped out in Rebekah's. Caroline's gonna be just thrilled about this, you can tell. NOT COOL, NIKLAUS.

20. Elena Wakes Up (the departed)

So a year ago--or, like, three months in show time; never try to use a calendar on this show, blood will come out your nose--Elena told Stefan she didn't want to be a vampire. She wanted to grow old; she wanted to get married, have kids, have a life. She didn't see anything wrong with aging, with the way the world was supposed to work, and if he loved her, he had to accept that. And he did, so he did. And that was that.

Or so we thought.

So now, thanks to a combination of Meredith roofie'ing Damon to steal some of his blood, Klaus trying to drain Elena of all her blood to make more hybrids, and Rebekah being in a mood and running Matt's truck off the road, Elena's a vampire. She's never going to grow old. She's never going to have kids--not without biting someone, anyway. She's going to be young and lovely forever. The line of the Petrovas ended with her. No more doppelgangers. No more aging. No more heartbeats for Isobel and John's daughter. A princess went to sleep, down there in the dark and the cold and the wet.

We'll have to see what Stefan brought back up in her place.

21. First Boy Wins (According to TV Tropes, Anyway) (the departed)

This one's sort of iffy, mostly because I'm not a Delena person. (Point of fact, I'm an I Choose Me person, because for real, Elena: you are picking between serial killers.) But when given the ultimatum to choose between Damon and Stefan, Elena did what she thought best--she chose Stefan, mostly because she really does love him, but a little bit because "[she] met him first".

...which would be totally valid, if sort of weak, if not for the revelation that she actually met Damon first. He whammied her to forget, and never mentioned it to Stefan--because, again, reasons--but Elena's gonna remember, oh, an episode or two in, thanks to the wacky side effect of recovered memories as a baby vampire.

Which means that season four should be just as batshit crazy as season three. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

***

HONORABLE MENTIONS

a) The Molotov Propane Tank (before sunset)

It's really easy to make jokes about the Originals being grandiose in very weird ways, but you can't deny they have panache. Elijah using a handful of change to blow out a picture window was great.

This--Klaus getting fed up with not impaling everyone in the Gilbert house with picket fence stakes hurled as actual stakes, and just jamming a rag into a tank of propane and marching onto the porch with that and a torch--is actually better.

b) "Yeah, I knew your old family. They made sucky chili." (disturbing behavior)

Frankly, I am just astonished that in 1864, the Gilberts actually knew what chili was. (Also, Damon being weird about food? Always a plus. "You don't like pickles? What's wrong with you?")

c) For Real, You Guys, Your Graduating Class is Going to Be Eleven People

This one isn't a moment; it's a collection of moments. Homecoming outside at Tyler's house! The Night of Illumination! Council meetings! The Wickery Bridge Re-Dedication! The Decade Dance, 1920s edition! Prank Night!

All of these things happen 1) outside, 2) at night, 3) at school, or 4) some combination thereof. There are not enough mountain lions on the eastern seaboard, you guys, what the actual hell. Just--start having a lot of people go missing and turn up dead thanks to a gas leak, because you are honest to God running out of options on HOW TO HIDE ALL THE MURDER VICTIMS.
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