October 13, 2012


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WHERE WE WERE:  Witnessing heroine Elena (Nina Dobrev) die and then un-die, a presumptive vampire-to-be. To vastly oversimplify a complex mythology, she’d been heading out of Mystic Falls with Matt (Zach Roerig), one of the other relatively few humans around, having made her choice of the vampiric Salvatore brothers, picking Stefan (Paul Wesley) over Damon (Ian Somerhalder).  Unfortunately, she and Matt were run off a bridge by ancient vamp and general mean girl Rebekah (Claire Holt), and when Stefan dived in, Elena told him to rescue Matt and let her die.  What Elena didn’t know was that she had vampire blood in her from an earlier healing, and if you die with vampire blood in your system… you don’t stay dead. Meanwhile, uber-vamp Klaus (Joseph Morgan) saved himself from being finally, truly killed by having witch Bonnie (Kat Graham) switch him into the body of vampire/werewolf hybrid Tyler (Michael Trevino), who’s the boyfriend of vampire Caroline (Candice Accola), as to whom Klaus has a surprisingly serious fondness himself.  It was a busy hour.

WHERE WE ARE:  In Diaries mythology, once someone returns from the dead, they have 24 hours to feed on human blood or die permanently.  The Season 4 premiere, written by Co-Executive Producer Caroline Dries and directed by Chris Grismer, largely took place during those hours.  There were, of course, complications.  Because so many Mystic Falls townspeople (including the mayor and sheriff) are related to supernatural beings, the town council’s efforts to rid the town of vampires have been, well, inconsistent at best.  But the local Pastor, having been alerted by one-time good guy, now dead serial killer Alaric, as to just who the local vamps are, went after them with a vengeance, locking them in cells they couldn’t escape. This eventually included Elena, who seemingly couldn’t get her hands on human blood even if she wanted to.  While all this was going on, Bonnie was attempting to use dark magic to temporarily die herself in order to bring Elena back from the dead as a non-vampire, but that just angered the witchy spirits, to the disadvantage of Bonnie’s deceased grandmother (surprise guest star–her name held out of the opening credits–Jasmine Guy).  Bonnie also had to deal with Klaus-as-Tyler, who rescued Caroline (thrilling her until she realized who he really was) and then threatened to rip Tyler’s heart out unless he was restored to his own body.

As is often the case with season premieres, there was so much plot to clean up from the past season’s finale that there wasn’t room for a lot of grace notes in the episode, and the hour mostly just barreled ahead.  Nevertheless, the show did a good job creating suspense from the possibility that Elena wouldn’t become a vampire after all (even though that would have felt like a bit of a cheat had it worked), and also found room for some Elena/Stefan/Damon triangle time.  It seems as though Klaus will be disappearing for a while, which makes sense since he periodically needs to go off and come up with his next nefarious plan.

Diaries will be a somewhat different show this season, because until now, much of the base story has revolved around keeping Elena alive and human.  The show has demonstrated remarkable skill at plotting–it’s far more clever than overblown universe of True Blood, not to mention consistently wittier and more successfully romantic–and this could be a good opportunity for the series, and also its generally underrated cast, to break out of what’s become a pattern.  Dobrev, certainly, will get to play different notes this year as a full-fledged member of the undead.

Until this week, Vampire Diaries was the sum total of successful CW series, but this week’s strong debuts for fellow fantasies Arrow and Beauty & the Beast suggest it may have new company.  However those shows may fare as their ratings settle over the next several airings, Diaries remains the class act of the network’s schedule.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."