When I first began recapping this season of The Vampire Diaries, I was very upfront about the fact that I hadn't seen most of Season 1 and didn't necessarily even want to. What I had seen of it was sort of boring and lousy, plus I was enjoying the new episodes too much to want to become annoyed with the show all over again. But since two weeks of reruns is also boring and annoying, I figured I should just bite the bullet and get caught up. So, thanks to the commenters who suggested I do this, and let's get started, shall we? (P.S. Relax, Bulgaria.)
What follows are little recaplets of the first four episodes of the series, all of which pay particular attention to just how much has changed since the show began, not to mention the admirable amount of story elements that were firmly in place from the start.
Are you ready? Let's do this.
Before Mystic Falls was a town full of monsters, it was a town full of jerks. Seriously, with one exception, almost every character had a worse personality in the pilot. Caroline was awful. Jeremy was a nightmare. Tyler was date-rapey. Damon was a total A-hole. Elena and Stefan have been dull from the beginning apparently, so at least that was consistent. The one laughable exception was Bonnie, who was originally sassy and confident. Crazy, right? Bonnie used to be fun!
And not only was Mystic Falls filled to the brim with jerks, it barely even looked like Mystic Falls!
Haha, where is this? Yeah, I know how pilots work. The Vampire Diaries switched towns or sound stages or something before Episode 2. But still, it's crazy how different all the original locations were.
When we first met Elena and Jeremy, they were returning to school as newly minted orphans. Elena was understandably moodier then (you could tell by the hoop earrings), and Jeremy was a drug addict caught up in the grossest love triangle ever. Jeremy was the worst.
So then a mysterious stranger showed up to enroll in their high school and we immediately knew that he was a vampire. The whole time, Stefan was filmed from behind, as though revealing his face too soon would be like spoiling our Christmas present. Please, Vampire Diaries. I've been to the Smithsonian. I've seen caveman mannequins.
So begins The Vampire Diaries' biggest fraud to date: trying to convince us that Elena was the most sought-after girl in school and that Stefan was the biggest dreamboat in the South. Why must you lie, Vampire Diaries?
Meanwhile, a string of murders had people on edge. Don't worry, they were just animal attacks, definitely. Just kidding, it was actually Stefan's mysterious vampire brother, Damon. Right away, Damon seemed different than he is now. Not only was he way meaner, but Ian Somerhalder actually attempted subtlety in his acting. No eye-acting in the entire pilot! What show was I even watching?
Also, I guess vampires had different, cheesier powers back then? For instance, Damon used supernatural fog machines. He also used creepy crows a bunch. It was implied that he could either watch people through crows or himself could become a crow. Who knows. But he could definitely fly—the opening roadside murder showed him swooping down and grabbing a fleeing lady.
But guess what was set up from the beginning? Katherine! Stefan essentially returned to Mystic Falls and even enrolled in high school because I guess he found out that Katherine's doppelganger had come of age? And they didn't state it immediately, but Damon followed Stefan into town for the same reason. So yeah, I was interested to learn that Katherine has always loomed large in this show, but it was suddenly super frustrating to know that she won't even show up until Episode 22! And since the show's other amazing character, Vampire Caroline, won't show up until Season 2, that means that so far this season has exactly zero awesome characters.
Also, who was this guy? Oh, haha, he was Stefan and Damon's "nephew." This show!
Although this episode took place only the next day, it was hilarious how different everything was. Jeremy had a different haircut, Jenna's hair was a different color entirely, Bonnie's Prius turned from blue to white, and oh yeah, every single location looked different. I mean this as a compliment since this was the episode where The Vampire Diaries really began to take shape, style-wise (i.e. they turned off most of the lights.)
But unfortunately, this episode also started showing signs of lousiness. First off, and I can't believe I didn't mention this earlier… THE DIARIES. Holy moly. I guess it makes sense that a show called The Vampire Diaries might have diaries, but I really didn't realize that BOTH main characters would write in them and we'd hear them as voiceover! Double ugh. So I guess this was a device that got ditched sometime during Season 1, but in this episode it's especially horrible. Get this: At the end, just before Elena and Stefan's first kiss, they each "write diary entries" ALOUD TO EACH OTHER. It's unbearable. I have to hand it to the die-hard fans, you really had to endure a lot to stick with this show. Hats off to you, sirs and gentlewomen.
And don't even get me started on the pop culture references. At some point in one of these episodes, Caroline and Damon even discuss the Twilight series. You guys, I got so mad at my TV when that happened. Since then, someone must've taken Kevin Williamson aside and just been like, "Cool it."
