I’ve had trouble all day with this post. I’ve started and stopped twice now because I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to say about “Bad Moon Rising,” even if the episode itself is a nice character-focused effort. Maybe it’s the by-product of watching all of the first season all at once, but it seems like this season, particularly the last two episodes, have been fairly tame in terms of OMG WAT INSANITY. Last week’s episode was a tuned-down calm before the storm, so perhaps this week’s events are something of the first drops of rain (or blood)?
It’s not that nothing happens in “Bad Moon Rising,” in fact, a lot happened: Bonnie hooked Caroline up with a sun-proofing ring; Caroline bit Matt and then subsequently broke up with for the greater good; Alaric returned, as did Katherine; and lots of answers came up about the werewolf nonsense. This wasn’t exactly a tame episode, but it didn’t have the rapid pacing that the series has put forth in the past.
However, I do think the episode is better for it because two relationships, one budding and one on the mend, really carried the water. Stefan has regulated himself to constant Caroline duty in hopes that she doesn’t end up like Vicki and surprisingly, it’s one of the best and most electric pairings the series has created. Paul Wesley is always called upon to do the steely, 1,000-yard stare, but this season, he’s played Stefan with more external charm, almost as if he’s taken a little of Damon’s mojo (while Somerhalder’s played Damon with more mopey-ness to complete the minor identity transfer). That slight change in character really works well with Candice Accola’s feisty performance. Though they’re the heart of the series, Stefan and Elena are fairly boring together and Stefan’s relationship with Damon is overly antagonistic, so it’s nice to see Stefan in a straight-forward, mostly drama-free friendship with Caroline (and I don’t think it’s going anywhere further than that, is it?).
I especially enjoyed their first conversation where Stefan explains that when you’re turned into a vampire, all your main personality traits are accentuated, meaning that Caroline’s spastic, worry wart of a brain is only going to get worse. Not only is that a great beat about the differences between humans and vampires, but it almost feels like a dig at the complaints over Stefan’s inherent rigidness. But you see, he cared too much as a human, so it’s only going to get worse! That development also directly ties into why Stefan wants to help Caroline so much, he simply feels completely responsible, basically for everything.
And of course, Elena and Damon spent some great quality time together as well, leading to more heartbreak for Damon. The series is smart to make him admit that he was unaware of the ring when he killed Jeremy, but I’m not sure if I totally buy Elena using Damon for information, getting him vulnerable and then slapping him right down. Perhaps this is payback, but we all know she’s going to change her mind on Damon eventually, so it feels like she’s just kidding herself right now. Humanized Damon isn’t as fun as crazy Damon, but like I said, Somerhalder is doing a good job making it work.
Alaric made his glorious return, only to have little to do but “officially” get over Isobel after visiting her office, which is apparently left as it was, even though she’s been missing for a year or something. I get the point of this little subplot (to have Alaric finally make a move with Jenna), but the character is so much cooler than to have that be his only action in a return appearance.
Finally, the werewolves. Listen, at this point, with vampires, werewolves and vampires versus werewolves being completely played out in popular culture, it’s hard to do anything original with the story. But thus far, despite the series’ best efforts, the stuff with Tyler and especially his uncle doesn’t quite work. Last week it worked okay since Damon and Stefan were swarming on the outskirts, but this week, it’s generic and lacking suspense even though the series obvious thinks it’s super intense and important. I see the reasoning behind making Tyler experience this new lifestyle by watching someone else, but before too long, something is actually going to have to happen to him as well. He can only watch from the sidelines without really asking questions for so long.
Not the series’ finest moment, but with Katherine’s return, bidness is bound to pick up, as they say.