Evolution – The Flip Side

Someone asked if I’d do a post similar to the one I did on the evolution of Elena’s feelings for Damon so here it is 🙂

I’ve always considered Damon and Elena’s first meeting to have happened in the pilot, in the graveyard. The pilot is actually littered with references to Damon and his eventual role in Elena’s life but the graveyard is the first time that Elena and Damon (in human form) occupy the same space.

The fact that Damon is already watching her – and scaring her – sets the stage for everything that their relationship has evolved into since then.

There is no denying that right off the bat Damon is quite fascinated by Elena; he’s in intrigued by her in the same way he’d be intrigued by anything out of the ordinary. Let’s think about where he’s at, at this point in the series. He’s 160 years old give or take and he’s spent the last 145 years with two objectives: freeing Katherine and making Stefan miserable.  Since the former meant waiting for that comet to pass around, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Damon spent a lot of time being lonely and bored.

Elena’s existence provides an unexpected source of entertainment for him. Especially because he can satisfy his own curiosity and annoy Stefan at the same time.

The graveyard meeting as I mentioned really sets the stage. Elena doesn’t see Damon and even if she had she’d have no idea who he was. Nevertheless, she senses his presence and it unnerves her.  He’s still unnerving her albeit for very different reasons. And just as she ran from the fog and the crow, she’s still – although less and less in my opinion anyway – running from her feelings for him.

Stefan Didn’t Tell Me He Had A Brother

Considering that said brother is the better, hotter, superior choice, I can’t really blame Stefan 😆

No, on a serious note, Elena and Damon’s first “official” meeting is one of my favorite scenes in the early episodes of season 1. The way Damon watches her with his head kind of cocked to one side as she stutters to explain what she’s doing there is equal parts comical and creepy.  

But it says a lot about who and what Damon is at that point. He’s a keen observer; he studies things and people and he’s always paying attention to what’s going on around him.

Now as far as Elena, he knows that she can’t be Katherine because he believes Kat to be in the tomb under the old Church. But it’s still got to be an odd experience to be faced with a physical copy of the woman you’ve spent 145 years missing.

What’s interesting to me and what really sets D/E apart from S/E is that Damon never confused Elena and Katherine.  There was no transference of emotions.  Elena looks like Katherine but Damon wasn’t drawn to her on any kind of emotional level.

I don’t even think he likes her in these very early stages. I don’t think he doesn’t not like her but more to the point, he’s not really seeing her as a person yet. He’s seeing her as a human that he can toy with and use to irritate Stefan.

That of course doesn’t last very long at all. By the time we get to Friday Night Bites, Elena has got Damon’s attention in her own right and for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with Stefan at all. Incidentally, that’s where the real threat to Stefan and Elena’s relationship eventually develops.  The minute Damon’s feelings become independent of his on/off animosity towards Stefan, Elena is far more likely to be affected by them.

Still, even after FNB, Elena’s hooks into Damon aren’t cemented yet. She has his attention but it’s going to take a lot more than that to undo more than a century and a half of emotional damage. This is evidenced by everything else that Damon continues to get up to; the way he toys with Caroline and Vicki, the delight he takes in harassing Stefan, the fact that killing bothers him not at all.

Even after the moment in Haunted where Elena stands up to him and slaps him and even after he compels Jeremy, proving that Elena got through to him, Damon’s MO doesn’t alter radically.

In the next episode he orchestrates Lexi’s death to suit his own purposes. What this shows is that Elena is capable of reaching him – if he chooses to let her – but that she is going to have to make a continual effort.

Her impact on him is not an immediate one. It’s an accumulation of moments that get us from “How can you be so brave and stupid as to call a vampire arrogant and glib,” to “Somewhere along the way, you decided that I was worth saving.”

So much is said about how Damon earned Elena’s trust that I think people forget how hard it was for Elena to earn Damon’s. It’s not something that he gives easily and it’s why I think he’s been profoundly affected the two times that he perceived that she betrayed him – first in COTD and much later in BMR.

The Five Minutes That Changed Everything.

“Time out. Step away from your life for five minutes.”

