Evolution

We all know that Damon loves Elena, that he’s in love with her. But the question that I’ve heard so many people asking is what does Elena feel for Damon? I know that there is frustration with how difficult it is to discern what Elena is thinking and feeling when it comes to him. Does she love him or hate him? Does she care or doesn’t she? If he was gone would she miss him? If he died would she mourn him?

And if the answer to the last two questions is yes, then the next question is why? Would it be because he’s Stefan’s brother? Would it be because Jeremy’s grown attached to him? Or would it be because she – independent of anything or anyone else – wants to have him in her life?

I predicted  before the season started that by mid season, Elena would have recognized her feelings for Damon. I still think that we’re on target for that because recognizing her feelings doesn’t necessarily mean admitting them to anyone else. At some point in the next two or three episodes I think that we as an audience will be able to tell either through her words or actions, that Damon means a lot more to her than she’s been willing to own up to.

First Impressions

When she first met him, Elena was quite charmed by Damon. How could she help it? He was going out of his way to be very charming indeed. But Elena’s not stupid and it didn’t take her long to realize that Damon’s charm such as it was, was very practiced, very smooth. 

Too smooth.

She realizes in Friday Night Bites in that scene where he tries to kiss her in the parking lot that, as she says, “there’s a double meaning behind everything you say” and that what is more, he does it all on purpose. Elena is no longer charmed.

But she’s still Elena and she is –  as she demonstrated by offering condolences on his loss of Katherine – a sympathetic soul who believes in second chances. So when Damon apologizes in Family Ties, she doesn’t shut him down. She recognizes that he and Stefan have a complicated and tortured relationship and that Damon suffers from this as much as Stefan does.

Elena’s feelings for Damon are initially dominated by the fact that she can see and empathize with his emotional distress.

It Matters And You Know It

Elena is loyal to those she loves and Caroline is one of her dear friends. When Elena sees physical proof that Caroline has been mistreated by Damon, she lets him know in no uncertain terms that she will not stand for it. She went from sympathizing with him to being angry and disgusted with him.

Then she found out he’s a vampire and that is where Stefan’s bias begins to become Elena’s. Stefan doesn’t trust Damon and he believed Damon’s humanity to be all but lost. Elena was in no position to argue otherwise; she was just trying to get her head around the fact that vampires are real and the guy she was falling in love with (alas not Damon at this point) is one.

So now, as far as Elena’s feelings for Damon, we have to add wariness into the mix. You can see it in the scene in Haunted and this exchange.

Damon: And good morning to you too, little miss I’m on a mission

Elena: How can you be so arrogant and glib after everything that you’ve done?

Damon: How can you be so brave and stupid to call a vampire arrogant and glib?

Elena: If you wanted me dead, I’d be dead.

Damon: Yes, you would.

Elena: But I’m not.

Damon: Yet.

She wasn’t afraid to stand up to him but you can see the exact minute that she remembers he’s a vampire and that they are not actually on equal footing, that it would probably be smarter of her to fear him just a little bit. The same play of emotions is demonstrated later in that same episode where she slaps him again, while they are standing over Vicki’s body.

She is determined to give him a piece of her mind and let her know exactly what she thinks of him (it’s not good) but she recognizes that however hard she pushes him, he could snap and push back way harder.

Interestingly though, I wouldn’t characterize her feelings for him as hatred at this point. I think it’s more resentment for the fact that all of his choices have resulted in people she loves or cares about being hurt and for the fact that he’s not even sorry. I think at that point, there is a lot of anger and frustration in how she feels towards him.

This Nice Act, Is Any Of It Real?

The very first step in the turnaround comes at the end of Haunted when Damon steps up and offers to compel Jeremy to forget about Vicki. It’s the first gesture that he makes for reasons that aren’t selfish and it’s an indication that Elena got through to him when she said that “it matters and you know it.” It’s also an indication that she’s intriguing him more and more in her own right and not just because she’s Stefan’s girlfriend or Katherine’s doppelganger. But we’re talking about Elena so I’ll stay on point. 😆

The real turning point is of course, the road trip to Atlanta in Bloodlines (1×11). For the first time since finding out he is a vampire, Elena begins to see the humanity in him again. He shows concern for her after the accident she was in and he offers her a way to get the space she needs from the situation with Stefan.

She ends up having fun; something I’m sure she didn’t think would be possible when she tore out of the boarding house after having seen Katherine’s picture.  Damon is more relaxed than she’s ever seen him and I think watching him interact with Bree really threw her for a loop. Turns out not everyone in the world thinks Damon is the devil. Who knew?

She feels at ease with him and kind of like her old self.  By the time they are driving home – and she saved his life in the meantime – I think that Elena’s faith in Damon is somewhat restored. She knows for a fact that he can be a cold and ruthless killer but she also knows that there is more to it – more to him – than that. It’s from this point onwards, that Elena begins actively looking  for what “more” is actually made of.

We Were Having Fun And I Wanted It To Be Real

As the journey to getting the tomb open heats up again, Elena catches on to Damon’s driving force. It’s not just about Katherine.

It’s about love.

