Originally aired 4 Nov 2010
Written by Brian Young
Directed by Liz Friedlander
Starring Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder
My rating: ★★1/2 stars
Uneven episode introduces major storyline and characters.
With Katherine ensconced in the tomb, a new threat emerges for Elena. This episode seems a little like a pilot for a new series. The show is beginning a major new arc with a new set of characters and a complex expansion of the mythology of the series.
The first new characters we meet are the vampire couple who have kidnapped Elena, Trevor (Trent Ford) and Rose (Lauren Cohan, TV’s The Walking Dead). Like Lexi and Stefan, Trevor and Rose are platonic best friends. Having been on the run together for 500 years, they are sort of non-romantic life companions, or “unlife” companions, as the case may be. No one in the series has yet commented on these long-running, mixed-gender friendships that somehow never turn romantic or sexual, but it would be an interesting topic to explore.
Through some tedious question-and-answer dialogue—a lazy way to convey exposition—Rose tells Elena that, as the doppelganger, Elena is needed to break the Sun and the Moon Curse. When Elena explains that she believed the Moonstone is what will break the curse, Rose replies, “No, the Moonstone is what binds the curse. Sacrifice is what breaks it”—because that makes everything clear. If Elena and not the Moonstone is the key to breaking the curse, then I have to wonder why vampires and werewolves keep chasing after the Moonstone. The series never offers a more clear explanation of what the role of the Moonstone is in all this curse business.
Also during their conversation, Rose reveals to Elena that she knows of the Salvatore brothers. She says, “A hundred years back a friend of mine tried to set me up with Stefan. She said he was one of the good ones. More of a sucker for the bad boys though, but I digress.” Pat yourself on the back if you see where that is going.
Despite the title of the episode, Rose is not the most important character introduced in the episode. This episode is the first time we hear about The Originals, the group of primordial vampires from which all other vampires are descended. These vampires will play a significant role for the next two and half seasons and become the core characters of the spin-off series, The Originals (set to premiere in Fall 2013).
The only Original we actually meet in this episode is the straight-laced, impeccably and conservatively dressed Elijah (Daniel Gillies, Spider-man 2, TV’s Saving Hope). Elijah is the most reasonable of The Originals, a “man of honor,” as Rose states.
We learn that half a millennium earlier, Trevor did something to betray Klaus, one of The Originals, leading to him and Rose to become fugitives. Tired of running, they see Elena as a way to appease The Originals. They have arranged to turn her over to Elijah, preferring to deal with him than with Klaus himself.
This episode, also, is the first time in the series we hear about Klaus. Readers of the books will recognize the name as the powerful, evil vampire who turned Katherine. Klaus, in the show, is still powerful and evil, a major villain. However, the show alters the character’s nature and background significantly from the books.
Elijah, on the other hand, is a character original to the show. Clam and stolid, he’s different from other vampires, with their tendency to be overwrought. I just wish that Gillies played him with more suaveness.
Elijah, we learn, is always true to his word. Before turning over Elena to him, Rose asks him to verify that, in exchange for Elena, he will pardon her and Trevor. Elijah tells Rose solemnly, “You have my word that I will pardon you.” And he lives up to his word. To the letter. He pardons Rose. He karate chops Trevor’s head off. If Elijah is the reasonable and honorable Original, his actions here suggest that the others must be very dangerous indeed.
The Salvatore brothers arrive in time to save Elena, after a long road trip to where she’s being held. The writers acknowledge that their relationship talk during the trip is hackneyed by having Damon say, “Can we not do the whole road-trip bonding thing? The cliché of it all makes me itch.” Nevertheless, they do do the bonding thing, and it is clichéd. They reach an understanding where they agree to work together to save Elena and acknowledge that they are both in love with her. Eventually, after the crisis is over, Stefan apologizes for forcing Damon to become a vampire. When Damon states that the apology is unnecessary, Stefan replies that it still needs to be said.
This conversation prompts Damon to visit Elena in the episode’s best scene. It starts out light-hearted, with Damon leering at her in her shorty pajamas, but turns quickly serious as Damon uses the opportunity of her being momentarily without her vervain necklace to declare his love for her. He proclaims, “What I’m about to say is probably the most selfish thing that I’ve ever said in my life. I just have to say it once. You just need to hear it. I love you, Elena. And it’s because I love you that I can’t be selfish with you, why you can’t know this. I don’t deserve you, but my brother does. God, I wish that you didn’t have to forget this, but you do,” compelling her to forget everything he’s just said.
The moment is highly sentimental and may not please viewers who reject sentimentality as sappiness. However, the scene is well played, if, unfortunately, not without technical flaws. Somerhalder is at his most captivating here, so it’s a shame that a bad audio cut halfway through his big speech draws the viewer’s attention away from the content of the scene.
The scene is also true to character. Damon is the perpetually lovelorn brother, the one who loves too much for little return. Here, he reveals that, perhaps, one of the reasons his love is always unrequited is because he feels undeserving of being loved in return. The speech reflects, without implying anything too heavily, the different treatment the two brothers received as children, Stefan being the favored son, Damon being constantly treated as unworthy (in the show) and (in the books) severely abused.
The end elevates an episode that starts with mostly confusing, banal, and tiresome scenes. After Damon’s big moment, the final scene is powerful. For all the episode’s statements about the bad-assery of The Originals, Elijah is dispatched by the Salvatore brothers with relative ease (and a baluster through the chest). However, in the final scene, we see Elijah, apparently finally dead (all black and veiny like vampires on the series get when they’re staked), pinned to a wall by the baluster. His eyes pop open, the blackness and the veins recede, and he begins to pull the makeshift stake from his own chest, thus, confirming that The Originals are as strong and fearsome as they’re purported to be and that they will make formidable opponents.
The two subplots of Jeremy and Bonnie using witchcraft to help Elena and of Tyler questioning Caroline about her knowledge of lycanthropy vary in their level of quality. As an early effort to build Jeremy and Bonnie as couple, their scenes here are pretty dull. The problem is not that they don’t work as a couple. The problem is that, as a couple, they’re not given anything interesting to do. The two spells they do fail to engage the viewer. The first one, where Bonnie uses Jeremy’s blood to locate Elena on a map, is necessary to send the Salvatore brothers to the right place but comes off as ridiculous. (At first, when Bonnie claims to be using the blood relationship between Jeremy and Elena to establish the connection, I mentally objected because Elena was adopted. Then, I remembered that, with Uncle John being Elena’s biological father, Jeremy and Elena, while adopted siblings, are biological first cousins.) The second spell, one giving Elena a message that the Salvatores on their way, just seems pointless, especially as the effort Bonnie uses to complete the spell knocks her unconscious. The point, I guess, is to show that doing magic is causing Bonnie physical harm, but this storyline never goes anywhere.
Caroline and Tyler’s interactions are much more successful. They have a number of good moments—Tyler’s shock at finding out Caroline is stronger than he is, Caroline’s attack of the giggles when Tyler accuses her (wrongly) of being a werewolf, and their subsequent comparison of their supernatural conditions are just a few. Tyler is shedding his douchebag patina as becoming a werewolf has provided an outlet for his latent aggression. Here, he appears vulnerable and lost, clearly out of his comfort zone. Caroline continues to show that becoming a vampire has actualized her strength of character.
Overall, this episode is a mixed bag. Too much of the episode is weak for me to give it a positive judgment, but two strong closing scenes—one relationship-related, one plot/threat-related—and the beginning of a new relationship (Caroline/Tyler, which, at this point, is merely friendship) keep the episode on the cusp of being good.