This is how you do a season finale: Three shocking moments of Damon sincerity reminding us that Ian Somerhalder can speak without moving his eyebrows, two notable deaths (possibly four, or five), one forbidden kiss, and a twist ending (Katherine!). We got enough closure to get us through the summer, but enough of a cliffhanger to make sure we’ll be back in the fall. And Jeremy made the hottest Civil War soldier since Jude Law in Cold Mountain.
So it was finally Founders Day. Let’s hope Mystic Falls doesn’t decide to go all out for the 151st anniversary, though I did find it hilarious when Caroline told Matt, “Hide your cast, it’s not era appropriate” and better, hotter, superior choice Damon joked to Stefan, “I’m here to eat cotton candy and steal your girl.” Because the town would be gathered for the parade and festival, the tomb vampires planned a killing spree during the fireworks — starting with the founding families. That’s when Uncle John planned on using Johnathan Gilbert’s one-time-only device: For an estimated five minutes, it would emit a frequency that humans couldn’t hear. Vampires would be incapacitated, and the sheriff’s deputies would shoot anyone who went down with vervain, then take them to the old apothecary where they would be finished off. Anna found out about the impending massacre from the tomb vamps, who somehow still thought she was on their side (maybe she told them about Pearl’s death at the hand of Uncle John?), and went to Damon. Did you notice how Damon grabbed Elena’s hand when he was telling Stefan that he had to get her out of there? Damon went to tell John that the device was useless and the tomb vamps were in munch mode, but of course it wasn’t. John loaded Damon with vervain and took him captive. Stefan escaped because Alaric pretended he was going to vervain him (yep, it’s now a verb), but Anna was also caught.
Now Anna had brought Jeremy a vial of her blood earlier in the episode because she wanted to leave town and make him a vampire so he could come with her. But he no longer wanted to do it. I thought for sure Anna took Jeremy into that bathroom right before the device went off because she was going to feed him some of her blood “just in case.” He would only turn if he got killed that night, right? If not, it’d leave his system and he’d be fine. Maybe that was her intention, but all we saw them doing was talking when she collapsed in his arms and was taken away. She started to come out of the vervain as John and Co. were pouring the gasoline for the basement fire. She reached out to John, to beg him not to end her life, and he knelt and staked her as Damon watched helplessly. Was that a minor act of mercy — staking is quicker than burning — or John wanting to make sure the vampire that was dating his nephew definitely died? Really, John and the deputies should have staked all the vampires, or at least Damon, who they should have known would find a way to escape. He came out of the vervain early enough to enjoy watching the mayor (not a vampire but still affected by the frequency) get his neck snapped by a tomb vamp before Stefan entered the fire — momentarily calmed by Bonnie’s magic — to rescue him.
This is a good time to talk about the softer side of Damon we saw this episode. Not only was it hot, it was well-acted. I’d sort of forgotten that Somerhalder, always deliciously over-the-top as Damon, was capable of realism. The first moment came when he saw Bonnie during the parade, stepping into Elena’s line of vision as the two waved at each other. No way did I expect him to walk over and thank her for what she supposedly did to the device. Damon was so… aware this episode. He read everyone’s motivations so clearly. Humanity activated! He knew Bonnie had only taken the spell off the device for Elena, but he was still very grateful. “I don’t take what you did lightly, so thank you…. I owe you.” If he hadn’t spoken then, Bonnie never would have helped save him in the end. I’m so looking forward to seeing what they do with Bonnie in season 2. She’s finally becoming as complex as the other characters. She can see the grays: She told Stefan if Damon dropped one drop of innocent blood, she’d take him out — and Stefan, if he stood in her way. She’s a force, and she knows it.
Second moment of shocking Damon sincerity: When he showed up in Jeremy’s bedroom to tell him about Anna’s death. The two had words earlier, when Damon tried to get Jeremy to stop being a punk who tells his sister to go to hell and instead forgive her. What was beautiful about that scene was that we all knew Damon knew exactly what Jeremy was going through — he’d watched Katherine be carted away to what he assumed was certain death — but he didn’t say it. He just told Jeremy that he’d wanted to help Anna, but couldn’t. He took Jeremy’s suffering away once before, he offered to do it again. Jeremy said he always felt empty and alone, even if he couldn’t remember why. Making him forget wouldn’t fix what was wrong. Damon then walked closer to him and said what he’d done to Vicki was wrong — he was sorry for his part. As Damon walked away, Jeremy asked him if it was true what Anna said: Vampires can turn off the pain, if they give up their humanity. Does that make life easier? Maybe if Damon had stopped with his first thought — “Life sucks either way, Jeremy” — Jeremy wouldn’t have decided to drink Anna’s blood and try to OD on Elena’s prescription pills. But Damon added, “At least if you’re a vampire, you don’t have to feel bad about it…. I did it for a very long time, and life was a lot easier.” Do you think Jeremy will become a vampire, or that someone will find him in time to save him? Which is worse: Ogling Jeremy’s biceps as he raised the vial of Anna’s blood and again when he lay down on his bed to die, or that my first thought was, Well, he could feed on John to complete the transformation?
