10 February 2010

The Vampire Diaries S1 E13 "Children of the Damned"

Spoilers Ahead

When it comes to TV and movies (for me, anyway) good costumes and sets can forgive a lot of flaws. Not all, mind you, but they can make the difference between enjoying what's onscreen and hating it with the fiery vengeance of a thousand suns. "Children of the Damned" has some breathtaking costumes (like the one in the photo above)--almost enough to make up for the rest of the episode. Almost. But at least they offer a pleasant, if temporary, distraction.

The episode starts off with a flashback to Katherine (in the first of her many gorgeous outfits) killing a coach driver and his passenger in order to show still-human Damon what being a vampire is all about. In one of the better vampire moments on the show, Damon is initially repulsed by the blood on Katherine's mouth, but then gets over it and kisses her. They clearly have a dark future ahead of them.

Back to the present, Elayna and Stefan wake up together only to be confronted by Damon, eager to get started on finding Emily's grimoire (in Damon's words, "a witch's cookbook"). Threesomes seem to be the new theme of the show as the next flashback (and quite a few after it) give us some insight into Katherine's relationship with the Salvatore brothers. Apparently it's good to share.

The flashbacks also give us insight into the vampires in Mystic Falls; how the town deals with them; the Salvatores' relationships with their father, Guiseppe (James Remar, Dexter, Blade: Trinity); and the present-day consequences of all this. It's definitely a tangled web, and again I have to wonder why the writers (at this point mainly Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson) and developers (see: writers) saw fit to get into so much all in one season. I guess they prefer quantity to quality.

The vampires in TVD are a social lot, it seems. Katherine gets a visit from her friend Pearl (Kelly Hu, Phineas and Ferb), who is nervous about the townspeople's increasing awareness of the monsters among them. She wants to leave town but Katherine isn't quite ready yet--she's got unfinished business with Stefan and Damon (nudge nudge, wink wink). Pearl seems content enough to follow Katherine's lead, although maybe it doesn't hurt that she's got an ardent admirer in Johnathon Gilbert. She also has a daughter named Annabelle tagging along. That's right--Annabelle, aka Anna, aka the vampire stalking Jeremy in order to get her hands on his great-grandfather's (Johnathon Gilbert's) journal. You know, in some shows all this would have been enough for an entire season, never mind half an episode. Just saying...

Speaking of Jeremy, he tells Stefan and Elayna that he lent Johnathon's journal to Alaric Saltzman. Then he agrees to meet Anna at the bar where everyone's always hanging out (with the oh-so-creative moniker of "The Grill"). This is the awkward lead-in to future hamfisted events. I guess now that Jeremy got over being a troubled teen they need to find something for him to do.

I suspect the writers are also trying to justify Elayna's sympathy for Damon, something I mentioned in my last review. Elayna seems to believe that everything Damon has done (murder, attempted murder, shirtless dancing...) has been for love and is, theoretically, okay. Stefan, on the other hand, has a brain and tells her that Damon is just a psychopath who enjoys hurting people. You can decide for yourselves (maybe she's just buying into that old saying that all's fair in love and war. But even war has rules and logic, twisted though it may sometimes be. Maybe we need a Geneva Convention for relationships...)

The next flashback comes via Saltzman as he reads Johnathon's journal. The men of Mystic Falls--including Giuseppe Salvatore--are meeting to discuss the compass, how to round up the vamps, and their plan to use the church. Salvatore promises that the town can count on both his sons (although why he would include Damon in this statement is something of a mystery, as Damon makes it clear both in past and present that he's got daddy issues).

As Saltzman is reading, he realizes someone else is there. (Why, oh why, do writers think it's plausible to have characters who are knowledgeable about vampires choose to hang out alone at night in public buildings? Oh, wait--I keep forgetting that all horror characters are selectively stupid, although I'm pretty sure writers think it's actually the viewers who have this problem...) Anyway, Saltzman leaves the room to arm himself with a weapon (in this case a stake shooter). As he rounds a corner he fires on the vampire, who turns out to be Stefan although we saw Anna sneaking in as well. Stefan catches the stake and gets tetchy with Saltzman. Then he gets downright inquisitorial. I gotta say--I like Stefan much better when he asserts himself. I like my vampires with teeth.

Saltzman eventually gives in and admits that he's there because of his wife. Apparently she was a parapsychologist who found out about vampire activity in the area. Of course, as they're talking Anna has time to snatch the journal--not that either of them seem particularly concerned. They go on chatting and Saltzman tells Stefan that Damon killed his wife. Well, he's pretty sure Damon killed his wife because when he walked in on them, Damon heard and both he and Mrs. Saltzman then disappeared. Oh, and they never found her body. But she's obviously dead. Uh-huh. Any actors out there care to enlighten me on how you can say lines like these with a straight face?

Damon, meanwhile, is hanging out at Elayna's making dinner for the family. Might I just say: WTF? He flirts with Jenna, plays video games and offers advice to Jeremy, and somehow manages to believe Elayna when she says he can trust Stefan. There's also a "cute" moment when Jenna confides to Elayna about how hot Damon is, making him smile as he overhears--until Elayna replies that he's an ass, turning his smile upside down as he rolls his eyes. Quite the picture of domestic bliss. Apparently Stefan thinks so too when he eventually shows up and switches his doleful glare back and forth between his brother and his girlfriend.

