Let's be real, the Mystic Falls High School dance calendar has become one of the most trustworthy predictors of disaster since Nostradamus first said "Whoa I got a bad feeling about this, guys." The Decade Dance in particular has turned into an almost poignant exercise wherein all the town's teenagers get dolled up in earnest when they know FULL WELL the night will end in tears and bloodshed. Like, what is even going through their minds as they look through their vast theatrical wardrobes? "I guess I'll wear this top hat. And maybe college is overrated anyway. [Sadface.]" But then again this is Mystic Falls, where brutal murder has been so normalized that most surviving citizens are probably just plum looking forward to dying. "Just following in my parents' footsteps!"
"Do Not Go Gentle" was a good episode, but you knew that! It mostly served to set up the season's grand finale, and grand finales are what The Vampire Diaries does best. Like, duh. Saying this episode was good is like saying "She ordered a pizza really well." That's fine but STAY TUNED.
But I do have one quibble and it's that Esther sort of sucks? Hear me out. Okay, that was basically it. Does Esther suck, you guys? Maybe she doesn't, I don't know. I mean, the character is fine, and her story was fine when it first played out. But that's the problem: To me it played out already! But she keeps coming back! I guess the thing that bugs me about her the most is that her grimoire isn't even a book, it's just a napkin with the word "ANYTHING" scrawled on it. Because that's what she's able to do: Anything. She's invincible. She can create vampires from scratch. She can swap bodies like it ain't even a thing. She can possess (allegedly) powerful witches to do whatever. This show has taken pains to write out a supposedly strict set of rules the vampires must live by, but then some viking witch ghost strolls in and does tons of crazy powerful stuff without precedent. And her motives don't even make a ton of sense. Has she been preying on ring-wearing citizens of Mystic Falls this whole time, even when her children weren't living there? And if she can possess Bonnie to overtake Damon like that, why did she even need an Alaric vampire? Can't Esther just pick up the dang stake on her own?
So to me a lot of this endgame stuff just seems a bit random now, which is fine if we're going by dream logic. I like dream logic! I still remember last year when TVD was like, "Oh, that Sun & Moon curse we were yammering on about for half the season? That was sort of fake, forget about it." Cool, thanks! Look, it's all good, really. I'm not Joyce Carol Oates over here trying to pretend I have high standards in writing. Ultimately this episode was super entertaining and its sense of dread was palpable. Bad times are coming for our characters, and it doesn't really matter what the threat is.
Had enough rambling yet? (I can't actually hear you because this is a written piece and you're probably at a computer, but I'm just going to assume you nodded or gave a thumbs-up.) Let's talk about this episode!
So first off, Klaus was sick of charcoals and had moved onto mixed media. What exactly this medium was I'm not sure. Shoe polish on drywall?
The Rebekah/Esther arrived with a fake stake and they threw it in the fire together. She'd apparently been out all night chillin' with Evil Alaric or something. Because seriously didn't they go to the cave the night before? Anyway, that's when Klaus informed his sister-mother that it was time to bounce.
Luckily Esther knew JUST the way to get him to stay another night. Like most everyone else alive, Klaus was a sucker for some Caroline.
Elsewhere, Evil Alaric was using up tons of daytime minutes trying to get Damon off his back.
Yeah, it was weird. It made me laugh that it would be reasonable to allow a known split-personality murderer to roam free in the area. That definitely keeps everybody safe!
But it turned out Evil Alaric was all up in Klaus's mansion, chillin' in the coffin parlor. Klaus must've run out to 7-11 or something because Rebekah/Esther and Evil Alaric were just freely discussing their plans at normal volume. (P.S. didn't those coffins look so clean and inviting? I honestly wouldn't mind curling up in one for an afternoon.)
Anyway, Esther wanted her real body back. Why, you ask? Wouldn't remaining undercover be the better plan? I don't know. She probably needed her old body back in order to do mega magic. Except then at the end of the episode her ghost was plenty magical? Honestly, most of the witchcraft in this show just confused me. Anyway, this happened:
Okay, so Esther was back to being Esther. That's definitely a bit more straightforward at least.
Back at the school, the kids had hung their elaborately painted backdrop and were now hanging Christmas lights and glittery stars, just like they had in the 1920s!
Meanwhile, Caroline took Elena aside for some unsolicited love triangle advice:
That's right, it's as though this season only had three episodes left to deal with its central love triangle! Because out of the blue, Caroline was now insisting that Elena give Stefan another chance by inviting him to the dance. And you know Elena, don't have to tell her twice to forgive a minimally apologetic mass murderer!