You can tell by how uneasy she is about lying to him in that kitchen scene in COTD, that she really does understand where he stands. She doesn’t – could never – agree with his methods but she knows that he’s not randomly wreaking havoc and destruction because that is what he wants. It’s all about his desperation to get to the one person he thinks will love him.

Another one of the reasons she felt guilty about lying to him is because she knows that they’ve begun to build a kind of trust between them. Stemming from the insight and understanding that she has of him, Elena recognizes that it’s not easy for him to trust people and that’s why betraying his trust makes her so uncomfortable.

What’s interesting though is that even after he forces her to drink his blood and threatens to kill her, Elena doesn’t turn her back on him, metaphorically speaking. She contradicts Stefan when he says that Damon is angry, explaining instead that actually, Damon is just hurt.

This is a big deal as far as Elena’s relationship with Damon because it shows that she has formed her own opinion of him and she is sticking to it. She is now determined to help rescue what’s left of Damon’s humanity. He has wormed his way, if not actually into her heart, certainly into her affections. She doesn’t want to see him suffer and is willing to help however she can to alleviate his pain.

Hence the promise that she will help him to get Katherine back. She deliberately made herself vulnerable by removing the vervain necklace to demonstrate that she trusted him and to ask him to trust her in kind.

And when it turns out that Katherine isn’t in the tomb, Elena is truly heartbroken for him. When she puts her arms around him in that hug, I have no doubt she wishes there was something that she could do to fix it for him.

I know, I get it.

One of Elena’s problems with Damon and her feelings for him is that just when she thinks she has him figured out, he does or says something to challenge her conviction.

She was worried about him after the Katherine-less tomb opening right up until he rubbed Alaric’s face in the fact that he’d been intimate with Isobel, confirming – unbeknownst to him of course – that he was the one who had killed turned her birth mother into a vampire.

Her concern for his emotional well being takes a big backseat in the face of the blow that this information does to her own emotional well being. Her annoyance and frustration with him last until Stefan is kidnapped and “her” Damon reappears. I call him her Damon because she is the person to whom he reveals his vulnerability most often. Even when it’s not really her, (Founder’s Day porch scene) it’s still her.

Stefan’s kidnapping and resulting blood binge, bring Damon and Elena closer together. She begins to see how much Damon really does still care for Stefan but the most important thing that I think came out of their shared “take care of Stefan” experience is that Elena realized that she can depend on Damon, that she can count on him.

That scene at the end of Miss Mystic Falls after they’ve locked Stefan up is proof. Damon was on his way upstairs until Elena said that she was staying. He stayed for her.  And this is a big deal for Elena who ultimately doesn’t have that many people total that she can count on and no one else when it comes to vampire stuff.

By the time we get to Blood Brothers, the “understanding” they had in Fool Me Once has progressed to something more intimate. There’s understanding, there’s trust, there’s love on Damon’s part and genuine affection on Elena’s. There’s also a new awareness on her part – resulting from their dance in MMF – of the latent attraction that she has to him. You can see in the expressions that chase themselves across her face in that dance that she’s feels something happening between them that has nothing to do with anyone else.

He’s In Love With You

Events in Isobel raise the stakes. First there is Damon’s obvious protectiveness where Elena is concerned; something which doesn’t go unnoticed by Stefan. But more importantly there are all the thoughts that Isobel puts in Elena’s mind about Damon and the fact that he cares for her more than she realizes.

It’s the beginning of an unsettling period for Elena as far as Damon goes. She has to sort through whether she thinks Isobel is telling the truth or just trying to manipulate her. Then she has to consider how she feels if what Isobel says is true. When we get to the end of Founder’s Day, Elena admits to Stefan that she cares about Damon.

It’s a first step.

And this point, the feelings she has for him are completely independent of Stefan. Much like Damon’s for her are and this is in fact what I think freaks Stefan out so much.

We see more evidence of Elena’s feelings for Damon in The Return. She’s actually more worried about him with Katherine back in town that she is about Stefan. Many of the reasons for that have to do with Stefan and his assortment of denial but there is also the fact that Elena knows how Katherine hurt Damon and she doesn’t want to see it happen again.

The revelation about the porch kiss however changes things up and so does the fact that Damon tells her, he doesn’t need Katherine to send him over the edge. All of a sudden Elena has to confront the fact that she has more power over Damon than Katherine does.

You’ll note that in this post, I never refer to the relationship between Damon and Elena as a friendship and that’s because in my eyes it’s not exactly. Yes, they were friends and I believe that they will be again. But there are too many layers of other more intimate emotions between them for it to be labeled – in my opinion – as a purely platonic friendship.

And this doesn’t only stem from the fact that Damon is in love with her. It stems from Elena caring about him with a certain intensity. Damon draws that out of her; whatever she is feeling towards him  – anger, hurt, affection, attraction – is never tame or banal.

Damon isn’t a bad judge of character or of motivation and his reasons  for believing that Elena would kiss him back are legitimate ones. He senses – as does Elena in my opinion – that their “understanding” has developed into something even more powerful and profound.

