Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – A Few Good Men (2010)

Abandonment and rejection fuel the festering seeds of self-doubt and self-destruction

For a television series with so little regard about the necessity of parental figures in the lives of the teenagers roaming the countryside — without parental supervision, curfews or rules to live by — this week’s episode offered insight, reveals and even more questions about those missing parental figures. Typically, the famous question is “who’s your daddy?” But in Mystic Falls, it is much more important to know “who’s your mommy?”

This week it was all about the infamous missing mothers: the women who bore the heroes we know and love – and sometimes fear — and sometimes fear for. Now that the crypt has been opened, it is the mother-figures who are the catalyst of a new era of mystery. First and foremost, there is Katherine (Nina Dobrev), the figurative-mother of Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan (Paul Wesley) — and possibly Pearl (Kelly Hu), Anna (Malese Jow), and Harper (Sterling Sulieman). Then there is Isobel (Mia Kirshner), Elena’s (Nina Dobrev) birth mother and Alaric’s (Matt Davis) wife. She too figures prominently in the mysterious goings on in Mystic Falls. And last but not least, was the introduction of Kelly (Melinda Clarke), Matt (Zach Roerig) and Vicki’s (Kayla Ewell) wandering mother, who returned quite unexpectedly.

Like Damon who had diligently searched for a way to rescue his beloved Katherine, Elena too embarked on a journey to find her birth mother. While Damon sought to drown his sorrows over his abandonment and rejection by Katherine – after all she let him believe that she was dead for 145 years – Elena embraced the challenge of locating and learning more about Isobel.

What Worked

It was revealing when Damon referred to Elena by lazily asking Stefan, “Where did our girlfriend go?” Damon clearly resents Stefan’s protective mothering instincts, and finds ways to needle him whenever given the chance. It is to Stefan’s credit that he did not rise to the bait. His confidence that he has nothing to worry is very appealing. It also belies his true strength: he knows he has not been rejected by the woman he loves — but Damon was.

And Damon is clearly not dealing well with the revelation that Katherine was not in the tomb. He parties like there is no tomorrow, drowning his sorrows, claiming it is his way of dealing with his “loss.” What loss?! It was rejection and abandonment, plain and simple. Damon is obviously very angry over the fact that Katherine was not in the tomb waiting to be rescued by him. What kind of person is Katherine to have let him believe such a lie for nearly 150 years?! What kind of monster is she? For, as we have seen, even vampires have feelings. Katherine displays a deep level of moral depravity by toying with Damon’s affections and then to tossing him aside like his was trash. Katherine epitomizes what it means to exhibit callous disregard, remorseless and a depraved heart. It is thought-provoking wondering if Katherine’s actions reflect fear, rage or pure indifference. What is it about that tomb or Mystic Falls that terrifies her so much? Is it because that is where she let her guard down and opened her heart? Was it because she felt an inkling of humanity again and she rejected it so strongly that she had to run away?

Thus, when Damon dismissively said, “I spent the last 145 years with one goal: to get in that tomb. I succeeded – granted, Katherine wasn’t in there to be rescued. . . It is so liberating not having a master plan, because I can do whatever the hell I want,” we knew this was not how he truly felt. It was far more revealing when he quietly acknowledged, “Nothing is important anymore.” A broken-hearted, rejected and abandoned vampire is a dangerous thing. If anything, 145 years of planning, strategizing and manipulating has made Damon the worst kind of enemy for Katherine to have – for hell hath no fury like a spurned lover.

Seeing Damon in such obvious pain, Elena rationalized, “Maybe this heart-ache will be good for him. It will remind him he has one – even if it doesn’t beat.” But as Elena later found out, Damon is never quite what he appears to be. Upon discovering that he was the vampire who may have killed her mother, Elena angrily said, “Just when I was thinking there was something redeemable about you.” Damon was shocked by her accusation, and even more so, when Elena sneered, “Go ahead, reminisce about how you killed her,” and stalked off.

While Elena was ultimately wrong about her assumptions about what happened to Isobel, it was Alaric who took the brunt of the pain after hearing from Damon that Isobel had sought him out to be turned. Damon said, “She came to me – all pathetic, looking for vampires. . . I turned her because she begged me to — but I guess you knew that too.” Damon tried to cushion the pain by sharing, “This is a shame. We’re kindred spirits – abandoned by the women we love. Unrequited love sucks.” It was further revealing that, after Damon stabbed Alaric and watched him die, Damon looked thoughtful, remorseful, lonely and even a bit lost. It is not often that his past comes back to haunt him deep into his soul – and from the look on his face, he may still have one.

