You want a better story. Who wouldn't? (Damon/Elena Top Ten Scenes)

Jun 13, 2012 04:22

So. Once upon a time, ever-neutral wrote a HUGE Damon/Elena Top 10 Scenes, and she made me promise I would also make my own D/E Top 10. I started working on it after 3x15 aired, but then decided to leave it until the end of s3. A challenge at tvdbloodstream was a motivation to finally finish :).

It took me a while to figure out how to do it (it wouldn't be fun if I ended up choosing almost the same scenes Alex chose, so I needed a new angle), but here it is.

Since Alex's post is Elena-centric, I decided to make mine Damon-centric. Of course then it turned out that Damon POV isn't as simple and self-explanatory as I thought it would be. Damon doesn't think like a normal person. Love, for him, is larger than the usual romantic love. It must be unconditional, by definition. Which makes his choice of partners rather bizarre, because if he can't love them for anything, why does he love those particular people? So it makes no sense to look for a coherent picture; Damon's love is irrational and intuitive, based on pure coincidences and random choices. But Damon is also self-centered and too literate for his own good. He constantly tries to shape himself around a love narrative, which makes his relationship with Elena very dynamic; he can never find the right narrative, so he keeps changing and adjusting, never quite getting what he wants. Frankly, it might be best if we just all get drunk before we start discussing Damon POV, because trying to access Damon's mindset while sober might prove both frustrating and futile.

D/E as a story is based on mirrors on one hand, and anticlimaxes on the other. They don't get typical, linear development. But Damon, as a character, does get a sort of development: he doesn't become a better person, but he's gradually becoming a healthier person. When we meet him in season one, he's nearly insane: unstable, miserable, bitter, obsessed. In season three, he's pretty much functional: he has a life, he has friends, he has reasonable goals. Not a fully sane person, but certainly much better. It's not solely thanks to Elena (Stefan, Alaric and Liz Forbes helped just as much), but she plays a big part in Damon's recovery. Not because she's his savior, but because she's his reality check. Both Damon as a character and his relationship with Elena are about being confronted with reality.

Warnings: This post is full of romantic delusions. Pretentious quotes and paraphrases also may happen. The stage is all Damon's, and this boy owns pathetic. I am well aware that Damon is a terrible person, and I don't need to be reminded about it. No moral judgement happens in this post. Overanalysing teen vampire shows happens a lot.

10. These are just ghosts that broke my heart before I met you

Stefan: Damon, we need to get out of here.
Damon: It doesn't make sense. They locked her inside.
Stefan: If we don't leave now, we're not getting out.
Damon: How could she not be in here?
Stefan: It's not worth spending all of eternity down here! She's not worth it!
Damon: No!
Elena: Damon! Please.

TVD 1x14, Fool Me Once

This scene is absolutely insignificant.

Damon is focused on Katherine (on the lack of Katherine), and Elena just wants this mess to be over, so that she could live her life. She wants everyone to be safe, so she runs into the tomb to help Stefan drag Damon out, and Damon simply follows her. It's not because she's special, or because he loves her. He sees her face (Katherine's face) in the dark, and operates on pure instinct. He might even not remember that she hugged him afterwards. It's not when Damon fell in love with Elena. At this point, they're just friends. But what happens is symbolic, and Damon loves symbols.

Katherine rejected Damon and abandoned him, but Elena showed up, and saved him. Because Elena can't really shake him off, can't give up on him. Elena doesn't leave him. And this is huge, because Damon is defined by people who reject him, so he never expected to meet a person who would genuinely accept him. This is who Elena is: she doesn't have to try to accept Damon, it's not an effort for her. She can't help it, which means it's real (in Damon's world, things aren't real if you can control them). This is the kind of acceptance Damon craves.

