The Vampire Diaries 3.21 Review: "Before Sunset"

By John Keegan

vampire-diaries-iconI'm not sure what I was expecting coming into this episode, but whatever it was, what we got was not it. And I mean that in a generally good way. Alaric's first actions as Esther's vampire assassin were just about as brutal as it gets, and things definitely look to be changing in Mystic Falls. (Which only makes the official fourth season pickup all the better!)

I'll get the worst out of the way first: if there's one reason I can't wait for the end of the season, it's the protracted love triangle with Elena and the Salvatores. The scene towards the end of the episode had me rolling my eyes. There's no scenario in which the series will go without Stefan and Damon for any meaningful amount of time, so it just felt silly. Not to mention that it still makes far more sense for Elena to put both of them at arm's length and get her own life together, given what has been happening. (Though that would probably mean even more relationship angst, so hopefully not.)

Given how they've set things up, I just don't see how Elena can choose without just spinning the drama into a new direction. It's almost to the point where I want her to pull a Katherine, lose the hand-wringing, and declare that she's human, only going to be young for so long, and therefore choosing both. Sure, it's not her personality at all, but damned if it wouldn't be the most entertaining solution of them all, and she doesn't want to lose either of them, right? (And really, Nina Dobrev's saucy, sexy side has been in short supply this season.)

The-Vampire-Diaries-Before-Sunset-Season-3-Episode-21-5Onto the much better side of the episode: Alaric's assault on the vampires. His takedown and torture of Caroline was just crushing, but forcing Elena to make a decision that really made it sadistic. Granted, anyone who threatens Caroline will incur my wrath, so was there any better way to demonstrate his cruelty? And yet, despite all that, Alaric isn't totally wrong. His methods might be, but he's got a point: vampires have not exactly made things better for Mystic Falls. Esther's ultimate goal makes sense, if one sets aside loyalty to the characters and looks at the big picture.

Touching on an earlier plot point that seemed to go nowhere, Abby returns to help take down Alaric. As one would expect, with this being an episode short of the actual season finale, things don't quite work out. There's always a catch. Elena is tied to Alaric, and the Salvatores and their spawn are tied to Klaus. Taking down Alaric means killing Elena, which Klaus is ready to exploit, since the opposite is also true. Needless to say, someone is going to die. (And since this is "The Vampire Diaries", there's a quota to be met.)

And so, we must say goodbye to Klaus. And just when I was beginning to think that they weren't going to be able to find a way to defeat him! At least they gave him some solid motivations, and by this point, he wasn't completely unsympathetic. Part of me liked having him around, but he wasn't Damon; there was little chance of getting him to amend his ways enough to be even mildly trustworthy. Granted, he's not technically gone for good, but he might as well be.

Elena's fainting spell, followed by an apparent head wound, is a nice way to leave things for the big finale. How will this affect Alaric, or would he even notice? Is she hurt so badly that the only cure is a bit of vampire blood? How far are the writers willing to go with the main characters? After so many examples of folks being turned and having to choose to go vampire or die, would they end the season with Elena facing that decision? Probably not, but when it comes to "The Vampire Diaries", I've learned to rule nothing out.

John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision.

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