'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Game on
Welcome back to “The Vampire Diaries” thrill ride! This show became one of my unexpected favorites last season, so I was eagerly anticipating its return all summer. Tonight's season premiere was certainly worth the wait. With the characters and premise established, the actors comfortable in their characters' skins and a nicely gelled chemistry between the cast, “The Vampire Diaries” didn't waste any time kicking things into gear with its season two premiere. So let's get started with the 10 questions on my mind following "The Return":
1. Why do bad girls dress like post-makeover Sandy from "Grease"? With those skintight black pants and leather jacket, I could almost hear Katherine saying, “Tell me about it, stud.” Props to Nina Dobrev who had to play three characters, really. Not only was she Elena and Katherine, but she also had to be Katherine as Elena, an intricate mix that requires enough naughtiness to clue in the audience that she's Katherine, but also enough innocence to fool Matt (Zach Roerig), Tyler (Michael Trevino) and the rest of Mystic Falls into thinking she's Elena. The distinction between the three performance was perfectly demonstrated at the wake for Mayor Lockwood. Katherine sweetly asked Matt about Caroline's recovery (Katherine as Elena) while hinting at Damon's (Ian Somerhalder) “miraculous” hand in the matter. Then she swooned over Matt's eyes (all 100% boy-crazy Katherine, but who can blame her? It's Matt.). When Elena showed up at the wake, the trifecta was complete.
2. Why did Katherine come back to Mystic Falls? She told Stefan (Paul Wesley) it was for him, but I think we know better than to trust anything she says. If it was for Stefan, why now? Did she hear through the grapevine –- Isobel maybe? -- that he was getting serious with her doppelgänger? Or perhaps her return has to do with Elena herself? We still don't know why they look alike and what the connection is between them. And as Damon pointed out, Katherine hasn't killed Elena, so she must have other plans for her.
3. Just how badass is Bonnie (Katerina Graham)? Solved! Sort of. She's not badass enough to save Caroline (Candice Accola) or to take down Katherine, but she is badass enough to give Damon a killer migraine without even having to chant. She's also smart enough to know where Damon's weakness lies. When Damon offered to give Caroline his blood to help heal her in exchange for a truce, Bonnie didn't agree to the conditions and then pointedly added, “But you'll do it anyway. For Elena.”
4. Is surfing the key to controlling one's anger? There's nothing like a funeral to bring the long-lost relatives out of the woodwork, and so we were introduced to Tyler's Uncle Mason (Taylor Kinney). We know Mason is the cool brother because he wears white linen shirts, surfs and lets Tyler drink alcohol. “He's nothing like John,” Sheriff Forbes says of Mason. “For one, he's not an ass.” We also know he's the cool one because Mayor Lockwood was so not cool. Mason seems to have some insight on Tyler's anger management issues, which he calls the curse of the Lockwoods. Mason's pretty zen for someone with a werewolf curse –- we all know that's it, right? -- so I have to wonder if he's found some way to control it. I'm also betting the curse and keeping it secret is why Mason wants nothing to do with the Council. And how great was the scene between Tyler and Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) before Mason came in? Those boys have come a long way since the pilot. They have so much hurt in common now. The loss of Vicki, the loss of a father...
5. Why didn't the ring save Jeremy and Elena's father from dying in the car accident? Solved! John (David Anders) reveals to Jeremy that the ring can't save somebody from an accident, only the supernatural. John explains this to Jeremy before giving him a speech about family legacy, which leads me to wonder if John is grooming Jeremy to take his place in the Council. Later on, Damon, who's having one hell of a pity party spiral, takes it upon himself to get rid of Jeremy's pain and snaps his neck! OMG moment #1! But then it's revealed that Jeremy's wearing John's ring, so he snaps back to life, but still isn't a vampire. I think. Sorry, Jer.
