The Vampire Diaries, “Plan B”

Though I think this season is off to a slightly rocky start, I have to admit, I totally missed not having The Vampire Diaries in my life last week, and that’s probably a bigger sign of its quality than anything else, especially on a jam-packed Thursday night.

Thankfully, tonight’s episode, “Plan B,” is probably the best of the season because it gets down to what the series does best: burning through plot like it’s a drug addict suddenly finding themselves flush of stash. I appreciate the attempts to set the scene for the werewolf stuff and Katherine’s return, but this effort feels like the shot in the arm the season needed and will surely serve as the catalyst for some really insane things to happen in the future.

But here specifically, “Plan B” climaxes a few of the threads the season has been working with since the premiere and each one of them comes to a “conclusion” in a satisfying way. I put conclusion in quotes because though this episode ends with Stefan and Elena finally realizing that if they want to stay alive and want all the people important to them to stay alive, they will seriously have to break up and there are tears all around — seriously, Paul Wesley blubbered like a newborn — we know that they’ll eventually come back to one another. However, because the series was smart enough to have Stefan and Elena try to subvert Katherine for a little  bit instead of jumping right into the melodrama, their “break up” here is at least three times more effective.

Moreover, let us take a moment of silence for the now departed Mason Lockwood, who unfortunately existed for little more than exposition and to serve as some sort of faux sensei for Tyler. After it was revealed he was back in town looking for the moonstone because of his relationship with Katherine, it was obvious he was not long for the world. Thankfully though, “Plan B” sees Damon kill Mason instead of Katherine, who runs the risk of becoming too evil (more on this in a second). We’ve been given a tamer Damon for a while this season, so it was nice to see Ian Somerhalder fully unleash those bug eyes and that bat-sh** crazy version of the character I think everyone who watches the series enjoys.

Before his death, Mason divulges some information about the moonstone, as it turns out the thing is going to somehow remove the curse that keeps weres turning only during full moons. Though it’s great to finally learn a little something about a prop that looks like a paper weight my great-aunt once had, I have to admit I am a little skeptical about the purpose or relevancy of this dumb stone. I’m not saying the series isn’t going to be interested in using it, I’m just not. There are already way more vampires in Mystic Falls than there are werewolves, so if the plan is to A.) Turn Tyler, B.) Allow him to be a werewolf at all times and then C.) kill Damon, Stefan and Caroline, I’m not sure that’s a story I’m interested in. I like Tyler, I don’t really want him to be manipulated into being this season’s secondary big bad, because chances are that means he’ll die at the end of things.

My other concern moving forward is the same one I’ve had all season, and that’s Katherine. Like I’ve said before, there are only so many episodes that can end with her doing something shocking or manipulating another member of the group to fit her own evil and still-mysterious motives, particularly when those motives are still unclear. This episode was effective in making sure the good guys got a little bit of a win with the moonstone theft and offing Mason, but then it turned back into the Katherine show before too long. And while I think Katherine convincing Jenna to stab herself in the gut is the first time I’ve actually been scared that Katherine would do anything substantial to Elena and company, there’s only so many characters to do that with. She’s turned Caroline, used Mason, stabbed Jenna and is now going to use Matt as a way to turn Tyler. That’s kind of ridiculous and before long, the series is going to have clarify her plans beyond “raise hell” and “get Stefan back.”

However, though this episode was full of the big moments, it also featured a few nice smaller scenes in the middle. The scenes with Caroline and her mother in the dungeon were some of the best all season, even though it’s unfortunate that the Sheriff had her mind wiped at the end of it. Moreover, though it’s probably not the case, this felt like the first episode either Jeremy and particularly Bonnie had anything to do in a long time and both were used effectively throughout the episode. Jeremy is really only interesting in scenes with Damon, so to have him serve as some sort of weird protegé without the whole vampire thing is a nice move. Bonnie always gets the short end of the stick and basically only shows up to serve as a foil for Damon or operate a witchy function and that’s completely unfortunate. If the series were smart and totally wanted to avoid True Blood comparisons, it would have pursued the history of witches this season and saved werewolves because that mythology seems much, much more interesting, at least to me.

Anyway, even though it’s something of a table-setter for what’s surely to come in the last few episodes before the inevitable long holiday break (I suspect the last episode of 2010 will come a week or two before Thanksgiving, so we probably have 3-4 left), “Plan B” is still Vampire Diaries at its manically paced best.

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