The switch, like the Krusty the Clown doll in “Treehouse of Horror III,” is sort of confusing. The difference between one whose switch is on and one's whose switch is off is a matter of emotions. When the switch is off, the vampire doesn't feel. TVD seems to use the switch to untangle a difficult knot. Elena's going to do something terrible, but her 'out' will be the switch. Damon delivers a monologue to her about the consequences of living without the switch on. "Because the Night" provides a motive for why Damon killed Lexi in season one. She tried to help him, and he tried to kill her for it. His humanity came back along with a rush of memories. Whenever he saw Lexi he remembered the crimes he committed, and he hated himself. Damon doesn't want that kind of baggage on Elena when she turns her switch back on.
"Because the Night" deals with issues of culpability and responsibility in a supernatural's life, specifically his or her actions. My problem with 'the switch' is mainly that it suggests not feeling is the same as a lack of choice. Damon turned off the switch in the 1970s because he wanted to--it was his choice. Elena wanted to stop feeling, knowing what would follow, and it's an active choice of the character. Stefan's lack of humanity in season three was forced upon him. He was a victim of Klaus. The switch is way to let fans still care about their favorite characters after they've made scores of innocent people their victims. Damon and Elena made/make active choices to do bad things even though they can't feel the weight of their choices.
TVD deals with death a lot in their episodes. "Because the Night" is full of death. A man Damon kills in the teaser mistakes him for the Son of Sam killer in NYC during the summer of '77; Caroline completes Silas' triangle by killing 12 witches to save Bonnie's life; there's a threat of Elena committing a murder. Different murders have different consequences. While Damon outlines the perils of living without emotions, Caroline's letting Klaus know how awful she thinks he is for the awful things he did. Caroline wonders how he could murder 12 of his own witches. Klaus tells her not to judge for she may yet fall for the darkness within him as well as the darkness within her. Silas convinces Bonnie to massacre 12 witches. The witches will want to limit her expression. Caroline, Stefan, and Klaus, try to find the spot of the massacre before it's too late. Klaus goes along with the plan because he's not interested in his old enemies returning to life after Silas breaks down the wall
Caroline kills the 12 witches to save Bonnie's life. Asia, the witch of the week, wants to kill her upon learning Silas brainwashed her. Caroline wouldn't let her friend die, so she killed Asia, who was connected with eleven other witches, and the eleven other witches fell to their deaths. TVD's been similar to the final seasons of Joss Whedon's ANGEL and Buffy with its similarities to The First and the plot of "A Hole in the World." TVD's characters don't make the tough choices. Angel made the tough choices. The effect of Caroline's choice is romantic. Caroline's upset because she killed twelve people, but she seems more wounded by Klaus' rejection of her in her moment of need. Klaus, who IS similar to Dawson Leery, instructs her to find someone dark enough to understand and comfort her. Somehow, a massacre is still about whether or not a boy likes a girl or a girl likes a boy. Ah, The Vampire Diaries.
Bonnie's absolved of the massacre. Stefan's with her when she wakes up in bed, forgetful of everything since her and Jeremy were in the well on the island. She doesn't know what's happened. Silas had her brainwashed. TVD removed the similarities between Silas and The First by having Silas reveal that he is Silas-as-Shane and that Shane is dead. Meanwhile, Elena and Rebekah teamed up to find the cure before Damon. Damon's get his neck snapped and wakes up to find out his girls are on the way to meet Katherine. Stefan doesn't chew his brother out for the mistake because he basically helped complete the massacre triangle.
"Because the Night" doesn't come to a conclusion about its various character and their sometimes murderous choices. Earlier in the season, in "Memorial," Stefan thinks he isn't different from Klaus. In fact, none of his friends are. They've all done bad things. Stefan's realization was a highlight of the series, but it seems to have been forgotten. TVD's never going to vilify their heroes regardless of how horrible their choices are. The story needs its good folk and bad folk. One's bloody past does not define a character. One's always able to reform and redeem. So, yes, the show sends mixed messages about a character's agency whenever that character is turned off, and it sends mixed messages about a character's agency whenever they're turned on. The heroes save the people who matter to them rather than sacrifice a life to save hundreds or thousands. The consequences usually are minimal and quite often forgotten by the next episode. That's one of the aspects of TVD I dislike.Other Thoughts:
-There won't be a fun prom episode nor graduation episode this season, will there? There are five episodes left, including the backdoor pilot for The Originals, which leaves just three episodes prom, graduation, and no, that's not going to happen. Oh well, I'll have to wait for the fifth season for a fun prom episode. The high school characters don't go to school. Perhaps the high school setting will be dropped under the pretense they weren't able to attend prom or graduation because of days missed plus detentions missed.
-Nina Dobrev had a new hair style. She looked lovely. Dobrev's streak of red in hair is going to inspire a wave of pre-teen and teenage girls to get their hair colored in one spot. I know it will. I love the idea that Elena's without her humanity and that she shows it off by having a streak of red in her hair.
-TVD should never set any story in a punk rock club. Punk rock crowds in the 1970s didn't jump and down. Punk rock crowds were insane. Modern punk crowds are insane. Anyone watching a band play in TVD jumps and down like they are at a Super Bowl halftime show. Punk crowds are too intense for The CW's demographic. So, yeah, the punk rock element of "Because the Night" was horrible.
-I didn't write down the names of the credited writers and director. My apologies. I feel bad when I don't mention the credited write(s) and director.