First times: first rain-soaked kisses; first time you heard or said “I love you.” First and last times matter more than the in between. Think about it. Dwell on it, if you’d like. Beginnings and endings matter more than the journey in between, which is antithetical to the human experience. We don’t remember where we began and we dread where we end. The second act of our lives, the longest and most fruitful, becomes a poor footnote, barely remembered, and not worthy of three sentences in a newspaper. Why is that? Such a question deserves pondering elsewhere. The Vampire Diaries’ episodes are broken up by advertisements directed towards young girls, pre-teens and teenagers, young college students, who experience firsts more often than the demographic of the WWE fan. First loves and first kisses, or one’s first hardships in life, a break-up, a death, the loss of friendships, has more immediacy with the young than with older men and women, where one feels nostalgia, perhaps bittersweet or perhaps not, akin to seeing a childhood toy and remarking, ‘I remember when’ and then all that remains is the memory but not the feeling.
Damon fails to recapture the memory of the middle between him and Elena. Alaric’s compulsion of Elena to make her forget limits the storytelling for the former couple. Damon will pursue her or he won’t. Elena will let him or she won’t. Damon pursues her through the past, because she asks him where he told her loved the final time. The question leads to a story and that story leads to other stories about the other parts of their love life. The night of the meteors and the pouring rain renders Damon without speech because he doesn’t want to audibly remember the night: too immediate, too painful. He can give her the memory, but he can’t return to her the feeling. People can’t force a feeling.
Of course, one of the staples of overwrought and melodramatic romances are dramatic gestures of love. Die for someone and their love will linger longer than the light from stars long dead. Elena risks death to break the compulsion; she wants to remember the rainy night when she and him were wet, muddy and cold, and went home. Leo Tolstoy, during his ascetic anti-artistic period in latter part of his life, may appreciate the cold telling of the story, devoid of details, but Elena wants the details and wants to know why Damon can’t tell more than what he barely tells, the heart of it caught in his throat, barricaded by his tongue. “Don’t die for me or for it,” Damon tells Elena, in so many words. The opening of the episode has a scene between Alaric and Damon where Alaric recalls to Damon his many poor decisions in his life that Elena remembers apart from their relationship. Bad, selfish, sociopathic and psychopathic Damon is of the past, until narratively convenient, and, selfless, heroic romantic Damon, of the present, encourages Elena to live her life. He died, she moved on, and found happiness with a model medical student. It won’t happen. Elena looks longingly as Damon walks away. Damon drinks a bottle of bourbon, which he takes with him into the cemetery, and then sees Bonnie’s teddy bear.
Bonnie remains in Kai’s personal hell made for him by his coven, surviving the wound from the arrow Kai shot into her stomach. Kai wants to leave, but Bonnie won’t take him with her. She hid her magic in a safe place—like his sister, Jo—and neither will leave the hellscape. Damon, removed from the Elena situation temporarily, motivated by the teddy bear, will act save Bonnie, whom he threatened to kill several jokes in a jokey way, will continue his heroism by saving her.
Other firsts, though: Liv reminds Tyler of the first person she killed for his sake, and Stefen learns about Caroline’s feelings for him for the first time. Liv and Tyler have only one scene together, in which she exposits the aforementioned ‘first kill’ thing with Tyler, and they flirt. The Stefan/Caroline scene of first feelings happens after Tripp dies and after they save Caroline’s mother from Tripp’s friend. Tripp’s yet another villain to die early during his villainous run. Tripp, very briefly, tries to explain why Matt picked the wrong side. Matt doesn’t counter that his friends represent the ‘right’ side, but he concedes that it’s complicated. Tripp loses any leverage because his plan if ever taken involved threatening Sheriff Forbes’ life. TVD villains can only surpass the brutality of the Mystic Falls crew in one way: attacking human, defenseless loved ones of the Mystic Falls crew (or by separating characters in a dramatic, final seeming way, i.e. death without magic to bring the character back).
Tripp’s a minor inconvenience that Enzo takes care of off-screen by vamping him. Enzo throws a further complication in Stefan’s and Caroline’s evolving complicated friendship by letting Stefan know why Caroline dislikes him so: because she likes him so. The A plot had overwrought melodrama; so, too, does the B plot. Caroline likes Stefan in more than friendly ways for his kindness, his goodness, his stability, etc., and she still hates him because if she doesn’t she’ll hate herself for ruining their friendship. Stefan and Caroline still haven’t shared one first: a kiss. After more filler and convolution, which is not only for this particular arc but general across the show’s storytelling, those two vampires will lock lips and beget new drama. There’s always the Elena of it all, isn’t there?
-In two words, “Do You Remember The First Time?” dwelled on the past: what was and not what is. What is engages this blogger more than what was. I think TVD has done two or three Damon-Elena relationship flashback episodes. It’s a relationship defined more by those two characters’ separation than by an active relationship. Damon explained to Alaric, but really to the audience, why the compulsion didn’t break with Alaric’s vampire death. I would quibble with the explanation, but that’s insanity.
-Rebecca Sonnenshine wrote the episode. Who directed the episode? Will my memory recall the name without looking it up? It will not. My apologies.