06 November 2009

The Vampire Diaries S1 E8 "162 Candles"

Damon and Elayna ponder the unfairness of it all.

Spoilers Ahead


This episode of The Vampire Diaries serves mainly to remind us all that there is no justice in the world. The point is driven home with a sharp stake while the helpless viewer is left to wonder why a cool character gets killed off, and yet Caroline still lives. Oh, cruel whims of television writers! Why do you torment us so, accursed scribes?

Ahem.

Okay, so "162 Candles" starts off with Stefan getting a surprise birthday visit from his oldest friend, 350-year-old vampire Lexi (Arielle Kebbel, Gilmore Girls). She quickly proves herself to be fun, smart, and strong (as we witness when she makes her feelings about Damon--she does not like him--perfectly clear). She also has gorgeous hair. (It had to be said.) She even--gasp--manages to get Stefan to crack a smile! I was worried the character would be an unnecessary--and irritating--addition to the cast, but other than a momentary lapse into sappiness, I found Lexi to be entirely enjoyable.

So of course it couldn't last. But we'll get back to that.

Speaking of BFFs, Bonnie decides to cheer Elayna up by showing off her new witchy skills. She's supposed to be keeping her magical proclivities a secret but she can't keep a secret from her very best friend, can she? Big surprise that this then sends Elayna into another downward spiral of mopeyness. She can't deal with the fact that she can't share her big secrets with anyone but Stefan. Too bad she can't bring herself to actually talk to him (although when she goes to his place to try, we're treated to yet another rendition of "wacky relationship misunderstanding" when she's greeted by a towel-clad Lexi and then jumps to the obvious conclusion). The upshot is Elayna knows too much and can't talk to anyone about it so she just wants Stefan to stay away from her. It's a good thing she's consistent with her feelings from one day to the next.

The Sheriff (Caroline's mom) has a prominent role this episode, which is unfortunate as she's about as interesting as watching ice melt (possibly less so). She also has to be one of the dimmest--not to mention most incompetent--cops ever portrayed on TV (why bother with a proper investigation when you can rely on hearsay and opinion?) But her presence does help Damon as he first trades a box of vervain ("from Zack") for information about the Founders Council/vampire hunters' plans, and then manipulates her to his own ends. Ultimately, he not only finds a way to protect himself and Stefan (mostly himself), but he manages to get in good with the people who would kill them without hesitation. While Stefan goes moon-eyed over a high school girl, Damon is actually doing something. Not necessarily something good (in the sense of not being evil), but still...

An even more useless character than the Sheriff is Aunt Jenna. At this point I think she only shows up occasionally to reassure everyone that Elayna and Jeremy haven't been completely abandoned. This time she's around long enough to mention she got a brush-off email from Logan saying he was leaving town--thus reminding viewers of the ongoing cover-up of his untimely death-by-Damon. Okay, then.

Which brings us to the most useless character of all: Caroline. Damon compels her into forgetting she hates him and then convinces her to throw a huge party. He tells her it's because he wants her to get his Very Important Crystal back from Bonnie (he then tells Stefan it's secretly a birthday party for him). When Caroline ultimately can't get the crystal back (it burns her the same way it burned Damon), he tells her what he thinks of her (he and I are pretty much in complete agreement on this). She then gets drunk and weepy, whining to Matt that nobody loves her. If we're supposed to have sympathy for this character, the writers might want to look for another way to elicit it from viewers. Self-absorbed blubbering--not so effective. She also gives a little self-righteous speech to Bonnie about what a crappy friend she is for not giving the crystal back and for being so mean to her (never mind that Caroline [a] gave the crystal to her, and [b] wasn't exactly nice about getting it back). I was hoping this character would have less of a role as the series progressed. I also can't help wondering, since Damon pretty much kills everyone else in his general vicinity, why Caroline is still here.

Moving on... After her initial shock at the resemblance between Elayna and Katherine, Lexi tells Stefan he's got some serious explaining to do. Stefan defends himself, admitting that their resemblance is what drew him to Elayna but beyond that the two women are nothing alike. Our heroine is the bees knees, apparently, and he admits to Lexi that he loves Elayna. This softens Lexi's attitude (although she's convinced Katherine and Elayna are somehow related) and at the party she ends up helping Elayna sort through her conflicted feelings and patch things up with Stefan.

Damon's keeping busy at the party too. After finding out that Caroline couldn't get the crystal back (and that it seems to be burning everyone who tries), he takes out his foul mood on a pair of teenagers outside, killing the boy in a particularly vicious way. I'm actually pretty surprised that the producers are not holding back with this character. At least they do monstrous right.

