You have to give a lot of credit to the writers of The Vampire Diaries. Nearly every other show would have been happy to drag out these storylines, but the CW drama adds real progression each week, revelling in keeping viewers hooked with twists that add a freshness to the ongoing events.
Last week's 'Heart of Darkness' reintroduced Esther (Alice Evans) as she revealed her plans to Alaric to slay her Original children and in turn completely wipe out every last vampire. In 'Do Not Go Gentle' this week, a series of heartbreaking scenes reveals that Alaric will never be the same again after his evil alter ego jumps on Esther's plan to be made a near-invincible super-vampire.
It's all suitably crazy as the season finale is within sight. Alaric's ring lends its immortality property to the last remaining Original-killing stake so it can be used as many times as need be. And Alaric finishes the transformation into the killing machine Esther intended for him to be in the dramatically intense cliffhanger when he grabs Bonnie and feeds on her blood.
In 'Heart of Darkness', I praised the fact that Esther is such an interesting and layered villain because she has good intentions deep down.
Now with Esther gone and Alaric being the main threat, it's a real testament that the writers have once again steered clear of making things black or white. Is there a part of good Alaric still in there, or will he forever be an irredeemable monster? And how will everyone feel at the prospect of killing someone who was once a brilliant friend?
The scene at the graveyard where everyone gathered around to say goodbye to Alaric on his deathbed proves how popular the character is. It was such a heartbreaking scene made more resonant when Meredith (Torrey DeVitto) also turned up.
Before that, we were treated to a 1920s dance at the school. Elena/Stefan fans will be delighted that they get to spend some time together and by the fact that Caroline called their love "epic". As someone who is torn between Stelena and Delena, I enjoyed Stefan dancing with Elena. Don't get me wrong - I loved Elena and Damon's significant kiss in Denver last week, but I also think it's important for the show to keep the love triangle balanced to make Elena's eventual decision more monumental.
Meanwhile, Klaus continues to show his obsession with Caroline as a jealous but competitive Tyler looks on. Tyler has been a little bland recently, which is a shame, so although it's sweet that Caroline is pledging her loyalty to him, I certainly wouldn't object if she started to eye Klaus.
And Bonnie gets to be happy for a brief moment while before she's roped by Damon and Stefan to break Esther's spell that's keeping them trapped at the high school (sidenote: it was awesome that Matt and Jeremy were willing to put their lives at risk to confront Esther and save Elena). Bonnie seems to have a connection with Jamie (Robert Ri'chard) and they end up making out. It's nice to see her smile especially after what happened with her mother.
Amid all of the recent drama, it's been a while since we've had this many scenes at the high school, which I found to be very welcome. The only other thing I would have hoped for is Rebekah (Claire Holt) turning up. Instead, she spends nearly all of the episode daggered when Esther is done possessing her body.
There were also some great lines and references - from Klaus's "I don't have to prove anything, love - I am the alpha male" to Alaric quipping about Damon creating a paradisal dream for him. And I appreciated hearing that Jenna is at peace.
The Vampire Diaries continues to go from strength to strength, and 'Do Not Go Gentle' had nearly everything a fan would want - romance, excitement, tension, heartbreak and twists. The groundwork has now been laid for the final two episodes, which could see the Salvatore brothers unusually teaming up with Klaus as surely they will want to take down a shared threat. No matter what's in store, you'd bank on the show to close the season out in style.
What did you think of the episode? Leave your comments below!