The Vampire Diaries 3.21 "Before Sunset"

A tv review article by: Shawn Hill

Klaus tries to carry out his plan to leave town with Elena, but meets resistance from an unexpected new enemy. Bonnie turns to Abby for help with a particularly difficult spell. As things spiral out of control, Elena is determined to make sure that Caroline is safe. Damon and Stefan turn to Tyler for help, and Bonnie and Jeremy take a dangerous risk to make sure that her spell is effective. Damon and Stefan have a surprisingly candid conversation about the future.

The Vampire Diaries airs Thursday nights at 8:00 on the CW.

This is one of those penultimate episodes that actually feels like it wraps up everything from the season very quickly. But, being TVDs, it never really plays that way. For every major climax they resolve, there are three more weird changes in direction lined up in succession. You get the feeling the writers sit around the workroom competing over who can throw out the most surprise plot points into the most current ongoing threads, and then they pick whoever blows their minds the most.

That leaves the actors to pull it together and keep consistency going, so it’s sort of like a soap on hyperdrive. Last week, Alaric dead, Esther dead, Tyler sired, Rebekah fleeing, Bonnie mind-controlled, Jeremy grieving. This week, Alaric alive (well, at least very actively undead), Bonnie fighting back, Jeremy angry, Tyler rebellious, Rebekah sorry she stayed, and Klaus heading for the hills.

And through it all, Elena being Elena, responding emotionally, being tasked for her loyalty, and her refusal to pick and choose between the humans, vampires and other monsters in her life. Alaric, having captured Caroline in the high school (to torture her with wooden pencils and vervain, sorry Vampire Barbie), demands that Elena become the Vampire Slayer she’s been training to be all season, basically to carry on his work that he (when in his right mind) also abandoned.

It’s an interesting dilemma, a very black and white moral stance for this show to take, that Elena either become Buffy or accept that she’s one of the evil ones. Only Alaric has it wrong, Elena was never training to be become a slayer. She was training so that she could be more of an agent in a world of monsters, less of a victim. She can no more let a vampire friend die than she can choose between Damon and Stefan (since she fell in love with both of them long ago), because for her the distinction isn’t living or dead. It’s friend or enemy, and she doesn’t discriminate as long as loyalty and love are offered.

That’s too modern a perspective for Alaric, channeling nineteenth century vengeance, or Esther, who’s a relic of an even simpler time. They’re monsters who’ve become incapable of moral reasoning or judgment, and one thing Elena does fight for is to keep from becoming a monster herself.

Everyone’s also wrong that she’s never staked a vampire, or that she won’t fight for herself. She’s staked Elijah and Rebekah, and would take out Klaus in an instant if it were possible, and if it were really that simple. She’s neither stupid nor passive, she’s just wary and respectful and patient.

What she doesn’t need to do is become Klaus’s blood bank, and both Tyler’s insubordination and Rebekah’s lasting loyalty make it clear to everyone but him this week that just breeding hybrids is no way to make himself safer or build the family he so longs for. That he’d have a family still if he stopped manipulating and started showing some loyalty of his own. That the way to befriend Stefan is not to make him evil again like in the bad old days, but to stop being such a dick all the time, like Stefan has been struggling to for decades. Like even Damon is capable of, if no one pisses him off.

Elena gets kidnapped, and threatened, and rescued over and over again this episode, but is instrumental in taking Klaus down, finally, hopefully once and for all. And in the midst of all the hundred plot reversals, Stefan and Damon agree to abide by her eventual love choice, as if they can’t see that ménage-a-trois is their destiny, Civil War code of honor be damned. Just admit it, Jules and Jim, alternative lifestyle is where this has been heading all along.

So what’s left next week is probably distractions, wrap-ups, sideways twists and hopefully, even to a tiny extent, some closure. For anyone, even one character, show, c’mon, I know you can do it!

Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at

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