‘The Vampire Diaries‘ had one of last season’s strongest finales. So it comes as no surprise that last night’s season premiere kicked ass and took names. The show continues to pack as much story into each act as most shows do in an entire episode. So much happened! Every single cliffhanger had a payoff. If this show were on cable instead of the CW, executive producers Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec would be winning awards for their tightly structured scripts and subtle foreshadowing.
Last season ended with the shocking return of Katherine. In her first full episode, she lives up to the hype, pitting brother against brother. Nina Dobrev proves she’s more than just a pretty face, playing a dark character who is nothing like Elena. But this episode belonged to Damon. Ian Somerhalder did his best work yet as Damon gets rejected again and again until he snaps… literally. After a “Who’s on first” conversation with Elena, he realizes that he kissed Katherine, not her. Elena tries to be a friend, sensitively telling him that she knows he is hurting. He denies having feelings. Elena observes that she is not surprised that he kissed her but, “I’m surprised you thought I’d kiss you back.” Ouch. Damon tells her, “Now I’m hurt.” That’s just the beginning of the sexy beast’s suffering.
It turns out that Katherine has come back to Mystic Falls because she wants another chance with Stefan. He tells her that he never loved her. He was only with her because she compelled him. In fact, he despises her. Her response is to stab him in the stomach, saying, “You hate me. That sounds like the beginning of a love story, not the end.”
She finds Damon brooding in the Salvatore mansion. There’s a scorching scene of fighting as foreplay. Katherine wisely takes off Damon’s shirt. Then Damon makes the fatal mistake of requesting she answer a question. Katherine knows what it is before he gets the words out. She coldly tells him, “The truth is I never loved you. It was always Stefan.” Poor Damon. Shot down by two identical women in 24 hours. Mystic Falls is the one town where the girls prefer the good boys.
Speaking of hot bad boys, Tyler is reeling from his father’s death. His slacker uncle Mason, played by the handsome Taylor Kinney, shows up, and throws out a few more hints about the Lockwood family curse. He also stops Tyler from attacking his mother in a fit of lupine rage. We also learn that the Lockwood’s got much of their wealth by stealing the property of people that were killed by vampires.
At the end of the finale Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) attempted to turn himself into a vampire by swallowing Anna’s blood then taking a bottle of pills. He wakes up still human, because the vampire blood protected him from the pills. It can save a human’s life for 24 hours. This plot point brilliantly sets up three other story developments in this episode.
Caroline is in critical condition after the car accident in the season finale. Damon, still believing that Elena kissed him at this point, gives her some of his blood. She quickly recovers. John Gilbert, who got his fingers chopped off by Katherine in the finale, has them surgically reattached. Stefan forces him to drink some of his blood, then gives him 24 hours to get out of town. If he sticks around, Stefan will turn him, forcing him to become one of the vampires that he despises. John gives Jeremy his Gilbert ring, which offers protection from supernatural mishaps, before he goes.
Damon, reeling from rejection, goes to the Gilbert house and makes another play for Elena, planting a kiss on her. She rejects him, saying she cares about him but, “It’s always going to be Stefan.” This final rejection pushes him all the way to the dark side, and he snaps Jeremy’s neck saying he’ll turn him into the vampire that he wants to be. Fortunately, Jeremy is protected by the Gilbert ring and survives. It’s ambiguous whether Damon knew about the ring.
Katherine finds Caroline in the hospital. She asks her to deliver the Salvatore brothers a message: game on. Then she smothers her with a pillow. It’s unclear whether she knows that Caroline has Damon’s blood in her, and thus will turn into a vampire. Katherine turned the girl Damon tried to save, while John saved the boy Damon tried to turn.
Yes, all that happened in about forty minutes of television. ‘Vampire Diaries’ has set the bar for all returning shows. It was poignant. It was funny. It was sexy. It was epic.