The Vampire Diaries "Growing Pains" Review: Forever's Gonna Start Tonight (PHOTO RECAP)

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The Vampire Diaries S04E01: "Growing Pains"

Hi, I'm Price, do you remember me? We used to be in geometry together! You signed my yearbook and wrote "Keep in touch". And I did! I emailed you, I wrote you a postcard, I tried to add you on Friendster (you probably didn't get the notification). Oh well, at least we're in the same class again THIS year too! Want to be homework buddies? I do most of my homework during lunch period when I'm hanging out in the debate room by myself, but— Ugh, I can't keep this up, it's too real. Anyway HEY GUYS! How was your summer? If you were anything like me, you spent most of the summer months lying on the side of the road with barely any energy or will to live (besides watching Teen Wolf obvs). But on the whole it was just a hot, messy, pointless few months without The Vampire Diaries, you know? You do know.

Since the future is F-ING NOW, The Vampire Diaries returned this week! "Growing Pains" was its fourth season premiere, and while it was no "The Return" (WHAT IS?), it was still just straight-up fantastic! I loved this episode a lot; whether it's because it was truly good or because I was simply just so starved for m'vampires is a good question. But who even cares? "Growing Pains" had all the main ingredients: Scares, twists, surprises, emotions, shotgun barrel impalings, Jasmine Guy. It had everything! Just call me Chatty Cathy because I want to talk about it a bunch!

It all started in an artsy way: A white screen with just loud sound effects typical of the Mystic Falls suburbs.

And that's when a newly transitioning Elena woke up in bed!

If you were like me you called shenanigans right away. Um, didn't she wake up in a morgue earlier? Did that not happen? I guess there's a chance she was just like, "Nope, too sleepy" and hit the snooze button for a few more hours. In which case I can relate to that! But yeah, now she was awake and surrounded by a pair of handsome "Italians."

They broke the news to Elena the best they could, but she was NOT happy about getting turned into a vampire.

Poor Elena! At this point there was a certain amount of bickering over who was to blame for her death and whatnot, but I was glad the show didn't dwell TOO hard on it. It was a pretty freakish series of events, right? (Honestly a lot of the latter half of Season 3 could be described that way.) But yeah, it was just nice to see all our favorite characters back and doing what they do best:

Cool that even admidst all the life-or-death drama Jeremy still found time to work in a few sets of deadlifts! Unfortunately he still probably needed to work on his tactless-questions issues.

Elena was super jumpy and sensitive to stimuli, so it was actually pretty nice to see Jeremy being so chill about everything. He had a few tips on converting to vampirisim that he'd picked up from Vicki. (LOL a million years ago back when Jeremy was a goth.)

Oh hey, in this episode we learned who the new Big Bad is. LAMPS!

Yeah Elena was definitely having a hard time adapting. I mean it seemed like a slightly easier situation than what Caroline went through, but still. I guess in number of ways Elena had been kind of preparing for this moment for the past few years. But the old expression remains true: "You don't truly know how loud a lamp is until you're in the beginning stages of becoming a vampire."

In the beginning of what would become a major theme for the episode, things that we THOUGHT would happen based off the finale were either immediately reversed or easily solved. So for example last season it sort of appeared as though Klaus' body would be disposed of or thrown into the ocean or whatever, yet here it was, chillin' in Bonnie's ghost house looking super comfortable in that coffin. Didn't that coffin look so cozy? Like you just want to curl up in there, nestle under those chains, and just eat a sleeve of Ritz crackers while watching a Revenge marathon.

Anyway, Klaus was still in Tyler's body and he was SUPER crabby toward Bonnie.

They did at least come to an agreement that it was probably worth a shot trying to convert Elena back into a human. So that was some nice common ground right there. (And just FYI, Michael Trevino was surprisingly good! No English accent because that might've been too lulz-y to handle, but I still totally bought that it was a different person inside Tyler.)

Anyway, like I was saying, whereas the season finale hinted that the anti-vampire council would be resurgent this season, this episode immediately made that the case in a BIG way. Temporarily, at least. Meet this Pastor dude, the clear leader of the anti-vampire league. It was hecka interesting to me that this show brought in an overtly religious component to the vampire lore. Anyway, the big shocker was that not only was the anti-vampire council not a complete joke, they apparently had the resources and the legal ability to arrest the whole damn town?

Yeah, I couldn't believe it either, but these people were serious! They even handcuffed the mayor!

And they took Sheriff Forbes' badge! I'm seriously not even sure how that works from a legal standpoint, but I'm also sure that Sheriff Forbes didn't either.