As suggested last episode, Stefan was more than ready to get back with Elena, so he practically lit up when she invited him to the school dance. Not as thrilled about this turn of events was a certain eaves-droppy older bro:
Meanwhile at the Salvatore crypt, Esther and Evil Alaric were getting down to business:
The first part of her plan involved melting down Alaric's ring so as to make the last remaining wooden stake re-usable. Which, if you think about it, is just a good example of Esther going green.
See that? That's the instrument with which she wants to stab each of her children to death! Or, more specifically, she wants a vampire version of Alaric to do it. Because, I guess, if he turns into a vampire his evil personal will take over permanently. According to her. Because fine. Esther's the boss, not me.
Elena and Stefan both looked quite dapper, and it was just like olden times! In both senses. Costume-wise and romance-wise. (Aside: Elena looked real good, but I still think maybe Detective Katherine rocked the '20s garb better back in the day. Personal preference!)
No offense to Caroline, but maybe Rebekah might've done a better job at putting this room together. I mean, what am I even looking at here? A bunch of teenagers in feather boas throwing elbows around. The '20s!
Obviously Caroline looked awesome, but it was great when she immediately took Matt aside and warned him about getting too close to Elena. Elena's human friends tend to die!
Some may call this a tiny character moment, but I took it as foreshadowing. Be careful, Matt!
Meanwhile Elena was tearin' it up:
Fortunately she waited for a slow-dance to bring up the most awkward topic possible.
Stefan DID NOT want to know what happened in Denver. Which means he totally knew right? Why else would he have said that? I actually liked this moment because he finally admitted that it'll be a while before Elena could possibly come close to hurting him the way he'd hurt her. So yeah, Stefan was pretty cool about the whole thing. As he should be! If these two are gonna get back together, Elena's got A LOT of free f*ck-up tickets she'll get to redeem. He'll be like, "Did you dent my fender?" and she'll be like "Did you eat a family in Tennessee? That's what I thought."
Anyway, because this was a high school dance, any old grown man could walk in off the street and attend. So Damon showed up with some bad news about Alaric: He was gonna have to die.
But Jeremy was NOT okay with that plan. To his credit he was still pretty out of the loop, but still.
Then Esther showed up at the front of the high school and whisked Elena away.
But not before exacting one of the more hilarious boundary spells this show's ever seen:
Haha, did Esther arrive in a DUMP TRUCK? Did she seriously dump a trail of salt around the entirety of the high school? And nobody noticed? That was one clever witch. Anyway, all vampires were now locked in.
Meanwhile in Alaric's classroom Bonnie and Jamie were enjoying some quality time.
Unfortunately for Bonnie, the vampires were in trouble so she would be expected to drop everything and help them at all costs! Ugh, back to the grindstone for our resident deus ex machina.
Back at the Salvatore mausoleum, Esther and Evil Alaric laid out their whole plan for Elena.
Esther wanted to turn Alaric into a vampire to match the strength of the Originals. Even though he'd be a NEW vampire. He'd still be as strong as them. Because why? Because doppelganger blood. What? No idea. Oh, and for kicks Esther elaborated that the ring had turned Alaric evil because every time he died she threw a surprise party for him in the afterlife and I guess talked him into developing a split personality. If you're curious about whether she'd done the same thing for Samantha Gilbert, stay curious because that was never explained. BUT Esther did admit to turning her husband Mikael into a bloodthirsty vampire-hunter, so there's that. Honestly, the more she opened her mouth the more I got confused.
Then Klaus arrived at the high school, apparently after not having seen his sister all day nor noticing the enormous ring of salt around the campus. Why should he worry about those things when he had an unrequited love to pursue?
Tyler had been acting sort of jackassy all night (might've just been the hat) and he had to swallow his jealousy over Klaus by pretending to still be sired. So then Caroline HAD to dance with Klaus and he pitched his best offer right up front:
We could tell Caroline was definitely listening to his eloquent plea to become his cultural protege, but at the last second huffed incredulously.
So then he got all butt hurt, told her that someday she'd realize she was too good for Mystic Falls, and THEN she'd be sorry. Or something. Klaus was definitely acting a jerk but I felt real bad for him. Sometimes even the alpha male doesn't get his way.
That's when he finally noticed the salt ring.
So yeah. Now Klaus was involved and it wasn't long before he was hassling Bonnie to break the boundary spell also.
Although, and this might be my screengrab-damaged brain speaking, but did it seem like Klaus totally lit up when Jeremy offered to help?
Back at the Salvatore Badtimes Bounce House, the conversion ceremony was underway:
And just like that, Alaric's conversion to vampire had begun!
Aside: Did you guys like the original song that this gentleman wrote?
