In a dark season premiere, Elena completes her vampire transition

Season 4, Episode 1 (“Growing Pains”)
Nina Dobrev (Image: The CW)

The Vampire Diaries kicks off season 4 with what is probably one of the darkest season premieres it ever has. Elena is in transition and the episode primarily deals with the emotional fall out of that development. She never wanted to become a vampire and even in this episode she continues to resist the transition as long as she possibly can. She and Stefan hold on to the hope that Bonnie will be able to find a magical way out of it. She holds out hope and resists until she has no choice but to feed. She is saved in the nick of time by blood as she gives into her fate and becomes a vampire.

Absolutely no one is happy with what happened. Elena never wanted to become a vampire, and no one wanted it for her. All episode she is struggling to deal with the effects of the transition. She becomes sensitive to light, food tastes repulsive as she starts to crave blood, and she is starting to get her memories back. Stefan and Matt are feeling guilty for their part in Elena’s fate. Matt is having survivor’s guilt. He knows that it is because he kidnapped her and tried to get her out of town, that they were in the accident in the first place. Also that Stefan saved him before Elena because it is what she wanted. Stefan regrets his choice to listen to Elena and save Matt first. Even though he wouldn’t want Matt dead, because he listened to Elena she is now the thing she never wanted to be. Damon is angry as well for Matt being the one to live, and Elena having to give up the life she wanted. Jeremy doesn’t want to lose his sister, who is all he has left, to the vampires. He has already hated that she has been so intertwined with them and now she is one of them.

Another fallout from the season 3 finale is that the Founder’s Council now knows who the vampires are in town. Pastor Young takes over as the leader of the council, since Liz and Carol are compromised. He and the rest of the council start rounding up the vampires so that they can kill them. They know that if they kill the Originals they can rid the world of all vampires. They capture Rebekah and Stefan to lure the others out. However, this plan doesn’t really work as Damon and Matt show up to save Stefan and Elena, and Klaus never shows up for Rebekah. Klaus is more concerned with getting back into his body, saving Caroline, and then leaving town to create more hybrids that he doesn’t care much about helping out Rebekah. Rebekah is hurt over his constant rejection of her despite the fact that she has always stood by him. She retaliates by destroying the rest of his bags of Elena’s human blood so he can’t create more hybrids.

After the vampires escape, every member of the council ends up getting blown up, along with the town’s entire vervain supply. Pastor Young who had been spearheading the vampire round up, is the one to purposefully cause the gas leak at his farmhouse that blows them all up. Right before they all die he says “Fear not for I have been chosen to lead us in a movement. Hear me, loved ones. Soon we’ll be free to pass through the gates, and we’ll all reunite in eternity. Friends, we are the beginning”. This is a good, mysterious set up for what it is to come this season. They show is finally moving beyond the Originals as the “big bad” and setting up something else, which is very needed at this point. As someone who loves cult-like mysteries, I was very excited for this development. Why would the pastor, who was rounding up all of the vampires, kill the very people in charge of protecting the town from the vampires?

I really liked this episode, it is a a very effective season premiere that makes me excited for what it is to come. It is very different tonally than other seasons. There is much more of a sense of doom as Elena becomes a vampire and the council is blown up. It feels like a new era of The Vampire Diaries. It is an appropriate response to the main character, whose defining characteristic has been her humanity, becoming a vampire. It does end with some hope as Elena says that at least she gets to live and be with the people she loves. Instead of trying to live their lives in the face of all the darkness, she has to begin to figure out a new life.

Episode Grade: A

Other Thoughts:

  • I am not a fan of the new “previously on” style. It is made so that people who have never watched the show can get caught up on the gist, but this really isn’t where you want to start The Vampire Diaries.
  • Elena: “Am I dead?”
  • Damon: “It’s your choice Elena. As always”
  • Pastor Young: “Where ever you go, Salvatore vampires seem to follow”
  • Klaus uses his Tyler disguise to make out with Caroline, but gives himself away by calling her “love”
  • Bonnie is tapping into dark magic to try and bring Elena back, as well as stopping and starting Jeremy’s heart, putting Klaus in Tyler’s body. Her abuse of magic is starting to catch up with her.
  • Stefan: “So every morning you get out of bed, you sure as hell better earn it”
  • Body Count: 2 + the Founder’s council. Stefan kills the guard in order to get Elena human blood. Damon kills one of the other guards by using they guy’s own rifle to stab him in the chest.

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