A lot of the smarter comic books, and comic book movies, have set that up too, of late: The reveal at the end is that the bad guy did it all so that you would become a better hero. And you know, I was quite taken with this idea in the '90s, the idea that if I only learn about myself through the darker moments, maybe that's true of everybody, and so there's something to the idea of supervillains.
And then too, you may remember a show several years ago in which people would be hooked up to lie detectors and asked more and more personal questions. I remember seeing universal horror in response, and being so confused by it: That doesn't sound like torture to me, it sounds like church. You're only as sick as your secrets, right? It sounds like the most beautiful thing imaginable, just being given the opportunity to come clean.
Because what I figured out, once I decided that supervillains are necessary, is that actually they totally are not. Life is going to do that anyway. Regardless of whether or not you're doing it for somebody else's betterment, you are still being an asshole. We are not put here to help in that way. You are doing yourself more damage than you are helping the other person. The sum total is still negative, for the world, because of what you've done. So if Dan's intention was to strengthen them, that would be problematic. Except he's way too selfish for that; his intention was negative, not even fake-positive.
They're all adjusting to the horrible cataclysm of Dan's obsession with them the only way you can, after the fact: By looking at the good parts. What we've learned. Over the first season of the show, Serena did the same thing with the natural disaster that is Blair Waldorf: Blair did the worst shit to her, out of no purer motive than a hate born of crazy love, and it did make Serena better. But it didn't make Blair better. Only being loved by Serena did that. Only by taking all that damage and violence and saying, "I can take it, because I love you." That's how she tamed Blair. And maybe that's what she's doing now.
It's nothing we haven't talked about before, but it's the end of the story and the episode and the season and the series, so maybe it's worth thinking about again: The people who love you shine what was already there, and the people who hurt you burn off what's not working. Within yourself, you can be grateful for the experience, and compassionate toward them for being driven that far. That's very different from accepting them for what they did. There's kindness and then there is stupidity.