The Vampire Diaries, “Daddy Issues”

It sucks being Tyler Lockwood. Not only did he not ask to be born into the werewolf gene pool, but he did his damnedest to avoid actually triggering the curse that would turn him into a monster. And when that didn’t work, he thought he’d found a friend, confidant and lover in Caroline who could protect him from all the evils out there in the world. Unfortunately, that was true either. Now, as “Daddy Issues” shows us, Tyler is stuck directly in the middle of the werewolf/vampire war where he’s going to be forced to play a larger part or probably die. Oh, and all of his real friends, the people who legitimately want to protect him no matter what? Yeah, they’re vampires.

Like I said, it sucks being Tyler Lockwood.

Fortunately, “Daddy Issues” brings us a whole slew of problems for a lot of characters not named Tyler Lockwood. People trying to do the best with terrible circumstances, people trying to make things right with those closest to them and it’s simply not pretty. Everyone, from the vampires to the werewolves to the witches seems to feel that something BIG is about to happen and so there’s a lot of maneuvering and posturing with the hopes of making it out of whatever it is alive.

Much like Tyler, Caroline has been thrown into the middle of this ancient war between werewolves and vampires and although she’s adjusted to her new lifestyle fairly well, it was only a matter of time before Tyler found out about the rest of the vampires and more angry werewolves came to collect some retribution. She’s done a truly admirable job protecting everyone involved, but when the levy breaks there is no way to stop it. Jules brings some new werewolves to town including her boyfriend and these wolves are even more angry than she’s been over the last few episodes. They’re out for blood whereas Jules just wants to help Tyler because that’s what werewolves do, apparently. In any event, when Tyler goes missing for a few hours because he’s getting the “Let’s just be friends, bro” talk from Stefan,* bad things start to happen to Caroline. She’s shot directly in the forehead with a wooden bullet, locked up in a cage and constantly tortured by Jules’ asshole were-friend.

*Stefan has given this speech to everyone on the cast, I think. Except maybe Matt. Poor Matt.

Meanwhile, Damon’s struggles continue to be more internal. He’s viably ashamed of his actions at the end of last week’s episode and is trying his best to be the kind of person that Elena would legitimately care for, but it’s just not working. With John in town and things doing down with Tyler, Damon’s more aggressive side is out in full force and he’s ready to kick some ass, really anyone’s ass.

And all three individuals’ issues come to a head in one of the series’ best action-oriented set pieces yet. Jules calls Stefan in hopes of swapping Caroline for Tyler, but in the end, it’s more of a trap for the werewolves to take some aggression out on the Salvatore brothers for killing Mason. The brothers do their best to fight them off while Tyler stammers around trying to figure out if he should still be pissed at Caroline or forgive and save her. He eventually chooses the latter, but the damage is done. Caroline only did what she did to protect Tyler and he’s indecision almost cost the three vampires their lives.* They’ve both lost their recent best friends, but whereas Stefan brings Elena and Bonnie to make Caroline feel better, Tyler’s left with more questions for Jules and her evil boyfriend and a whole lot of alcohol. As for Damon? More pouting, drinking and biting, this time the local news reporter who is overtly eager to get down with him. When you’re trapped in terrible circumstances like these three, it’s who you can share those circumstances with that makes all the difference. Caroline’s going to be okay. I can’t say the same for Tyler and Damon.

*The vamps are eventually saved by Luca’s father, who keeps Elijah’s word. We should probably learn more about him ASAP.

It is no surprise that “Daddy Issues” is such a fantastic episode, as the three characters driving the action above are most certainly the series’ strongest at this point. I talked a lot about Somerhalder’s work last week because “The Descent” was such an obvious Damon-heavy effort, but Michael Trevino and Candice Accola have been carrying the series all season. It’s not the other actors or stories are bad or boring, but the two of them have been fantastic, both together and when playing off other characters. Both of them have done a really nice job of elevating their characters from their stereotypical positions in season one to where they are now as the two most interesting and lovable characters not named Damon.

I also appreciate that this episode really shines a light on the parallels between Caroline’s circumstances when she turned and what Tyler has to deal with. One of them was reborn into a community of people who were very willing to make sure she’d be okay, the other had only one person — who just happened to know very little about how to support him — and now that their bond is broken, he’s left with some sketchy characters who may or may not have his best interests at heart. The Mystic Falls group is extremely tight because at this point they have to be and now Tyler is on the outside of that and if recent history tells us anything, that’s not a good place to be.

Other thoughts:

  • I know this episode’s title refers to John Gilbert’s return and his relationship with Elena, but those stories still fell to the back seat while the events surrounding this woods showdown took place. I really like David Anders in the role and I though the final scene between he and Nina Dobrev’s Elena was great, but I was just a bit annoyed that he’s also somehow in Katherine’s back pocket. I felt like her genius-like foresight to have every angle covered dragged down some of the episodes in the first half of the season, but I’m willing to withhold judgment for now.
  • I also know that it will probably never happen or should happen because it’s great to see a male and a female character be really good friends, but good lord are Caroline and Stefan awesome together. I think it’s pretty obvious that Paul Wesley really lets it go in scenes with Accola — or really any scenes not with Elena — because he’s usually so trapped in those melodramatic scenes with Dobrev’s Elena. Not that those are awful, just repetitive at this point.
  • Seriously, who does Matt Davis have to kill and/or sleep with to get a good Alaric story up in this piece?
  • The same could sort of be said for Jeremy and Bonnie, who briefly appear here just to look comfortably in love without actually discussing it.

By Cory Barker

Assistant Professor, Bradley University

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