|Joseph Morgan as Klaus in "The Birthday." Photo courtesy of daemonstv.com.|
The Vampire Diaries is BACK, baby! Last night's season premiere dove right back into the going-on in Mystic Falls while burning through more plot and character development than True Blood did over the course of a whole season. "The Birthday," which picked up two months after last season's finale, was a near-perfect episode of TVD; it featured hot sex, snappy dialogue, serious gore, equally serious emotion, and an excellent twist at the end. There was so much going on that I couldn't possibly cover every element in a regular recap, so I shall instead present you with the best moments and best quotes of "The Birthday." And if I forget something (which I'm sure I will) add it in the comments!
Klaus and Stefan wreak havoc: The tease that opened the episode was a perfect example of how to build suspense, introduce a relationship, and catch up with the characters all in under three minutes. I had almost forgotten the way that Joseph Morgan can imbue Klaus with such charisma while still scaring the pants off you - he's like Eric Northman without any of that pesky humanity (and before amnesia turned him into a lovesick puppy). Paul Wesley was appropriately shocking as Bad Stefan, and it was fun to see the character's blood lust after two seasons of Stefan's constant nobility. Morgan and Wesley also managed to convey the relationship between the two characters perfectly with just a few words and some meaningful looks. An excellent way to kick off the season.
Damon in the bathtub: First of all, the visual of Ian Somerhalder sitting in a bubble bath, drinking champagne was just fabulous and perfectly Damon. Second, his playful banter with his compelled girlfriend/sex toy Andie was just the right mix of flirtation and actual concern, which set up the later scene where Stefan kills her in order to scare Damon away. Third, we then got to watch a naked, soapy Damon wander downstairs to surprise Elena. More, please!
Stefan's internal turmoil: Damon and Alaric (together again!) investigate Stefan and Klaus' latest crime scene. The visual of Damon nudging the blond girl's knee and causing her head to fall off was grotesque in the best way possible, and his explanation of Stefan's behavior - he's a true ripper and goes into a blood lust that causes him to tear bodies apart, but then he feels bad and puts them back together - is just beyond creepy. I honestly think the remorse makes his behavior more frightening; his hunger is so strong that it completely wipes out all his human instincts.
Serious bystander effect: The scenes in which Stefan and Klaus tortured werewolf Ray (David Gallagher) as part of Klaus' attempt to make more hybrids would have been creepy enough on their own, what with Stefan's heartlessness and the excellent new game of Truth or Wolfsbane Dart. The element that pushed the scenes from unsettling to disturbing, however, was the fact that Stefan had compelled the other patrons of the bar not to help the poor wolf. An entire bar full of people just hung out in the background, drinking and playing pool, while Klaus tortured and killed Ray. Talk about the bystander effect.
Jeremy and Matt have a surprising heart-to-heart: I really enjoyed the dynamic between Jeremy and Matt in this episode. These are two characters who have lost a lot at the hands of the supernatural beings of Mystic Falls, and Steven R. McQueen and Zach Roerig have excellent bro-chemistry (or bromistry, as I would call it if I enjoyed making up stupid words), so their friendship seems natural. The minor but compelling twist in their scenes tonight came from the fact that, when Jeremy told Matt that he was seeing the ghost or spirit or something of Vicki (a.k.a. Matt's sister), Matt didn't believe him. It wasn't at all the way I thought the scene would play out, and serves as yet another example of the ways in which the show's writers always manage to surprise the audience.
Elena finds out the truth about Stefan: After finding out that Damon had been tracking Klaus and Stefan without her, Elena confronts him about it only to find out that it has been Stefan, not Damon, who has been leaving a swath of bodies in his wake. (At least she didn't see the dismembered corpses in Memphis, because that might have put her over the edge.) The utterly fantastic Nina Dobrev managed to convey Elena's heartbreak beautifully with her facial expressions, as the character came to the realization that the love of her life is a monster.
And Elena is officially the best girlfriend ever: And yet, being the tough girl that she is, Elena manages to get past her shock in order to be there for Stefan. Their phone call at the end of the episode was another great emotional moment, and this time Paul Wesley was the one to knock it out of the park. The look on his face as Elena told him that she loved him, and that he had to hold on to that love, was a perfect mixture of self-loathing, fear, sadness and love. Thank you, TVD casting directors, for being awesome!
Now there is some sexual tension: Caroline and Tyler spent most of the episode ignoring the sexual tension between them; no small feat, considering that tension was so thick it was a wonder anyone else could walk between them. There were some great moments added in that showcased both characters' frustration - Tyler dirty dancing with a girl named "Slutty Sophie," Caroline lifting someone off the ground in order to clear her path through the dance floor - but the ultimate payoff came in the hot, hot, HOT sex scene at the Lockwood mansion. Candace Accola and Michael Trevino have fantastic chemistry, and the scene was satisfying both for the characters and the viewers watching at home. Of course, this being TVD, all good things must come to an end...
From awkward to terrifying: As Caroline attempted to sneak out of the Lockwood's house, she was confronted by Tyler's mother. It was an awkward situation that quickly deteriorated into a kidnapping as Mrs. Lockwood, having doused Caroline's purse in vervain, proceeded to shoot her with vervain darts until the poor vampire was lying helpless on the floor. And... end credits! As usual, I can't wait for next week.
"I promise I'm not a serial killer. I just want to use your phone." Has anyone ever said this who hasn't been a serial killer?
"Just because I tell you things doesn't mean you are allowed to know them!" I love the teenage drama queen/badass vampire dichotomy of Caroline Forbes. Hats off to Candace Accola!
"I'm every parent's worst nightmare. I'm the chaperone teacher from hell." Considering you're getting drunk at a party full of underage high school students (who are also getting drunk) I would say yes, Alaric. Yes you are. (On a side note, I'm really interested to see where Alaric's character goes this season. Based on the premiere, it seems that he's having the most visible trouble dealing the events from last season, and I'd love to see how that plays out over the course of the next few episodes, as well as how his relationship with Elena and Jeremy evolves now that he is basically the last parental figure they have left. So far, he's not doing such a good job with that.)
"You don't want that. You want the cheap young stuff over by the cheap young people." Gotta love a man who appreciates a good bottle of Scotch.
"You never stop caring about your family, do you? But whenever you feed, the blood makes it easier." Joseph Morgan is just mesmerizing as Klaus. I can't take my eyes off him.