Review: The Vampire Diaries, “The Hybrid”

After a slightly slower, more character-based season premiere, The Vampire Diaries wasted no time jumping into some big ideas in this week’s episode, “The Hybrid.” This episode introduced us to what will probably be the primary narrative for at least the first half of the season (Klaus building a hybrid army), jump-started a few supporting plots (dueling ghosts Vicki and Anna, the introduction of Caroline’s father) and still managed to find time for a number of solid character beats for Elena, Damon, Alaric and Tyler.* So you know, this was a typically great episode.

*By the way, where the hell is Bonnie? It’s unclear to me if she’s not around because Kat Graham was busy or the writers just decided that they wanted Jeremy and Matt to bro down for a bit. It’s just sort of weird that the fifth lead is nowhere to be found and she’s barely getting mentioned.

Although the series is basically always like this, “The Hybrid” is really all about taking action and the struggles that come with that. No one in this world likes to sit around waiting for something great or awful happening to them and while there are always risks that come with making choices and taking action, most everyone realizes that it is for the best this week.

Even though Damon tries to convince her that Stefan is too far gone, Elena of course refuses to believe this and so she convinces a slightly beleaguered Alaric to help her hunt for her ripper beau in the mountains of Tennessee. After the phone call last week, I thought maybe Elena would be willing to let Stefan go, even for just a few episodes, but that was probably a dumb assumption on my part. Elena is always proactive. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it, even if that means walking into a den of werewolves on a full moon night.

But by the end of the episode, Elena has to make another choice: Walk away or risk Damon getting hurt again. It is clear that Elena cares about Damon (I think she probably always has, even in the times where she’s said that she never wants to see him again) and she’s already been down the werewolf bite road with him. Damon tries to manipulate her a bit by forcing her to think about why she decided to come home, but I think Elena’s choice only further depicts what kind of strong, intelligent young woman she is. Most of the time, the love-sick female character would have risked anything to save her man, but Elena is smart enough to know when to back away and she’s compassionate enough to know that she cannot risk everyone else’s life just so she can see Stefan’s face again. It’s very romantic to be a love-sick idiot, but it’s more impressive to balance your emotions with some real logic. This is why Elena is awesome.

On that same point, Stefan is similarly smart about the big picture. He made the big sacrifices in the finale last season, but I do like how the story keeps tempting him with Elena’s presence. He called her last week and this week he’s just a few hundred yards away; yet, he knows what seeing her will mean for him, for her and for Klaus. This is particularly true in light of Klaus’ frustration over his inability to turn other wolves into hybrids. Klaus is smart enough, he’ll figure out that Elena is alive pretty quickly. I think Stefan knows that and that’s part of the reason he cannot see Elena anymore. He assumes he can protect her better from afar. It’s just so nice that both of them aren’t immature dolts only worried about themselves or their relationship.

Although he thinks it is a terrible idea, Damon eventually recognizes that he has to keep Elena safe, even if that means sort of going along with her insane plans. Part of this stems from his feelings for Elena, but clearly Damon also wasn’t willing to give up on Stefan either and thankfully, he was justified in doing so. Stefan isn’t so far gone that he would let Damon die, which is basically all we need to know about his current state of mind. The Salvatore brothers’ relationship is complex, complicated and dark, but if they’re not willing to let each other die, things can be OK again. Stefan knew this in regards to Damon’s past actions and it was nice symmetry to see that come up again with the roles flipped.

And Alaric finally wakes up to the fact that he’s part of the Gilbert family now. Elena might be old enough and mature enough to take care of herself and Jeremy, but that doesn’t mean she won’t need some support. For better or for worse, Rick is part of that support system. I think he’s terrified by having that kind of responsibility, but he’s also such a good dude that he can’t not do what Elena asks of him. It’s good for him and good for Elena and Jeremy. Like most of you, I thought Rick/Matt Davis didn’t have enough quality material to work with last year and hopefully you’re like me in feeling that TVD’s writers are rectifying that unfortunate situation already through two episodes.

Meanwhile, Matt struggles with the possible presence of Vicki’s ghost and whether or not he wants to retread over all of those things in his mind, but ultimately decides that he needs to know and he needs to help Jeremy do whatever it is he needs to do. I’m not really sure where this story is going, but I do know that Matt needs something legitimate to do. Forcing him to open his eyes to the weird and the supernatural in his family will hopefully change his mind on Caroline and vampires. Hopefully. Zach Roerig and Steven R. McQueen have weird chemistry, but I’m willing to let this develop.

Finally, when he realizes something is up with his mom and Caroline, Tyler stands up to his mother and reveals his true werewolf nature. Tyler has been through a hell of a lot in the first two seasons and he’s probably the most changed character of the original high schoolers. He’s no longer a bully or a scared boy, he’s a assured, self-actualized man who cares about other people. The fact that Michael Trevino can pull of this off while wearing cargo shorts is even more impressive, right? I’m curious to see how Tyler and his mother save Caroline from her just-introduced father (Jack Coleman!), but I am excited that the series is continuing to look back into the history of Mystic Falls and its families.

“The Hybrid” might not have had the same kind of emotional punch that “The Birthday” did, but it made up for it in fun movements with a few great character beats thrown in for good measure. The season is off to a great start.

Other thoughts:

  • Rick’s backpack of weapons is awesome. Wolfsbane grenade!
  • Jack Coleman is a great addition to this cast. He plays conflicted, evil and sort of sympathetic dads very well.
  • Klaus mentioned that he was doing what he was “told,” which obvious hints that there are even larger forces at play here. I’m curious to see if that is the case and why he thinks he needs to build an army. Are there other Originals who will be looking to take him down? Or some sort of Original Werewolves?

 

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