When I think back to the end of season two, I remember a me that was so stoked to see Ripper Stefan: a bloodthirsty and violent vampire that spent more time sucking the blood out of a young lady than talking about his feelings with her.  Y’know, just to switch it up.  Even Damon (who is supposed to be the more rebellious of the brothers) had gotten all mushy over Elena.  But aside from a few memorable moments – who could forget the head of that girl in Tennessee plopping off? – Ripper Stefan hasn’t been all that tough.  He never forgets his feelings for Elena – for a few episodes, he’s compelled not to feel them – and he never truly goes evil.

The season so far has been mostly about dealing with the past.  Quite literally we learn about Klaus’ past, as piece by piece we meet new members of his vampire family – Rebekah, his sister, and his father Mikael.  We learn their story and how his mother was the first witch who made them all vampires.  We also get a glimpse at the very first werewolves, one of whom fathered Klaus.  It’s a supernatural history lesson.  Or a Mystic Falls ancient scrapbook, depending on how you look at it.

More than that, though, the season has been about owning up to your past and dealing with the consequences of it.  Bonnie brought Jeremy back from the dead and pissed off the ancient witches who were giving her strength, and she also unwittingly gave Jeremy the power to see the dead.  The dead included his old girlfriend Anna, and the sparks between them rekindled.  Klaus had to face the father that had been hunting him down for hundreds of years, and Rebekah had to face her fear of living alone.  Tyler was turned into a hybrid, and though it made his werewolf transformations easier, his new sired loyalty to Klaus caused a rift between him and Caroline.  Even Katherine couldn’t escape the bond she has with Stefan, forged over years of love and longing.  She was often the ringleader of whatever new scheme they had cooked up to get rid of Klaus.

Which brings us to Elena and Damon.  What aspects of their pasts are they coming to terms with?  For me, Elena made a choice this season to stop being a sad little victim.  She buffed up (pun intended), she used her wits to fight for Stefan, and when Stefan tried to guilt her with his sad-sack martyr routine in the ‘Ghost World’ episode, she refused to accept it.  She didn’t beg him to continue on for her sake; instead she demanded that he fight for himself.  As for Damon, he’s always had a soft spot for Elena, but when the time comes, he’s there for Stefan.  He fought to bring back his humanity, even though returning Stefan to his former self almost certainly means no happily-ever-after for Damon and Elena.

The season starts back up again in January with promises of Klaus getting revenge.  I can’t wait!  Klaus is the first real villain that Mystic Falls has seen, and in a way, I’m sort of rooting for him.