24 has nothing on The Vampire Diaries.
On "All My Children," a heart-pounding episode full of both action and emotion, Damon and Stefan made like Jack Bauer. Except the terrorists were vampires, the full moon was the ticking bomb and the world would actually have been a safer place if they had failed at the mission.
But not their world. Neither Damon nor Stefan could imagine a world without Elena and they turned an innocent woman in order to save her. It was just one of several morally grey acts throughout the installment.
There really is no black or white anymore on The Vampire Diaries. The show has created such a well-layered, fascinating universe that viewers can endlessly debate the choices various characters make.
Should the siblings have sacrificed Elena in order to remove a killing machine such as Klaus from the planet? Probably. They are partially responsible going forward for every life he takes. But can anyone honestly say you would let your true love die if you had it in your power to save him or her?
Should Elijah have kidnapped Elena? Not if he aspires to be more than a monster, as he so righteously and profoundly put it to Rebekah near the end of the hour. But he was desperate to live. Again, who can say they would do it differently?
A look at almost every character tonight reveals multiple shades and sides, as the past few weeks built to an episode where agendas, feelings and motivations collided. To wit:
REBEKAH: Easily my favorite performance of the evening. She got wake up next to Damon, for starters, and then rub that in Elena's face. She then talked some serious smack in the caves (Why don't you sit down and shut up before I ruin everything by ripping your head off?), but also proved she possessed brains to match her brawn and beauty, dousing Elena with gasoline when her enemy thought she was safe.
Yet behind it all, there was clearly pain. I picked up on it the same way Elena did when she finally talked Rebekah down. This is someone who has been betrayed by her own mother and, prior to that, literally stabbed in the back by someone she considered a friend. It almost seems like years ago, but it was really only a couple months ago, when Caroline really just wanted to fit in at high school.
Elena ruined that. Rebekah was acting out like anyone would, just in a slightly more dangerous way because, you know, she's a vampire.
DAMON: The dude is definitely getting his mean mojo back. It's true, Stefan, he is better at being the bad guy. But it's different this time, there's a sentimentality mixed in to his nefarious actions. He's not killing just to kill or turning just to turn. He's doing it, in this case, to save his brother from a guilty conscience and to save Elena from... dying.
Moreover, he can actually admit that! Talk about progress. This is a Damon Salvatore who is in touch with his sensitive side, yet NOT letting those emotions get in the way of what needs to be done.
THE ORIGINALS: I'm gonna lump the rest of them in to one section here because I just marveled at that gathering outside the old witch house. This is group of people we were conditioned to hate not very long ago, some of whom we only very recently met. Yet an entire scene was built out of their fate and I found myself rooting for... I didn't even know what. That was the beauty of it.
I should have wanted Esther to succeed, right? Just consider the body count on all of their resumes. But the way TVD has driven home the concept of family, and depicted so many sides to both Klaus and Elijah, I simply watched, dumbstruck by how well the show has woven these individuals into the fabric of Mystic Falls. Granted, the conclusion was a tad melodramatic.
Where did Esther actually go after Abby was turned? She and Finn just... left? And Finn scattered? It's hard to imagine we won't see them again, but it felt a bit cheap to have them all just leave off-camera.
Of course, Klaus and Rebekah are still here. And they apparently have something new to fear. A tree. Looks like these two need to take another road trip and do some major gardening again.
MEREDITH: Just kidding. She has no layers. We all knew she was shady all along, didn't we?
BONNIE: She still bores me. But at least the turning of her mother has potential. It could hurt her friendship with Elena and, remember, Bonnie has never really been a fan of vampires. Now she reunites with her parent and just a few days later - bam! - blood sucker central. Who is gonna tell Jaime?!?
- Mother made us vampires. She didn't make us monsters. We did that to ourselves. Who doesn't love Elijah?!?
- I'm surprised you have time to call, what with all this Original sex you've been having? Alaric best not be dead.
- Does anyone else want to see Candice Accola front a band called Blonde Distraction? We all know the girl can sing.
- Damon, The Vampire Gigolo. He should put that on his business cards.
- If Esther had the power to turn all her kids back to human, why not just do that and avoid killing them?
So no more Vampire Diaries until March 15. And, as great as this episode on its own was, I must say: I'm not overly intrigued by the two cliffhangers. There's a new white oak tree and Meredith is the Mystic Falls murderer. Okay. Neither of those, by themselves, leave me dying for the next new episode.
But, on the whole, I love the integration of Klaus and Rebekah into this world, and I think the show has handled the Damon/Elena/Stefan love triangle as well as any show in recent memory. Heck, the relationship between the brothers is more interesting than the one either shares with Elena. It's really at the heart of The Vampire Diaries.
What did everyone else think?