Anyway, after Tyler and Caroline were supposed to have left town, at some point Caroline came to believe that Tyler had been killed? Is my brain broken forever, or was this a new revelation? Am I misremembering something? I suppose I could bust out the Season 3 finale again for reference, but I'm lazy. For right now I seriously do not know how Caroline came to believe this. May was a LONG time ago, friends. Anyway, I'm sure you can fill me in in the comments. So yeah, Caroline didn't leave town after Tyler was "killed." And unfortunately she was too distracted by a phone call to use her ultra-powerful vampire sensory skills to detect that the council was about to jump out and vervain her. We're not all perfect, and that includes perfect lady vampires.

Meanwhile Elena still hadn't drank up some blood to complete her transformation and she was gagging over a sandwich Stefan had made for her:

OR it could be that a person who hasn't needed to eat food for over a century maybe isn't the best cook? I bet that sandwich was just like a glop of horse radish over some old baloney. Ugh, vampire cooks.

Anyway, at this point Stefan was doing his best to hold Elena's hand through all her puzzling new sensations, but in my opinion he was being a bit of a know it all. Back up, guy, and let her experience things! Like in this moment when Elena cracked herself up over the least funny joke in human history and then started crying:

Emotions are hard! Especially for vampires. I guess that whole "turn it off" lesson is for advanced users only.

This was cool though: As has been long speculated, Elena started to remember all the moments that Damon had compelled her to forget, and the show made a super artsy decision to have Elena experience them in a 3D, out-of-body type of way.

This particular scene was when Damon basically told her that he loved her, kissed her forehead, compelled her to forget (complete with a single manly tear) and then returned the vervain necklace that everybody had stolen from everybody else. (Man, I bet Ayanna's still all mad that her necklace got ganked.)

Meanwhile present-day Damon was still making his blame rounds, and the next stop was Rebekah's pad:

NO HE DID NOT! Damon brought the White Oak stake and tried to murder Rebekah with it! They tussled and then she got shot/staked through the window!

Because oh yeah! The Council was still on their A-game.

They even got Stefan and Elena! The main goon was this handsome, super worked-out bro, so how long do you think it'll be before he's the lead on some show about hunky heroes? Two months? Three?

So apparently the Mayor didn't get thrown in the slammer like would've been hilarious. Pretty soon she was drinking everything in sight and drunk-dialing her son.

Klaus did a pretty good job of playing it off! In my head I imagined that the more he got to know Tyler's life the faster he wanted outta there. Just as an aside, how horrible would it be to switch bodies with someone. Like, who cares if they're in better shape than you, it takes a whole lifetime to get used to your OWN body, now you have to deal with someone else's weirdness? "Ugh, this dude's jaw clicks when I chew. And what is that smell?" Count me out.

Anyway, both Caroline and Rebekah came to in the back of a van. And I got pretty excited because I want them to be friends or at least buds, you know? So I was hoping they'd bond a little bit over their shared incarceration:

But nope! The van crashed! (The special effect was simply incredible. So good.) Tyler's mom had alerted him/Klaus that Caroline had been abducted so he had no choice but to leap into action! Quick question though, how does a teenage hybrid go about crashing three cars in one fell swoop? My theory is he simply sent a text message to the front driver and a pile-up immediately ensued. Clever Klaus!

Anyway, he saved Caroline and then left Rebekah with nothing but a hint that he was actually Klaus. Thanks?

Meanwhile Matt was still in BIG trouble with Damon for having driven off the Wickery Bridge and then not even having the decency to drown.

Poor Matt! Except, I don't know, just swerve next time? No need to drive off a bridge. To his credit, Matt seemed pretty eager to die the whole episode. "Lord, take me," was written across his face basically the whole time.

Another thing I feared would last an uncomfortably long time? Klaus impersonating Tyler in order too hook up with Caroline.

Except nope! It was totally awesome that this plotline not only wasn't dragged out, but Caroline was onto him right quick. I'm so relieved we're not going to have a psychological rape subplot on our hands, but I'm even more relieved that this was a huge reason to like Klaus. Sure he's a murderous villain prone to reprehensible actions, but it's the moments where he seems to have a modicum of self-respect where I really like him. Why on earth would Klaus need to impersonate some rando werewolf in order to win over a girl? He wouldn't! So I appreciated his boast that he planned to win her over anyway.

So Bonnie's big plotline (and it was a good one!) involved her conscious decision to get involved in some dark arts in order to hopefully keep Elena from going full vampire. It was clear right away that this magic was probably not safe for Bonnie's health:

She passed out! That's because Bonnie's plan basically involved astral projection, which she used to somehow lure Elena's soul (which is now a separate entity from Vampire Elena) back from the Other Side and into Elena's old body. Or something. It was a confusing plan that not even Bonnie seemed clear on.

EXCEPT WHOOPS! JASMINE GUY WAS BACK AND BOY WAS SHE PISSED! Hey Grams! Grams was NOT happy about Bonnie using dark magic. That's why she cock-blocked this astral projection nonsense and made Bonnie give it up. Typical Grams!

