"The Birthday" set up various threads and arcs for the upcoming season like any responsible premiere does. At the center of the episode were Elena, Stefan, and Damon. Elena wanted some proof that her boyfriend didn't die. Damon had to figure out the scope of Stefan's commitment to Klaus. Stefan murdered every person Damon and Alaric found during their tracking. On the surface, Stefan's irredeemably savage with a sadistic streak that rivals Angelus. Stefan the Ripper dismembers bodies after death then reconstructs them in a fit of remorse. The humanity he's worked to maintain for over one hundred years slips away from him with each drop of blood that hits his tongue and enters his body. Beneath the surface lies the man Elena loves. Near the end, he tearfully called Elena and listened as she told him to remember her love for him, and to hold onto that. The monster hasn't taken over yet but the more blood he drinks the more he'll lose of himself.
Stefan the Ripper's an interesting turn for the character. Paul Wesley portrayed him with a quiet menace that was discomforting to watch. The personal message he sent to Damon was unfamiliar and disturbing because Stefan's been the stoic hero since the story's inception. The brothers roles have been reversed. Damon's the hero now; Stefan the villain. The scene began with Stefan uttering Damon's infamous "Hey Brotha" line. Afterwards, Damon was shook up in ways he hasn't been since he was a human several decades ago. Damon wouldn't have listened to words but he'd respect action. He felt angry and betrayed. Stefan's remorseful but he swore an oath to the were-vamp. The brutality will take its toll on Stefan and the monster within him will become stronger and the Stefan we know will fade until Elena and Stefan rescue him.
The 18th birthday's a significant one in a teenager's life. Elena's now an adult by law. Caroline threw a massive party for her friend to mark the occasion but Elena didn't feel particularly festive because her boyfriend disappeared, she recently died, and her aunt was savagely murdered. Elena's friends wanted her to get over everything. Caroline tried to tactfully communicate that idea to her. Elena just shook her head in disbelief. And then she found the newspaper clippings about Klaus and Stefan. She confronted Damon about it at the worst possible of time. Damon was angry and despondent because Stefan recently murdered Andie to prove a point, so the tortured vampire was honest with the girl he loves--about Stefan's role in the corpses that have populated the Eastern seaboard and about how he was protecting her from the Ripper. He left her, alone.
Elena's also thrust into the world of adulthood without her aunt around. 18's much less symbolic for her than other teenagers. Alaric stayed with her and Jeremy in the weeks after Jenna's death but he felt increasingly unqualified to be a role model for the Gilbert pair. Elena freaked when she saw her brother smoking pot and demanded Alaric talk to him. The history teacher never does, and soon he moves out of the house, leaving the responsibilities of adulthood to Elena and Elena alone. The girl had a lousy birthday.
The discord between her and Damon's nothing new and the longing for Stefan could become tiresome in a few episodes. I hope the writers flesh out Elena's independence during this string of early episodes. I want more from Elena's stories than Damon and Stefan angst. I know how essential those males are for her character but I'd like something different every now and again.
Klaus presumably will be the Big Bad of season three. The present plan for the hybrid's to turn a whole lot of werewolves into vampires. I had issues with Klaus last season because his motivations seemed so lame and the retcon of the sun and moon curse left a sour taste in my proverbial mouth. I won't judge Klaus until several episodes have passed and a clearer picture emerges. Presently, Klaus is the dictator who orders his solider to perform the acts of savage brutality whilst he sits with clean hands. He's an evil were-vamp. From what I've read, he's a crucial part of the books so I'm waiting for Klaus to become a legendary Big Bad.
Jeremy's sixth sense experiences won't conclude with a realization of his own death. I hoped for that direction in May but his ghosts need his help, which suggests he's Haley Joel Osmont rather than Bruce Willis. Vicki and Anna appeared to him randomly, looking haunted and sad. Anna didn't speak. Vicki said those two words--"help me." Matt heard Jeremy speak his sister's name but misinterpreted what Jeremy meant when he confessed that he's seen things since his death. So, naturally, I wonder why Vicki needs help and why Anna didn't speak. Jeremy's finally involved in a potentially awesome arc.
Caroline and Tyler had sex. The characters have been close and flirtatious since February sweeps. They attempted to keep their feelings for one another a secret because of their families. They did a poor job because Mrs. Lockwood took Caroline out with vervain darts at the end of the episode as she tried to tip-toe out of the Lockwood mansion. There are many questions surrounding the how and why with Mrs. Lockwood. For example, how did she know about Caroline? Why did she act so violently? A war's coming between the Forbes and Lockwoods. Caroline and Tyler were great characters last season and I look forward to their arc.
"The Birthday" didn't shock and awe but it laid intriguing foundation for the season. Season premieres are usually a bit boring but the writers need to set things up.
Some other thoughts:
-Holy moly! The Bulgarian beauty, Nina Dobrev, is prettier every season.
-Stefan may be tortured but he's a sadistic and pre-meditated murderer. When he arrived to kill Andie, he used some elaborate lighting to frighten her. Fans have long memories, Williamson and Plec.
-Damon has confusing emotions. His grief over Andie's weird because he used her as his toy since her introduction but he's a weird dude.
-Any scene that involves Alaric and Damon's guaranteed to be successful. I particularly enjoyed their back-and-forth outside of the party as they shared a bottle of hard alcohol.
-Kevin Williamson & Julie Plec wrote the premiere. John Behring directed it.
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK