Season 2, Episode 1 (“The Return”)
She’ll try to break you. She’ll try to break us. And how we respond to that will define us. It’s our choice.
We have arrived at season 2 and I couldn’t be more excited. It is one of my favorite seasons and the really steps up its game at this point. Somewhere in this season I started to realize that this show wasn’t just fun to watch, it is actually kind of good. And this season premiere is one of the best the show has. After an entire season of hearing about Katherine and seeing her in flashbacks, we finally meet her in present day. Katherine’s return influences the actions of everyone in this episode, and Stefan is right, their response to her does define them. Damon is reeling from the pain she has caused and he makes a choice that he may not be forgiven for. Stefan is the one to keep a level head and tries to learn what it is that Katherine wants. We are back to good brother, bad brother, except this time it is rooted in what we have learned about these characters.
The whole episode is leading up to this moment where Damon finally snaps, despite Stefan and Elena’s attempts to keep him calm. They are so concerned with the impact that Katherine’s return will have on Damon that they let go the fact that he tried to kiss Elena. Stefan wants to fight Damon, but he doesn’t want Katherine to succeed in coming between them. But Damon is hurt. For a few hours, he thought he had kissed Elena and she kissed him back. Then he finds out that it was just Katherine playing a trick on him. Then to add insult to injury, Elena says she would never do that and she is surprised he would think that she would. He tries to goad Stefan into a fight, but he won’t rise. He wants to fight someone, but no one will. When both Katherine and Elena say that they don’t love him, “it’s always been Stefan”, he finally breaks. He snaps Jeremy’s neck right in front of Elena. Jeremy of course is fine because he has that ring, but Damon didn’t see it.
This may be the worst thing he has done or will ever do on the show. It is certainly a debatable topic (his treatment of Caroline in season 1 is a contender). But it is a classic Damon response. When he feels hurt, he lashes out. Part of the reason he shut out his emotions for so long, is that he feels things too deeply. Whatever emotion he is feeling, love, anger, hurt, it consumes him. It’s easier not to feel, to not have an emotional stake in anything, because then you can’t be hurt.
We don’t yet learn anything more about Tyler’s situation but we meet his Uncle Mason, the cool surfer uncle. He continues to deal with his rage issues and Mason calls it their family curse. We saw last season that the mayor had violent tendencies and apparently Mason does too, but he has learned to control his anger. Whatever the reason for this anger, because it’s The Vampire Diaries (and that they were affected by the anti-vampire weapon), we can be reasonably sure that the reason is supernatural. Mason is apparently not a vampire believer despite being a member of one of the Founding Families. Clearly there is a lot more to Uncle Mason and Tyler’s story but we are going to have to wait to find out.
Season 2 wastes no time raising the stakes from the previous season. Plot is happening more quickly and it is putting our main characters in positions to either rise up or fall. Those are the kind of plots that are much more interesting and the show does a lot more of after the first season. I was initially surprised with how quickly everyone figures out that Katherine is back, I thought she would continue impersonating Elena for a while before anyone caught on. But within the first ten minutes of the episode everyone has figured it out. I am glad for this because the characters’ response to her is much more interesting than anything that could have happened while she was pretending. Katherine ends the episode smothering Caroline with a pillow when she has vampire blood in her system. She does it just to send a message to the Salvatores. She isn’t going anywhere, and if they don’t play along she doesn’t care who gets hurt. More of the characters are being pulled into the supernatural drama and it’s about time.
Episode Grade: A-
- Elena: “I thought with all the tomb vampires gone, things would get better” – sorry Elena they never do.
- None of the people at the wake seem to be dressed for one. Stefan is in jeans and a t-shirt. I don’t feel like the Lockwoods are the type of people to have a casual wake.
- Jeremy and Tyler sort of bonding was nice. Jeremy agrees with Tyler that his dad was a dick which at first Tyler seems to be taken aback by but then is appreciative of Jeremy’s honesty.
- Damon: “You want to shut out the pain,? It’s the easiest thing in the world. The part of you that cares, it just goes away. All you have to do is flip the switch and snap!”
- Body Count: none, but not for lack of trying.