One thing I love about rewatching a favourite show is getting to go back and relive all the moments in a new light. I think that light is called hindsight. Whether the writers planned out all the strings of interrelated events or whether some smacked them upside the head a week before production, I enjoy tracing things back.
After last week’s insanely frustrating episode of The Vampire Diaries, I immediately made Spouse continue our Season One rewatch. I didn’t have to twist his arm in too many circles — he likes the complex plotting as much as I do. Man, do they know how to cram a lot into forty two minutes.
So without further ado, I’d like to explore the character of Damon Salvatore. Specifically, his relationship with Elena Gilbert. This won’t be an exhaustive post, but it just might be the first in a series…hmm. You’ve read the sidebar. This could be an excuse for ALL THE SHIRTLESS SALVATORE PICTURES.
But before that!
Requisite SPOILER WARNING. This post will delve into all seasons of The Vampire Diaries. If you haven’t seen them and don’t like knowing what’s around the bend, bugger off. I mean that in the nicest possible way. 🙂 Love and kisses! You’ve been warned.
Aside from all the revelations we get down the road about who met whom when and whatnot, two huge things happen in season one for Damon and Elena’s relationship.
Before getting into those, let’s backtrack.
Damon Salvatore is immediately portrayed as the “bad brother.” He swoops into Mystic Falls with the fog and the crow and the dead co-ed campers. Sure. Naughty, naughty. He treats Caroline like she’s a steaming pile of poo he happens to like sleeping with, and he turns Vickie Donovan into a gibbering headcase — before just turning her into a vampire. After which she ends up good and staked because she was not-so-stable before, and her not-so-stability got put through the transitioning vamp magnifying glass and sizzled like an ant in the sun.
So yeah. Damon’s not the fluffy bunny vamp Stefan makes himself out to be. But you start catching glimpses early on that show there’s a lot more to Damon than sipping on bourbon and Tri Delts (though I’d like some of those shirtless Damon dance scenes to be played on repeat every Christmas, thank you).
The more you see of Damon’s rather tragic back story, the more you figure out that a lot of his behaviour stems from Serious Trust Issues. I mean, come on. His brother — who was in love with the same vamp-girl Katherine — promised not to tell Papa Salvatore about Fangy McSnookums and then turned around and did. And then when the boys both ended up in transition and Katherine was (supposedly) entombed, Damon just wanted to let himself die. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. And Stefan shoved a bleeding girl under his eager-to-sprout fangs.
Not only did Stefan initiate what was, for Damon, the loss of a woman he loved, but he made sure that Damon’s life didn’t end when he wanted it to and he’d have to spend eternity trying to get over it. Plus, he killed Papa Salvatore before Damon ever had a chance to work out the many Daddy Issues inherent in the “you’re such a failure of a son” litanies we see spew forth from ole Giuseppe.
Trust. Big thing. Damon’s biggest feels pre-transition were those of betrayal and pain, and when he got dead and started to turn, that’s what got amplified. Along with a healthy heap of loyalty for Katherine. Eat your heart out, psychology — vampire issues are a helluva lot easier to pinpoint.
Let’s skip up to season one, one episode after Elena helps Stefan double cross Damon.
She feels rotten. As well she should. It was a nasty thing to do, and she didn’t realise she was stepping in 145-year-old shite when she did it. She knows Damon has feelings for her. She knows he’s helped Jeremy recover after Vickie when he didn’t have to. And she knows she has to make it right. Call it the bad boy blind spot, but for once, she’s right. He does have more to him than badness, and she’s right to see it.
Two moments happen in “Fool Me Once” that I think pour the concrete for the entire foundation of the Elena-Damon relationship:
“I’m Trusting You.”
Elena takes a huge risk by removing her necklace. And for Damon, Damon does too.
Rewatching this season has made me ponder some things about Damon’s drive to get Katherine back, especially knowing the moments that come later — Damon meeting Elena first at the party and telling her in very tender terms that he wants her to have everything she deserves from life before compelling her to forget — I can’t help but wonder if Katherine is already only a replacement Elena at this point. He doesn’t think he has a chance with Elena, so he wants Katherine back because it’s what he’s always wanted and he thinks it’s his only remaining chance of happiness.
Maybe I’m wrong, but Damon’s not a happy dude. His little, “We were having fun. I wanted it to be real” speech shows that. And I think Elena sees it.
This trust issue comes into play with them both so much over the seasons — and it goes both ways. In many ways, Elena trusts Damon more than she trusts Stefan, which ultimately causes the breakup two episodes back. She knows Damon loves her as she is, not as how he wants her to be. That’s why she goes to him when she needs help with something Stefan won’t approve of, and in basic terms is why I prefer her with Damon over Stefan. (But more on THAT subject another day.)
The second huge moment happens here:
Say what you will about Elena as a character, but she means it when she says it. And I love her for that. She wants Damon to be happy. She wants him to have a chance at love. She’s naive and ignorant about Katherine, but that doesn’t really matter right here.
It’s telling that she leaves Jeremy unconscious on the ground to check on Damon. Not that she cares less about Jeremy, who’s fine, if a bit battered — it’s that the circle of people she cares about has expanded to include Damon. And out of everyone in this episode, he’s probably the one with the deepest wounds.
Trying to free someone for a century and a half only to find out they weren’t in there and just ditched you? Yeah. Fucking OW.
Damon does a lot of things that betray Elena’s trust — forcing her to drink his blood, killing Jeremy without looking to see if he’s wearing his ring — big, awful, lashy-outy sort of things that fall in the unforgivable camp. But then, so does Stefan. Working with Klaus, letting Klaus control him, trying to mold Elena into his perfect vision of her — both brothers are far from earning a halo.
But this episode shows the earliest warmth in their relationship. True caring, based on trust. Damon and Elena both are growing on me as characters. In four seasons, the writers have done a tremendous job developing both.
More on that later.
What do you think of these early stages of their friendship? Do you think at this point Elena already feels attraction for Damon, or do you think it’s just platonic caring?
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