Review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – Family Ties (2009)

The ties that bind can be excruciatingly painful

Employing another classic horror story-telling device, this week’s episode opened with Stefan waking from a very real nightmare: watching Damon stalk and attack Elena as she was trapped in her house. He awoke to find that Damon implanted that nasty dream, which Stefan promptly repaid by throwing a knife into his chest. Damon merely removed the knife as if it were but a mild nuisance and then stabbed Stefan with it, who collapsed to his knees. All this macho posing proved was that Damon was impervious to pain and cannot be killed. He is clearly not threatened by mere mortal implements as they are no threat to him.

After this faux display of brotherly-love, Stefan tried to fathom why Damon even bothered to stay in Mystic Falls. Damon merely twitched his lips in an evil smile and said, “I decided to stay awhile. I’m having just too much fun here with you and Elena.” To which Stefan angrily threw back, “You can’t touch her now.” But Damon chillingly replied, “Well, the Vervain keeps me out of her head – maybe that’s not my target.”

Thus, the false hope instilled by the news that the mountain lion who had been attacking Mystic Falls’ residents had been caught is no where near the truth. For as Stefan noted, “The real animal is still out there – waiting for me – challenging me to fight back to stop him; and how do I stop a monster without becoming one myself?” Stefan knows he cannot stop Damon without feeding on human blood, because without it, he is not as strong as Damon and Damon knows it. That is Damon’s ultimate goal: to remind Stefan of the monster he really is; and that is what Stefan is battling against. He does not want to be a monster. He wants to be a man – a man that Elena will love.

So with every fiber in his being infused with fear and anger, Stefan sets out to lay a trap for Damon. His first attempt was only a way of deflecting Damon’s suspicions for he knew that Damon would never willing drink anything spiked with Vervain. But alcohol is not Damon’s drug of choice. For him, it is human blood and he has a ready supply of it in Caroline. Thus, Stefan’s true plan was to slip the Verain into Caroline’s drink so that when Damon next fed on her, Damon — under the paralyzing effects of the Vervain — could be overpowered. It was a good plan and perfectly executed. Stefan had earned the right to gloat when he said, “Yes, Damon, the headline reads: ‘Deadly beast captured – all is well in Mystic Falls” and then locked the door behind him.

But as we all know, Damon is not one to be kept imprisoned for very long. Have you not heard of the saying: beware provoking a caged beast?

What Worked

While the nod to the competing vampire franchise was a bit obvious, it played nicely when Damon said, “What’s so special about this Bella girl? Edward is so whipped.” Only Damon could have said such an outrageous remark without totally offending the “Twilight” fans and whipping them into a blood-lust frenzy.

It was also a nice touch to allow Zach to be the one to have gotten the upper hand on Damon by secretly growing the Vervain in the basement for all these years in hope that it would one day be used to defeat Damon. I would have loved to have seen the “I told you so” expression on his face after Stefan locked Damon up in the very room that the Vervain was growing.

On a separate note, it was thrilling to watch Bonnie begin to discover that her supernatural abilities extended beyond her psychic abilities. Her expression of both horror and fascination upon seeing the room full of lit candles was glorious.

It was also interesting to see all the objects that are coming into play: the pocket-watch, the great-grandmother’s wedding ring, the jewelry box and the large stone that Damon wanted. It was fitting that Caroline found the stone and kept it. For all that she had suffered, she certainly deserved to have something that Damon wanted so badly.

And it was about time that Vicki woke up and realized that Jeremy was twice the man that Tyler would ever be. Despite being a new series, it would have been agonizing to drag out that particular star-crossed lover storyline for much longer.

Another storyline quickly resolved was Elena’s discovery that Caroline was covered with bite marks. Her anger and confrontation of Stefan over his brother’s physical abuse was justified. There is no excuse for allowing a girl to be subjected to violence right under their noses.

Finally, it was a nice gesture by Elena to return the pocket-watch to Jeremy as he so clearly wanted it to remember their family’s legacy — though given how desperately the town leaders seem to want it, she may have just painted a bulls-eye on his back. That felt kind of ominous.

What Didn’t Work

At first, I was not sure why so much effort and time was being given to Jenna and Logan and why it was so necessary for her to forgive him so quickly. Every time he begged for her to forget the past and take him back, I felt ready to slap him. But all was explained in that last scene as we watched Caroline’s mom (the sheriff) tell Mayor Lockwood, his wife, and Logan, “Five bodies drained of blood, I’m certain – they’ve come back.” Those words were chilling. Who are these people and what on earth are they up to?!

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

‘Family Ties’ was written by Andrew Kreisberg and Brian Young, and directed by Guy Ferland. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola, Katerina Graham, Kayla Ewell, Michael Trevino, Zach Roerig and Sara Canning. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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