If there's one thing we can all agree on, The Vampire Diaries needs more R&B; slow jams called "Love Triangle." Great job, Backwards James!
Back in the gymnasium, Tyler was stressin' about the fact that everybody wanted to kill Klaus even though it would probably kill him also (bloodline drama). Caroline did her best to cheer him up, but he was being real mopey about it.
Wuh-oh. This relationship has been real front-and-center these past few episodes. That can't bode well for the future, right?
So then a couple of mortals came at a one thousand-year-old witch with sporting equipment.
And get this: She STILL had the upper hand! She tried to make Jeremy and Matt shoot each other!
Phew! Luckily Original Recipe Alaric woke up and stabbed Esther so bad.
Just so we're clear, THIS type of murder was cool. So this was definitely the Good Alaric. Not the Evil one who sought to murder other murderers. (Someone keepin' a flowchart, btw?)
Back at the salt line, Klaus was caught up in a romantic mood evidently brought on by nostalgia for the 1920s. He even referred to Stefan as a bedfellow! You know, I'm starting to suspect that the subtext of their relationship is just plain old text now. Pretty sure they shirtless-hugged at least once back in the '20s.
Oh, Klaus. At least he tries, you know? Hang in there, kitten.
But then it was time for tearful goodbyes. Deciding that he would definitely NOT complete the transition into evil vampire and bringer of nightmares, Alaric started getting closure from Jeremy and Elena. Elena was especially guilt-ridden over all that had happened.
Then in the real gut-puncher of the episode, Alaric walked outside to see all his friends standing in teary-eyed tableau.
It was sad! All I ever want on ensemble dramas is for all the characters to stand in tableau, united for some emotional purpose. This scene was tableau porno basically. All the greats just assemblin' to say goodbye to their history teacher from thirty feet away.
Do you think he ever asked why they were all in costume? Probably he was just distracted.
At some point someone dragged Esther's dead body back to Klaus's house where he gingerly placed her back in a coffin for some reason. (Try a woodchipper next time?) Despite opting to preserve her body, Klaus was still NOT happy with his mum.
He shouted at her corpse a ton, threatening to build an army to protect himself. I definitely expected someone to jump out and stab him at that very moment, but WHEW! Didn't happen.
So then Bonnie and Jamie went somewhere truly fantastical.
Yeah. Bonnie was emotional about, I guess, Alaric? But let's be real, her three minutes of screentime in this episode didn't necessarily deserve the emotional pay-off it was now getting. Unless this was just a cumulative effect type thing. Either way, her sadness was clearly appealing enough for Jamie to want to stay the night.
Matt and Jeremy decided to remember Alaric the best way they saw fit:
Aw, at least they got each other, you know? (Question: Jett or Maremy?)
Back at high school (man these kids were really all over town tonight, weren't they?), Stefan decided to make a move on Elena by, I guess, bragging about how healed he was now.
It was especially cool how he took advantage of Elena's lowest emotional moment to swoop in and be the hero again.
Welcome back, Normal Stefan! Honestly you guys, I'm happy for them, but I could not be more bored by this love triangle. Sorry. Sue me in a court of law if you must, but it's getting to the point where my eyes just glaze over every time Elena so much as looks at a Salvatore.
This was nice: Damon and Alaric had a funny, touching, and slightly devastating final scene together. Laughin' and cryin' and apologizin' and drinking tons of brown liquid together.
Okay, technically he'd only fallen asleep here... Which, hey brilliant plan, Dr. Fell! Give sleeping pills to a man whose alter ego emerges whenever he sleeps? What could go wrong?? (Either way, this was definitely the end for Original Recipe Alaric. Bye, you handsome weirdo!)
Back at Bonnie's HOUSE (I know, I'm still getting over it too!) her slumber was interrupted by a VERY persistent viking witch ghost.
Then there was this completely useless "it was only a nightmare" fakeout. Why did they even do that? Only minutes later Bonnie was definitely possessed and on a mission:
AND BAM! Endgame time.
So Universal Soldier Alaric is now awake and on the move, and he'll be stabbin' EVERYBODY! Fingers crossed that they go full Jason Voorhees with this thing, because man, this guy is scary looking!
All in all, an emotional and tense episode. I will not pretend to understand all the witch stuff, but that could just be a personal problem on my part. Or maybe Esther's storyline was written quickly in a notebook during a very bumpy commute? Either way, I am able to look past the particulars and enjoy "Do Not Go Gentle" for what it was: Entertaining! Can't wait for next week when the pizza party REALLY starts.
... Who WON'T survive Alaric's rampage?
... Which romance is circling the drain?
... Foxiest flapper: Elena, Caroline, or Katherine?
... No seriously, where is Jeremy's dog?