THE ONE WHERE Damon takes Elena to a frat party to teach her how to feed, while Klaus regales Stefan with half-remembered plots from Buffy… with flashbacks to the origin of The Five.
VERDICT Watching “The Five” is like watching two entirely different shows, one of which is very good indeed, while the other is limp pastiche of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We were hoping that Stefan’s too- close-to-Angel-for-comfort wobble last week (“If I get too happy I’ll turn bad!” or words to that effect) was some kind of in-joke. Seems not. This week we have magically-created vampire slayers, who pass their powers on supernaturally to potentials. And in the very last scene, it turns out they may even have Watchers, too!
To be fair, any vampire show that lasts as long as The Vampire Diaries has is bound to have to cover similar ground to other long-running vampire shows at some point. But in “The Five” the parallels are so obvious (albeit inverted) and the exposition is so trite and half-hearted you can’t help wondering if the writers are having a laff at our expense. Especially when Stefan tells Klaus to quit being so theatrical when he telling the story the Five vampire hunters; you may as well ask Sean Connery to stop being Scottish.
Whereas The Vampire Diaries is usually clever at deftly unveiling its game-changing revelations with a touch of the grand guignol, here the whole set-up feels woefully engineered and artificial. “Let me tell you a story,” says Klaus, “but at opportune moments I shall produce supporting players – my sister, Jeremy, Connor – to make it more dramatic. And we’ll get them here under the flimsiest of excuses. All to try to disguise the fact that this is one massive infodump.”
This is either part of the origin story of The Five, or a sneak preview at Take That’s next extravagantly-staged arena tour
By the time Rebekah (dimwittedly*) reveals the location of a magic sword that will enable Klaus to create a cure for vampirism (not for himself, of course, but for Elena, so she can once again become a blood cow) what clearly should have been a huge new plot bomb – A CURE! FOR VAMPIRISM! – comes across like so much gravy.
(*In fact, Rebekah acts so stupefyingly dimwitted this episode you half wonder if she’s actually double-crossing Klaus, knowing he’ll have to resurrect her again? And are we really to believe that she’s so besotted with Matt that Stefan could use him as leverage to get her onside? Sure, they had a bit of a fling before she almost killed him at the end of last season, but their relationship has never felt that strong.)
Luckily, there’s a whole other side to the episode. And it’s really very good indeed, getting to the core of the what the show’s all about – how vampirism affects the relationship between Elena, Stefan, Damon – in a raw, uncompromising way. Damon has to show Elena how to feed, and takes her to a frat party to find some victims that she won’t feel guilty chowing down on. She starts off with a guy who’s spiking girl’s drinks. It’s no great shock that she begins to love the sensation and there’s a wonderfully evocative rave scene showing her high on blood; living it up as one of newly dead.
Of course, she soon comes to her senses and starts getting all guilt trippy again, but Damon’s having none of it. His line (see below) about the difference between him and Stefan is a real eye-opener, and highlights a whole new morality that Elena – and the show – is going to have to deal with. Who is the “good” vampire brother? Is Stefan actually more evil by taking a precarious path which has worse consequences should he fall off it?
And where does that leave Elena, since she doesn’t have much choice in the matter?
It’s good, meaty, dramatic stuff, helped by some great performances from Ian Somerhalder (who gets to be more than just cocky, snarky or a punch bag for a change) and Nina Dobrev. The show is dealing with “vampire Elena” in an intelligent and surprisingly forthright manner, and at the moment, that’s by far the best thing the show has to offer.
Curing Elena might solve a few knotty problems (both in terms of plotting and morality), but it would also rip the guts out of the show.
INTERIOR DECORATING OF THE WEEK Klaus admires his new wall-hanging. This is just a gorgeous shot, which is why we’ve included it.
GRATUITOUS SHIRTLESS SCENE Straight to it, this week, with five male torsos on show in the very first scene. None of the main characters strip off during the episode, but fans of pecs’n’violence won’t be disappointed by vampire hunter Alexander (Paul Telfer).
OH NO, NOT AGAIN Rebekah is turning into the bowl of petunias in this show. This is the third time Klaus has stabbed her with one of those “Originals neutralising knives”, and the fifth time (on this show at least) that it’s been done to her in total.
IN CASE IT WASN’T CLEAR… Damon’s Halloween costume was supposed to be Jack The Ripper (a subtle dig at his bro’, perhaps?) while Bonnie and Elena were posing as the Ripper’s intended victims.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN READING, STEFAN? Okay, you’re a 150(ish) year-old vampire, so you’ve probably read all the classics, and made your way through the books of the New York Times Bestsellers list as well. So if Stefan wants to dip into a little 50 Shades Of Grey (as his reference to Klaus’s “red room of pain” would suggest) because there’s sod all else left to read, who are we to judge?
BEST LINE (Serious) Damon:“She already is like me. And you know what makes me able to drink my fill and leave someone breathing and not rip their head off like my brother, is that I can revel in it. I can make it fun.”
BEST LINE (Funny) Bonnie: “You went to college?” Damon: “Sure. Plenty of times. I always had a thing for sorority girls.” Bonnie: “You’re disgusting.” Damon: “I know.”
New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four debut in the UK on ITV2, Mondays at 9pm