Anyway, the surviving girl gets the attention of a passing cop, who then calls in the Sheriff. When the Sheriff finally arrives she and the cop take their time examining the corpse and discussing what should be done with it. Eventually the cop remembers the traumatized girl, who has been cowering and whimpering in the dark this entire time. See above re: incompetence. Seriously. But lucky for them the girl isn't too traumatized to identify the vampire who killed her boyfriend. After blocking the exits (first allowing Matt to leave with her drunk daughter), the Sheriff takes the witness inside to point out the culprit. Moments later Lexi is injected with vervain and dragged outside. I guess all vampires are bad vampires according to the law in Mystic Falls (hey--Lexi is a stranger in town. Highly suspect). Stefan and Elayna see what's happening (while Damon feigns ignorance) and sneak out the back to go help Lexi.

Lexi doesn't seem to need much help, though. The vervain wears off quickly and she kicks some uniformed ass. The Sheriff, who knows all about vervain and wooden bullets and stakes, decides to try shooting Lexi with normal bullets. Repeatedly. Even as she sees that they're having no effect whatsoever. And just as I was getting interested in seeing what Lexi would do to repay the Sheriff, out of nowhere comes a stake through the heart, and on the other end of it: Damon. Not cool. Deep down I always knew it would end this way.

Oh, Lexi--why couldn't you have run instead of trying to teach the silly woman a lesson? (I also won't ask what happened to her super speed--maybe the vervain hadn't quite worn off yet. Maybe.)

Meanwhile Stefan and Elayna hide in the shadows watching it all, including when the Sheriff thanks Damon ("This nightmare is finally over"--the stranger is gone from our midst!) Afterward, Stefan understandably flips out, raging that death and destruction follow wherever he goes because Damon follows him wherever he goes. Elayna tries to talk him out of it for his sake, but he says she was right to stay away from him. Then he takes off, leaving her looking confused.

Okay, this hot/cold, on-again/off-again thing with Stefan and Elayna is getting really old. It's not interesting. It doesn't add tension. At this point I don't even care if they ever end up together. I'm far more interested in the machinations of Damon, to be honest. Way to make romance less interesting than tête-à-têtes with the dull and dense Sheriff, Vampire Diaries writers and producers. Nice job.

Anyway, Stefan goes home and attacks Damon, somehow managing to overpower his much stronger brother. He stakes Damon but deliberately misses the heart, claiming that Damon saved his life and now he's spared his, so they're even. This... is lame. Not that I want Damon dead, but really? Stefan is nearly out of his mind with anger and hatred, he finally gets the upper hand (and probably won't get it again), and he decides to wimp out with a silly excuse? Maybe that's supposed to make him the better person or something. I think he might as well not have bothered.

The episode ends with Bonnie dreaming about running through the cemetery and seeing her great-great-etc., grandmother and uber witch, Emily Bennett (context here). After great-granny warns her "it's coming," she wakes up in the cemetery. Creepy. And intriguing. It looks like The Vampire Diaries has a plan.

Okay, so this wasn't a great episode. Some largish plot holes proved annoying, and too much time was wasted on irritating and/or pointless characters. But it wasn't the worst episode, either. Lexi's presence went a long way, a lot of the dialogue was good, and Damon is pretty much always worth watching. I'm still not blown away by The Vampire Diaries, but I'm still willing to give it another chance.

Oh, and there was another Tru Blood/True Blood commercial on CTV. This one featured a woman, her vampire lover, her husband, and the line "Oh, mon dieu" repeated throughout (with a different meaning each time). The slogan for this ad: Tru Blood, La sang de la passion! My verdict: très bon. If I had known CTV (and Space) had been running these commercials, I would have watched The Vampire Diaries on this channel from the beginning. Mon dieu, indeed.

Fang Files

Physical appearance: Dark, red-rimmed eyes. Veiny face. Prominent canines. Dead vampires get very veiny and stiff (almost as though they turn into a wax statue or stone).

Strengths: Super strength, speed, and hearing. The ability to compel (hypnotize) humans. World-rocking vampire sex (or so Lexi claims).

Weaknesses: Vervain, sunlight, wooden stakes.

Mythology: The older the vampire the stronger they are. Stefan and Damon are apparently the only vampires with rings that allow them out into the sunlight. Alcohol helps vampires curb their cravings for blood (but apparently results in a lot of vampire lushes).

Sound Bites

Caroline: (trying to convince Bonnie to give back the crystal) When you wear it, it makes you look fat.

Damon: Does it get tiring, being so righteous?
Elayna: It flares up in the presence of psychos.

Caroline: Am I shallow?
Matt: Is that a trick question?

Damon: Okay, I have a diabolical master plan.
Lexi: What is it?
Damon: Well if I told you it wouldn't be very diabolical, would it?

Lexi: (after Damon stakes her) Why?
Damon: It's all part of the plan.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 8 "162 Candles." Accursed scribe: Barbie Kligman. Directed by Rick Bota. From The CW.

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