Vampire Academy 1×08 “The Trials” is a trial of sorts for all characters, not just for Viktor and Tatiana. There comes a point in every story where we must not only face who we are and what we want, but what we’re willing to do to achieve our goals, and that moment is here for everyone. In the case of Tatiana and Viktor, the answer seems to be everything. In the case of Lissa and Rose, however, the answer is much more complicated.
“The Trials” is, in many ways, a transition episode, but one that allows Rose to choose her own way – even if her choices are heavily dictated by pain. It allows Lissa the same courtesy, not that she’s making the right decisions for the right reasons either. And as for the men in their lives, well …neither Dimitri nor Christian, much less Mason, are making decisions with the head, but with the heart.
Let us discuss the states of affairs for a friendship and for two relationships as we break down Vampire Academy 1×08 “The Trials”:
WE BOTH NEED TO FIND OUR WAY – WITHOUT EACH OTHER
In Vampire Academy 1×07 “Beyond the Wards,” it was Lissa pushing Rose away. In Vampire Academy1×08 “The Trials,” it is Rose doing the same. And though both are wrong in thinking that the only way to find their way – to figure out who each of them is – is to be alone, both their decisions feel understandable, in a way.
Lissa’s decision came from a desire to protect Rose, but also a desire to fix things, by herself. Rose’s decision also comes, in part, from a desire to protect Lissa, but also a desire to live and experience and be outside of Lissa. It’s hard to blame either for wanting to protect the other or for wanting their independence. But real maturity comes from realizing that life is about balance. The only way for Lissa to own her power isn’t to push Rose away, and the only way for Rose to be herself isn’t to cut Lissa off.
For now, though, that’s the journey. This is Season 1 (of many, right? many?) so we cannot expect them to find all the answers or to solve all the dominion’s problems. But hopefully if Lissa and Rose can learn something in the episodes left it’s that giving up a part of yourself isn’t ever the answer. Instead, life is about facing life’s challenges with the people who love you by your side – not to solve their problems, or so they can solve yours, but so you can have company, support and a shoulder to lean on should you ever need it.
WE NEVER STOOD A CHANCE, DID WE?
Lissa and Christian are very much star-crossed lovers separated by circumstance in Season 1 of Vampire Academy, and truly, can we blame Lissa for the decision she makes? She is very much mature in not blaming Christian for his parents’ actions, but that doesn’t erase the actions or the pain they caused. She cannot make that disappear, and even if she can get over it, it’s okay to need time to do so.
Christian, of all people, seems to understand that. The best part about their relationship has always been the absolute grace they have granted each other. There’s love, but there’s also a level of respect for the journey the other is going through. Sure, Christian would love to go through this journey with Lissa. She would love to be in a place where she can go through this journey with him. But that’s not in the cards, at least not yet. That doesn’t mean they will stop caring for each other, and since this is a teen drama, doesn’t mean they will stop being in each other’s orbits.
But it does mean they need a step back if their love is going to survive. Well, that, a lot of explanations, and for each of them to face their own demons, literal or otherwise. You cannot depend on someone else to make you whole. You have to do that for yourself.
I HAVE TO BE LOYAL TO MYSELF FOR A CHANGE
Rose Hathaway makes the most difficult choice she has ever made in Vampire Academy 1×08 “The Trials.” She chooses herself. And though yes, she is running away from Lissa, from Dimitri, from the pain they’ve both caused her, and from a society that will never, ever find her to be enough …in a way, she’s also drawing her line in the sand. This is it. This is her breaking point. And it’s a wonder she hadn’t reached it before.
Because Rose gives and gives and gives, as Lissa said. She gives to Lissa, she gives to Dimitri, she gives to this system she’s caught in, and what does Rose take? Yes, Lissa loves her, but the society built around them has never really allowed their relationship to be equal. And yes, Dimitri loves her, but he’s not ready to choose her. He’ll let himself be beaten, but he will not let himself be loved. And Rose …she doesn’t need a victory. She needs a partner.
That’s why she goes to Mason, who has never put anything above Rose. And it’s a band-aid, not a cure. She doesn’t love Mason. Before, she might have been able to, but now she carries Dimitri in her heart, and she knows full well Mason won’t get him out. Nothing will. That’s one of the reasons why she runs. When Lissa pushed her away, Rose broke. She was hanging on to this world, this life, only because Lissa needed her, and once that feeling of not being needed or wanted took over …there was nothing left for her.
