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The Vampire Diaries, S01E07: Haunted; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

vampire-diaries-s1

Originally aired 29 October 2009
Written by Andrew Kreisberg, Kevin Williamson, and Julie Plec
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson

Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder

My rating:  ★★★ stars

The series loses a regular in a stylish, plot-driven episode.

It’s almost de rigueur now for a series to kill off a regular early on to “prove that anyone can die.” TVD is no exception.

“Haunted,” despite featuring the series’ first big plot development, proves somewhat of the letdown after “Lost Girls.” Little time is spent on developing characters and relationships that will move forward in the series. Instead, the episode focuses on Vicki’s decline and ultimate demise.

In the beginning, Stefan and Damon play Henry Higgins and Col. Pickering to Vicki’s Eliza Doolittle, but their version of “The Rain in Spain” strikes a discordant note. Stefan tries to teach Vicki restraint while Damon urges her to enjoy the benefits of being a vampire. Although Vicki responds more readily to Damon’s approach, eagerly asking Stefan “Yeah, why can’t I have people blood?” and jumping up and down with glee when shown some of her new vampire powers, neither brother is able to teach her control. She quickly spirals out of control, proving that drug addicts make poor vampires.

Vicki soon fixates on Jeremy, and no attempt by Elena to keep them apart works. Stefan tries to explain to Vicki that, as a vampire, her feelings are heightened and all her emotions get mixed up with hunger, so she should stay away from Jeremy. But Vicki is beyond rationality.

This episode’s notable occasion is the school’s Halloween party, and the special effects lighting and pounding music become an expressionist representation of Vicki’s declining mental state. Luckily for viewers, the DVD collection features the original music because the songs in this episode, particularly “To Lose My Life,” by White Lies (used in promotional spots as the first season’s unofficial theme song), and “Sleep Alone,” by Bats for Lashes, enhance the mood. While the directors of television shows are often interchangeable and miniscule in their importance compared to film, director Ernest R. Dickerson (Juice, Bulletproof) can be credited with the stylishness of this episode. (Dickerson also directed Somerhalder in the infamous Is-It-Real-Or-Just-An-Incredible-Simulation episode of HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me. No, I haven’t seen it. The premise of series doesn’t interest me, and I’m above renting a DVD just to see a sex scene no matter how notorious it is. Really, I am.)

This episode depends a lot on how we respond to Kayla Ewell as Vicki. Unfortunately, Ewell always seemed miscast, not nearly as erratic or fragile as the writing suggests the character should be. Someone like the too-old Samaire Armstrong, whose hot mess onThe Mentalist seems a lot closer to the writers’ conception of Vicki than Ewell’s portrayal, might have made Vicki’s tragedy more resonant.

In fact, Vicki’s death itself seems less tragic than the way it unfolds. Despite Stefan’s best efforts throughout the episode to get Vicki under control, he must stake her to save Elena. Stefan’s attempts to bring Vicki under control prove as futile as his struggles with Damon. Stefan’s whole character, so far, is built on the concept of restraint, and we’re beginning to see how untenable such restraint proves to be.

The best parts of the episode, however, involve other characters dealing with Vicki’s situation rather than with Vicki herself. Matt finally has a scene that connects with the audience. He worries that he’ll have to spend his life looking after his drug addict sister. The irony is that Elena, whom he’s talking to, and the audience all know that Vicki is already dead. More importantly, this episode is the first time we see our main trio working together, as Stefan and Elena bring Damon in to clean up the mess that Damon created. Elena shows her gumption by standing up to Damon, first, in a verbal sparring match early in the episode and, later, by smacking him after he fails to show remorse for Vicki’s death. And, yet, despite her anger at him, she proves to be practical enough to accept Damon’s help. Her interactions with him avoid cliché. As Damon slowly shifts from antagonist to ally, the relationships among Elena and the brothers show signs of change, indicating that the underlying foundation of the series is not going to get stale.

Stuff that Bothers Only Me:

No one was burned during the Salem Witch Trials. Nineteen people were hanged, one was crushed by stones, and few more died in prison. But no one was burned.

Yes, “hanged” is correct. Drapes and porn stars are hung. People are hanged.

Also, why do film and television programs always show high school kids with professionally made, perfectly fitting costumes? Everyone I knew in high school wore either homemade costumes or the cheap, plastic ones available at Target.

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