The following contains spoilers for Vampire Academy S1E10, “Ascension” (written by Marguerite MacIntyre and directed by Geoffrey Wing Shotz)
Vampire Academy has been filled with chaos and blood since its premiere on September 15th earlier this year. The lead-up to the finale has been messy, over-the-top, and certainly entertaining.
What Happened in Vampire Academy S1E10 “Ascension”
Vampire Academy S1E10, “Ascension”, begins in the middle of the Strigoi attack. When Christian Ozera (André Dae Kim) and the Dhampirs bargain with his Strigoi parents for Mia Karp (Mia McKenna-Bruce), the wards are turned off, allowing the ambush. I liked that this made Christian finally come to terms with his parents’ disloyalty to him, although it was unexplained how the Strigoi got a hold of Mia Karp. There may have been less elaborate ways to get the Strigoi past the wards.
The evacuation plan has buses ready to take royal Moroi to safety, leaving non-royals and Dhampirs to fend for themselves against the Strigoi. Planting this class distinction, repeating the mistakes of the Titanic’s evacuation, makes for an excellent Season 2 class war arc; if only they use the opportunity. They’ve done what they can to compare Tatiana Vogel (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) to the Alt-Right; they’ve clearly intended to replicate real politics in this fantasy world. Not very covertly, but well played for a younger audience.
Lissa Dragomir (Daniela Nieves) and Queen Marina (Pik-Sen Lim) are taken to a secure location to wait out the battle; the Queen will not leave the dominion until all her subjects are safe or the war is won. Someone has attempted regicide by poisoning Queen Mariana’s feeder; she’s slowly dying. Lissa starts secretly healing the Queen, but the poison is strong; she’s only prolonging the inevitable. With the Queen’s blessing, Lissa flees when the Strigoi narrow in on them. Again, this feels like an over-complicated way to keep Lissa from the action at the beginning of the episode. However, being by the Queen’s side right before she dies means she’s the last to see her alive.
There is a sequence of flashbacks that explain how Tatiana Vogel (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) used Andre Dragomir (Jason Diaz) to orchestrate the downfall of Lissa. However, once it was revealed that she was working with Strigoi and holding Andre hostage in the previous episode, it was unnecessary to show us these scenes—the seed was already planted. At that point, we, the audience, could assume as much. The only valuable turn in that scene was Andre’s escape.
While on the run, Rose Hathaway (Sisi Stringer) senses Lissa is in distress, and Mason Ashford (Andrew Liner) comes clean, knowing Dimitri Belikov (Kieron Moore) was taken to the dungeons. However, Dimitri had already been freed by one of his superiors. Sending Rose and Mason away was a bit of a useless subplot, except for creating a slight complication at the beginning of the episode.
The two return in daylight while Dhampir guardians scramble to plan how to protect the remaining Moroi by nightfall. Meredith Beckham (Rhian Blundell) mentions the secret tunnel under the school; how she knows about it remains a mystery—hopefully, we will learn more about her backstory in another season. Rose and Dimitri clear the tunnel of Strigoi before they can start funnelling Moroi into it. Searching it, they find alchemist symbols; it’s unclear why (and remains so)—yet another element to be explored in another season.
Dimitri tells Rose he loves her right before Strigoi attacks them in the tunnel. He gets bitten, but luckily Rose’s mother swoops in to help. Mother and daughter have a sweet moment of recognition of each other’s talents, there is a levelling between the two of them.
Lissa heals the wounded Dhampir and Moroi in the square when Andre finds her. They reunite, but it’s short-lived; Christian’s Strigoi mother kills Andre. His surprise car crash survival and captivity feel convoluted at this point.
Christian works with the priestess to get the wards back up; they must make another stake key to turn them on. Christian realises that the magic in the stake was not bound by St. Vladimir’s blood but by his Spirit. Adding this plotline gave Christian something to do in the episode, gave us something to watch, and heightened the suspense of the evidence. Still, from a distance, in the grand scheme of everything, it doesn’t add much to the plot except reveal Lissa’s gift to the priestess—Tatiana’s aunt—perhaps putting Lissa in even more danger down the line.
The fight starts again at nightfall. Pushed by Christian, Lissa uses her spirit with the help of Rose’s light to mend the wards. The Dhampir guardians begin evacuation through the tunnel. Mason gets badly injured, but Rose is told to flee with Lissa and Dimitri.
Tatiana has Strigoi kill members of the royal council so she can push an emergency vote. Once the fighting is done, Tatiana is crowned Queen; she puts Lissa on a wanted list for the murder of Queen Marina.