Of course, Damon also misinterprets Elena's reaction. Soon after he finds out Katherine was never in the tomb, he gets into this thick head of his that Elena will fall for him the way he started falling for her, and that her love will redeem him somehow, will give him goal and meaning. Damon clutches the first narrative he can find, Redeemed By The Love Of A Good Woman, and tries to make it work. He fails, of course. Elena refuses to play her part in the story he staged (which is why she isn't his savior, she's his reality check). Damon had the right facts, but tried to push them into the wrong narrative: Elena will always save him when he's physically in danger, and she will never leave him, but that's because Elena is his friend, and she believes that friends should always help each other. Romantic love has no place in this equation. Damon will learn that the hard way.

9. You're uninvited, an unfortunate slight

Stefan: Call me if you need anything.
Damon: Oh, I'll take really good care of her.
TVD 2x03, Bad Moon Rising

2x03 is generally a very important D/E episode for me, because it introduces one of my favorite things about their dynamics - power play. It also might be the episode when Damon started falling in love with Elena The Person instead of Elena The Idea. She becomes more real for him.

Season one is very Damon/Katherine-heavy, and what happens between Damon and Elena develops on two levels: first of all, they're becoming friends, secondly Damon starts projecting his love for Katherine on the girl who wears her face. He's falling in love with the picture of Elena he has in his head (which is why he can go to Elena right after Katherine rejects him in 2x01 - they both overlap in his mind, he has this one, abstract idea of the woman of his dreams). But 2x03 changes things. Elena silently orders Damon to watch, and then she kisses Stefan right in front of him. This kiss is a show for Damon, who obeys without blinking. Why? Because it's a game.

Damon enjoys strong women. Whenever he can, he gets into relationships with women who could break him like a twig if they wanted (Katherine, Rose, Rebekah, Sage), because he likes to be challenged, he loves the thrill of power play. Elena is only human, and she's physically much weaker than him, but in this scene she proves that it doesn't matter, because she has the guts to challenge him like that, she's willing to enter his favorite game, and she knows how to play. She has a leverage. Of course this is not the first time she intrigues him. This is the girl who slapped him when he tried to kiss her, who ran into a house full of vampires to save Stefan, who stood up to him more times than he can count. He knows she's strong, but 2x03 is when he finds out that she has the kind of strength that appeals to him the most. This scene is when Damon discovers that Elena likes power play - and that she's willing to play.

8. Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free.

Damon: What do you want to hear? That I cared about Rose? That I'm upset? Well, I didn't, and I'm not.
Elena: There you go, pretending to turn it off, pretending not to feel. Damon, you're so close. Don't give up.
Damon: I feel, Elena, ok? And it sucks. What sucks even more is that it was supposed to be me. Jules was coming after me.
Elena: You feel guilty.
Damon: That would be human of me, wouldn't it, Elena? And I'm not human. You're one to talk about giving up. It's all you've done, is give up. Go home. There's been enough doom and gloom and personal growth for one day.
Elena: Ok. I will. Good night, Damon.

TVD 2x12, The Descent

In this scene, Elena is taking up the role of The Good Woman whose Compassion will Save The Dark Antihero. She tries to talk Damon into expressing his feelings. She acknowledges his human side, she reaches out, she takes care of him. All he wanted in 1x22, right? She sees that he's worth saving. And you know what he does after he hears all that?

He goes out and kills an innocent girl, because he can't handle the expectations.

So much for the Love of a Good Woman. Damon isn't miserable because Elena keeps rejecting him. He's miserable because he's Damon. He wants something, and when he gets it, he doesn't know what to do with it, so he ruins everything. It's not Elena's place to save him. See what happens when she tries?

