THE ONE WHERE Elena and Jeremy try to kill Kol while Stefan and Rebekah bond over the cheesiness of the ’80s.
VERDICT So last week’s return to wasn’t a flash in the pan. “A View To A Kill” may not have the same deliciously edgy atmosphere as its immediate predecessor, but it still impresses in a number of ways, especially the brilliantly tense climax when you seriously don’t know if Kol is going to get staked until he finally bursts into flames.
But while there are the prerequisite twists to the plot (especially Bonnie trapping a ranting Klaus inside the Gilbert – nice move) once again it’s the character work that really engages here. The scenes between the incapacitated Damon and Klaus are great stuff as Klaus tries to work out what makes Damon irresistible to Elena. Even better is the growing relationship between Rebekah and Stefan. Some of their jibes about the ’80s may rely on obvious targets (“I think shoulders pads rival 17th Century Puritan smocks for crimes against fashion”) but when Rebekah lets on that she knows Stefan is really after her dagger, then quietly admits that all she wants is to be human and have kids, you realise how far she has progressed from the one-dimensional shouty bitch of previous seasons. Currently, Stefan and Rebekah actually seem far more of a natural fit than Elena and Stefan ever did.
It’s also quite fun to see the Salvatore brothers back as out-and-out rivals rather than all this “Elena deserves Stefan more than me” guff from Damon. The smack Damon gives Stefan at the episode’s end almost feels like a nostalgic return to season one. On the other hand, Elena has become such an unreadable, go-with-the-flow of the plot character of late, it’s difficult to understand what Damon sees in her at the moment. She certainly isn’t showing much sign any more of that hedonism that delighted Damon so much at the start of the season.
Bonnie’s dad still feels a little awkwardly rammed into the plot, and the return of her mum doesn’t add much either, but hopefully this plot is going somewhere other than Continual Bickering Street.
A solid episode, then, made even better by some amusing dialogue, sweet characters moments and Elena getting skewered by Kol. But boy, does that girl make some funny noises when she’s in a fight. It’s like listening to Serena Williams play tennis.
GRATUITOUS SHIRTLESSNESS To be fair, Jeremy’s shirtless scene isn’t gratuitous, because we need to see the hunter’s tattoo grow, but he does look hilariously like Lou Ferrigno in the ’70s Hulk TV series when he’s ripping his sweatshirt off. Stefan’s shirtless scene that opens the episode is more gratuitous but you barely see anything.
INFODUMP BONANZA We used to joke that The Vampire Diaries didn’t need a “Previously On” montage, just a family tree. These days it doesn’t need either, as it’s honed “getting the audience up to speed” exposition down to a fine art. “Or have you forgotten that our paranoid brother Kol is running around with a White Oak stake and homicide on the brain?” says Klaus and, “I’m headed home to play prison guard to Damon. He’s on lock down ever since Kol compelled him to kill Jeremy last night.” says Stefan in same scene early on. You can practice this style of talking yourself at home: when asked, “Did you remember to buy some eggs on the way home?”, you can reply, “No. If you recall, the car is at the garage because I crashed into that bollard. and so I had to catch the 322 bus, which doesn’t stop by the Co-Op, meaning you will be unable to bake that Victorian Sponge you were planning.”
TEASER Is that the shortest teaser ever on The Vampire Diaries? Only 48 seconds long, and with only, three word line: “Leaving so soon?”
DEATH AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE It’s actually quite shocking to hear Bonnie and Elena chatting so casually about killing Kol and – consequently – his entire bloodline. That could be thousands or even millions of vampires, and the two girls are both so matter of fact about it. Are the writers consciously trying to alert us to the fact that they’ve both become hardened by their circumstances? Or is it the writers who’ve become desensitised to all the killing in the show and just don’t realise what lines they’re writing?
GAME ON The game that Jeremy and Matt (and later Kol) are playing is Gears Of War.
MISSING ’80 MEGAMIX While ’80s tracks “Lovesong” by The Cure (nice touch) and “Wanted Dead Or Alive” by Bon Jovi feature on the soundtrack – and there’s a snippet of a cover version of “99 Red Balloons” (original by Nina, this version by 7 Seconds) – there are references to other ’80s tracks that we sadly don’t get to hear: a neon sign saying, “SHOUT” (Tears For Fears), lots of references to The Breakfast Club which cry out for a bit of “Don’t You Forget About Me” (Simple Minds) and, indeed the title of the episode – “A View To A Kill” (Duran Duran). Presumably none of those tracks belong to Warner Bros.
MISSING IN ACTION This is the second episode in a row not to feature Caroline; she’s never been absent for two episodes in a row before.
Bonnie proves rubbish at charades
THE STAR WARS PERSPECTIVE SWITCHEROO When Bonnie’s dad says to his daughter: “You’ve been doing fine? Would you like me to read you all of the names of the people who have gone missing or who have died in tragic accidents in your senior year alone?” you can’t help but think he has a point. It reminds us of that old argument about, “If Star Wars had been written from the point of view of the Empire, then the rebels would have been seen as terrorists.” Maybe if the supernatural teens of Mystic Falls weren’t so full of relationship angst all the time, matters might have turned out very differently…
TALKING OF BONNIE All the indications seem to be that she’s going all Dark Willow. Although this looks inevitable, you kinda hope not. The whole “power corrupts” and “power as a drug” is such a cliché now, it’d be refreshing if she proves her parents wrong and becomes a powerful witch without going evil.
CUDDLY KLAUS There’s a lovely bit of acting from Joseph Morgan when he’s mid-rant about Damon and Elena. He suddenly dials the performance right back, to ask Damon yearningly, “Compulsion… manipulation… What is it you say to her?” So he can do more than panto threats! You can almost see the producers trying to subtly re-position Klaus in preparation for his role as series lead for The Originals, especially when Damon tells him, “I don’t mind being the bad guy, because somebody has to fill that role and get things done… If you’re going to be bad, be bad with a purpose, otherwise you’re just not worth forgiving.”
HEALTH AND SAFETY That has to be the bluntest stake we’ve ever seen. Jeremy looks like he’s attacking Bonnie’s mum with an oven-ready parsnip.
HEARING PROBLEMS Too often this show seems to forget that its vampires have super hearing (vampires are always getting sneaked up on), but this episode acknowledges the fact on a number of occasions, such as when Stefan revs up his bike while on the phone to Elena, and when Elena writes messages on a kitchen blackboard so that Kol can’t hear. Speaking of which…
MARK WAHLBERG IMPRESSSION OF THE WEEK Either Matt needs to go to SpecSavers or brush up on his reading skills if his way over-the-top frown when reading Elena’s message is anything to judge by.
GREEN BOTTLES Kol is the third Original vampire to be killed in the present day (following Finn and Mikael). Bet they wish they’d stayed in their coffins another hundred years or so. At this rate, the spin-off series will have to be renamed The Original. Kinda glad Kol won’t be a regular in that, though; we don’t think we could have endured much more of attempts as an English accent (actor Nathaniel Buzolic is Australian, which was painfully obvious when he says things like, “heeunds” for hands).
BEST LINES Stefan: “Hope you like The Cure.” Rebekah: “Funny.”
New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four will debut in the UK on ITV2 in the next few weeks