With those words, Damon convinces Elena to go along for the rest of the ride to Bree’s Bar and this impromptu road trip marks a huge milestone for the relationship between them.

In my previous post, “Evolution” I focused on how the trip to Atlanta affected Elena’s perception of Damon. In this post, I’m going to look at it from a Damon POV.  Up until those hours spent in Atlanta, Damon had only seen “gloomy graveyard girl” or in other words, Elena as she’d become since her parents died. She intrigued him, yes, but it was because of her intrinsic character traits; her sincerity and her empathy – things that would not have been affected by her parent’s death.

The time spent at Bree’s gave Damon his first look at a more carefree version of Elena. Mind you, he’d already noticed the spark and the fire in her. It was there in the way she defended the people she cared about and in the way that she stood up to him. But here it wasn’t so much directed at him as displayed for him.

One of the reasons this trip was such a milestone is because it afforded them both an opportunity to adjust their perceptions of each other. This is the point at which Damon definitively begins to see Elena as her own person and not just someone he can use in his games with Stefan.

The incident where she saves his life is something I didn’t touch too much on when I looked at this from Elena’s standpoint. The reason for that is that I think it had a more profound impact on Damon.

The fact that Elena would go that far out of her way to make sure that his life was spared, the fact that she essentially begged Lexi’s boyfriend not to kill him, is what I think made Damon seriously begin to believe in Elena’s genuine goodness.  Up until then – and even still with most people now – Damon wasn’t one to put faith in people, to believe in the fundamental goodness of their natures.

The moment she saved his life is the moment she became very real to him, the moment where her ability to see the man trapped inside the vampire became something that he – cautiously of course – began to trust.

And that’s why her betrayal in COTD burned him so much. He’d started to reach for something –against all the instincts he acquired over 145 years – and he was immediately “punished” for it.  They got past it relatively quickly but I think it’s a mistake to gloss over how much damage that could have done.

Damon’s trust as we’ve said so many times is not easy to earn and Elena broke it practically the instant after she gained it. It would have been very simple – and also quite understandable – if Damon had retreated from her, never to be reached again.

And yet, one episode later, by proving that she trusted him, Elena convinced Damon to give her a second chance; one that she put to much better use than the first. It’s at this point, that Elena begins to truly earn Damon’s trust and also his genuine respect.

You Do Not Come Into My Town and Go After People I Care About

“A Few Good Men” marks the beginning of the Isobel arc and kick starts a series of events that will lead to Stefan’s kidnapping and subsequent HB binge and later the arrival of Isobel and then Katherine.

Through all of that Damon is struggling with a number of things but the top two on the list are one, the death of his illusions regarding Katherine and what they had together and second and more significantly, the birth of his truly deep feelings for Elena.

This also marks the unmasking of a facet of Damon’s personality that we get more up close and personal with as time goes on; his bone deep protective streak. Damon is many things to many people and god knows how many adjectives have been used to describe him at various points. In the end though one of his core character traits is the lengths he is willing to go to for the ones he loves; never more so than when they are under threat.

Katherine mocked Stefan at the end of “Katerina” saying that he was ever the protector. But in fact it is Damon and not Stefan that is constantly looking out for everyone, including Stefan.

And when it comes to Elena that protective streak burns hotter and brighter still. The most glaring in your face example of that first came when he confronted Isobel and delivered one of his most epic speeches to date.

Now that I have your attention, listen up. You do not come into my town and threaten people that I care about. Going after Elena? Baaaad move. You leave her alone or I will rip you to bits. Because I do believe in killing the messenger. You know why? Because it sends a message. *head slam* Katherine wants something from me? You tell that little bitch to come get it herself.

But even before that scene Damon had slipped into the role of Elena’s protector albeit much more subtly. It began the minute that Stefan went missing and they had to orchestrate his rescue. Incidentally, it’s also under these circumstances that Damon sets the precedent for his particular brand of protection and unconditional caring.

Elena is mad at him – not impressed at all with the way he rubbed Ric’s face in the fact that he’d killed/turned Isobel – and yet Damon could care less. His priority is to rescue Stefan and make sure that Elena doesn’t get killed in the process. Eleven episodes later, in The Sacrifice, Damon is still protecting Elena, regardless of how she happens to feel about it.