7. You always hurt the one you love, sweetheart

Elena: I need you to understand why I'm doing this.
Damon: Why? It clearly doesn't matter what I think.
Elena: I'll be fine, Damon. I'll drink the elixir, Bonnie will kill Klaus, and then all of this will finally be over.
Damon: If it works.
Elena: It will work.
Damon: You think it will work. You want it to work. Why am I the only one who's convinced it won't? There has to be another way.
Elena: There isn't.
Damon: And you're going to die, Elena.
Elena: And then I'll come back to life.
Damon: That is not a risk I'm willing to take.
Elena: But I am. It's my life, Damon. My choice.
Damon: I can't lose you.
Elena: You won't.
Damon: There is another way.
Elena: What are you... Damon, no! Damon, no! No! No!
Stefan: What did you do?! Huh? What did you do?!
Damon: I saved her life. You're so bent on dying, at least this way I know you'll come back.
Stefan: As a vampire! She'll come back a vampire.
Damon: It's better than nothing else.
Stefan: How could you, of all people, take that choice away from her?
Damon: Go ahead, wish me an eternity of misery. Believe me, you'll get over it.

TVD 2x20, The Last Day

This scene shows that the understanding Damon and Elena share is actually an incredibly scary thing.

Damon's role in the narrative is often that of a mirror for Elena. They have an understanding, because they're so alike. Otherwise they wouldn't be fighting so furiously. Damon hates Elena's suicidal streak, and he calls her out on it every time he can, which is kind of ironic, because he's the most self-destructive person in her circle. Elena hates that Damon can brutally violate her free will to avoid losing her, but at the same time, she has terrible abandonment issues herself. They don't just understand each other - they understand the ugliest, most painful parts of each other, and it's terrifying. No one wants to feel that exposed, especially when the other person can just see right through you, no matter if you want it or not.

This is also when Damon learns that Elena is not his princess in the ivory tower. 2x01 and 3x22 are about how her love won't redeem him, but 2x20 shows that he can't save her either. Damon/Elena is a constant play with different kinds of love narratives that keep falling apart. The force-feeding scene is one of those “turning points” when a narrative gets smashed, but it's also an excellent piece of writing. Damon's actions are deeply, painfully human, and Elena can recognize that, because no one understands abandonment like Elena. But, at the same time, what Damon does is unquestionably condemned by the narrative (He doesn't know what love is).

In the structure of the show, Damon is marked as “The Writer”. He's clearly constructed as a Byronic hero, but he gets what a Byronic hero couldn't possibly get: a second chance. That makes him into a subversion of the Byronic trope, and, by definition, into the character that subverts every traditional narrative he touches. On the psychological level, Damon is this 19th century boy who's read too much, and even after 150 years he still tries to live the stories he knows from books. It destroys him from the inside, because this is what happens when you try to live a story, fit yourself into a pattern like that. That's why he doesn't know what love is - he only knows what he read about it. Damon's character arc is not about redemption - it's about breaking free from stories and finding his own way. And that's why it's so important that he shoves his bloody wrist into Elena's mouth to save her: he spent a good part of season two trying to live the Save The Girl narrative, and he failed. He only got to pick up the pieces.

6. I am singing now while Rome burns

Damon: Let me guess... Calling to see if the grim reaper's paid a visit?
Elena: How are you feeling? Are there any symptoms?
Damon: Not yet. But I'm sure we'll have a laugh when we find out that Klaus is a big, fat liar.
Elena: Yeah, I'm... I'm sure we will.
Damon: Hey, where are you?
Elena: Matt's taking me home.
Damon: To Stefan.
Elena: Not just Stefan... Damon. To Tyler. To Caroline.
Damon: No, Elena, I get it. So... Since I'm possibly a dead man, can I ask you a question?
Elena: Yeah, of course. If it was just down to him and me, and you had to make a choice who got the good-bye... Who would it be?
Elena: I love him, Damon. He came into my life at a time when I needed someone, and I fell for him instantly. And no matter what I feel for you, I... I never un-fell for him.
Damon: Hey, I get it. It's Stefan. It's always going to be Stefan.
Elena: I can't think about "always". All I can think about is right now. And I care about you, Damon. Which is why I have to let you go. I mean, maybe if you and I had met first...
Damon: Maybe.
Elena: You're going to be fine. You hear me? You're going to be OK, and I'm going to see you soon.
Damon: Real soon. Good-bye, Elena.

