Last week’s “Masquerade” was the high-point of a solid second season for The Vampire Diaries, but it was also something of a mini-finale for the swell of stories told in the first seven episodes. Tyler finally became a werewolf, Katherine was sort-of dealt with, Jeremy became a real character, etc.
Therefore, this week’s effort, “Rose,” feels like a transitional episode in between that first arc and what’s to come between next week and the December break. That’s not necessarily an indictment on the episode’s effectiveness, but “Rose” does spend most of its time spewing out exposition and backstory that will surely come in handy later, but doesn’t make for the best the series has to offer.
This being TVD, we quickly learn who abducted Elena and the end of last week’s episode: A pair of vampires who want to use her as a bargaining chip in saving their own lives from a 500 year issue. From there, the scenes with them follow a fairly rote pattern that involves Elena crying “What do you want with me?!” followed by the vamps Trevor and Rose denying her before eventually answering those questions.
It seems that over 500 years ago, Trevor was given the task of turning over Katherine to the original vampire family because the Petrova bloodline, when used with the moonstone can reverse the curse. But Trevor gave in to Katherine’s advances and let her go, so the originals have been after him and Rose for centuries. Somehow, they found Elena and now want to trade her for immunity. One of those originals, Elijah, shows up to collect, can’t believe that Elena is somehow a human doppelgänger (I can’t believe they continue to use this word seriously) and then kills Trevor anyway.
Good lord is that a lot of backstory and exposition for one episode.
Thankfully, those strenuous scenes are bracketed by three fairly successful character-centric (well, character-centric for TVD) stories. Jeremy and Bonnie share more intimate time trying to help Elena from a distance and realize they have more in common than they realize because they both often feel alone (read: sorry for themselves).
Moreover, Caroline does her best to avoid Tyler and any sort of truth about his predicament, how she knows or what she is, but again, this being TVD, the holdout doesn’t last too long. Tyler basically stalks Caroline all day, eventually shows up at her house and physically forces her to tell the truth about who she is — while leaving out all the parts about Damon, Stefan, etc. This story is surprisingly effective and keeps the characters grounded in some sense of “Jesus, this is ridiculous” with their respective problems.
Finally, on their way to save Elena, Damon and Stefan discuss the elephant in the room that is their mutual love for Elena. It doesn’t really go anywhere in the car, but after they do save her because of course they do, Stefan mans up and apologizes for turning Damon into a vampire in the first place, noting that he just wanted his brother because he couldn’t be alone. They implicitly agree that even if they do both love Elena, they have to put that aside to save her and probably everyone else. Good stuff.
Really, the saving grace of this episode is the second-to-last scene where Damon visits Elena and takes the opportunity to tell her an important truth because she’s without her vervaine necklace: He does love her, but he knows that he’s not good enough for her and that Stefan is the right choice. Because Ian Somerhalder always gets to play the wild Damon, it’s always a nice change of pace when he brings the emotional hammer, and this is probably the best instance of that. This is Damon at his most honest, his most vulnerable. It’s a fantastic thing to watch and ultimately kind of heartbreaking because Elena gets her mind wiped and Damon will surely go back to being his antagonistic self.
In the end, “Rose” isn’t an awful episode, but it’s too busy and exposition-heavy to really get cooking in the way the series’ best efforts do. There’s now another looming threat on the horizon and that will surely lead to some crazy episodes in the future, but apart from a few small moments with the three pairings I discussed, this episode is sub-par.