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The Vampire Diaries, S01E15: A Few Good Men; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

vampire-diaries-s1

Originally aired 25 March 2010
Written by Brian Young
Directed by Joshua Butler

Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder

My rating:  ★★ stars

Disappointing episode focuses on backstory.

Maybe if the previous episode hadn’t been so good, I would have given “A Few Good Men” more stars, but, after waiting six weeks for a new episode following “Fool Me Once,” “A Few Good Men” was a letdown. It only touched on the escape of the other vampires from the tomb that happened at the end of “Fool Me Once.” Instead, it focused on Alaric’s supposedly dead wife, Isobel, making this episode seem like a digression between the previous episode, in which the tomb was opened, and the following episode, which dealt with the consequences of opening the tomb.

This episode confirms what we previously suspected—that Alaric’s wife, Isobel, and Elena’s birth mother, Isobel, are the same woman. This information is related to various characters in dribs and drabs so that artificial conflict can occur.

During the episode, we learn much about Isobel. I’m not someone who rejects all explorations of backstory as tedious. I think revealing background information to various characters can be gripping. Unfortunately, the writers failed to make such revelations even mildly interesting. The first scene of background exploration is actually a shameless product placement for Bing, with Aunt Jenna employing a ridiculous functional shift, saying that she “binged” the information in a pathetic attempt to recreate the successful functional shift to a verb that “Google” underwent.

Even if we forgive The CW for making up revenue through product placements, the rest of the information exchanges in the episode don’t compensate for the early low point. The flashbacks to Alaric and Isobel’s time as a married couple are dull. Limiting the flashbacks to their bedroom doesn’t help. In just a couple of episodes, we got so many boring flashbacks to that room, I’ve nicknamed it “The Exposition Room.”

The low point of the episode comes during the bachelor raffle, this episode’s special event, hence the title. (A bachelor raffle is the poor, ugly cousin of the bachelor auction—it requires the same amount of work from those involved in order to get less money.) While the bachelors are introducing themselves to the public, Damon taunts Alaric about feeding on Isobel. However, Damon’s lines are cringe-worthy, crossing the line from suggestive to blatant. An ordinary person watching the event would be left with the impression that Damon is an insane creep and might wonder why the sheriff’s department hasn’t locked him up for the safety of himself and others.

Damon, grief-stricken over learning that Katherine has been avoiding him for a century and a half, spends most of the episode binging on blood and booze. Lushy Damon is obnoxious.

Same goes for Stupid Alaric. Stefan warns Alaric that Damon is unhinged and particularly dangerous, but Alaric can’t help himself apparently and confronts Damon anyway. Nothing Alaric has done previously suggests that he’s a raging idiot, but, after a few verbal barbs from Lushy Damon, he decides to go charging into a vampire’s house, armed with only a stake even though he has all kinds of fun weapons like vervain darts and a stake-shooting air gun. Then, when it’s clear that he’s outmatched, Alaric doesn’t stay down. Damon doesn’t seem to be able to muster enough interest to kill Alaric, but the man keeps getting up and lunging at him. Eventually, Damon stabs him in the lung with his own stake. And, at that point, I didn’t really blame Damon.

To be fair to Stupid Alaric, Damon did get in a few nasty quips during their confrontation. Alaric might have been pleased to find out that Damon didn’t kill Isobel but, instead, turned her into a vampire. However, Damon’s way of explaining the situation certainly wasn’t designed to make Alaric feel better. Damon tells Alaric that he slept with his wife and turned her into a vampire because she begged him to as she was unhappy with Alaric. Of course, this was not the way to make Alaric back off and calm down.

But Alaric should have been smart enough not to act so rashly. Luckily for Alaric, he has magic jewelry. After he “dies” and Damon leaves the body for Stefan to dispose of, Alaric wakes up from his death. We get another flashback to the Exposition Room, where Isobel gives Alaric a ring to protect him from “things that go bump in the night.” Later, we’ll learn that the wearer of the ring cannot be killed by anything supernatural, a convenient ring to have for someone living in a town full of things that go bump in the night.

This confrontation is amusing to watch from the perspective of later seasons because Alaric and Damon surprisingly end up best friends. It’s probably the most inauspicious beginning to a bromance ever.

Also in this episode, Kelly Donovan (Melinda Clarke), the mother of Matt and poor, dead Vicki, returns to Mystic Falls. Her character is well-written. She’s believably nasty and trashy. A deleted scene on the DVD* reveals an aborted plotline about the character. However, as it turned out, she didn’t really have much purpose. She just breezes in and makes Matt’s life miserable for a few episodes before breezing out again.

*On the first season DVD sets, the deleted scenes are lined up inappropriately with the episode previous to the one from which they were deleted. So the deleted scene from “A Few Good Men” is the one grouped with “Fool Me Once.”

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