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 Countdown to The Return: The Salvatore brothers & the ties that bind

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ПисанеЗаглавие: Countdown to The Return: The Salvatore brothers & the ties that bind    Сря Авг 25, 2010 1:38 am

Countdown to The Return is a series of guest posts by Vampire Diaries fans on topics they’re pondering as we head into Season 2. First up, author Dianne Sylvan examines why the relationship between Stefan and Damon is so compelling and why she hopes the tension will continue throughout the new season.

Vampire romances these days are less than a dime a dozen – they’re becoming almost a parody of themselves. Take one misunderstood teen girl, one immortal hottie, add a quirky best friend. Add clueless adults, a heaping helping of angst, some kind of bad guy to cause the couple problems (preferably bad vampires or, better yet, werewolves), and stir.

What, then, sets The Vampire Diaries apart from the rest? Why does it have us all salivating over the upcoming season…even jaded old ladies like myself, who cheerfully admits she avoids most vampire fiction like the plague (even though I write it myself)?

I think we all know the answer to that one…and no, it’s not Damon…or, not just Damon. As much as we all love a bad boy like Damon (Okay, “bad boy” doesn’t quite cover it, given that he’s a murdering sociopath), or a redeemed (sort of) bad boy like Stefan (who, let’s not forget, has killed at least one person that we know of, and probably more before he had whatever Great Revelation that made him give up the people-juice), both character types are hardly unique these days.

Yes, I’m dying to see the havoc Katherine wreaks on Mystic Falls…in fact I’m hoping she’ll blow the place apart and get away scot free, just to shake up the idea that the powerful female character always has to get it in the end. (Please note Exhibits A-E: Lexi, Bree, Grams, Pearl, Anna.) Yes, I’m looking forward to learning more about Tyler’s…um, animal control issues. And yes, I’m eager to see the development of Damon as an individual, and worried, I admit, that he might get a little too human, too soon. But what I’m really looking forward to is that very thing that makes TVD so fascinating: the relationship between the brothers Salvatore.

In this show you don’t have to settle for either the scary badass vampire or the angsty brooding vampire. We get both, and both are actually interesting, multilayered characters. There’s so much unexplored territory for both boys at this point: what happened to make Stefan stop eating people? And is this really the first time in 150 years that Damon has been visited by the ghost of his own humanity? What have the two of them been doing for the last century and a half?

The dynamic between the two is a perfect example of blood flowing thicker than water. Dysfunctional as it may be, it’s obvious to anyone who sees the two interact throughout the first season that in spite of everything that they’ve done to each other, they both genuinely love each other. Family bonds are some of the most complicated and full of baggage, no matter what species you are.

Surely, if they didn’t care about each other, either one could have killed the other a dozen times by now. Stefan might not be as strong as his brother, but he’s had plenty of time to plan. There are all sorts of ways to kill someone that don’t rely on brute strength or speed, just timing and opportunity. At the very least he could have put a hit out on Damon with some enterprising vampire hunter…but he didn’t.

Each alone, the brothers are only half of a story. I’ve always found the Louis-type of vampire pretty boring: staring at his navel, pining for his mortality, reluctantly falling for the girl whilst trying to warn her away from his Obviously Awful Evil OMG. We don’t get nearly enough Lestat-types these days: vampires who freaking love being vampires. Usually the latter are portrayed as the blood-drenched heartless adversaries and the former are the only viable vamp love interests, but on TVD we have a reversal, or at least a wiggle, of the norm.

Stefan is tormented, yes, but we know there was a time when he drank the world by the gallon and apparently ran around naked in fountains, which I for one would pay to see. It’s evident that there’s far more to him than just forehead brooding…probably entire decades of behavior no better than his brother’s, which only makes it more believable when Stefan says he wants to see Damon change, to see him come back from a dangerous edge that Stefan himself has dwelt on.

And while it would be easy to portray Damon as a soulless killer, both the writers and Ian Somerhalder have brought him a surprising depth; the eyebrows alone speak volumes. The amount of impassioned debate (which is putting it mildly) on various forums over whether or not he should be involved with Elena or anybody else on the show indicates just how well the character has been crafted.

(Just to get my two cents in on the subject, it is my personal opinion that Damon should leave the human girls to his brother and go find himself a full-grown female vampire.)

Even with that individual depth, however, the two Salvatores still need each other to be fully formed characters. Together, the brothers serve as each other’s mirror. Stefan shows Damon his humanity, and Damon brings out Stefan’s inner beast. One could argue that this isn’t such a great deal for Stefan, but in my opinion, he could use a little more beast in him – not as a rampaging killer, but at least as someone who knows how to accept what he is and enjoy his life. That urge to let go is no doubt part of what frightens Stefan about his brother, the thought that if he were to stop hating himself, he might become a monster again.

On its own, Stefan and Elena’s relationship just isn’t that compelling; it’s the outside forces acting on it that bend and strain it and shape it into something that captivates, and the most important opposing force is Damon himself. His mere presence throws everything in motion, starting from the series pilot. I remember watching that episode and thinking that the first half of it was a little dull and predictable…until that window blew open, and the show’s entire energy changed on the beat of a crow’s wings. At that moment, the show breathed…and I don’t think any of us caught our breath again for the next 21 episodes. If I had to describe the entire first season with one word, that word would be GASP.

On the other hand, without Stefan, Damon would just be a villain, with nothing to humanize him. While his adventures in death and debauchery around the globe might be fun to watch for a while, having Stefan to kick around grounds him, makes him seem like a real person instead of a caricature. Elena is a big part of what starts to work on Damon, true, but if Stefan hadn’t been present to stand between them, Damon would likely have swept in and used her as cruelly as he did Caroline, before allowing himself to know her as a person and not a toy or snack. Interacting with Stefan forced Damon to slow down and interact with Elena, which made him see her as more than a Katherine-doll he could play with.

Where will all of this go in the upcoming season? From what we’ve seen so far, it won’t be any less emotionally fraught than the first. One way or another despite Damon’s attraction to Elena, and Stefan’s poisonous jealousy, the boys will have to cooperate to protect the town from Katherine, because despite Bonnie’s assertions that she’s the BWIC (Badass Witch in Charge), I doubt that she can take Katherine down on her own. Somehow, Stefan and Damon are going to have to work together, because whatever Katherine ultimately wants in Mystic Falls, it can’t be good for Elena or anyone else with a pulse.

Personally, I don’t want to see the two brothers completely bury the hatchet, at least not any time soon. Unless one or both does a complete character reversal and becomes essentially unrecognizable as himself, they will always exist in opposition – not black and white, but more like two shades of grey that slide and shift around each other but never quite match. They may orbit each other, each taking on the other’s traits for a while, but deep down, that tension will always be there, planting suspicion and doubt, making every word spoken between them both a threat and a promise.

It would be a great disservice to the show if they were to just be friends without any lingering animosity. The things that make each brother who he is will always ensure that they best they can hope for is a fragile détente, and if that state of magnetic attraction/repulsion were to disappear, it would mean that each had lost the spark that makes him more than just another sexy vampire in a black leather jacket.

Not, of course, that we don’t love our sexy vampires. In fact if you were to sum up my hopes for the coming season, they would be: even more gasping…and even fewer shirts.

Dianne Sylvan, who was a Vampire Diaries fangirl in the Ancient Days before the internet, is the author of the forthcoming Queen of Shadows (in stores August 31), a novel of the Shadow World. She lives, writes, and drinks copious amounts of coffee in Austin, Texas.

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