TVD 3x22, The Departed

Because, as ever-neutral correctly noticed, Elena is not a reward for good behavior. This scene is extremely important for Damon's narrative, because it shows that his character development is not motivated by his love life. The whole growth he had in season three wasn't to get the girl - it was all for himself. He became healthier, more functional and happier for his own sake, not to get into girl's pants. As it was mentioned before, the crux of Damon's narrative is growing out of a sick, destructive, bookish vision of love. Growing from being a guy who spent 145 years depressed, waiting for the woman of his life, into being a guy who, apart from being in love, has a brother, friends and his own goals. Damon's happiness no longer depends on whether or not his girl will love him back; he no longer needs Elena to choose him.

Now that I look at 3x22 in the context of the whole season, it was the best way to validate all the narrative choices that have been made for Damon. He grows out of sick, co-dependent love, so his healthiest season can't end with Elena choosing him because he's been so good to her. His growth can't be rewarded with love, because if it was, it would mean that he only made an effort for love. One of my favorite things about D/E is that Elena's identity isn't dependent on Damon, and 3x22 made me realize that it works both ways: Damon's identity can't be dependent on Elena.

5. I'm so heavy, heavy in your arms

Elena: Do you think I like going behind your back? I don't. But if I hadn't asked Stefan to help, then you would have tried to be the hero, and you would have ruined everything.
Damon: Sorry for trying to keep you alive. Clearly Stefan doesn't give a crap anymore.
Elena: Now you're mad at me for including Stefan?
Damon: No, I'm mad at you because I love you.
Elena: Well, maybe that's the problem.

TVD 3x14, Dangerous Liaisons

Dangerous Liaisons, aka The Fairy Tale Episode. In which Damon tries to use his love as a sledge hammer, only to have Elena pick it up and hit him with it. Yes, they're both terrible people. Yes, this is one of the reasons why I ship it.

Damon spends the whole episode being a controlling dick, and Elena is just looking for an excuse to reject him. 3x14 is all about twisted Cinderella fetish (thank you, Caroline Forbes), and it's excellent for D/E, because it deals with two very important issues: it's a reminder that Damon can't save Elena, and it's a wonderful comment on how Damon's love can actually be a burden.

It's very honest storytelling. Damon's love is overwhelming, it can be dangerous, suffocating, a real nuisance. The show uses fairy tale setup to show the ugly side of romantic love. The fact that you love someone doesn't mean that you get to make decisions for them. The fact that you love someone doesn't automatically mean that you're right (ironically, Damon was wrong in 3x14 - 3x20 clearly showed that when Elena doesn't do what Esther asks, Esther simply takes what she wants by force, so obeying her in 3x14 really was the smarter thing to do). Yet again, Elena is Damon's reality check: she refuses to be a damsel in distress, and she crushes Damon's Cinderella fetish just like Caroline crushes Klaus's.

At the same time, it's also a wonderfully written conflict. It's so organic: Damon is just being Damon, and Elena is just being Elena, this is why they clash. I love that D/E is never about external obstacles; everything that goes wrong between them originates from who they are and what kind of choices they make. Their relationship is deliciously realistic - as it befits two characters who tell a story of constant disillusionment.

4. I know everything you don't want me to

Elena: You never told me about that. What you did for Rose.
Damon: It wasn't about you.
Elena: Why you don't let people see the good in you?
Damon: Because when people see good, they expect good. And I don't want to have to live up to anyone's expectations.
Elena: Don't.
Damon: Why not, Elena?

TVD 3x19, The Heart of Darkness

Do I have to remind anyone how this was the hottest thing on TV this year? No? Good. Let's move to overanalysing teen vampire shows before I start drooling.

