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The Vampire Diaries, S01E14: Fool Me Once; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

vampire-diaries-s1

Originally aired 11 February 2010
Written by Brett Conrad
Directed by Marcos Siega

Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder

My rating:  ★★★★ stars

Excellent episode features complex plot and emotionally powerful events.

In its original broadcast, “Fool Me Once” aired before a long hiatus, a fitting placement. The episode brings the saga of opening the tomb to a climax. This episode had the potential to be a huge failure. For months, the show had been leading up to the opening of the tomb that held Katherine and 26 other vampires trapped since 1864. The expectations for the return of Katherine, the vampire who turned the Salvatore brothers into vampires and turned them against each other, were high. So, in the face of all that build-up, the opening of the tomb to reveal that Katherine was never in there in the first place could have been a debacle on the level of Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone’s safe.

But it wasn’t. The show managed to create the sense that the shock of her not being there outweighed the disappointment of that fact.

Somerhalder has to be given credit for a large part of the success of the episode, with his heart-wrenching portrayal of Damon’s anguish at learning that Katherine was not in the tomb and was never in the tomb, and that she knew where he was, knew he was trying to rescue her, and simply didn’t care enough to contact him. Somerhalder gets a lot of flak in Internet comments for excessive smirking and eyebrow wiggling—which I tend to view as character quirks rather than detriments—but doesn’t garner nearly enough praise for his ability to depict emotional devastation without devolving into scenery chewing histrionics.

He also had some nice moments with Dobrev in this episode, particularly in the scene where Elena attempts to win over Damon’s trust after betrayal of him perpetrated by her and Stefan in the previous episode. She does so by removing her vervain necklace and allowing him to compel the truth out of her, trusting that he won’t take advantage of the opportunity to use his compulsion. That he doesn’t use compulsion at all shows how much faith in her he is willing to show.

The episode does have more than its share of betrayals, however. They proliferate, making the plot complex enough to defy easy synopsis. While the events of the episode are clear to the viewer, they are less clear when delineated verbally. One aspect of the episode that is particularly tricky to explain is the nature of the tomb’s seal. The tomb is closed by a door and by a magical seal. What Grams, the witch charged with opening the tomb, fails to reveal is that opening the door doesn’t remove the seal that prevents vampires from leaving, so vampires can enter the tomb through the open door and end up trapped by the mystical seal. This is the kind of fantasy set-up that non-fantasy viewers don’t appreciate. They don’t understand that the mystical mishegas is not important. It’s like a MacGuffin, serving to forward an important thematic or emotional point, but unimportant in and of itself.

What is important in this set-up is: 1) Stefan’s willingness to entrap himself in a tomb indefinitely because Elena might be in danger; 2) Elena’s and Stefan’s guilt for getting Damon caught in the tomb even though they were not aware of the witchy double cross; and 3) Bonnie’s crazed drive to open the seal regardless of the price, which proves to be awfully steep by the end of the episode.

The writers put in a nice plant early in the episode regarding this price. When Bonnie and Elena are being held by Anna’s vampire minion, he says, “Witches don’t have eternal life, right? So you can die?” Bonnie answers, “Yeah, we can die.” Smugly, he replies, “Wow. That sucks.” Not only does this exchange foreshadow Grams’s death from overexertion as a result of opening the seal, but it plays ironically because the smug vampire minion doesn’t survive the episode either.

The episode features a number of nice little touches, separate from the main story. An astute moment happens when Caroline reaches for Matt’s hand in front of Elena and Damon. Matt is so Elena-focused that he sees Caroline as being clingy and showing off for Elena, not realizing that Caroline is looking for assurance in front of her own ex, Damon, who treated her like crap. That Matt thinks about ending his budding relationship because his girlfriend wants to hold his hand calls into question their long-term viability as a couple. The actions of both Matt and Caroline seem true and uncontrived, like real teenage awkwardness.

Another little moment at the party that depicts on-target character interaction was when a drunk Tyler tries to hit up Jeremy for some pot. Jeremy can’t believe that Tyler, who’s always acted like a bullying ass toward him, has the nerve to ask. Drunk Tyler sees nothing wrong with his request—he wants pot, and Jeremy’s been known to sell it.

Jeremy blossoms as a character in this episode. He rejects his past to Tyler, proclaiming that he’s drug free. He recognizes that others see him as a pathetic loner. Not liking this image of himself, he shows relief when Anna arrives at the party, proving he’s not a complete loser/loner. (Of course, Jeremy is unaware that Anna comes to the party with the intention of using all those young, sanguine teenagers as involuntary blood donors for the vampires she plans to release from the neighboring tomb and that she’s particularly interested in Gilbert blood because it was Jeremy’s ancestor who betrayed her mother 145 years earlier.) Finally, Jeremy proves that he’s more aware than people give him credit for when, at the end of the episode, he realizes something supernatural is going on in Mystic Falls and starts searching on the Internet for information about vampires.

In addition to Jeremy’s newfound knowledge, Grams’s death, and Damon’s disappointment, the viewers get one more cliffhanger at the end of the episode. Apparently, Grams and Bonnie were not able to put the seal back in place after Stefan, Damon, Anna, and her mother left the tomb, because the other vampires are starting to emerge.

Now, viewers can just go to the next episode on the DVD, but, back when this episode originally aired, I remember thinking that it was going to be a long six weeks to wait for the next episode.

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