The next flashback has Stefan telling Damon they should talk to Giuseppe about Katherine and how they feel about her, and maybe also point out that vampires really aren't so bad. Sensibly, Damon thinks this is a bad idea and makes Stefan promise not to say anything. So of course Stefan goes to Giuseppe and tells him that he's got a problem with killing the town's vamps. He doesn't mention Katherine, but he does try to convince his dad that not all vampires are evil. Giuseppe won't have it, however, and retorts that anyone who stands with the vamps and brings shame on their families will die along with them. Stefan backs down.

Back to the present, Stefan's got a photocopy of the journal, courtesy of Saltzman. He doesn't mention this to Damon, though, who soon takes off after Jeremy on his way to meet Anna (Jeremy admitted that he told her about the journal). When Damon sees her, he realizes she's Pearl's daughter. And when he tries to choke her into submission, we're reminded once again that Damon is only good in a fight where the odds are seriously stacked in his favour (like against terrified unarmed humans). Since Anna is older than he is, she's just as strong if not stronger. They call a truce, catch up, and quickly part ways after Damon flips through the journal and figures out where the grimoire is. Meanwhile Stefan has also figured it out and he and Elayna have been digging up his father's body in order to get it (he sure knows how to show a girl a good time!)

While all this is going on, Bonnie is out on a date with vampire Ben. She tells him all about how close she and Elayna are--that she would die for Elayna (interesting first-date topic). Then, since he's such a perfect gentleman, she makes the first move and kisses him. As soon as she does, her witchy powers kick in and she realizes what he is. She tries to hide it as she pulls away and claims she has to go to the bathroom. He seems clueless until he suddenly appears behind her in full vamp mode and pulls her into the bathroom. Lesson here: never trust a date who doesn't put the moves on you (at least, not if you're a psychic witch).

Back to Katherine and Stefan, they're getting romantic when she bites him and starts gasping and choking. It turns out Stefan is chock full of vervain. Giuseppe is more astute than his sons give him credit for; when Stefan was going on about how some vampires are good people too, his father figured out what Katherine was and then spiked the brothers' drinks with vervain to be sure. As Stefan panics, Giuseppe gags Katherine with a crazy-looking metal contraption. He tells Stefan that his feelings for Katherine can't possibly be real since she's a demon, and then sends him to get the sheriff. Being the good son, Stefan does as he's told.

After he shows up at Giuseppe's open grave and finds Elayna and Stefan there, Damon gives a self-righteous speech about how he can't trust anyone but himself. He makes a point of telling Elayna that she's particularly a disappointment as she really had him fooled. Anyone else would tell him to get over it, but Elayna actually seems guilt-ridden. When Stefan refuses to hand over the grimoire, Damon grabs Elayna and forces her to drink his blood. Then he threatens to snap her neck so that he and Stefan will have themselves a vampire girlfriend. I was really hoping the show would go with this option but, alas, Stefan hands over the grimoire. Damon has a moment of regret (nicely played by Ian Somerhalder) before he turns his focus onto the book.

Another flashback and we see the mob taking Katherine away while Damon freaks, saying he wants to be killed along with her if he can't save her. Pearl, meanwhile, is getting ready to run when Johnathon Gilbert shows up with the compass. She begs him to spare her, but he shoots her in the back and has her gagged and sent to join Katherine. Anna watches all this from her hiding place with Emily.

I have to mention at this point that I had the startling realization as I watched this episode (with the help of IMDB and my SO) that Emily Bennett is played by Bianca Lawson--aka Kendra the Vampire Slayer (Buffy)! How I missed this for so long, I have no idea. I don't know if it's the lack of heavy Jamaican accent, or just that she's changed so much that I didn't recognize her, but I had to take a minute to acknowledge this oversight.

Anyway, back in the safety of Elayna's house, Stefan tells her that Damon is right to blame him for what happened to Katherine as it really is his fault. Elayna would probably be more interested if she didn't have such an awful headache. Stefan dutifully heads downstairs to find an aspirin (getting a bizarre lecture along the way from Jenna about how she hopes he's not expecting to sleep over--because after everything else that's gone on with Elayna and Jeremy since Jenna's been in charge, that's what she needs to worry about). Instead of an aspirin Stefan finds out that Jeremy invited his friend Anna back to the house. Oops. Stefan runs back upstairs but Elayna's already gone, her bedroom window wide open. Oh noes--Elayna's in danger at the hands of a vampire! Again. Again this episode. Yawn.

So, that's it. More soap opera drama, unlikely circumstances, hack writing, and the usual high standards we've come to expect from The Vampire Diaries. But with pretty clothes. Enjoy!

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until they vamp out, then red-rimmed eyes and dark facial veins.

Strengths: Super speed, stealth, mad cooking skillz, speed reading.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, vervain, stakes.

Mythology: Most vampires can't go out in the sunlight but Emily Bennett's spells have allowed a few to overcome this handicap. Vampires need to be invited into private residences, but are free to go into public buildings. To turn a human: they need to have vampire blood in their system when they are killed; vampire blood clears out of a human's system within a day or two.

Sound Bites

Damon: (to Stefan and Elayna) You know, I really like this whole ménage à threesome team thing. It's got some kink to it.

Katherine: Emily, would you please tell Mr. Salvatore I am stepping out.
Emily: Which one?
Katherine: Both of them.

Stefan: You met Damon?
Alaric Saltzman: Who do you think killed my wife?

Damon: (to Stefan and Elayna at Giuseppe's grave) Well, what do you know. This is an interesting turn of events.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 13 "Children of the Damned." Written by Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson. Directed by Marcos Siega. From The CW.

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