The Vampire Diaries, “By The Light of The Moon”

As the final episode of 2010, “By The Light of The Moon” isn’t the most exciting effort of The Vampire Diaries‘ second season. In fact, it’s fairly timid compared to some of the crazy episodes we’ve seen this season. However, Mike Daniels’ script does a really smart thing by building the entire episode around what is somehow now the best part of the series: Tyler’s transformation into a werewolf.

I’ve been skeptical all season about the werewolf story and I’m not really sure you can blame me. Vampires and werewolves? It’s been done to death, and I really wanted the series to show me something before I just embraced it fully. And while the mythology of the werewolves still seems lackluster and vague, the last few episodes have done a lot of work by tying the werewolf developments to one person, which obviously makes the whole story seem more intimate and important. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Mason (mostly because we didn’t care about him in the first place), Tyler’s journey to the first full moon had been played really well leading into this episode and “By The Light of The Moon” is his showcase — and a glorious one at that.

At this point in the season, the plotting, backstabbing and planning that’s going on with Klaus, Elijah, Elena and Katherine is starting to swallow itself a bit and thank god for Tyler and Caroline. It’s not that the other stories are fully boring or the other characters are completely unsympathetic, it’s just that these two have such good chemistry and they’re really the only people we can feel fully sorry for. All the older vampires have been living with their issues for a long time, Bonnie seems able to handle herself and Elena is more or less causing her own problems at this point. But neither Caroline or Tyler asked for these supernatural things to happen to them and it’s been a real treat watching them try to deal with that, both separately and together.

So when the full moon comes and Tyler has to chain himself up, drink the wolfs-bane and Caroline has to watch, it’s shockingly powerful stuff. The series has done a good job in hiding the werewolf transformation process up to this point so that when it actually happens to a character we care about, the effect is that much more potent and moving. This is an awful situation and there’s really nothing that can make it better. Michael Trevino has been good all season, but he’s fantastic here while playing Tyler as a sacred little boy unable to take the pain he’s feeling. No one is tough enough to withstand the obvious pain of turning into a werewolf and Trevino did a nice job of showing us a Tyler completely consumed by that pain and fear. And of course Candice Accola was awesome, you know, because she’s always awesome.

I’m not sure what happens with Tyler now because it’s obvious there’s going to be some big things for him in the future, but it was awesome to have this episode to really let the craziness of this event sink in. The plot usually gets burned through pretty quickly, but it was nice to spend a full episode doing the transformation justice.

To be honest, the rest of the episode didn’t really hold a candle to Tyler’s transformation and that’s okay. It was hilarious to see Elena trapped inside her own house, but I didn’t find any of the things happening outside of her house to be that interesting. Damon and Alaric ran into a new werewolf who is looking for Mason, but because we don’t know her intentions yet, there’s not a lot to say except for “Hey, I’m glad Alaric got something to do this week!” Bonnie and Luca are moderately interesting and the series didn’t commit to Stefan and Katherine in the tomb enough to make me care about. If you’re going to tease out some of the real feelings between the two of them, freaking go for it.

Elijah and Elena’s deal was also fine, but I again, it felt more like pre-plotting for something bigger to come in the future. It’s nice to know that Elijah isn’t just a stoic, boiler-plate villain, but I’m not fully invested in the doppleganger rubbish quite yet. It’s boring, it’s just not overwhelming yet. I’m sure it will get there.

In any event, moderately strong way to close out the calendar year for The Vampire Diaries. It’ll be back near the end of January and I’m sure a boat-load of insane things will happen then, so it was fine to dial things back a bit here and let Tyler be the star.

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