Another creative red flag was just how slow the storytelling was. Honestly, by Episode 2 I was so, so sick of Jeremy's love triangle with Tyler and Vicki. And it's so frustrating that this show tried to drag out Elena's realization of Stefan's vampirism for so long. I mean, we KNOW she's going to find out about this, it's basically the show's entire premise. It just makes her seem like a total dunce for not realizing it sooner.
This here is a comet. Bonnie claimed its return coincided with Mystic Falls becoming a hotbed of paranormal activity. She wasn't wrong! I liked Bonnie's slow realization that she was a witch, especially whenever she mentioned Gran, because it would remind me that pretty soon we're gonna get to meet JASMINE GUY. Honestly, my theory is that Vampire Diaries didn't really start to heat up until Jasmine Guy showed up (or MAYBE Melinda Clarke). CANNOT WAIT.
Oh, and you can tell this is an old episode because of how the show treated Jenna like she was a real character. In this episode, she even got to be in an ENTIRE SCENE!
One downside of watching these episodes out of order is that if I don't recognize a character, he/she is totally going to get killed later, right? Spoiler alert!
It made me laugh that all the mysterious murders and attacks were simply chalked up to animal attacks, like that's just a normal fact of life around Mystic Falls and not completely horrible. I mean, if someone came up to me with a neck bandage and said, "Oh, I was bitten by a baby koala," I'd run into the nearest gun store.
Here's Stefan and Elena's first kiss. You'll just have to trust me.
Haha, this episode. I think Kevin Williamson might've been watching a lot of Friday Night Lights at the time? I mean, I don't blame him, that is an awesome show! But still:
This scene was even filmed using handheld cameras! Plus, they're about to play against the Lions, which is the main team featured in FNL Season 4. You know what, I'm just going to pretend it's the same universe because I like to laugh.
So yeah, between this and Bonnie suddenly being a cheerleader, it's clear The Vampire Diaries was battling a touch of schizophrenia.
There's one element of these early episodes that I find to be really uncool and off-putting, and that is the Damon and Caroline plotline. Not to get all serious and whatnot, but there's almost no way describe this relationship other than as a serialized sexual assault and brainwashing. It may have been easier to stomach this plotline back when people considered Caroline to be just some cardboard cut-out blonde, but now that we've come to really dig her character, in retrospect it's pretty tough to see her get treated this way. This was the first time I actually got ANGRY at the show. Not just because Damon basically rapes her a ton, but then later it seems like Caroline actually falls in love with her rapist? Real cool, Vampire Diaries.
Anyway! Aside from how hilarious the football/cheerleader elements were, this episode was a ton of boring. Elena had a heart-to-heart with Damon about Katherine, and Jeremy's love triangle continued to go nowhere. How many of you stopped watching after this episode? I don't blame you.
Oh well, at least this guy got killed!
Okay, so this episode really started establishing some main show elements. First off, it featured the first ever Mystic Falls town-wide party! Also, we started to meet more and more important authority figures—including the mayor, a reporter, and also this dunce:
Also: Hydroponic vervain! Yup, just some hydroponic vervain Stefan's elderly nephew has been growing in the cellar. Stefan was like, "Why are you growing the one herb that could kill your relatives?" And the nephew was like, "Because." Fair enough! I agree with the nephew on this issue.
Also, this was hilarious: Bonnie finally realized that she had witch powers when she re-lit a candle with her brain. But check it out, she was being a total loner at the time! So it's true, her powers really do coincide with her plummeting self-esteem!
This episode really began to test my patience. Even after Elena saw that Damon bit Caroline all over and that the original Founder's Day guest list included Damon and Stefan's names, she STILL didn't realize that Stefan is a vampire. Good Lord! Can we cut to the chase already?
Luckily, this episode also marked the first ever meeting of the town's anti-vampire league, and for the first time this season an episode concluded with a scene that made me actually WANT to see the next one. Well-played, Vampire Diaries. Just kidding, TERRIBLY PLAYED (and then fun at the end), Vampire Diaries!
This concludes the first installment of Vampire Diaries Rewind. Check back next week for even more back-catalogue misadventures!
... How many of you also gave up early on only to return later? What was your breaking point? What brought you back?
... How long do I have to wait until Jasmine Guy? The suspense is killing me!
... Aren't you so glad that Damon isn't so much of a bastard anymore?
... Which character has improved the most since Season 1? (Besides Caroline, obvs.)