The Vampire Diaries, “Brave New World”

The action-packed Vampire Diaries premiere reminded us of how great the series can be when a lot of crazy things are happening. The second the episode, “Brave New World,” suggests that the series can also do more low-key, character-centric episodes as well.

“Brave New World” is all about the aftermath of Katherine’s rampage in the premiere, where the characters are scrambling to figure out what the heck is going on and how they’ll really go on living something of a semblance of a normal lives. Unsurprisingly, Elena and company quickly realize that they’re way past normal and the consequences of their new lives are going to affect them for a long time to come.

The success of this episode lies in the fact that Katherine is nowhere to be seen throughout, but her presence influences every single event within the episode. Most directly, Caroline wakes up and she’s a vampire. The hunger, the aversion to light, etc., we’ve been down this road before with human characters. But what’s great about Caroline’s journey is that it’s particular to her. Like I said, we’ve seen this story before already, but the series is smart to make the transition period more personal. Thus, while Vicki couldn’t handle being a vampire because she already had a totally destructive and reckless personality, Caroline is going to have a little more success because she’s controlling, intelligent and well, not a raging addict. In that sense, it makes Caroline turning into a vampire seem like a new and unique story, when it’s really the same exact beats they played with Vicki. Smart.

Anyway, more Katherine-related havoc: Damon’s now a supposed ticking time-bomb that has Elena, Stefan and Bonnie on edge. They’re all trying to go about their business with the carnival nonsense, but just the appearance of Damon puts terrifies Elena, frustrates Stefan and really enrages Bonnie. So not only does Katherine exist as something of a looming threat, but she’s now created another one in Damon, leaving people really, really confused and probably somewhat scared. And for Damon, Katherine’s left him wrecked, so all he has to hold onto but research into the Lockwood family.

Meanwhile, Jeremy, the one person who has the most reason to be mad at Damon (you know, because Damon killed him), is becoming something of a friend. The two can drown their sorrows in the fact that they’re both empty and alone, so I guess that covers up the whole attempted murder thing. Though it’s an odd pairing, it’s a good one. Damon bounces off of all characters so well, but it’s nice that Jeremy is apparently going to have something to do aside from just pout. Though it doesn’t really have to do with Katerine, Tyler is telling with some aftermath of his own, as his secretive uncle continues to keep the truth about what they are and what the glowing eye crap is all about.

But as you can see by the above paragraphs, there wasn’t actually a whole lot of action or plotting happening. We didn’t really learn anything new about Katherine’s plan or what’s next for Mystic Falls, but instead this felt like something of a calm before the storm. And perhaps Katherine’s plan is just to slowly drive Stefan, Damon and Elena nuts, which would be less overt than how the series usually operates and thus possibly compelling. But this is The Vampire Diaries, things are bound to ramp up eventually, even if this episode goes a long way in suggesting that the writers can craft more low-key episodes as well.

A few other musings:

  • Still no Alaric in this episode, which is oh so disappointing. What’s the deal?
  • Paul Wesley continued his great S2 work, as the scene with Stefan and Damon trying to figure out what’s up Tyler was totally hilarious. The more confident, active and far from mopey Stefan is much better.
  • Anyone kind of annoyed with Bonnie’s grudge towards Damon? Perhaps it’s Damon’s inherent coolness rubbing off on me, but I feel like he doesn’t really deserve the mind-meld every week.
  • So, how long until Matt knows about Caroline? He’s the only youngin’ on the outside of the vampire secret, he might as well know. And interestingly, I’m less annoyed with everyone in Mystic Falls having powers or knowing about the powers than I am with the same storytelling in True Blood. And for the most part, I think that’s because Vampire Diaries made a point at the beginning that weird things happen in this town and there are lots of powerful people woven in to the fabric of the series. Or it’s just because this series is better than True Blood.

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