Later when Stefan came to deal with Damon’s mess and found Alaric still alive, they were both surprised. That was when Alaric recalled what Isobel had said when she gave him the ring, “Promise me you’ll always wear it. It will protect you from all the things that go bump in the night.” Isobel may not have been the best wife, but she left one last token of her love to protect Alaric even when she could not. That she felt the need to protect him and, possibly Elena, belies someone who cares much more than she wants anyone to know. For she had also carefully set in place a way to protect Elena as well, though it seemed so much more ominous as it played out.

It was very cool feeling the crackling suspense when Elena went to visit Trudie (Amanda Detmer) — both not knowing if the other was a vampire.  As they danced around the white elephant between them, it was intriguing to see Elena notice that Trudie not actually invited her in and that there was vervain in the tea.  The danger was palpable and spine-tingling.  It felt downright Hitchcockian – especially with the dark stranger lurking outside.

On a separate note, the addition of Melinda Clarke as Matt and Vicki’s mother was fantastic. While some viewers will best remember her playing the humorously flawed Julie Cooper on “The O.C.,” others may recall she played Lady Heather on “CSI.” With her grand entrance interrupting Matt and Caroline’s moment in flagrante and her boozy tendencies, one may mistake her character as a version of Julie Cooper, but it will be a delight to see if some of Lady Heather’s darker-side comes to the surface. It was also a huge plus that she was not brought in for just one episode just to be unceremoniously killed-off like so many other guest stars. It has been tiring with the revolving door of familiar faces used simply to quickly engage the viewers’ emotions. It would be nice if the guest stars were given a chance to grow a bit in their characters and serve more than a quick vampire-snack on the show.

It was also cool when Matt called his mom on her behavior towards Caroline (Candice Accola). When Kelly flippantly said, “So blonde’s the new flavor of the month? So sorry I scared her off,” Matt calmly replied, “She’s not a flavor. I like her.” And when Kelly asked, “So, she’s the one,” Matt admitted, “No, probably not, but maybe.” It is good to see Matt standing behind his own choices and acknowledging the possibility that there may be a future with Caroline. It was also nice that he remembered to ask about Vicki. It is reassuring that someone is still wondering where Vicki is. Plus, in addition to standing up for his relationship with Caroline and remembering Vicki, Matt had the gumption to press his mom about why she had returned to Mystic Falls. Then, when she admitted it was because she too had been rejected and abandoned and asked Matt to not leave her, Matt was quick to reassure her, “I’m not going anywhere.” Such decisiveness, ready support and concern for the women in his life makes Matt one of the more responsible and sexiest men on the show.

The growing tenderness between Jenna (Sara Canning) and Alaric is also very romantic. Such as the scene when Jenna was hanging up the most eligible bachelor raffle sign and she teased him, “In this town, fundraising is like indentured servitude. Besides, you’re a bachelor and you’re eligible — so there you go” and, before she could say anything more, Alaric bent down and softly kissed her. Even after Jenna had to break the unsettling news that his dead wife may be Elena’s birth mother, the tenderness between the two was palpable. Jenna’s quiet anguish as she said, “I can’t believe I’m going to do this . . . I’m totally going to ruin this moment,” followed by Alaric’s soft reply, “She never told me,” was deliciously touching. They are sharing more than mutual attraction. They are sharing in their mutual pain over being caught in a difficult situation. The lingering looks they later shared at the bar only made their star-crossed love feel that much more real.

It should also be noted that Damon’s wicked humor continues to delight as he quipped out lines like calling Stefan “Buzzkill Bob” or asking Sheriff Forbes (Marguerite MacIntyre), “Have you ever been so bent on someone – just to have your heart ripped out by them?” To which she replied, “You forget, I was married” and Damon merely smiled and said, “Right – gay husband.”

What Didn’t Work

Not sure what to think of the newest vamp, Harper. He was polite enough by apologizing to the hiker he attacked. But what kind of wild animal takes a person’s clothes after attacking them and then throws away the cellphone? Seemed very sloppy of Harper to have left the hiker in such an obvious state that screamed vampire-attack.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

‘A Few Good Men’ was written by Brian Young and directed by Joshua Butler. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig, Sara Canning, Matthew Davis and Marguerite MacIntyre. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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