The scene that followed with Damon and Elena on the porch was my favorite of, maybe, the entire first season — it didn’t even occur to me that it could possibly be Katherine.
Damon: You know, I came to this town wanting to destroy it. Tonight, I found myself wanting to protect it. How does that happen? I’m not a hero, Elena. I don’t do good. It’s not in me.
“Elena”: Maybe it is.
Damon: No. It’s reserved for my brother, and you, and Bonnie — even though she has a reason to hate me still helped Stefan save me.
“Elena”: Why do you sound so surprised?
Damon: ‘Cause she did it for you. Which means that somewhere along the way, [he moves closer] you decided that I was worth saving. And I wanted to thank you for that.
“Elena”: You’re welcome.
[Damon moves in for a kiss, that, exhale!, lands on Elena's cheek.]
In the comments section, I would like you to describe what you were doing for those excruciatingly long seconds when Damon lingered inches from Elena deciding whether to try to really kiss her. Me, I was talking to the TV: “Damon, go. Damon, go. Damon, go. DAMON, GO. DAMON, GO. DAMON. GO. DAMON!” He didn’t. He kissed her, and it was steamy. Yeah, it didn’t feel like something Elena would do — maybe she would have been caught up enough by his lack of flirty compliments and “eye thing” for a peck, but not for a mini makeout session when she’d just gotten done assuring Stefan that she loved him and he had nothing to worry about when it came to her friendship with Damon. Jenna interrupted the kiss and told Elena she better come inside. Invitation! In she went to the kitchen, where she found Uncle John. Now that he knew Elena knew she was his biological daughter — she’d asked him as her father not to pretend she was a vampire if she insisted upon helping Damon (which he’d threatened to) — he was Mr. Chatty. He told her he’d loved Isobel, and part of the reason he hates all vampires is because of what she became. He never would have sent her to Damon if he’d known she wanted to turn. (So why did he send her to Damon?) He offered to help Elena put away some knives, and she cut off the fingers on his hand with the ring. “Katherine?” he said. GASP! Her face vamped out and she said, “Hello, John. Goodbye, John” and stabbed him in the stomach. This would be when I typed “Holy S—” in my notes. Cue the real Elena walking up to the house on her phone, telling Stefan someone took her stuff at the school. She was going to check on Jeremy before going to the hospital — where Caroline is fighting for her life after the frequency made Tyler wreck as he was driving her and Matt home — but as she yelled upstairs for Jeremy, she heard the noise in the kitchen. So many ways this could play out in the season premiere: Will Katherine already be gone, and they’ll have to piece together that sliced-and-diced John + “Elena” kissing Damon + Elena’s missing items = Katherine? Or will Katherine, who Isobel said would be fascinated by Elena, want to stick around now that she knows how much she means to Damon? Will John die? It’d be sick, but kinda awesome if Elena couldn’t bear the thought of losing Jeremy, and she told him to feed on John. It would be poetic, too, just like Stefan: His dad couldn’t understand that all vampires weren’t evil, then he’s what helped Stefan become one… Still, I suspect John will be dead, Elena will run upstairs, find Jeremy, and call 911 in time to save him.
Your turn. What did you think of the season finale? Where do you think/hope we’re headed in season 2? Clearly Damon — who made a point of telling Elena that he liked her better dressed as herself, not Katherine — will ultimately have to choose between the ladies, right? I worry that before then, Damon will decide to turn off his humanity again and have angry sex with Katherine. Or worse, pretend she’s Elena… Oh, who am I kidding? I totally want that to happen.
P.S. How soon do you want Tyler’s storyline to kick in? I want to hate him for how he treated Vicki, and made out with Matt’s mom, but the boy can wear a uniform and his werewolf eyes sure were pretty. Do we hope he’s good or evil? It might be nice if, in the Vampire Diaries world, werewolves hate witches. Damon saving Bonnie would be one way to win us back were he to go off the deep end with Katherine…
P.P.S. Reading your comments, I think you’re right: They could blame Damon for killing John. Jenna could say she saw Damon kissing “Elena” on the porch, and Elena and Stefan could think Damon was somehow suddenly in cahoots with Katherine. But that seems like something Damon could quickly explain: Like, “I wish I would have killed John, and I thought I was kissing Elena — but I didn’t.” I think they’d believe him. I like the idea of Damon realizing it was Katherine he’d kissed and coming back to find both Katherine and Elena in the kitchen. [Cue the logo in the season premiere].