TV Review: “The Vampire Diaries,” Season Two

Written by Television, TV Reviews

The Vampire Diaries returns for a second season with werewolves, secrets, and a vengeful ex.

I should probably start off by saying I have absolutely no shame for loving a teen paranormal soap, and am no stranger to the vampire craze. So I guess you can take this with whatever grain of salt you wish, but in my opinion, The Vampire Diaries was the best new show of the 2009-2010 season. Halfway between Twilight and True Blood on the undead blood and lust meter, the show quickly found its footing as a sharp, shocking, and angsty teen drama where no one is safe and everyone has secrets. Based on L.J. Smith’s series by the same name, the show follows human Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) as she is torn between sweet, “vegetarian”, brooding, vampire, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), and his impulsive, tortured, unfeeling, undead, brother, Damon (Ian Somerhalder).

The first season ended with several cliffhangers, most notably a lip-lock between Damon and “Elena” and the return of Katherine. After a strong first season, it’s almost impossible to maintain, much less exceed, expectations. However, the premiere, although a bit hectic after the damage of Founder’s Day, was as great as they come, and the success can be summed up in one word: Katherine. It must be said that Nina Dobrev’s portrayal of dueling personalities Katherine and Elena is superb. Nina was solid in the first season as Elena, perhaps the CW’s strongest leading lady these days, but as Katherine, she commands your attention. Sure, there’s hairstyle to differentiate the two, but every detail, motion, expression, and line is distinct to the point that you start to forget that there’s one actress behind the two characters.

Katherine Pierce, Elena’s vampire doppelganger and the one who turned the Salvatore brothers into a tizzy of jealousy, love, and lust back in 1864, has returned to Mystic Falls, claiming to only have one thing on her agenda: win Stefan back. Too bad Stefan has spent the past 145 years hating Katherine and has since moved on with Elena. But, we know Katherine usually gets what she wants, and it’ll be fun to watch her try to pull apart our soul mates.

Damon, on the other hand, has spent the past 145 years pining away for Katherine, desperately trying to get her back. And as the premiere proves once again in the scene where Katherine reveals that she never had any real feelings for Damon, the most emotional scenes of the show come from the most unemotional character.

If only that was as complicated as it got….

After the premiere, focus has shifted fairly seamlessly from the love triangle (now apparently a square) to some of our supporting characters, namely the Lockwood family’s werewolf curse. After getting used to twists and turns around every corner, the time spent building and revealing the werewolf storyline has been frustrating. Episodes are filled with humorous, although slightly pathetic, references to the impossibility of lycanthrope activity (said aptly by two vampires) and questions about certain times of the month. Now four episodes into the season, Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino) finally knows the truth about his identity, as does our main cast. Hopefully this will clear up the plot to move more quickly from here on out, with Mason Lockwood (Taylor Kinney) and Damon as enemies, and the dramatic reveal that Tyler won’t grow victim to the family curse unless he (inevitably) takes a human life. I only hope that life isn’t Matt’s (Zach Roerig), one of our only human characters to remain in the dark about the supernatural activity.

Although, there are still many things we don’t know about these new wolves. It’s been established that their bite is life-threatening to vampires. But this moonstone of Katherine’s that Mason is so desperate for remains elusive (yet still shockingly resembles a silicone boob every time it’s on screen).  And even if silver isn’t lethal to our furry friends, I find it curious that Mason was unharmed by a stab to the heart. Unlike vampires, werewolves are mortal, but what their Achilles heel will be is beyond me.

And we can’t forget Caroline, our newly-turned vampire. Caroline was one of my favorites last season, and while I’m sad to see her join the other side, her neurotic, self-involved characteristics heightened to vampire level offer a refreshingly human and relatable aspect to the bloodsuckers. Plus, she brings with her humorous commentary on being told to eat bunnies, which, let’s face it, had to be said. Why Katherine really changed Caroline is still a mystery, but watching Caroline break up with Matt and make the selfless choice that Stefan can’t make hit straight to the emotional heart of the show.

The second season so far has been lacking in some of the polish and punch of the previous episodes. Shocks are becoming less shocking, mostly because they’re things we’ve seen before (characters being killed only to discover they are wearing a life-saving ring has been used three times so far in the series). Tensions are being drawn out longer, rather than being expanded. The much anticipated face-to-face meeting of Katherine and Elena was ultimately a tease and a let down, in which the girls literally walked circles around the question that has been lingering since the very first episode: why does Elena look like Katherine?

Even further, the Katherine flashback episode was not as ground-breaking as these 1864 episodes have been known to be. Absent from Katherine’s episode was any kind of understanding of why she was toying with Damon if she had such strong feelings for Stefan. Although we’ve seen both the manipulative and softer sides of Katherine, neither one is quite complementing the other to create a full, convincing picture of our vixen. But, everyone has a past, and there’s still so much we don’t know about Katherine.

And our core couple, Stefan and Elena, have been suffering from a fizzle in their chemistry for a while now, with scenes like a cliché top of the Ferris wheel kiss to prove to us, yes, they still are destined for each other. I’m more excited to see the emotional complexity of Katherine’s relationship with Stefan, and how that affects the current relationship beyond dialogue that just tells us “But I love you,” which we’ve heard countless times before.

If history is any indication (and if we’ve learned anything from the Salvatores it’s that history is doomed to repeat), then there’s more coming than we can possibly predict, and season two is just getting started.  I, for one, can’t wait to watch the rest of the drama unfold.