Damon the protector appears again in Miss Mystic Falls – one of the most epic D/E centric episodes ever – by one, telling Elena that Stefan is on human blood. Critics will argue that Damon took some kind of twisted pleasure in Stefan’s downfall. This is patently not the case and Damon himself says so. He admits that a couple of weeks prior he would have loved seeing Stefan stumble but that this is not the time. He is telling Elena the truth of Stefan’s situation because he knows she needs to be aware in order to be safe.

He steps in again, when Stefan goes missing and escorts Elena through that “near touch” dance ritual. It is in those moments, as he watches her coming down the stairs and as they dance, that Damon realizes that he’s fallen in love with Elena.

You can see the knowledge in his eyes and that tiny quirk of his lips as it settles over him and into him. You can see him savor it for the short minutes that it takes to complete the dance, leaving the complications and the consequences to be dealt with at a later date.

And lastly, at the end of the episode Damon slides to the floor opposite her outside the Salvatore cellar where Stefan is sleeping off the vervain. That moment is especially poignant because it’s another milestone in their relationship. Damon has proved that he’ll look out for her but it is that gesture that lets Elena know that she can depend on him.

The remarkable thing is that Damon was able to communicate that to her without ever having to say it. Although he gave her the words (technically) in “Rose”, the truth is that Damon has never had to tell Elena how he feels. For one thing, other people have been happy to do it for him but more to the point, his feelings are in his actions. And when Elena looks back on it, she will realize the sincerity and the depth of Damon’s feelings because of moments like the one at the end of MMF.

In All This Important Soul Searching and Cleansing of the Demons Of Stefan’s Past, Did You Ever Manage To Get The Rest Of The Story?

The scene in Blood Brothers where Elena makes the mistake of apportioning part of the blame for Stefan’s guilt to Damon, is actually one of my favorite ones between them. Unlike in COTD where her betrayal hurt him and he reacted in anger, in this scene Damon is more disappointed than betrayed and he doesn’t hide it.

What this shows is that from Fool Me Once to Blood Brothers, Damon began trusting Elena to the point where she is actually capable of disappointing him because he expected more from her.

That’s a pretty massive change for the guy who learned to expect nothing from anyone because of the emotional neglect he suffered even as a human.  What is also shows is that Damon doesn’t try as hard to hide from Elena has he does from everyone else and even when he does try, she sees through him.

I think Blood Brothers is often over looked in terms of the development of the D/E relationship, coming as it did on the heels of MMF. But it’s in this episode that we see begin to see the intimacy that’s grown between them, how comfortable they’ve learned to be around each other.

It’s also an episode where we start seeing those flashes on Damon’s face; those adorable, slightly giddy expressions of a man spending time with or around the woman he’s just realized holds his heart in her hands.

It continues on in Isobel and in Founder’s Day and creates the perfect juxtaposition prior to the JNSI. It’s in these episodes that we see Damon and Elena building a relationship that it completely and entirely separate from the relationships that they each have with Stefan.

They are in each other’s lives because they want to be, because they’ve become entwined in each other on a variety of levels. So much of what happens and has happened between Damon and Elena is natural and instinctive but the option of walking away is always there.

And yet they never do.

I’ve analyzed the JNSI a gazillion ways from Sunday at this point so I’m not really going to spend too much time on it despite how pivotal a moment it clearly was for them. Instead, I’m going to look a bit at Damon’s reaction in the episodes after it.

In Brave New World there are two main points that I think give good indicators of Damon’s state of mind. One is that when he goes to speak to her about Caroline, he acknowledges the fact that he’s the last person she wants to see just then.

Part of the way Damon’s feelings for her manifest themselves is through the way that he understands her actions and emotions. The second point is when he asks Stefan if Elena is also worried about him.

I’ve always maintained that Elena’s problem with Damon post JNSI didn’t just stem from the actual incident but rather from the fact that her first instinct was to rationalize what he’d done. She wanted to forgive him and she couldn’t forgive herself for that.

