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The Vampire Diaries, S01E10: The Turning Point; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

vampire-diaries-s1

Originally aired 19 November 2009
Written by Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec and Barbie Kligman
Directed by J. Miller Tobin

Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder

My rating:  ★★★ stars

A solid episode moves the plot as characters examine their futures and learn about new threats in town.

This episode covers a lot of ground, with a number of little developments in multiple storylines. And, while all the material in this episode is solid, nothing in the episode reaches the level of excellence that the scenes between the Salvatore brothers reached in “History Repeating.”

The writers wisely connected the developments in multiple plotlines to the return of Logan Fell (Chris Johnson), former Founders’ Council member, as a vampire. The episode feels less disjointed than it could have without this unifying thread. Johnson’s performance is fine, if not exemplary, as a neophyte vampire trying to make sense of his new reality.

Fell’s return as a vampire alerts the Salvatore brothers to the fact that they are not the only undead Mystic Fallsians. The presence of other vampires in town will set up the major plot conflict that will take the show through the end of the first season. It also changes the nature of the relationship between the brothers, as they go from fighting each other to fighting a common enemy.

The other major plot development in this episode is the consummation of Elena and Stefan’s relationship. This seems to happen too quickly in the series, which could have gotten more narrative mileage out of the consummation of its major relationship. However, the writers seem more interested in drawing a distinction between their series and Twilight. In this episode, when Stefan tries to break things off with Elena “for her own good,” she boldly tells him that she is capable of making any decisions regarding her own good and that he should only end his relationship with her if he’s not interested in her romantically. She goes on to tell him that she loves him before kissing him like she’s trying to suck the oxygen out of his lungs. The way this plays out is about as subtle as the writers placing a crawl at the bottom of the screen that reads, “Look! This isn’t Twilight! Elena’s not Bella!”

Thematically, the episode revolves around what direction the future is going to take, and, appropriately, the special occasion is Career Night at the school. One revelatory scene shows Stefan explaining to Elena that he can never really have a career, that he can never plan for the future, because he must live a peripatetic existence so people won’t notice he doesn’t age.

The Career Night interplay between Tyler and Jeremy is also a high point of the episode. McQueen does a good job of conveying Jeremy’s relative youth compared to the rest of the high schoolers. When Jeremy tries to buddy up to Tyler after discovering their mutual interest in the arts, Tyler turns on him, annoyed at the overeager freshman. Jeremy explains his excitement at finding someone else who shares his love of sketching, “It’s just something else we have in common.” Tyler puts any notion of a budding bromance on hold, however, when he replies, “And what’s the other thing? Vicki? ‘Let’s hang out because we did the same chick?’ Go be friends with one of the many other guys that she’s screwed. There’s no shortage of them.” We see a little of the old, pre-Damon’s-compulsion Jeremy return when he responds by slamming Tyler into a bank of lockers.

Tyler’s father, Mayor Lockwood, tells the boys to settle their differences like men with a no-holds-barred bout of bare-knuckle boxing in the school parking lot. He goes so far as to shove Tyler into Jeremy and, ultimately, prove that, for Tyler, the colt doesn’t fall far from the jackass tree. Alaric steps in, and, in a moment that just doesn’t work, squares off with Mayor Lockwood in an alpha-male pissing contest. I just don’t think an egomaniacal, power-mad sonuvabitch would back down as quickly as Lockwood does.

The episode also features a little signal about where Tyler’s storyline is headed. Viewers who pay close attention and readers of the book might pick up an inkling of what’s going on after a final tussle between Tyler and Jeremy. Jeremy asks Tyler, “What’s your problem?” and low-angle shot of Tyler shows him framed against the night sky, full moon gleaming in the background, as he responds, “I don’t know, okay. I don’t know.” Tyler and the viewers will eventually learn what his problem is, but not until season 2.

This episode does offer a few revelations of its own, however. In addition to existence of other vampires in Mystic Falls, we learn that Alaric is not a vampire, but, rather, a vampire hunter. Although I didn’t buy Alaric’s face-off with Mayor Lockwood, Matt Davis does a good job in showing the reaction Alaric has when he stakes Logan Fell, like he’s surprised he managed to pull it off. Also, before he gets staked, Logan reveals to Damon that there’s still way into the tomb, where Katherine is trapped, even though the crystal that doubles as a magic key has been destroyed.

One revelation is news only to Elena, not the viewers. She discovers the tintype of Katherine in Stefan’s bedroom and realizes she’s a dead ringer for Stefan’s vampire ex. Then she does something incredibly stupid and out of character. She leaves the necklace that protects her from vampire compulsion when she stalks out of the Salvatore mansion. Elena has generally been presented as savvier than someone who would leave behind something that important for her own safety just because she’s piqued with Stefan. She’s quick on the uptake earlier in the episode when she figures out Logan Fell is a vampire all on her own. She just doesn’t seem like she would be so stupid as to leave herself vulnerable no matter how angry she is with Stefan.

One minor development that indicates the richness of the series is the nascent friendship between Damon and Sheriff Forbes. Even though she’s a vampire hunter and he’s hiding from her the fact that he’s a vampire (not to mention his completely douchey exploitation of her daughter), they show a growing willingness to work together. Although it might seem that Damon is just taking advantage of her lack of knowledge, Damon seems to like her growing respect for him and her belief that he’s a good guy, not because of the edge it gives him, but because it makes him feel good about himself.

Ultimately, the episode is strong. It’s just not outstanding, like I think it could have been.

Continuity:

The rules that Damon and Logan discuss for vampires needing an invitation to enter a dwelling are slightly different from the rules that are presented later in the season. The later version of the rules end up being codified as canonical in the series. Under the later rules, Logan would be able to enter his own home (unlike the situation he relates to Damon in this episode) because no human would live there now that he’s a vampire.

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