We've been passing the time during Vampire Diaries hiatuses by re-watching Season 1 from the beginning. This edition of "Rewind" covers Episodes 20-22; click here to read Part 1 (Episodes 1-4), here to read Part 2 (Episodes 5-8), here to read Part 3 (Episodes 9-12), here to read Part 4 (Episodes 13-16), and here to read Part 5 (Episodes 17-19).
This is it, you guys: My final journey into the rickety-and-then-thrilling county fair gyrosphere ride that has been Season 1 of The Vampire Diaries. Not only that, but these were definitely the three episodes where this show went from solid supernatural drama to modern classic. (I know!) Believe me, I spent my entire holiday break proselytizing about it to the other survivors of this upside-down cruise ship I've been trapped in, and I think people are really starting to get it. Mainstream acceptance, here TVD comes! (Please someone come rescue us, my socks have been wet for seven weeks.)
Anyway, because I've written these Season 1 recaps after having seen later episodes, it's important to provide context for when you (or your children or grandchildren or their grandchildren or the race of robo-abominations who will inherit the earth from them) stumble upon them in the future. You know, long after I've created my final screen grab of the Season 9 series finale (probably "LOL GIRL" over a still of Evil Sorceress Bonnie's Sassy Doppelganger on her wedding day to Damon's human clone) and finally walked into the ocean never to be seen again. What I'm saying is, I want people to know that I've written this piece after having seen the first nine episodes of Season 3. Well, the first ten, but that episode won't air until this Thursday so I can't talk about it yet, even though I would love to be able to tie it in to things that have happened in Season 1 but I CAN'T YET. Come back Thursday!
We left off last time with Stefan succumbing to his newfound addiction to human blood (he chomped on a Miss Mystic Falls loser while Caroline was being crowned), and Elena had no choice but to stab him with a Vervain Pokey Thing and throw him in the Salvatore dungeon.
The 20th episode began with a behind-bars Stefan doing some serious tank-top snoozin' in his cell. But this time his dreams involved the most important flashback yet: The time he and Damon became vampires!
It all started when they attempted to free Katherine from the town vampire hunters' horse buggy jail.
Katherine was wearing a cool mask! But just as they were untying her...
Whoops! Both bros got shot!
Just kidding, they didn't end up dying. It turned out that even though Katherine was recaptured and carted off, she'd secretly fed them blood in the days prior and had her witch Emily drag their bodies to some kind of soft-lit shirtless paradise somewhere by the river.
When they woke up, they decided they didn't want to complete their transformations to vampires by drinking human blood and would just allow themselves to starve to death (for real this time). They'd already sort of lost me at this point, but oh well!
Meanwhile in modern day, the most important thing that was happening is that a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old lady was about to get a shirtless hug from a teenage boy. Jeremy wasn't too shabby a rebound after Sean Faris. Congratulations, Anna! No WONDER she enrolled in high school again.
But then the flashbacks got all frowny-faced and weird. Stefan paid a visit to his dad, Harry Morgan, to inform him that although he'd been technically murdered and had been in love with a vampire, he had no intention of converting to full-blown vampire. At this point Harry admitted that he had been the one to shoot his own sons (!) and he wasn't sorry one bit. The scene didn't turn out so well:
Presto! Stefan was now a full-blown vampire! But now can we talk about how weird this scene was? Stefan ate his own dad! I mean, sure, it was hilarious how Harry accidentally stabbed himself but wasn't it so weird when Stefan started fingering his wounds and licking his hands? So grody.
Anyway, after a dinner date gone bitchy with Uncle John, Pearl decided she and Anna were gonna have to leave town.
Needless to say, Anna didn't want to go. This part made me sad since Anna is obviously a very old lady but she's still getting bossed around by her mom. Ugh, being an immortal vampire must be so annoying! Get out of my room, immortal mom! On the other hand, Pearl was kind of right?
Elsewhere in Flashbackville, New Vampire Stefan was feeling slightly crazy so he more or less forced Damon to drink blood too. It honestly didn't seem like it was too hard to convince him.
But then Damon got all mad at Stefan and promised that from then on his only purpose in life was to make Stefan's life miserable. I think this made more sense during Season 1 when Damon was more consistently a jerk to everyone. It was probably like, "Oh! That explains it." Obviously the characters are more complicated now (well, the ones that aren't witches), so this revelation isn't quite as powerful. But anyway, yeah: Damon was mad at Stefan for not allowing him to die.
In a fairly powerful confrontation in front of one of the town's four thousand waterfalls, Stefan bared his soul to Elena and talked about all his guilt over being a vampire, etc. Apparently Emily told him that his curse will be having to be a vampire while also having a "pure heart." File that curse under "LOL" because look what's going on in Season 3. But yeah, Elena told him to fight it and they both did some super good acting and then touched foreheads.
Oh no! Then this happened:
At this point Uncle John went from a sleazy jerk to a full-on villain. Ugh, he was really the worst. But he was about to have company!