6. Why can Katherine fool Damon, but not Stefan? My theory is Damon is so fixated on Elena and wanting to believe the moment they shared was real that he can't see straight. “If you want to forget it happened, fine. But I can't,” he tells Elena forcefully. This boy has it bad. The look on Damon's face as he realized it was Katherine –- part disbelief, part “I got gypped” -- was priceless. But Stefan, as Elena's boyfriend and the one who spends the most time with her, could immediately tell something is off. I loved how forceful Stefan was against Katherine in this episode and unwilling to get caught up in her mind games. There was a silent strength and fierceness about Stefan in this episode, especially in his interaction with Katherine and in his scenes with Jeremy and John.
7. Is Elena in denial about her feelings for Damon? He sure thinks so, but when Elena said it was always going to be Stefan, I believed her. Does she care a little too much for Damon deep down? Could her feelings change? Sure, but I don't think she's actively thinking about Damon in that way at the moment. With everyone's feelings or lack thereof laid out so candidly in this episode, it should make for one interesting love square going forward.
8. Why doesn't anyone love Damon? Poor Damon got rejected by Elena and Katherine, who both gave him the “It's not you I want, it's always been and always will be Stefan” blowoff. That had to hurt. Damon and Katherine, being so alike, both go do really destructive, potentially life-ending things after their confrontation. Katherine headed to the hospital to pay a visit to Caroline (see #10), while Damon handled the rejection the best way he knew how to. He got drunk and went back to the one he really wanted: Elena. He accused her of lying about what's going on between them in a fit that was equal parts sad and angry. Damon really did two destructive things here. Not only did he attack Jeremy, but he also destroyed the one person he cares about -– Elena -– and his friendship with her. Attacking Jeremy certainly did the trick, but I think pushing his feelings onto Elena did plenty of damage to their friendship too. That brings me to...
9. Can Damon be redeemed? Should he even be redeemed? There will always be a part of Damon that is much darker than Stefan, although hello to hot, protective Stefan in this episode! The more Damon starts to feel for Elena, the easier it is to forget the bad he's done. But obviously, if Damon and Elena are going to share scenes and there is going to be a show, something or someone will have to redeem him at least a little bit. And why can't that be Stefan? For someone who goes on for most of the episode seeking Elena and Katherine's affection, Damon is pretty blind to the one person who refuses to give up on him, who is constantly sticking up for him despite the bad he does, and that's Stefan. Somebody does love you, Damon! Even after Stefan found out Damon tried to make a move on Elena, he insisted that they stick together against Katherine. He's not willing to let her destroy the part of Damon that now feels something, even if the feelings are for Elena. “She'll try to break us and how we respond to that will define us. It's our choice,” he said. Too bad Damon almost immediately succumbed to Katherine. There goes that.
10. Is Caroline going to become a vampire? Ticked off by Stefan's rejection and Damon's refusal to have a fun romp in the sack without getting into her lack of feelings for him, Katherine went to visit Caroline in the hospital. “I was hoping you could give the Salvatore brothers a message for me. Game on,” she said calmly and then proceeded to smother Caroline with a pillow! OMG moment #2! Assuming Damon's blood is still in Caroline's system and that she is really dead –- she did go limp –- it looks like Caroline is going the way of Vicki, but hopefully not off the show. I really can't take losing another awesome female character, even if she does watch “Jersey Shore.” There's still the matter of completing the transition, but I think Candice Accola would rock as a vampire, and it would be a great way to bring her (and possibly Matt, if he's let in on the secret) into the fold. As sweet as Matt and Caroline's romance and innocence about vampires is, at some point, it's going to become silly if they still don't know. And if Caroline does become a vampire, what does that mean for her relationship with Matt? I'm not sure the poor boy, who's still getting over his sister's death and mother's departure, could handle a vampire girlfriend.
Readers, what did you think of the episode? Was it worth the wait? Did you miss Alaric? Sound off below in the comments section and feel free to chime in with your thoughts on my 10 questions!
–- Vlada Gelman (follow my TV musings on Twitter at @stayingin)
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Photos: Nina Dobrev shows off her bad side as Katherine; Elena (Dobrev) tends to Stefan's (Paul Wesley) Katherine-inflicted wound. Credit: Annette Brown / CW