But Damon is aware of it. He’s aware of it but he’s not taking it for granted. This is an uncertain period of time for Damon emotionally. Elena matters to him so much and he recognizes just how badly he screwed up. But until he actually asks her in BMR, I think he’s torn between his belief that Elena cares enough about him to get past what he did and his fear that he’s ruined the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Then BMR happens and Elena tells him that he’s lost her forever. This, much more than her rejection in The Return, could have really been the breaking point for Damon. In The Return, Elena admitted to caring about him and it wasn’t enough. Now, here she is saying that she won’t even let herself care about him anymore.

The fact that Damon absorbed that blow and didn’t resort to violence of any kind is proof of how much impact the JNSI had on him. It was truly one of his defining moments.

Saving Grace

Damon’s protector persona is his saving grace. In BMR, he saves Elena’s life and ultimately, his continued efforts to protect her are what help to rebuild their relationship. Having Mason Lockwood and the werewolf situation to figure out and deal with gives Damon something to do away from his feelings for Elena.

He’s not hiding the fact that he loves her – hello did you see the way he looked at her in The Grill in that Memory Lane scene?! 😆 😆 – but he’s not forcing it on her either.

Damon at this point is basically backing off and there is a certain amount of resignation in that. He’s lost her. He understands that he deserves to have lost her. But because he loves unconditionally, he’s not going to let that stop him from trying to keep her and everyone else safe.

Ironically enough, I think that draws Elena towards him so that by the time we get to the end of KOBK, Elena demonstrates by reaching out to him with that comment on what he did for Liz and Caroline that she wants to have Damon in her life.

That’s her choice and made for her reasons.

But back to Damon; at this point, his feelings have stabilized. He’s in love with Elena and that’s not going to change. He will do whatever it takes to protect her; he’ll save her even if she doesn’t want to be saved and he’s willing to die to accomplish that.

I should also mention here, that Damon finally gets the closure he needs with Katherine at the end of Masquerade. He’s been over her for quite a while now but he did need that moment to put an end to that chapter of his life and also to make sure that Katherine understood that she no longer had a hold on him.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

Damon’s involvement with Rose is significant on a number of levels. On the one hand, there is the acceptance that he can’t be with Elena now and that maybe he never will be.  

It kills him but he understands that with circumstances being what they are – werewolves, Originals – now is not the time to stir up that particularly sticky hornets nest.

On the other hand precisely because of his feelings for Elena, Damon can no longer go back to being blasé or badass about things; he can’t hide his emotions under a devil may care attitude.

As I mentioned much earlier on in this post, Damon has spent a lot of time alone in his life and he’s finally now admitted that he wants and needs a certain amount of companionship.

Elena can’t be that for him now but Rose can.  And considering Elena’s asinine decision to reunite with Stefan at the end of BTLOTM, I can no longer blame Damon for accepting that.

Rose in some ways is good for him. She hasn’t got any illusions and she sees Damon as he is.

Right now, this minute, Rose is what Damon needs. This in no way changes his feelings for Elena. The suspected hook up between him and the reporter won’t change that either because nothing can.

Damon loves Elena and he will always love Elena. The only variable in this equation is how long it’s going to take Elena to realize that letting herself love him back is the best thing that she could do for both of them.

3 Comments

  1. You`re a genius!! this totally blew my mind, because you`ve managed to capture and describe every little detail of his personality and their relationship 🙂 thanks and keep up the good work!!

  2. I think Rose’s name and the episode title mean a lot since by the end of it Damon is telling her that he loves her and can’t be selfish with her and that he brother deserves her which IMO he doesn’t and he cared about enough about her to notice that she didn’t have her necklace and he still wanted her to be safe. But he didn’t want her to have to choose between him and his brother while her life was in danger so he compelled her to forget to keep things as they were between them even though it hurt. I always loved Rose and how she was willing to help Damon save Elena because she saw them him and knew that he loved Elena even though he was still trying to fight it. She showed him he couldn’t go there anymore because he does love her, Caring gets you dead but it is important to feel and Damon can’t stop those feelings now even if he tried too.

  3. I love the way you analyzed Damon and Elena’s feelings for each other. Now that the second season has come to an end, I wonder if you will add to these.


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