I’ve been thinking a lot about the structure of TVD recently, especially in regard to the triangle. With every new spoiler that comes out, it seems obvious what the writers are doing — or what they’re attempting to do, rather. Jury’s still out on whether they’re succeeding.
The first three seasons of TVD were all about Stefan and Elena’s relationship. I can’t see how you can really dispute that. Yes, Damon/Elena played a huge role in those seasons, especially in the beginning half of S3, but the reason why they did grow so close is because they were in pursuit of Stefan. It was all about their supposed “epic love,” how Elena would do anything to find him, how Stefan at turns tried to push Elena away because of what he’d done or tried to fight his bloodlust in order to get her back. Their love never really diminished over the course of those three seasons, and they were both still holding onto the remnants of their relationship, the one they had in S1 and S2. That’s why Elena chose him—because she had to give him another shot, because she still loved him, because he was the “safe” option. Insert your reason here; she chose him and that’s really the end of it.
But is it really?
Because the truth of the matter is that Stefan and Elena are further apart than they’ve ever been, despite Elena’s choice. Elena claims that she knows Stefan better than anyone, but she has little to no idea of what really went on in those summer months when he was the ripper. Stefan never told her about it. She only knows what she’s seen firsthand, which is bad enough, but she doesn’t know the true extent of what he did. Moreover, Elena never told Stefan about her relationship with Damon, other than in 3x12 when she told him she kissed him. That wasn’t the entire truth either; Damon kissed her and she just kissed him back. Small point, yes, but then the big kicker comes in 3x20 when she doesn’t tell Stefan about pretty much jumping Damon in the previous episode. That seems like something exceedingly important to lay on the table, so everything’s out there, but Stefan thinks differently. It makes me wonder what he’ll think if he does ever find out about it, and how he’ll ever feel comfortable with Elena choosing him with that knowledge in his head. Regardless, my point is that Stefan and Elena are keeping very important things from each other. They aren’t honest, they don’t know what the other person has done behind closed doors, which is bad for any relationship. Relationships require honesty, and Stefan and Elena have never been honest with each other.
They love each other, yes, but I feel like Stefan/Elena is a study of why love sometimes isn’t enough to keep a relationship going. Respect clearly isn’t enough, despite what Stefan and Elena seem to believe, because Stefan’s “respect” of Elena led to her death. They’re deconstructing Stefan/Elena, bit by bit, chipping away at anything that might have made their relationship work. Perhaps the best example of that is the difference between 2x01 and 3x22: “It’s always going to be Stefan” vs. “I can’t think about always.” “That kind of love never dies” doesn’t seem as important now that Elena herself addresses the possibility that her relationship with Stefan might not last forever. By the end of the third season, Stefan and Elena are further apart than they’ve ever been, and Elena’s choice, to me, seems like one last-ditch effort to get things back to the way they were.
Contrast that with Damon/Elena. Elena didn’t choose him, but they were close enough at that point that Elena called him, even before she called Stefan, in order to give him her goodbye and explain why she made her choice. She was painfully honest as she gave her explanation. That sort of blunt, put-a-stake-through-the-heart honesty has always been a part of Damon and Elena’s relationship. Neither of them are afraid to hurt the other one’s feelings. Even if it would be better if they weren’t so honest with each other (3x01, 3x10, 3x14, 3x19, 3x22 come to mind as the most recent examples), they lay everything out on the table. They know where the other person stands, and they don’t try to sugarcoat things in order to make themselves look better. In fact, in Damon’s case, it’s the exact opposite. The two moments that arguably show Damon’s best side—the side that might cause Elena to give him a second look—aren’t even remembered in the first three seasons: their first meeting and Damon’s first ILY in 2x08. He only hides the goodness in him, but Elena sees glimpses of it, just as she sees the monstrous side of him. And Damon’s seen the selfish, stubborn, almost petty and manipulative side of Elena, the side that Stefan has never truly seen. They know each other in a way that they know no one else.
