The Vampire Diaries 4.07 “My Brother’s Keeper” REVIEW

The Vampire Diaries 4.07 “My Brother’s Keeper” TV REVIEW

Episode 4.07
Writers: Caroline Dries, Elisabeth R Finch
Director: Jeffrey Hunt

THE ONE WHERE Jeremy lets his hunter side get the better of him, Klaus charms Caroline (with tales of hummingbirds) and Elena’s attraction to Damon is revealed to be a sire bond.

VERDICT Slow down! Slow down! Why is this show in such a rush suddenly? In an unseemly haste to get from plot point A to plot point B, “My Brother’s Keeper” teases us with a whole load of great ideas, pivotal revelations and intriguing character dynamics, but ultimately squanders them all by trying too do much at once. There’s little tension and not much mystery.

The two major developments – Jeremy giving into his hunter’s dark side and the realisation that Damon has a sire bond over Elena – both feel like they could have benefited from another episode or two to develop and build to truly powerful climaxes. Instead Jeremy acts like a switch has been flicked and Caroline’s sudden brainstorm about why Elena’s acting so strangely seems to come from nowhere. Even more curiously, Stefan reacts to her theory with a look of boredom, rather than the look of a man who’s just been lobbed a lifeline.

Presumably the cross-cutting between this revelation and Damon and Elena bonking for the first time is supposed to ramp up the dramatic irony; instead, the opposite happens and the two scenes dilute each other. To the show’s credit, though, the whole sequence is a clever exercise in having your cake and eating it. If you’re team Stefan, then it’s the excuse you been hoping for; Elena doesn’t really love Damon – it’s just some kind of supernatural Rohypnol. If you’re team Damon, then hey, he’s getting his rocks off with Elena, which is what you’ve always wanted to see.

Although this all happens a bit quickly and lacks the emotional punch it should have had, the sire bond explanation does open up a few intriguing dramatic possibilities. Will Damon feel cheated because Elena’s love isn’t real? Or will he just shrug it off and make the most of the opportunity. Elena, no doubt, will sink into another bout self-loathing and staring in the mirror. Please let us have at least one episode of them living out a hedonistic heaven before that happens… Elena’s been great this season when she’s let her hair down.

Despite these slight disappointments, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The two best and most shocking moments – Stefan going to the hospital to vampirise a murderer, who he then offers up to fledgling Vampire Slayer Hunter Jeremy – hopefully won’t be a one-off. It’s great seeing Stefan so ruthless and calculating, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue along this morally dubious path. After all he and Klaus both still want to see the full map-tattoo that grows on Jeremy’s skin with each vampire kill he makes. And if Jeremy goes all “dark side” after each kill and repeatedly tries to stab Stefan, then things could get pretty interesting. At this rate, if Elena is ever cured, she may not even like what Stefan has become, and he can’t even blame his Ripper persona this time.

The other truly great scene in the episode is a droll slice of black humour of the kind that the show really ought to use more often. While Kimberley is suffering from the excruciating pain of multiple werewolf transformations in an attempt to free her from her sire bond to Klaus, Tyler and Hayley have what amounts to a lovers’ tiff in front her, until she finally grimaces, “God, like this wasn’t torture enough… can you take it outside?” Great stuff.

There are actually a lot of great lines and charming character moments in the episode, if you can excuse Klaus’s cheesy flirting and hummingbird anecdotes (what a load of bull – don’t fall for it Caroline!). Damon’s face-off with Professor Creepy crackles with mutual loathing (“Did you just accuse me of mass murder in the middle of a High School pageant?”) and Tyler’s growing discomfort with Caroline’s closeness to Klaus is well handled.

Hayley is having a good episode too, up to a point. She gives the clearest explanation yet of why the sire-bind-breaking regime works, and her cheeky behaviour at the pageant is great fun to watch: “You don’t want to do that,” warns Tyler when she puts on the Miss Mystic Falls crown. “Those girls will cut you. They have nails.” Her response? “I have claws.” (Interestingly, she’s wearing a red dress, the same as the winner of the crown – April, not that that probably means anything, other than coincidence.)

Just as Hayley looks like she’s shaping up to be a great addition to the ongoing cast, she’s then revealed to be just the latest double-crosser, working for Professor Creepy. The show pulls this trick so often you’re more inclined to groan than be shocked.

There’s nothing particularly, glaringly wrong with “His Brother’s Keeper”. It’s good, solid Vampire Diaries. But it is slightly disappointing that such a pivotal episode – Damon and Elena shag for heaven’s sake! – feels so ordinary, rather than mind-blowing.

SHIRT OFF It takes a while (40 minutes and 48 seconds) but considering it happens just before Elena and Damon finally perform the beast with two backs, fans of this kind of thing will probably consider it worth the wait.

IT’S WOSSERNAME Making a very brief cameo in this episode – as “Girl” – is Olympic gold medal winning gymnast Gabrielle Douglas. She’s a big fan of the vampire and you can read more about how her involvement in the show came about here.

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE There’s a lot of talk about the previous Miss Mystic Falls in this episode; the events referred to took place in the first season episode “Miss Mystic Falls” (1.19). One shot from that episode is even recreated, as Damon in a tux spots Elena at the top of the stairs.

NIGHT TERRORS Anybody else getting a bit bored with the show’s over-reliance on sudden shocks that turn out to be dreams? Also, when Jeremy wakes up with a knife in one hand and a carved stake in the other… Huh? Has he been whittling in his sleep? We fear for his John Thomas.

CARRY ON SUCKING Joseph Morgan (Klaus) pulls some extraordinary faces while flirting with Caroline. He looks uncannily like Leslie Phillips letching over some nurse in a Carry On film at times.

BEST LINE
Stefan (to Damon): “Let’s not pretend like this isn’t the best day of your life.

Dave Golder

New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four debut in the UK on ITV2, Mondays at 9pm

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