Let’s be clear, Rose knows she’s loved. Lissa loves her, she’s proved it. Dimitri loves her, he has also proved it. But their love has done little for Rose, because what she needs is to be chosen. What she deserves is to be chosen. Not unconsciously, like Dimitri does in “Beyond the Wards,” but willingly. Openly. Loudly. Like Lissa had always done. Like she stopped doing. And that’s why Rose runs. Because running is at least her choice, unlike everything else. Rose Hathaway won’t be a girl things happen to – she’ll be a girl who makes things happen, for better or worse.
I PUT YOU AT RISK
Dimitri’s choices in this episode all come from love, which isn’t an excuse for his bad decisions, it’s merely an explanation — and one that goes a long way towards, if not outright forgiving him, at least giving him a little bit of a break for being so, so wrong. Willful ignorance is the worst kind of ignorance. And though Vampire Academy Season 1 is guilty of expecting us to make some emotional and logical leaps (whether this is an editing issue, a pacing issue, or a writing one, it’s hard to tell), this isn’t the biggest one they’ve asked of us.
Being Tatiana’s champion, and well …everything else with Tatiana, comes from the same place, a need to believe there’s a way for him to still be the person he was before Rose Hathaway came into his life, the one who followed the rules, the one who didn’t want more, the one who didn’t yearn. He has to “believe” in Tatiana –without knowing the full extent of who she is (how could he, it’s not like she goes around telling dhampirs they’re worthless to her) –because if he admits he doesn’t, then everything he’s giving Rose up for …just isn’t worth it.
If Tatiana, if his faith, isn’t the way, then Dimitri is a man who gave up the love of his life for nothing. And that’s not something he can even consider, not if he wants to get up in the morning. So he makes the wrong decisions.
Of course, the truth is, Dimitri can’t go back. He can’t smother his feelings and he cannot push aside the fact that, deep down, he doesn’t believe in the system he is still desperately hanging onto anymore. He can’t. Because he’s in love with Rose, and that, in and of itself, is an act of rebellion in a world that requires Guardians to put Moroi above everyone else. That, in and of itself, breaks every rule Dimitri had ever set so he wouldn’t become like his father.
But love isn’t the problem, the world they live in is. For someone so used to existing within the confines of a dominion that has clear rules, that’s almost impossible to comprehend. Who is Dimitri without rules? Is he a horrible person? Is he someone who lets himself be ruled by emotion? And if he is …is that a bad thing? Dimitri seems to think emotions are a weakness, and that’s partly why he lets Rose beat him. Not because he doesn’t respect her enough to fight, or because he doesn’t think she can beat him fairly …it’s because he doesn’t think he deserves to win. It’s a choice, yes — love over duty — but it’s also surrender. In Dimitri’s eyes, he already lost. He already failed. She might as well just make it official. The rest is just a man who’s hit rock bottom.
Ironically, his stated “solution” in Vampire Academy 1×08 “The Trials” is the same as Rose’s …running away. He needs rules and he needs his work, his purpose. But he can only do his work if he’s not around Rose, because when he’s around Rose he cannot think straight. When he’s around Rose there are no Moroi or Strigoi, there’s only Rose and what she makes him feel. Someone else might enjoy that, but for Dimitri not being in control is pure torture. He can’t have her. He can’t stop wanting her. Even distraction doesn’t help. So he must run. Sounds like a super, duper plan that’s not going to backfire on anyone, right?
THE ISSUE SO FAR
If I had to name my one gripe with the way the first season of Vampire Academy has gone, it would be the show’s reliance on audiences just …getting it. Motivations, feelings, sometimes the show tells us something happened and expects us to just accept it and understand it, even though they haven’t really had time to show us. Mia and Meredith’s relationship, the Alchemists, Dimitri’s faith, Adrian’s …entire being. Book knowledge bridges a lot of gaps, and it allows me to view these characters with a lot more empathy than I would without it, but even so, at times …it’s hard.
This episode is an example of that, and it’s not even the most egregious one. Dimitri’s Tatiana decision is baffling not just because I cannot follow the logic and the character arc to the obvious motivation, it’s baffling because the only reason I can do so easily is I read 12 books. And though the show has usually done a good job of filling in blanks afterward, we shouldn’t have to rely on that for the things happening right now to make sense. Whatever the answer to this problem might be going forward — a few more episodes a season? — I hope the writers figure it out. I don’t enjoy side-eyeing characters and wondering what in the world they’re thinking, I truly don’t.
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