Last night's Vampire Diaries romp was the show's 100th episode, and it felt sort of like a party, with everybody coming back for cameos. But also like a summation of what the show was about, and its three main ex-villains: Damon, Katherine and Klaus. They all want to stop hating themselves, but we know that's a bad idea.
There was remarkably little "plot" in last night's TVD, especially by this show's standards. Mostly it was about Katherine slowwwwwly dying — and the final "twist," in which she takes over Elena's body, was telegraphed so early that I found myself screaming at the television "TAKE OVER ELENA'S BODY ALREADY" after about half an hour. But it was a chance to explore the guilt and horror that drives these three villains, none of whom is a villain any more.
So let's take the three baddies one by one.
Remember when Damon was the show's main baddie? It was only the first season, and it feels like a long time ago now. In any case, Damon has done horrible terrible nasty things, and he tries to justify them in this episode by blaming everything on Katherine, who can't actually fight back. He claims that she taught him to be a killer, and tricked him with her "tomb" stunt so that he committed a ton of crimes trying to rescue her.
It's a very lopsided version of history in which Damon has the willpower and self-respect of a sock monkey. It also depends heavily on Katherine being an irredeemable monster, which is one reason why Damon is so vehement in denying that she can be forgiven, and why he spends so much time tormenting her with the worst possible version of her origin story in her dying dreams.
Also, did you remember that Damon broke up with Elena in the previous episode? I didn't, because it's clearly temporary and his reasons were along the lines of "I'm bad, you deserve better," because her brand of mass murderer is better than his brand of mass murderer. Anyway, this time Stefan kind of goes to bat for Damon — which is something new, I guess — and tells Elena that she shouldn't give up on Damon any more than she ever gave up on him. Damon, meanwhile, realizes that he's a dumbass.
I'm not honestly sure if Damon and Elena got back together in this episode, but it's moot since she's now possessed.
There are two narratives about Katherine being batted around in this episode — either she's a manipulative scoundrel, or she's a "survivor." The episode suggests the key to her problems isn't Klaus, or the massacre of her family, but rather the fact that her newborn baby was snatched out of her arms when she was a teenager. (And that baby is now her vampire Traveler daughter Nadya.)
Is it Katherine's fault that Klaus massacred her family after she ran away rather than be sacrificed in Klaus' ritual? Only if you blame everyone who doesn't choose to die meekly on this show — it was Klaus' choice to massacre Katherine's family, not Katherine's. Damon makes a big point of rubbing Katherine's nose in the bloody murder of her family, and later Stefan makes a big point of erasing the blood and corpses in her dream, as if a bit of Lysol will fix everything.
The real problem with Katherine, honestly, isn't that she's kind of evil — everybody on this show is — it's that her only motivation has always been "survival," which is nebulous.
Still, the moment where Katherine tells Nadya to go live her life and stop living for her mother is kind of awesome — and it might actually have been kind of nice if Katherine had just allowed herself to die, having grown as a person or something.
It's not clear whether Katherine is at all sincere about her readiness to die and let Nadya go on with her life, or if they've already hatched the plan to steal Elena's body and she's just play-acting. The episode seems to suggest that Katherine is ready to die until Stefan and Elena convince her she's not completely beyond forgiveness, and release her from some of her guilt. And then, realizing that she's not totally a terrible person after all, she feels free to steal Elena's body and keep going.
And finally, Klaus puts in an appearance fresh from The Originals — but much like Captain Jack reappearing on Doctor Who after being on Torchwood, he's kind of a different character. Instead of ranting about power and becoming king of the Crescent City and his hybrid baby and witches, he's back to being charmingly obsessed with Caroline. Which, who can blame him?
Klaus, too, takes a step towards acceptance, by getting Caroline to admit that a part of herself is kind of evil too, and that part is drawn to Klaus. He promises to leave and never return if she just admits that she kind of digs Klaus and evil is hot. She admits it, and then — partly because Caroline feels left out when everybody else is having ill-advised sex — she and Klaus boink.
That's the final take-away message of this episode. Evil people, like these three former baddies, shouldn't stop hating themselves. Both because letting go of their self-hatred frees them up to go and do more evil stuff, unencumbered by guilt. And because self-loathing is sexay.
GIF via Just TVD Things