Thank Goodness, Supernatural Love Triangles Where The Control Freaks Don't Win

People always accuse The Vampire Diaries of being a Twilight clone — and if you only saw the first few episodes, there might be some justice to that accusation. But anybody who's been watching TVD regularly knows it's grown way, way beyond its Twi-tacular cousin. And last night's episode revealed one vitally important difference: when The Vampire Diaries does a love triangle, you don't get bonus points for being a control freak.

Spoilers ahead...

Last night's TVD was ostensibly about the fallout from the return of Esther, the Original Mom, and the reuniting of the Original clan. (And Mama Original quickly turns out to be plotting to kill all her kids, with the help of one of her sons.) But really, it was about a couple of amazing love triangles, in which the show proved yet again that its writers pay attention to the characters and their history — which is astonishingly rare on television.

Honestly, I keep saying this — but I wish other television writers were tied down and forced to watch all of The Vampire Diaries. The amount of stuff this show manages to say about its characters, without ever hitting us over the head with most of it, is pretty amazing. And these characters are consistent, and show development. It's sad how refreshing that feels.

So the two love triangles we focused on last night were:

1) The usual one featuring Elena, Damon and Stefan. The show's bread and butter. And yet the show did something fairly clever last night — it highlighted an essential difference between Damon and Stefan, that goes to the heart of who they are as people. Damon is a control freak — when he's being evil, he controls his victims, and now that he's being "good," he wants to control Elena in the name of keeping her safe. And Stefan, meanwhile, is willing to let Elena make her own decisions and call the shots — even when he's being "evil." Elena pushes Damon away, not because he's a wicked bad boy, but because he's always undermined her ability to make decisions on her own. This is something that resonates, if you look at any one of a bunch of episodes from last season, including Damon trying to turn Elena into a vampire against her wishes last year. Even though Damon has become a "nice" character lately, the show hasn't forgotten who he really is. Really nice stuff. Of course, Stefan is still too tormented and "dark muppet"-like to take advantage of Damon's fall from favor.

2) The Klaus/Caroline/Tyler triangle. This one was really fascinating — even though the Klaus-Caroline thing has come out of nowhere, I sort of bought it. As Caroline points out, Tyler is out of the picture because Klaus messed him up with his creepy sire bond. And now that Tyler is gone, Klaus is making moves on Tyler's girl, with the fancy jewelry and the completely over-the-top prom dress. Klaus pours on the romance, but at the same time he's trying to make Caroline another one of his possessions, just like his hybrids and his compelled vampire homies and his witches. I half expected it to work, and Caroline to swoon into his arms — but Caroline Forbes is nobody's plaything, even when she hasn't just lost her father last week. When Caroline starts tearing into Klaus with her patented cheerleader sarcasm, I found myself holding my breath, half expecting Klaus to tear her apart literally. Instead, he sends her a sweet picture of her and a horse, which he drew himself. Aww.

The third triangle is only sort of a triangle:

3) Rebekah/Matt/Damon. How great is Matt? The moment when he shows Rebekah his trashed pick-up truck and pulls out his big red lumberjack jacket, and drapes it around her shoulders even though he's the one who's freezing... that just sums up who Matt is. And you can instantly believe that Rebekah is not capable of going through with her plan to kill Matt, as revenge for Elena daggering her. Matt is just too sweet and too good a man to kill off as collateral damage in some vampirey feud. But Rebekah's brother Cole doesn't get the memo and still tries to kill Matt, breaking Matt's fingers in the process. Afterwards, Rebekah comes to Matt and tries to apologize, and he tells her that he just wants her to leave him alone, with a brittle dignity that sort of recalls Caroline telling off Klaus earlier in the episode. In both cases, you've got an Original Vampire who can eat pretty much anyone for breakfast, and watching someone stand up to them is pretty amazing. And then once Rebekah's soundly rebuffed, Damon shows up and propositions her, leading to awesome wall-banging vampire sex. Yay! Hopefully this is the return of Slutty Damon in earnest.

So much else happened in this episode, including a ton of other small character moments which show how much care the writers put into the character development. But those three "love triangles," and the way in which they manage to be surprising without ever losing touch with the essence of the characters, was the most impressive part of the episode for me.

Plus it's always great to see love triangles where the control freak doesn't automatically win. If only someone would explain that to Bella.