The Vampire Diaries Ep. 3.21, ‘Before Sunset’: Penultimate ep full of action, character

The Vampire Diaries Review, Season 3, Episode 21: “Before Sunset”
Written by Caroline Dries (Teleplay) and Charlie Charbonneau and Daphne Miles (Story)
Directed by Chris Grismer
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on the CW

This week, on The Vampire Diaries: Malaric means business, Bonnie channels the dark stuff, and Klaus chooses followers over family

Despite The Vampire Diaries history of strong, action-packed season endings, there were those nervous about Malaric, Klaus, and all the other storylines the writers are currently juggling, and whether they’d be able to pull it all together in so few episodes. Fortunately, any such concerns are put to bed this week before the title card even comes up. Malaric enters the scene with appropriate menace, drive, and determination and Matt Davis sells this new, fully transitioned character, radiating intensity and purpose. There are slight glimmers of humanity underneath the performance, keeping Elena, and the audience, ever so slightly off guard, uncertain if there’s a chance Ric can find his way back or if, as indicated later in the episode, self-preservation truly is the sole motivation for Malaric’s concern for Elena.

The writers have very carefully threaded each of the main pro- and antagonists’ storylines together, allowing for unwilling alliances like the ones seen here to feel true to character, rather than a matter of plot contrivance. Tying both Klaus and Malaric so closely to Elena is smart and makes her continued survival more than just coincidental good luck- she’s smart and capable, but the Big Bads also want her alive. The audience knows Nina Dobrev isn’t going anywhere, and this prevents the writers from having to pretend Elena is.  Instead it’s Caroline in danger this week, and Candice Accola great as ever in her brief scenes. Joseph Morgan even manages to make this viewer a believer in the honesty of Klaus’ feelings for Caroline with their brief interaction at the school.

Klaus has been such a central antagonistic figure for so long, and remains so powerful and uncontrollable, that it feels like the only satisfying narrative direction the finale can take is for him to be eliminated, but here, for the first time, we see a little vulnerability, and, if the writers can believably temper his psychosis, perhaps there is room for him to hang around Mystic Falls for a while. There was brief talk from Esther, a while back, of making the Originals human again. A human Klaus could be incredibly interesting. We’ll see which way they decide to go. Given our heroes’ triumphant declaration of victory over Klaus, if not Malaric, it seems unlikely we’ve seen the last of him (they’re not that lucky), but, as ever on The Vampire Diaries, crazier things have happened, and probably will again.

Bonnie’s baby steps into the assumed TVD equivalent of Black Magick are handled well. It would be great to see the series subvert expectation and allow Bonnie to remain uncorrupted by this, as well as future dabbling, though that is probably a storyline further down the road. Once again, the effects department goes for a subtle approach, mimicking the vampire rippling eye effects, and it works well. The makeup department also tweaks the vampire contacts for Malaric, which is a nice touch. Tyler’s return to the fray is overdue, but worth the wait, and seeing the whole gang together, hanging out and taking the time to enjoy the moments they have is a wonderful bit of calm before the presumed finale storm.

More than anything, however, the highlight of this episode is Elena and the handling of the Elena/Salvatore love triangle. Another country is heard from (Klaus is Team Stefan), but more importantly, Elena broaches the morality of their situation with Jeremy. It’s great to see the show delve, however briefly, into the hard truth that killing all vampires would probably be better overall for the world. It’s a simple calculation, and more lives would be saved than lost. Of course, nothing’s that simple and it’s great to see Elena deal with this, even accepting the role of villain if it means she gets to keep her friends. Jeremy remains fairly silent on the issue, however- it’d be interesting to find out what he thinks of all of this. He seems to mainly spend time with Matt at this point. Do we know just what he thinks of all the supernatural elements defining his life?

It seems clear that the season will end with Elena choosing between Damon and Stefan, at least for the time being. Easy money’s on Damon, if only for the new narrative possibilities it’d open up, but it’s to the show’s credit that either scenario is equally feasible. Fans of both couples have been strung along for quite a while, so it’s great to see the issue so straightforwardly dealt with. Elena’s been refreshingly honest and insightful in her self-analysis of her relationships with the Salvatores, this season in particular, and her talk with them this week is no different. Moments like these are important and differentiate The Vampire Diaries from other similarly soapy teen shows. Love triangles are common on television- love triangles as fully explored and surprisingly unselfish as this one aren’t. In that moment, Elena isn’t talking to Stefan and Damon as much as she is to the audience, reminding us of her motivations and explaining her continued reluctance to choose. The strongest and most interesting relationship of the season has been Stefan and Damon’s- it’d be great if Elena’s choice didn’t have to undo the progress they’ve made, but we’ll have to wait ‘til Season 4 (Congrats to the TVD cast and crew on the pickup!) to find out.

What did you think of this episode? Anyone else love Klaus’ attack on the house (very Big Bad Wolf!)? Who do you think isn’t making it out of the finale? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick




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