This scene is all about acknowledgement. Don't get me wrong, I love the elaborate make-out session (and I've probably seen it more times than it's healthy for me), but for now I'd like to focus on the first sequence. The one in which Elena looks at Damon. Because this is the most honest thing she's ever done with him: he caught her staring, and she still kept looking at him.

Elena lets Damon see her for what she is. They're both performers, they choose their roles and play for other people, but they can't do it with each other. No lies, and no pretending. They don't have to live up to any expectations. It's a tremendous act of trust: Elena lets Damon see her want, her confusion, her curiosity. And Damon can recognize that this is huge, coming from her, so he lies down by her side and honestly answers her questions. They've always had an understanding, but they tried to avoid it: it's terrifying, being close to someone who can see right through you. But in this scene, they acknowledge it. They recognize that they might as well be absolutely honest, because there is no way they could hide anything. They welcome the connection they share, because, yes, it's the scariest thing ever, but at the same time - it's such a relief to drop all the masks and let someone see you for exactly who you are.

3.Here we are, in the darkest place

Damon: There's no guarantee this is going to work.
Elena: It has to.
Damon: You comin'?
Elena: I'm gonna stay here.

TVD 1x19, Miss Mystic Falls

It's been said too many times already, but in this case, I don't even care that I'm being repetitive. Damon and Elena are two people who find each other in the dark.

They were never supposed to happen. Just like Damon's character arc negates traditional narratives, Damon/Elena also goes against the logic of storytelling. They're an abomination, they weren't supposed to happen. Which is why they keep happening in negative spaces: cellars, porches, hallways. They can be comfortable sitting together in complete silence.

It must be mind-boggling for Damon, because he's always alone in the dark (Byronic hero is always alone), and suddenly he finds this girl there. A girl who cares for his brother just like he does, a girl who offers simple companionship. He didn't drag her here, and she didn't come to drag him out. It doesn't fit any story he knows. It's real.

2. Love always wakes the dragon

Elena: You scared me.
Damon: Just doing my part in the neighborhood watch.
Elena: Thanks. For, um, looking out for us. For me.
Damon: That's me, your trusty bodyguard. Calm in a crisis.
Elena: Have you been drinking? And you're upset. That' not a good combination.
Damon: No, I'm not upset. Upset is an emotion specific to those who care.
Elena: Come on, Damon. That's a lie. You care.
Damon: You're surprised that I thought you would kiss me back? You can't imagine that I'd believe that you'd want to?
Elena: Damon...
Damon: That what we've been doing here means something? You're the liar, Elena. There is something going on between the two of us, and you know it. And you're lying to me, and you're lying to Stefan, and most of all, you're lying to yourself. I can prove it.
Elena: No... Damon, don't! What's wrong with you?!
Damon: Lie about that.
Elena: Stop it. You're better than this, come on.
Damon: That's where you're wrong.
Elena: No, no, no, Damon! I care about you. Listen to me, I care about you. I do, but... I love Stefan. It's always going to be Stefan.
Jeremy: Elena, what's going on here?
Elena: Nothing, Jeremy. It's ok. Just... Just go back to bed.
Damon: No, it's not ok, Elena. He wants to be a vampire.
Elena: No, Damon, stop it!
Damon: You want to shut out the pain? It's the easiest thing in the world. The part of you that cares, it just goes away! All you have to do is flip the switch and snap!

TVD 2x01, The Return

And this is when I started shipping Damon/Elena.

(I'm cheating, of course, because it's not a Damon/Elena scene. It's a part of a big Katherine-Damon-Elena sequence that only makes sense when you look at it as a whole. But, since this is a D/E post, let's just assume that the D/K part will at some point be discussed someplace else.)

