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The Vampire Diaries, S01E16: There Goes the Neighborhood; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

vampire-diaries-s1

Originally aired 1 April 2010
Written by Brian Oh and Andrew Chambliss
Directed by Kevin Bray

Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder

My rating:  ★★★ stars

An episode lacking major plot developments lays the groundwork for the final group of episodes of the first season.

It’s date night in Mystic Falls. Testing his vampire theory, Jeremy invites Anna over for a little homemade hemoglobin; and, in an attempt to have a normal, conflict-free evening, Matt & Caroline and Stefan & Elena decide to go on a double date. Although Caroline gets irritated at Matt and Elena’s trips down memory lane and the entire foursome is horrified at catching Matt’s mom making out with Damon, the date goes surprisingly smoothly.

This episode seems to pick up where “Fool Me Once” left off. The events that happened in the previous episode, “A Few Good Men,” have been set aside for the moment. Alaric, whose story was the focus of “A Few Good Men,” doesn’t even appear in “There Goes the Neighborhood.”

The tomb vampires are slowly acclimating to life in the 21st Century, receiving instructions in modern gadgetry like remote controls and smart phones (“And the keypad is for texting, which is what you do when you want to avoid talking to someone”).

Pearl tries to solidify her position as the leader of the tomb vampires, but upstart Frederick (Stephen Martines aka Coltin Scott) doesn’t appreciate the limitations she attempts to impose on the rest of the tomb vampires. His attempt to break free of her rules, however, fails miserably and gets his girlfriend staked. Pearl is clearly H.B.I.C. from the opening of the episode, where she gouges Damon’s eyes to impress upon him her superior strength, to the end, where she stabs Frederick with a wooden spoon handle to remind him that he shouldn’t disobey her orders ever again.

Even Anna bristles under her mother’s attempts to control her. After all, Anna’s been on her own for 145 years; she’s not used to her mother telling her what to do and whom not to date–Jeremy Gilbert. (It was Jeremy’s ancestor, after all, who betrayed Pearl and got her locked in the tomb.)

As far as plot developments go, this episode is notably lacking when one considers how jammed packed with plot most episodes of The Vampire Diaries are. Not much happens. And the stuff that does happen does not grow the characters but merely reinforces what we already know about the characters–Jeremy is lost and lonely, Elena and Stefan are nauseatingly in love, Caroline is insecure and neurotic, Matt is ashamed, and, as always, Aunt Jenna is oblivious.

What works in this episode and makes this review (marginally) positive is the solid execution of what is there and a few nice touches that bring a smile to the viewer’s face, like the bonding moment between Matt and Stefan, where Stefan acknowledges that being rich, smart, good-looking, athletic, and nice does make him “a dick,” or when, after a fight with Frederick and his girlfriend, Stefan talks on the phone with Elena, trying to keep up their pretense that everything is normal (at least for one night) while Damon drags a body in the background.

Ultimately, this episode serves to lay the groundwork for the next episode, which brings the Frederick story arc to a close, and for the remaining episodes of the season. They will show our protagonists dealing with the problem of the tomb vampires running loose in Mystic Falls. Normally, every episode of The Vampire Diaries is a big episode; “There Goes the Neighborhood” demonstrates that the series can be entertaining even when nothing of great importance occurs.

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