You’ve Lost Me Forever

Then comes something that I know some D/E fans are still cursing Kevin and Julie for: The Jeremy Neck Snapping Incident (JNSI). I, personally, stand behind them on this. I think that the JNSI had to happen in order for Damon to really and truly kick start his journey towards redemption and towards love. Remember that the goal isn’t just for Elena to love Damon. It’s for her to feel safe expressing those feelings and for long as Damon was an emotional powder keg that was never going to happen.

The JNSI is basically the only thing short of hurting Elena herself physically that would have impacted Damon this way. Elena and Stefan are the only two people he honestly cares about. But with Stefan the problem is whatever Damon does to him, he can reach back for something as bad or worse that Stefan has done to him first.

Elena is the opposite. She’s been good to him; better than anyone else in a really long time and that is why when he realized that he’d hurt her, he started to think outside his own head and about how his actions affect the people around him. The Damon that we’ve seen since that night has been so far as I’m concerned, practically flawless. He’s tuned into his emotions but he’s not out of control. That is a big deal not just for him but for his relationship with Elena.

Getting back to Elena, the JNSI forced her to confront her feelings for Damon in a way that nothing else would. It was not an immediate confrontation. You had the initial heartbreak and devastation. You had her declaring that she hated him. It was a logical reaction to the circumstance.

And yet it quickly became obvious that she was struggling big time to actually live out the emotion. She wanted to hate him; figured she should after what he did. And she tried hard to. But ultimately she never quite got there. If someone does to you what Damon did to her, forgiving them is either an extraordinary Mother Teresa Nelson Mandela moment of compassion or it’s a testament to how much that person means to you.

I love Elena but Mother Teresa she is not. 😆 😆

She told Damon that he lost her forever. She was still holding onto the last vestiges of her heartbreak and anger hatred but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that she wasn’t only hurt by what he did. She was also hurt by the loss of their relationship, however one chooses to define it. The point is she and Damon had gotten close and that meant something to her. She may not have wanted to admit it but once it was gone she was missing it.

The important thing as well is that none of this is happening in isolation. Elena has to deal with all this and at the same time handle Katherine being back, Caroline turning into a vampire, Bonnie trying to burn Damon to death and werewovles that can kill vampires.

It’s a lot for anyone.

She begins to make peace with it in Memory Lane I feel and the definitive turning point comes in that last scene of Kill Or Be Killed where she says that the Damon she saw that day was the same one that had been her friend (<– her word, not mine). I don’t think it took Elena long at all after the JNSI to realize that “her” Damon hadn’t actually gone anywhere. She understood immediately after the incident itself why he had done it and events in BNW suggest that her core trust in him and her core belief that there is something worth saving in him, did not waver.

That in itself is pretty huge. But for me the crucial thing about that scene is that it was an indication that Elena wants Damon in her life. She’s reaching out to him; asking him to be this version of himself – the best version of himself – so that she doesn’t have to hate herself for not being able to hate him.

I Love You, Elena

It’s ironic then that when Elena has finally given up on trying to hate him, Damon literally hands her the opportunity to do so again on a silver platter by confessing that he riled Katherine up prior to Jenna’s Compelled Suicide Attempt (CSA). But Elena is never one to blame Damon when something is not actually his fault and so she doesn’t take him up on it.

She never truly hated Damon and now she’s stopped trying. As happened in KOBK when she said to Liz, “I won’t let you kill them” Elena expresses concern for both Damon and Stefan when they sealed in with Katherine. And when they rescue her from Elijah, Elena makes certain to thank Damon by mouthing the words so that Stefan can’t hear them. But just to be clear, it’s not about trying to hide something from Stefan. It’s about trying to share something with Damon.

Later that same night, they share another  very emotional moment. And although she doesn’t technically remember it, I think she remembers how it made her feel. According to Jeremy’s version of things in the season 1 finale, you can’t compel feelings. This means while Elena might not remember what Damon said, she remembers how it made her feel.

And judging by her reaction as he was speaking, I don’t think her reaction was or would have been a negative one. She was overwhelmed and perhaps not sure what to say but that tiny little frown when he said that he wished she didn’t have to forget this makes me think that if he’d given her a choice in the matter, she would have chosen not to forget.

Damon matters to her. He matters a lot and in ways that have nothing to do with anyone else. My opinion is simply this : Elena is not in love with Damon – yet – but she does love him. The relationship she has with him isn’t like any of her other friendships and even less like her romantic relationship with Stefan. Those are both very good things.

The road that Damon and Elena are going to have to take is a very long one. Having her recognize her feelings is one thing. Having her come to terms with that and what it actually means is something else altogether.

But she will get there and I think she’s a lot further down that road than some people are giving her credit for.

4 Comments

  1. Amazing post, Ciara. I love it so much. Thank you for fueling my DE heart and for giving me even more hope than before!!

    • Brilliant, absolutely brilliant and so very insightful and IMO very accurate. I would love for you to do the same article on how Damon comes to realize his love for Elena and when he FINALLY stops being in love with Katherine and really realizes his love for Eleana.

  2. Just wow! I loved your breakdown of things.

  3. You. Are. Amazing.
    That. Was. Amazing.
    Great detail, how do you pen down my thoughts so exactly in a way I definately couldn’t have?!
    Great job.


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