Hey Isobel! Aside from Katherine, this was the character who'd been most talked about without having appeared outside of flashbacks. Again, I know what happens to this lady in Season 2, and I can't help but feel distinctly disappointed by the casting here. I just think Isobel should have been played by an actress who didn't seem camera shy? I don't know. Anyway, this was a good cliffhanger!
So anyway, yeah: Isobel was back in town and she was not messing around.
But she got on my nerves right away. You're telling me an incredibly smart, crafty, and powerful vampire needed Alaric to deliver messages for her? And if he didn't she intended to murder the entire town. Okay lady, if you're so powerful why don't you Bing your own daughter and arrange a meet-up yourself?
One trend that began in Season 1 and remains important in Season 3 is that whenever Stefan was in trouble, Damon and Elena bonded big time. This was a weird scene because (1) it pre-dated the existence of Damon's bedroom so it meant Damon was chillin' on Stefan's bed for no reason and (2) Elena and Damon seemed to be flirting here.
Stefan was feeling way better already (even though he hadn't kicked human blood) and was already trying to assert his jealous boyfriend status over Damon.
Then we got to hang out in Mystic Falls' weird cinder block, roofless cafeteria?
FYI, 'Lazy Crazy Dayz' got an excellent writeup in the Mystic Falls Semi-Monthly Picayune.
Great use of negative space, Art Club!
Meanwhile, Caroline and Bonnie were discussing their upcoming Founders' Day float, which required a bit of Bing research. Here's what the previous year's float looked like.
WHAT? Now, sure, I'm guessing this image is full of inside jokes that only the art department and/or the producers recognize, but let's just explore this wonderful image for a sec. Plastic patio furniture? A giant cake? Copy-pasted balloon arches? Flower baskets? A yellow-and-red polka dotted dunce cap? WTF was up with last year's senior class? Don't even get me started on those dresses or hairstyles. So yeah, this picture was hilarious, but then it got really sad when I remembered that these people were most likely dead now. RIP previous senior class!
Somewhere in town Isobel had set up a weeks-long 3-way with a French girl and a homosexual cowboy. I think this was supposed to suggest that Isobel was both pretentious and sexy, but she came off about as edgy as a soccer mom who once tried out for Roller Derby and is too scared to get a tattoo. Anyway, the notable thing here was that she and John were definitely aware of each other and possibly working together.
Isobel's first order of business: Meeting her biological daughter for lunch at Mystic Grill! Stefan hung out in the shadows for moral support and before Isobel arrived they did this:
This is only a .GIF, so you can't hear the disturbing sound effect of all the other Mystic Falls patrons barfing in unison because GROSS.
So anyway, Isobel arrived and got bitchy right away:
She even grabbed Elena's arm and threatened her family. Basically she wanted Elena to get Damon's pocket watch device and give it to her. Then she took off. Harsh!
Speaking of harsh, Bonnie was still all mad at vampires because they contributed to Jasmine Guy's death (fair enough!) and she was still wearing her hair straight and throwing shade at Elena for dating Stefan. So yeah, even when Elena clearly needed a post-Isobel hug, Bonnie turned her back on her. Stone cold, girl.
Back at the Gilbert house Uncle John was attempting to bond with Jeremy.
Then Damon confronted Isobel the best way he knew how.
He threatened her to stay away and to stop being so mean to his platonic pal Elena! He's just a good guy, you know?
Oh, and Jeremy basically called Elena out for her hypocrisy. She didn't approve of his dating Anna and he threw it in her face that she'd been dating a vampire the whole time.
So then at this point Isobel showed up again, broke Matt's arm and threatened Elena one last time. She decided to give up the trinket or whatever. Luckily Bonnie had apologized for doggin' her and brought out a grimoire with a very nicely drawn picture of a vampire doomsday device somehow related to the thing Isobel wanted.
Then she pretended to remove the magic from the item so that it would be useless to Isobel:
Then they made the trade off, and Elena shared some more screentime with her bio mom.
The gist was that Isobel wanted Elena to believe that she was a cold-hearted B. Fine, we get it, Isobel.
But then Isobel revealed that it was all a ruse, that she has a heart, and the whole plan had been set up with John for Elena's benefit.
Unfortunately, that greater benefit included the deaths of Damon and Stefan. Apparently Isobel and John agreed that Elena would be better off if all her vampire friends were murdered.
Oh, and also, Bonnie's tricks weren't over! She hadn't removed the magic from that contraption after all, and it was still deadly to all vampires! But it was hilarious how she "came clean" in the most long-winded and vague way possible to Caroline, who at that point was still in the dark about everything.
First off, it was like, DANG Bonnie! We know you got your reasons, but don't forget that the heroes of this show are vampires, so contributing to their deaths would make you the villain. But second of all, this scene reminded me of how much more I like this show now that Caroline's a main player. See, even her hair and outfits have improved!
Then season finale (WHICH IS SUCH A GOOD SEASON FINALE) began with a blurry, sepia-tone fakeout.
