When The Vampire Diaries returns for its final season, Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Enzo (Michael Malarkey) will still be under the murderous influence of the unknown evil that had been lurking in the Armory's vault. And although we have precious little time left with our favorite TVD characters — 16 episodes to be exact — I, for one, am thrilled we'll get to spend a portion of it with Dark Damon (even if he is being subjected to mind control).
Showrunner Julie Plec has said this season is all about bringing TVD back to its roots, and for Damon, that means reconnecting with his dark side. When The Vampire Diaries began in 2009, Damon wasn't the brooding, tortured anti-hero fans stan for now. In fact, he wasn't the hero at all; he was the Big Bad. Within the first eight episodes alone, Damon turned Matt's sister Vicki into a vampire, attempted to seduce Stefan into drinking human blood, ruthlessly murdered at least three people — Stefan's best friend Lexi, included — and violated Caroline mentally, physically and possibly sexually.
In short, Damon was not a good dude. But as The Vampire Diaries continued, the show began to focus heavily on the reasons behind Damon's behavior and, more specifically, the reasons why he was so convinced goodness wasn't something he deserved. That's not to say that understanding the pathology behind Damon's actions makes them any less abhorrent, but by exposing Damon's internal struggle over the type of man he wants to be versus the type of man he thinks he is, The Vampire Diaries turned Damon into an endlessly complicated figure who has never stopped challenging the audience's limits when it comes to empathy and forgiveness.
That's because while Damon has grown exponentially since he first returned to Mystic Falls, he still remains his own worst enemy. When faced with a tough decision, viewers never know which Damon will respond: the noble Damon, who will sacrifice everything to help those he loves, or Dark Damon, who will lash out at or abandon his loved ones when he doesn't want to face his reality. It's a battle Damon is still fighting to this day, and this new evil is primed to take it to the next level.
By taking control away from Damon, this villain also takes away Damon's ability to run away from his decisions. That means there are no distractions, no bottles to hide in or means to atone that have previously provided Damon with avenues to avoid confronting himself. There's just the truth, which is that although Damon is currently being forced to murder under this woman's command, he has no such excuse for his past sins. It's possible that by being forced into a literal fight between the evil controlling him and his own humanity, Damon will gain that previously elusive perspective he's always needed and finally find peace with himself.
That may seem overly optimistic, but with the end of the series nigh (and Nina Dobrev's imminent return), if Damon really wants a chance at his happy ending with Elena, he needs to truly become the person he's always said he's wanted to be.
At the very least, Dark Damon is sure to give us lots more scenes of Somerhalder's signature sass and smirk. And at the end of the day, do we really need much else?
The Vampire Diaries' final season premieres Friday, Oct. 21 at 8/7c on The CW.
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