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Review #3013: The Vampire Diaries 3.1: “The Birthday”

Posted on the 16 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

People are always surprised to hear me talk about this show with such glowing praise, especially coming into this third season. They see the promotional materials and even the commercials, and assume it’s a “Twilight for TV”. It may have been pitched that way, for all I know, but as this episode strongly demonstrates, it is closer to the truth to call this “True Blood for CW”. And even that’s a stretch, because “True Blood” often gets too campy for its own good.

Review #3013: The Vampire Diaries 3.1: “The Birthday”

Not so “The Vampire Diaries”. While the teenage angst remains more or less intact, it is hardly the center of the show’s universe. (As opposed to the aforementioned “Twilight”.) It comes down to exploring human relationships amongst inhuman, horrific events. And it’s about the crushing responsibilities of carrying on an unwanted legacy. In all those ways, it’s very much like a certain other show that dealt with vampires, witches, werewolves, and assorted unsavory creatures.

The end of the second season left Elena behind in Mystic Falls with a restored Damon, with Stefan under the bloody tutelage of Klaus, one of the first vampires, now with added werewolf abilities. Klaus wants to rob Stefan of his lingering humanity, turning him into a latter day Angelus, while also ravaging the countryside to build a hybrid army. This is, to say the least, not a good thing.

Meanwhile, Damon has been leading a secret mission to find Stefan and figure out Klaus’ plan, despite telling Elena that there’s not a single lead. Why? Because Stefan is ripping the heads off of hot young women and punishing Damon for trying to find him by killing Andie, Damon’s lovely midnight snack. Simply put, Stefan is enjoying the kill, and doesn’t want to be found, because in the end, he’d be ordered to kill people he still cares about. And he’d probably do it.

Before Elena learns about all of this, she’s trying to deal with her conflicted feelings for Damon, so a huge birthday bash is not the first thing that comes to mind. So of course, that’s what Caroline sets up for her. It serves to bring all the major characters together, which is a good thing. It also serves as the perfect place for Caroline and Tyler to flirt a bit more, talk about their supernaturally enhanced libidos, and finally accept that they should get highly naked together. Sadly, this ends with Tyler’s mother subduing Caroline when she’s in the process of slipping out the door. (They better not kill Caroline. I’m still pitching a Caroline and Katherine spinoff.)

The party also gives Jeremy the perfect opportunity to show off his latest round of self-destruction, prompted by his constant visitations from dead ex-girlfriends. Drugs and alcohol, sadly, do not seem to make the visitations stop, so I can’t imagine this will end well. Alaric’s decision to leave town instead of providing Jeremy with a positive role model is even less helpful. I can’t help but think that the writers are going to push Jeremy back towards Bonnie, but clearly, they haven’t stopped putting him through the paces.

In fact, that’s one of the really nice things about the premiere; it didn’t try to do too much, too fast. It brought the audience back up to speed on the majority of the plot points, and set up the next round of deadly situations. Considering how frenetic the pacing can be on this show, I can’t imagine they’ll stick to this slow build for long.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 2/4

Final Rating: 8/10

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