Rewatching the most recent batch of Vampire Diaries episodes, we were struck with a couple of thoughts.
1) If Julie Plec were a dude, people would be comparing her to Joss Whedon. On both Vampire Diaries and Kyle XY, she does things with character and plot that are immensely difficult, and she makes them look easy. People write TVD off because it's ostensibly a romance show — as though Buffy wasn't, as well — but the plotting and character development on TVD isn't just wheels-within-wheels, it's wheels going sideways to each other and at odd angles. Sometimes it goes off the rails, but it seldom feels as random as, say, Fringe sometimes does.
2) The thing of Elena being sired to Damon is genius. I was a tiny bit leery of it, because it felt a bit out of left field, and I'm aware that a vocal group of TVD fans is up in arms about this development. But it makes perfect sense, both as a plot development and as a thing to happen to Damon in particular.
For one thing, as a romantic complication — something to keep a couple apart even though they want to be together — it is pretty clever. It's considerably more interesting than, for example, the thing of "Stefan and Elena have to pretend that they've broken up, or else Katherine will kill Jeremy." Also, it dovetails with all the other stuff about sire bonds we've been learning on the show lately, with Klaus and his hybrids.
But also, this seems particularly appropriate as a storyline for Damon. For as long as we've known the meaner Salvatore Brother, he's been manipulating and controlling women. Caroline still hates Damon, because when Caroline was human, he used compulsion on her so much that she barely knew which way was up while having lots of hot, not entirely consensual sex with her. Damon used lots of compulsion on his newscaster lady friend, the one whom Stefan eventually killed, too. And there were lots of other mind-controlled women along the way. Damon has never been able to resist abusing his power over women's minds.
Except that Damon's relationship with Elena has always been more complicated. He hasn't taken advantage of Elena when he's had the opportunity — at least, not much. He's usually played fair with her, and he's always saying that she's the one woman he has to do the right thing by. At the same time, the big defining difference between Stefan and Damon, over the past few years, has been that Stefan generally respects Elena's choices. If Elena decides on a course of action, however wrong-headed, Stefan goes along with it. If Elena wants to trust Elijah, then Stefan will trust Elijah, and so on. Damon, meanwhile, will contradict Elena's wishes for "her own good."
So a situation where Elena will literally do whatever makes Damon happy — where he not only can control her, but he has to work hard to avoid warping her mind and personality — is the ultimate challenge for Damon. He can't just tell Elena to exercise free will, because subconsciously she'll still be trying to figure out what he wants, and how to please him. He can't just be with her and hope for the best — he has to set her free, or have her under his thumb. This is sort of Damon's dream come true, but also his worst nightmare. Especially after we see what happened to the vampire girl in New Orleans, whom Damon told to count every brick in the city.
If you love Damon and want to see his character growing and being explored in more depth, this storyline was made for you. Of course, it sucks that Elena has less agency as a result of this storyline — but of course, this is The Vampire Diaries. If you don't like the plot, come back next week. (And yet, the ever-changing plots usually leave their mark one way or the other, and there's seldom a reset button.) I'm hopeful that after we see Damon grappling with his ultimate temptation and challenge, then we'll never see him quite the same way again. And that's what makes this a particularly clever storyline for him.