The Vampire Diaries: Season 2 - The Return (First episode reviewed)
Review by Jack Foley
What’s the story? Picking up on the same night (Founder’s Day) as last season’s finale, Elena (Nine Dobrev) arrives home to a nightmare as she discovers Uncle John’s and Jeremy (Steven R McQueen)’s fate. The Salvatore brothers, meanwhile, quickly realise that Katherine (again played by Dobrev) has returned to cause mayhem and stir up things between them. But while Stefan (Paul Wesley) aims to put a stop to her immediately, brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) finds his ruthless side compromised by the feelings he still holds for both Katherine and now Elena.
Our verdict: The second season of The Vampire Diaries hit the ground running on Tuesday night, setting up plenty of intrigue and introduing the odd new character for the 23 episodes that will follow.
Having developed a knack for packing lots in during the second half of its hit-and-miss first season, the show seems to have a more defined sense of its own identity and is now more aware of its strengths.
The decision to give Paul Wesley’s formerly ‘veggie’ vampire a more ruthless streak has worked, for instance, while placing Ian Somerhalder’s edgy Damon towards the centre of attention has also worked too.
Hence, this season two opener often thrived on cranking up the tension between them, with Damon now very much a tortured soul, torn between his killer instincts and a hitherto untapped well of emotion.
Somerhalder, too, appears to have risen to the challenge of being given a lot more to do emotionally, rather than just play the bad boy. He still relies on his eyebrows to act a little too much, but come the closing moments of this opening episode, he’d succeeded in pulling viewers’ emotions this way and that.
Dobrev, meanwhile, also has more to do, it would seem, given that she now gets to play ‘good’ and ‘bad’ thanks to the decision to bring Katherine back. But it remains to be seen how long the Katherine story arc will be indulged, particularly given the show’s penchant for discarding storylines and characters relatively quickly.
In that sense, maybe the season opener packed too much in. Damon was told twice (by Katherine and Elena) that given a choice between Salvatore brothers, the girls would always choose Stefan.
He subsequently took rejection badly and broke Jeremy’s neck, while Katherine then went and smothered Caroline as she lay in her hospital bed.
True to form, however, Jeremy qas quickly revived thanks to the return of a ring that his father once owned, while Caroline certainly has – or can get – vampire blood into her quite quickly – having already been saved once in this episode by such a plot device.
But a lot of the above happened in the final 10 minutes… and one plot twist, Jeremy’s apparent death, was undone almost as quickly as it had arrived.
Perhaps the writers don’t credit their viewers with too much of an attention span, but they could have dwelled on that one a little longer, or at least left that as the cliffhanger ending without feeling the need to bring in Caroline as well.
Plus, killing off and then reviving characters can be a dangerous tactic, too, depriving the show of any real suspense or sense of peril (as has previously been the case with shows such as Heroes and Lost).
Not that this season opener was bad. It certainly held our attention and lay down some potentially interesting markers for the future. And it should certainly be interesting to see how Damon copes with being in such an exposed position emotionally – for he remains the show’s most interesting character and its primary reason for tuning in.
What did you think?