I have to say, I sat up and clapped with glee when Grams showed up. I am not even ashamed to admit that.

Anyway, Elena and Stefan and Rebekah were all taken to some kind of barn prison and locked up in separate cages so that they could be hot-boxed with vervain. Elena and Stefan ended up having a very heartfelt conversation, finally putting it out there that they both <3ed each other so much and Elena chose him, etc.

But the best thing (aside from the terrific dialogue and acting) was that Rebekah, an on-the-record Stelena hater, was just chillin' in her cell listening to them talk and having this seemingly profound, silent change of heart not only about them, but maybe about love itself? I can't quite put my finger on it, but it was this aspect of the scene that truly got to me. Because Rebekah's a newish character and her arc is still ripe for the unfolding, she has a ton of potential to become kind of the heart of the show. A jaded cynic that deep down just wants what the simpletons around her have. Just a really nice touch.

Anyway, Damon and Matt put their brains together and realized that the evil pastor had a ranch and so that's probably where their friends had been taken to. Their plan involved Damon biting the F out of Matt's neck and then taunting the pastor all kinds.

Honestly, this might seem weird, but don't you think that vampires probably like drinking Matt's blood anyway? I bet it's all buttery. And kinda starchy. And with a hint of white pepper.

Anyway, Damon got shot.

So then, just after Bonnie had sworn off dark magic for good, Klaus forced her to put his soul back into his chained-up charcoal body.

Bonnie did not WANT to, but when Klaus/Tyler started ripping at his own beach bod, Bonnie finally relented.

Unfortunately, just as Grams had predicted, this was the final straw as far as the witch ancestors were concerned. But the twist was, they took it out on GRAMS!

I can't believe Grams got killed AGAIN? Who would have guessed that being a ghost wasn't the worst thing that could happen to you? I'm starting to think that maybe ghost on ghost violence is becoming a serious problem in Mystic Falls. Anyway, sorry, Bonnie, that was a bummer.

Meanwhile at the barn jail, Rebekah had decided to put her manipulation skills to work in trying to get them out of there. It started with her hilarious attempt to bribe the guard with jewels and castles and whatever.

But it ended with Elena FINALLY getting a sweet taste of blood! And boy did she have to earn it!

So there you have it folks! Elena's first human victim would be the dead guard whose head was leaking like a busted water balloon. Not very glamorous but it got the job done.

Meanwhile out on the lawn, Damon jumped up from his temporary death and proceeded to beat up some goons. The high point was probably when he stabbed a man through the heart WITH A SHOTGUN.

Unfortunately Damon's rage didn't stop there and he turned on Matt for some unfinished business.

But Vampire Elena intervened! (I guess the guard had conveniently unlocked her cage before getting real killed.) But anyway, yeah, its official: Elena be vampin'!

At this point she and Damon had a heart to heart about all that no-longer-compelled stuff. Another moving conversation, but this one significantly sadder.

He owned up to all the stuff he'd said and stood by it. But she just doubled-down on how much she wants Stefan instead. Stuff like that.

Oh speaking of situations that didn't last very long: Klaus was officially back and non-charred! I clapped here as well.

Rebekah was super mad at him though. Not only had he treated her real bad, but he basically told her to her face that he didn't need her as a family member, he just needed his sweet, sweet doppelganger blood so that he could make a boy army for himself. Needless to say, Rebekah's little act of rebellion didn't go over so well.

Oh Klaus. Welcome back! But oh, Klaus.

I am not the biggest fan of the central romance, but I'm also a human being so it was hard not to be moved by this rooftop scene:

They both pretty much made it official that they are back in love, and Elena even expressed excitement about getting to be immortal. See, maybe things won't change very much now that she's a vampire. Still seems like the same old girl to me!

But this stinger of an ending was pretty terrific. The anti-vampire council gathered at the pastor's house for a morning meeting:

AND HE BURNT THEM ALL UP!!!

What ON EARTH? That was incredible! But see what I'm saying? I thought the council would be a prominent nemesis for the season, but apparently not! Yeah, he implied something along the lines of them being ghosts and fighting from the other side, but come on, that's silly. Ghosts are gonna be fighting ghosts now? To me I interpreted this as, last season the writers were like, "We gotta have SOME kind of cliffhanger," and then over the summer they realized that those cliffhangers promised stories that weren't all that great, so here they're just cleaning house so they can move onto even better villains. That's my theory! I'm not smart. But I do love this show and it constantly impresses me how surprising it can be. I'm holding out hope that this episode's inclusion of religion, angry witch ghosts, and alternate realms might have bigger implications for the story down the line, but either way, I am intrigued AS HECK. Boom. TVD is back, you guys.


QUESTIONS:

... Are the council going to turn into angry fire demons?

... Is Bonnie done with dark magic for good?

... Will Rebekah ever catch a break?

... Tyler or Klaus? Be honest.

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