Because of that, they are closer than they’ve ever been. They’ve seen each other broken. They’ve witnessed the other person lash out. They’ve seen the goodness just as they’ve seen the bad. They’ve fought together, worked together, grown together. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to argue that Damon and Elena are not closer now than they were at the beginning of the show, whereas it’s the opposite with Stefan and Elena. And while Elena’s feelings for Stefan seem to be diminishing (she can no longer think of always, when she was so sure that Stefan was her always in earlier seasons), her feelings for Damon continue to grow. If they didn’t, then Elena would never have kissed him. She never would have felt torn between the brothers, because what’s Damon in the face of her eternal love? But Stefan’s not eternal, not anymore, and Damon consumes her in a way that Stefan clearly doesn’t. So, not only has their understanding increased, but Elena’s feelings for Damon have also increased.
S3 was the turning point. She chose Stefan, but there’s distance between them. Important things were left unsaid, and arguably their biggest asset (Stefan’s respect of Elena’s decisions) led to Elena’s death. She didn’t choose Damon, but she cared enough for him to call and explain with brutal honesty why she did what she did. Nothing is left hidden between them; they know exactly where the other person stands.
Now, we’re beginning to hear more about S4, and every spoiler so far has indicated that this trend is going to continue. Stefan is going to struggle deeply with Elena’s transition, not only because he was the one who inadvertently caused her death, but also because Elena clearly won’t abide by Stefan’s animal diet for very long. If what Paul has said can be taken as an indication of things to come, Stefan might distance himself from Elena, because she won’t be the same girl he fell in love with. Elena as a vampire is going to be entirely different from Elena as a human, and Stefan won’t easily come to terms with that—if he ever will. There will be a wedge driven between them, although I fully expect Stefan and Elena to continue trying to make things work throughout the first half of S4. Their distance will only increase in time, in my opinion.
That’s not the case with Damon/Elena. If anything, they are going to grow even closer in S4. She will remember what Damon compelled her to forget. It won’t change her feelings for him right away. I love the tack they’re taking with Elena’s memories returning. Instead of Elena realizing right away that she’s suddenly in love with Damon and all she’s been doing is denying that truth, the memories will only serve to increase her understanding of Damon. She will see two of the most human moments we’ve seen with Damon over the course of the entire show. She’ll understand him in a way she has never been able to; she’ll know his goodness, his humanity, just as she knows the recklessness and the violence. Part of Elena has always expected Damon to lash out (with good reason, just look at 1x13, 2x01, 2x18, 2x20, 3x04, 3x14, 3x15), but now she’ll know that she wasn’t giving him enough credit. And, now that she’s a vampire, she’ll understand the impulse for violence. She’ll understand the intense emotions, the recklessness associated with being a vampire. She’ll understand why Damon would do anything to keep her alive, because she’ll do anything to keep Matt and Jeremy alive, even if that means sacrificing their own free will. As vampires, Elena will more fully understand everything Damon is, including those parts she could never fully grasp as a human because she didn’t have those impulses. Now she will, and that will change her estimation of Damon.
A huge part of DE’s relationship has always been that understanding between them, and that’s set to deepen. Everything will intensify between Damon and Elena now that she’s a vampire: their understanding, their attraction (as emphasized by the recent spoiler that Elena will feed on Damon *dies*), and their feelings for each other. Elena thinks she was consumed by him as a human? Well, as a vampire, that will be magnified a hundredfold. I have a feeling she will find herself more drawn toward Damon as the season wears on, as their understanding increases, as her desire for him on a visceral, primal level increases. But with Stefan and Elena, I don’t feel that way. It’s not that he won’t be “enough” for her, or that they didn’t give it a shot; it’s just that they’re too different as vampires, just as they were too different as people. Their love won’t be enough, not when their understanding, their honesty, is decreasing steadily.
Am I being too hopeful? I don’t think so. It’s clear that Stefan and Elena are slowly falling apart while Damon and Elena are slowly being built up. It’s frustrating at times, but the love triangle will run the course of the entire show. It’s a marathon, and DE are getting stronger all the time. And the longer we wait for them to get together, the sweeter it will be.