Lissa and Rose flee the dominion. Christian can’t go because he’s the head of his family now that his aunt is dead. Rose tells Dimitri to stay behind to fight for Lissa on the inside. Rose’s mother also says goodbye and gives her daughter an emergency number if they need help—it’s her father’s. The final scene of Vampire Academy S1E10 “Ascension” is Andre Dragomir waking up as a Strigoi. This closing image potentially gives Andre’s survival in the car crash more purpose, but it’s still hard to say how he’ll contribute to the plot later because the Ozeras merely acted as Tatiana’s pawns.
Vampire Academy S1E10 “Ascension” Review
Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre have creative minds, clearly work well together, and have a history working with vampire lore from the Vampire Diaries franchise. It took a couple of episodes for me to sink into their writing, but when I was in, I was so in.
I have to say they sometimes fall into the category of writer who’s given the freedom to use curse words and then overuses that privilege making the words meaningless. It got better with time—kind of. I also must say that at some point, we see the whole naked backside of Mason while he and Rose have sex on a table… I’m not a prude! But that felt very out of place. I get that Peacock may give their shows more freedom, like HBO, but Vampire Academy isn’t True Blood. Their tones are entirely different; one is a gritty fantasy horror, and the other is a YA fantasy drama. This show would succeed more if Plec and MacIntyre better understood what kind of show they were writing.
Although they succeed by servicing the long-standing ships of the Vampire Academy book series (Lissa Dragomir and Christian Ozera, Rose Hathaway and Dimitri Belikov), their decision to give us the OG ships and then take them away was wise. It would have been hard to pull off the slow burn without boring the audience or ruining the soulmate factor because these ships are so intrinsic to the source material. This process of give and take can also appear convoluted; the struggles the couples face are obviously avoided. If Plec and MacIntyre can contrive higher stakes for these relationships, it would prove beneficial for their angle.
To my knowledge, they also added a new ship: Meredith and Mia. Meredith was after Mason while he pined for Rose in the books, but I like this Meredith better. I’ve never liked the “girl who likes the boy who’s in the love triangle; isn’t she tragic” storyline. Mia Karp is someone to root for as well; she’s different from the books; Plec and MacIntyre combined two characters, Mia Rinaldi and Natalie Dashkov. Both end up as villains to Lissa and Rose. However, Plec and MacIntyre have taken these characters’ motives, twisted them, and created a complicated character who first despises Lissa and then helps in her way. It will be interesting to see what comes of Mia should the show return for another season.
Vampire Academy has many characters, and I sometimes find it hard to keep track. Especially because sometimes you’ll get it wrong whether a character introduced matters eventually or not. Yet, Plec and MacIntyre managed not to overwhelm the audience with storylines. When you try to write it all down, the sequence of events is convoluted, over-the-top nonsense, but when it plays out on screen, it doesn’t feel longwinded or overcomplicated; it escalates the plot, heightens the stakes, and makes the show all the more enjoyable.
Over the season, the relationships between characters have become more believable and profound, which is a good sign for a TV show with the potential to run for several seasons. What’s so interesting about Plec and MacIntyre’s writing is that most characters have developed and changed through the first season, except for our protagonists, Lissa and Rose. Side characters like Meredith and Mia have grown into fleshed-out people we can understand, are curious about, and feel for. Love interests Christian and Dimitri have overcome their hardships and come out with better logic and a more complex understanding of right and wrong. Even the resident douchebag Jesse Zeklos (Joseph Ollman) and his blood whore companion Silver (Louisa Connolly-Burnham) have three dimensions now.
Yet, most of our protagonist’s development has been for the plot. We understand Lissa’s gift with Spirit, Rose is shadow-kissed, and the two have a special connection, but what deeper has changed? Lissa lost her family, status, and home, leaving the love of her life behind. Rose killed one of her close friends because he was turned Strigoi; she ran, came back, fought with her mom, made up with her mom, and left the love of her life behind. Both characters came out of the gate making sacrifices for each other, they fought, and they made up. Despite all that has happened, what they’ve been through, and the things they have done, Lissa still oozes helplessness, and Rose still radiates ego. These girls need to harden; they need more edge. Perhaps they see some things differently; perhaps they have changed but not in the ways that matter.
In Vampire Academy S1E10, Plec and MacIntyre set up multiple storylines for Season 2. They introduced the alchemists—a group of extremists. Rose and Lissa are on the run now, which is interesting because the original book by Richelle Mead starts with the two friends on the run. Plec and MacIntyre have almost rewritten the first Vampire Academy book backwards. Having pulled apart the OG ships, audiences can now pine for them to reunite. So many seeds have been planted.
Overall, I think this is an exemplary young adult fantasy drama. There’s plenty of room for more world-building in a second season and other plot points from the books to explore. Despite everything, I love this side of television where Vampire Diaries, Fate the Winx Saga and Teen Wolf live; the plot is a little contrived, and the characters are messy but lovable. I’ve grown very fond of the characters in this series and invested in the fate of the Moroi dominion. I hope we get to see more soon!