I hate you…. The beautiful beginning of a love story?
Let me start off by stating the obvious: The Vampire Diaries did not lose its game over the summer. It stepped up and shocked us again. We knew Katherine Pierce was a hellraiser but man, seeing her in action in present-day Mystic Falls brings a whole new level of intensity. In one of the bonus features on the TVD DVDs (can’t remember if it was the Paley Fest talk or the pilot commentary or what), Kevin Williamson said they want the show to have the same intensity as an episode of 24. I have to say “The Return” was one of the most stressful TV viewing experiences I’ve had in a long time — in the best way possible.
Tyler & the Lockwood Curse: Really like how this is shaping up so far. Relatively slowly for The Vampire Diaries, we see Tyler dealing with his father’s death, see him reconnect, briefly, with Jeremy as he did after Vicki’s death, and we meet his chilled surfer Uncle Mason. (Never thought I’d say this but: how many handsome men can one show have? It makes it hard to concentrate on what they are saying when there are sooo many of them.) While I’ve learned that no TVD character is as simple as he seems at first, I’m happy to see a guy enter Tyler’s life who can help him control his rage. Susan Walters as Carol Lockwood puts in a great performance in this episode: she may only have two scenes (one with Liz Forbes and one with Tyler) but her portrait of the grieving and angry widow and confused mother to a violent son, perhaps a little too reminiscent of the late Mayor for her, is pitch-perfect. (Also, I’m cool with the Lockwood Mansion and its grounds becoming a more frequent location in season 2; that place looks good on camera.)
Katherine and Damon and Stefan and Elena: To understate the situation, this is a complicated love quadrangle made infinitely more complex by Damon’s actions in the last moments of the episode (more on that in a minute).
Stefan seemed like the most intense version of himself in “The Return”: from literally slapping some sense into Jeremy in order to protect him, to scaring the pants off Uncle John (and me) in the hospital by feeding him his own blood, to playing along with Katherine to see what her game is, to backing down with Damon when his dukes went up. Stefan has shown all of these sides before (threatening Ben the Bartender to get out of town, playing along with Damon in “History Repeating”…) but Stefan, The Return Edition, is somehow even more Stefan than he has ever been before. He’s on top of his game — and it keeps him from falling victim to Katherine like his big brother does. Like Stefan says to Damon (in one of his wisest speeches ever), “how we respond to [Katherine] will define us.”
Consider Damon defined by his response. The back-to-back heartbreak that he suffers from Katherine and Elena brings out the beast again, just as Elena feared Katherine’s return would. In the first half (two-thirds?) of the episode, Damon is on his best behavior: he comes to the aid of Sheriff Forbes, he mediates her conflict with Carol Lockwood, and he saves Caroline’s life (and before the smothering at the end, I thought that was so fitting that he save her after the way he abused her at the beginning of season 1).
Elena worried that if Stefan confronted Damon for kissing her it would set him off in an already volatile situation, but it’s her words that start his unraveling. Damon and Elena have always been honest with each other — they call it like they see it — but Damon isn’t capable of handling what she tells him at the Lockwood Mansion. Or what Katherine tells him after their super hot make-out session. Or what Elena reiterates to him in her bedroom. It will always be Stefan.
I think Elena was being completely earnest and honest with Damon — she loves Stefan — but I also think Damon was absolutely right in what he said to her. That there is (well, was) something between them, something Elena wouldn’t admit to herself. Pushing himself on her was such an idiot move (though I personally never felt like things were going to get violent à la Chuck Bass season 1 or, even more harrowing, that one Spike and Buffy scene — maybe because Elena didn’t seem frightened by him?).
Now the unforgivable act: killing Jeremy. I’m with Elena, not Stefan, on this one. I don’t think Damon saw that Jeremy was wearing the Gilbert protective ring (especially judging by his own reaction to his actions). I don’t think Katherine is responsible for what Damon did. And certainly Elena rejecting him doesn’t justify his actions. It’s all on Damon. He did it because he knew it would hurt Elena more than anything he could do to her. It was such a Damon move — and yet so totally unlike the Damon we’d come to know over the second half of season 1. Utterly heartbreaking. To see him fall so quickly. And poor Elena to witness her brother murdered. I was so upset during this sequence. The moment of Jeremy coming back to life cradled in Elena’s arms…
The cliffhanger: As if that wasn’t enough, Caroline. Jaw dropped. Total shock. I never in a million years saw that coming. First off: I am really excited to see what kind of vampire Caroline will be. A human’s personality is intensified in her change into a vampire — how will Caroline act around Matt, her mother, Elena, Bonnie, or Damon?? Who will provide the human blood to finish her transition: a friend or a stranger? (I wonder if they’ll re-purpose a scene from the books for Caroline, if you know what I mean, Book Readers.) I’m also really happy for Candice Accola to get the opportunity to vamp out. That girl is crazy talented and I think she’s going to shine with some fangs in.
But our darling human Caroline is gone. She’s a character I have always loved, and we’ve watched her struggle with being on the edge of the supernatural world. Here she’s used as a pawn once again. I guess Katherine also believes in killing the messenger to send a message.
Other thoughts & questions:
- The kitchen stabbing in the opening of the episode was slightly modified — an excuse for Jenna to leave the house added in as well Stefan’s replies to Elena on the phone (the lack of which was something that bugged me in “Founder’s Day”). Also modified: the title card font! I am on the fence about the new font!
- What did Elena tell the cops about Uncle John’s stabbing? Did she tell them it was a loose tomb vampire like she originally thought? Will the Founders Council continue its hunt for vamps?
- The earrings Elena was wearing during the Visit John in the Hospital scene were weird and not very Elena-y. That is all.
- Notice how both Katherine and Damon were snacking on fruit at the Lockwood Mansion as they bantered with Stefan and Bonnie respectively. Two of a kind…
- The piano covers at the wake for Mayor Lockwood were driving me crazy — just couldn’t put my finger on the songs. Worry not: Vampire-Diaries.net has the songlist for the episode here.
- Does Stefan have any feelings — besides hatred — for Katherine? They certainly have serious sparkage and she seems to think he felt something for her. I think, like Elena’s feelings for Damon, Stefan’s for Katherine are a lot more complicated than pure and simple hatred.
- Goodbye, Uncle John. I’m glad to see him survive the episode — he’s an interesting character and one I love to hate. For giving Jeremy his protective ring (and saving his life!!), I salute you, Uncle John, for having some shred of decency.
- I hope Bonnie starts studying the grimoire and learns how to make daylight jewelry for Caroline. Will she feel some degree of responsibility for Caroline’s undeath since she was the one who took up Damon’s suggestion that he feed Caroline his blood?
A short trailer for next week’s episode, “Brave New World,” is also on Vampire-Diaries.net (I don’t think Vee or Red has slept in days) and I bet we’ll see an extended preview up in a jiffy.
I sort of still cannot believe that the show is back, let alone back and already blowing our minds. There’s sooooo much to talk about already. Any major things I’ve glossed over — like bad-ass Bonnie or genius one-liners or Katherine’s boots? Sound off below!