This is the first huge reality check for Damon. He won't be saved by the love of The Good Woman. She won't suddenly admit that she loves him after a forced kiss. In fact, he's been reading her wrong all that time, because she doesn't play according to the rules of the story he has in his head. In season one, it seemed that Damon would have a redemption arc, but this scene sends it all to hell and presents his real narrative, or rather: the fact that Damon will spend the entire show looking for a narrative. It's a turning point for Damon, and if I was doing a Top Ten for him as a character, I would seriously consider making this scene his number one.

But it's also extremely important for D/E, because it uncovers one of the main themes in their arc: the abusive aspect of romance. The guy who loves you so much is perfectly capable of breaking your brother's neck right in front of you. There's no pretty way of saying this. In this scene, Damon is the abuser, but, at the same time, the camera follows his point of view. The abuse is never other-ed in D/E, but at the same time it can't be ignored or excused. You want the love that consumes you? Well, this is how it works.

1. You are the silence in between

Elena: Damon, seriously?
Damon: We got Mikael.
Elena: What? How?
Damon: No idea. I guess Katherine came through. The plan's in motion. See? Told you I had it. Go ahead. Kick, yell, scream. I'm sure you've been planning your rant all day.
Elena: I'm not gonna yell at you.
Damon: Why not? I went behind your back, freed Stefan. And you know what? It backfired. He's an even bigger dick than ever. It's just now he's a dick that's on our side.
Elena: I'm not mad. I'm tired. I just... I want to go to bed.
Damon: You know, I think Mikael's weapon is a stake, because he mentioned something about it.
Elena: Well, then they must have carved it from the white oak tree before they burned it down.
Damon: So I was right. After all that, the wall led us to Mikael.
Elena: It led us to more than just that. I think I got Rebekah on our side, too.
Damon: Really? What'd you learn from her?
Elena: I learned that she's just a girl, that she lost her mom too young, and she loves blindly and recklessly, even if it consumes her. You know, when all is said and done, there's nothing more important than the bond of family.
Damon: You should tell that to my brother.
Elena: I'm not mad at you for letting him out, Damon. I think that you're gonna be the one to save him from himself. It won't be because he loves me. It'll be because he loves you. Can I tell you the rest tomorrow?
Damon: Sure.

TVD 3x08, Ordinary People

If Damon and Elena ever have anything resembling a functional relationship, this is more or less what it will look like.

I love how calm and comfortable this scene is, despite the sexual tension of early season three. No matter what happens, Damon and Elena can make an excellent team, and this is extremely important for Damon. Despite of all the romantic poetry he must've consumed as a boy, the reality of the culture in which he grew up was that people valued friendship above passion. The 3x08 Damon and Elena would actually make a perfect 19th century marriage: they worked together towards a common goal, they divided tasks between themselves, they understood and respected each other (now, I'm not saying that most of the 19th century marriages looked like that; it's just what people thought marriage should look like).

This scene is not a shippy scene per se; it's a friendship scene, and this is precisely why it's my number one. Because D/E is based on friendship, and this is why it can constantly subvert love narratives. Friendship is not something you get instead of love. Friendship is essential. Even more so for Damon, but the point stands even if we ignore his background: Damon and Elena can defy Epic Romance, because there is no place for friendship in traditional romantic narrative. Princess locked in her ivory tower never had time to befriend her White Knight. The Good Woman whose love is supposed to redeem the Antihero is too concerned with changing him to get to know him properly. When you're consumed by passion, there's no place for decent conversation. But friendship? Hell, some people don't even believe that friendship between a man and a woman is possible. There are no songs about friendships like that. Friendship is what happens to actual people. Friendship works differently for everyone. Friendship is mundane.

Friendship is real

Due to personal reasons, I'll be offline from Thursday till no idea when. So if it takes me forever to reply, be sure that it's not because I'm ignoring you.

Crossposted at tvdbloodstream: here.

note to self: less talk, meta, fictional vampires ruin my life, yes i'm always like that, elena gilbert is amazing, damon omg damon, fandom: the vampire diaries, how unfortunate, too many emotions, i hate everybody

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