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Vampire Diaries: Family Ties

“Here’s to history repeating itself.”

Much to my surprise, I find myself really liking this episode upon re-watching. It sets up the rules of the universe, and it does so with some serious tongue-in-cheek. Everything that happens in this episode gets pay-off later in the season.

We started with the rules about what doesn’t matter. The opening was pure horror-movie, but it turned out to just be Stefan’s fantasy: he’s worried that his relationship with Elena will follow a pattern of girl-in-peril that this show winds up rejecting, and rejecting without any superpowers required. Caroline and Damon had their fun discussing the rules of vampiredom: Twilight is out, Anne Rice is in (probably for the moody broodiness), and sparkling is strictly verboten.

So what does matter, if horror movies and other vampire stuff are out? Well, the Founders, of course. Parents and children, the past and the present, old weapons against ancient evil. Oh, and pretty people in pretty clothes. The Founders seem to be amassing a bunch of objects, almost like they know something is about to happen. Maybe that mystical comet wasn’t ret-conned into irrelevance. Maybe it really is a sign that the fates are weaving and clipping behind the scenes, and the Founders know it. All of this stuff winds up mattering throughout the season. Color me impressed.

Damon is setting down roots, and to do that he has to get in good with the powers that be. Right now, though, he’s focused on acquiring his quest objects. We’ll see how that goes. He’s also trying to play with Elena—but every time, he winds up getting more than he bargained for. It’s not just that Elena has the vervane. It’s that she can hold her own, and her compassion is a big part of what makes her so powerful.

Damon’s version of the Battle of Willow Creek isn’t true, anymore than the history teacher's was. The people in the church weren’t innocent victims or Union sympathizers. It’s nice that the show trusts us to understand that stories get re-told and re-presented, and the way each story-teller tweaks it says something about the story-teller. All these stories, though—from history to Anne Rice to the newscast—they matter, because they involve the people our heroes care about, and even our heroes themselves. The one story that isn’t getting told yet, except “what other people tell [Elena],” is the story of Katherine. We don’t get the real skinny on that one for quite a while.

If this is your first time watching, this episode might not seem too great. It certainly didn’t impress me much the first time ‘round. But everything that we learned—and everything that we didn’t—matters later.

Bites:

• Damon: “You really need to get some human blood in you. Might even the playing field. Football reference!” [pause] "Too soon?”

• Damon: “What’s so special about this Bella girl? Edward’s so whipped. I miss Anne Rice. She was so on it.”
Caroline: “How come you don’t sparkle?”

• Damon: “My therapist says I’m acting out. Trying to punish Stefan.” This line is funny because Damon said it with utter sincerity.

• Caroline: “They look so cute together.”
Damon: “Don’t talk, please.”

• Bonnie: “This is my fault. I planted doubt. I’m a doubt-planter.” This was an attempt at Buffy speak.

And Pieces:

• Damon and Stefan’s uncle said that the vervane (hervane?) crop had been passed down through the generations. But, what generations? Weren’t Damon and Stefan the end of the line?

• We got a mini-nod to Caroline’s dad being off with another man. There are jokes later in the season about her mom’s sexuality, too—I wonder if that plays a part in Caroline’s rampantly promiscuous heterosexual behavior?

• Mystic Falls has its own news station? Is that typical for such a small town?

• The episode began with an imaginary bite. If I recall correctly, it ended with a brutal scene of Damon beating Caroline, but the episode was cut-off last night by the breaking news that the Lakers won the championship. That’s its own kind of beat-down, I guess.

Three out of four Sparkly Vampires.

(Screencap courtesy of vampire-diaries.net.Thanks!)

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

8 comments:

  1. Actually it ended after Damon bit Caroline. It ended with Stefan imprisoning Damon in the vervane room. I turned out that Stefan wasn't trying to spike Damon's drink, he was spiking Caroline's so that when Damon bit her, he would ingest the vervane. I thought he was being fairly clever. Oh and then there was a scene with the sheriff, Tyler and his mother and another man (possibly Tyler's father) talking about how the needed the watch and that with all the "animal" attacks "They were back". You missed a really good ending, I hope you at least care about the Lakers.

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  2. That's right! Thank you.

    And, no. I'm not a Lakers fan. I'm a Suns fan (well, as much as I care at all), so this was a triply cruel twist of fate.

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  3. it's vervain, not vervane or hervane

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  4. Finally got to this one. Loved the Twilight/Anne Rice stuff. And the dialogue made me laugh a few times. I could tell they were stepping up their story game. Was that a football reference?

    Those damned Lakers.

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  5. Josie - I became a fan of your writing while reading your 'Fringe' reviews. I started watching VD based on your recommendation.

    I'm up to episode 4, and I am enjoying it. However, I kept being reminded of another show that was huge at the end of the '90's. You know, the one with a spunky brunette torn between two guys (who were, for all intents and purposes, brothers); their angst playing out to the backdrop of pop hits, at least one of which was identical.

    Then I paid attention to the producers. I guess Kevin Williamson knows a good formula when he sees it!

    Thanks again for all the great writing. I am a fan.

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  6. LOL -- I think that comment above is the first one I ever posted on the site. A lot can change in just four months!

    And, Josie? I'm still a huge fan of yours!

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  7. When I finished watching this episode, I thought, "Was that actually not bad?" I was expecting at least the first half of the season to be pure torture based on the warning from this site. (Thanks for that! I would have given up otherwise.)

    Vervain is actually a real plant (Verbena officinalis) with real medicinal properties, including treating breast milk deficiency, coughing, dry mouth, inflammation, pain, and sores. There is an unfounded legend that the people who retrieved Christ's body from the cross used vervain to stop his wounds from bleeding, leading to vervain being regarded as a sacred good-luck charm. Because it's a real plant that still exists, I found it strange that Damon supposedly wiped it out. Yes, it's possible he extirpated it from the area, but there are cars and GNCs (although maybe it has to be fresh?). I'm sure he could get it somewhere else.

    Stefan's "uncle" referred to Stefan as his uncle in a previous episode so I guess Stefan and Damon had a brother or sister.

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