Hey, it wasn't a flashback at all! It turned out today was Founders' Day and all the kids were dressing up in their favorite period-appropriate costumes!
This was the best:
This was also the first time I've ever understood the appeal of the Confederacy. Anyway, as it turned out Matt and Caroline were still sorta pissed at Tyler because he'd made out with Matt's mom. (Apparently Matt didn't know that his mom was Melinda Clarke? Get real, Matt!)
Oh, and in the most ham-fisted, densely expositional conversations ever on this show, Elena and Stefan broke down the entire series into like four lines of dialogue, and then Stefan dropped yet another bombshell on his girlfriend:
This must have truly been one of Elena's low points. Understandable!
You know what was NOT awful? The Founders' Day parade!
It made me laugh that the football team is made up of about 11 guys. Pretty sure all 11 are now dead.
This was charming:
Two of my favorite Season 1 characters returned: Fake Taylor Lautner and Random Girl.
Anyway, the most important event of this episode was that a group of young, very hip vampires (from the tomb) were planning on taking over the town at that night's Founders Day events. But Uncle John decided to initiate the doomsday device, which emitted a silent, debilitating sound that only vampires could hear.
Then cops would silently whisk away all affected peoples, stick them in the basement and soak them in gasoline. In a truly sad and disturbing moment, John recognized Anna and staked her personally himself.
In retrospect, Jeremy and Anna were only soulmates for about three episodes tops, which slightly detracts from her emotionally charged reappearance in Season 3. However, she was an undeniably interesting character and this just seemed like a chump death. Poor Anna! Nobody deserves to go out like that.
You know who did deserve to go out like a chump? That jerk mayor!
In a nasty twist, it turned out that certain other types of people were ALSO affected by the siren. In another nasty twist, the mayor's neck.
In a scary turn of events, Tyler was driving Matt and Caroline home when he heard it, and they all CRASHED.
A responding EMT treating Tyler ended up getting a creepy surprise:
This would've been a more powerful moment if I didn't already know how integral the werewolves would later become, but it's not hard to recognize just how satisfying the werewolf reveal was for a season finale.
But OH NO:
Poor Caroline! Apparently human beings can still be injured, so she ended up being hospitalized for internal injuries. There was a pretty devastating moment when Tyler was waiting for her in the waiting room and Sheriff Forbes had to tell him to call home (re: his dead dad). Even a show as gratuitously kill-happy as this one can't get around the fact that these people are losing parents and best friends. Devastating stuff.
Oh, but look who's partly to blame!
To Bonnie's credit, she sort of tempered the basement flames enough so that Stefan could rescue Damon.
I don't know, in this world of teenager monsters, it seems like what Bonnie did would be pretty unforgivable. Especially when she would later come to benefit romantically from it...
Anyway, Anna had given Jeremy some of her blood, so at this point Jeremy decided to take the plunge. He drank that vial and ate all of Elena's medicine. Another cliffhanger!
Credit where credit's due, I loved the way Bonnie threatened Stefan here. She said that if one more human being was hurt by Damon she'd kill him and Stefan too. See, if only the series had capitalized upon this bit of Bonnie badassery, I think her character would be more compelling. But again, knowing how Season 2 and 3 turn out for her, this ended up being a bit of a hollow promise.
Oh, and then the best part of Season 1 happened. It all began with a kiss.
Holy moly! I even know what was going on but this was still shocking. And not even shocking really—The preceding few episodes had made a Damon-Elena kiss seem plausible! I truly don't know if I would have guessed this was Katherine, though, so this is definitely a singularly great moment for this show. Interrupted, of course, by some lady opening a door.
Then things got even better. While Jeremy was upstairs suicidin', Uncle John attempted to explain to "Elena" about his ties to Isobel, why he'd done what he'd done and the fact that he's her father and so forth. And that's when this happened:
Bye-bye immortality ring!
Hello knife to the gut! That's when John (and we) realized we'd finally met the character we'd been waiting for. KATHERINE!
Katherine is the best! What an entrance! She's a villain! She's a hero! She's the new best thing on Nina Dobrev's resumé! I knew this was coming but even I was thrilled at how perfect this moment was. And it ended with our actual heroine arriving home and walking into a whole mess o' cliffhangers.
THAT is how a season finale is done, you guys! I don't know if I've ever seen one so perfect? I really don't know if I've ever seen one so perfect.
So now that I'm finished with Season 1, it's been a thrill to watch this show evolve from its mostly forgettable pilot to what it became in the finale. As it turned out, TVD's ability to course-correct has been one of its major strengths. If anything, the density of storytelling in this finale became almost the norm for the series as a whole. Season 3 has been pretty wild so far.
Speaking of which... Come back Thursday?
... Did you see the Katherine thing coming?
... Wasn't John and Isobel's plan sort of harsh?
... Be honest: Is Stefan sort of a drama queen?
... Is Katherine merely the best or is she the greatest of all time?