Ed note: Hey folks, I’m very, very short on time today, so this review is going to be shorter than normal. Apologies.
I’ll be honest with you folks: I grew a little tired of the flashbacks during the second season of Vampire Diaries. The trips back to 1864 were fine and generally purposeful, but for whatever reason, the law of diminishing returns just kicked in for me. The series did a fine job of adding new wrinkles to each flashback – no current series uses them better, to be honest – but I think I got the point and was ready to move on.
But flashbacks to Stefan’s Ripper days in the Roaring Twenties Chicago? With Klaus? This is in the kind of flashback I can get behind. “The End of the Affair” expertly uses flashbacks to dump a heck of a lot of information on us, but the fractured way that they’re displayed makes for entertaining and completely un-didactic storytelling. At a certain point, you would the series’ writers would run out of wild twists to throw at the audience and clearly we haven’t reached that point yet. “Affair” brings us multiple sizable revelations: Stefan kept a list of all the people he killed back then. Stefan and Klaus were BFFs. Stefan and Klaus’ sister Rebecca were in love, Klaus forced her to choose and when Rebecca choose Stefan, Klaus put a dagger through her chest. Of course, Klaus wiped all of this from Stefan’s mind. Oh, and there was some mysterious man (played by the suddenly ubiquitous Sebastian Roché) hunting Klaus down and Katherine was morphing around, stalking Stefan. Holy crap, that’s a lot of information.
Now, Klaus has brought Rebecca back and helped Stefan remember all the things that happened 80-plus years ago. These three make one hell of a deadly trio and even though they’re lacking a big piece of Klaus’ plan (Elena’s necklace, which was actually Rebecca’s), it sure seems like a whole lot of bad things are going to happen to a lot of people. Stefan was noticeably conflicted before, but it felt like he was starting to believe that there was no way back from his current state when he told Elena to go back to Mystic Falls and stop searching for him. When combined with all these old memories and a former love of his life right in front of him, Stefan is in a sticky situation.
Like I said, the flashbacks were very well done here. Jumping back and forth added an additional layer to the mystery of who Stefan was all those years ago and how he may have known Klaus and I thought the episode did a great job of keeping the real truth hidden until later in the episode by giving us just a small detail at a time. I also really enjoyed the flashback scenes between Stefan and Klaus, as it was great to see another side of both of them. I’ve talked about Paul Wesley’s solid work already this season, but Joseph Morgan clearly relished in the opportunity to play a much looser, friendlier Klaus. Obviously Klaus is a villain and 1920s Stefan is pretty awful and yet, I was quickly wrapped up in their friendship. Klaus has a lot of issues with his brothers and family and he’s definitely not someone who has hundreds of friends. It was cool to see him open up and I think he really did care about Stefan, which makes his whole plan seem slightly less evil, though probably a bit more selfish. I’m intrigued to see how Klaus and Stefan interact now and whether or not their bromance is as fun to watch as Damon and Alaric’s.
Plus, Rebecca is a great addition to the story. There was always going to be a point where Stefan and Elena had real issues that kept them apart and I’m glad that his new love interest isn’t boring or annoying. Claire Holt brings a glowing energy to the role that I quite like and although she is going to be an obstacle for the series’ best relationship, it’s nice that the character is compelling in her own right.
One thing I really love about Vampire Diaries is that it isn’t shy to pull the trigger on a plot development or character beat. This is episode three and Damon is already fighting with Klaus again and Stefan and Elena are having a face-to-face conversation. Even with the series’ typical pace, I expected them to hold off on the Stefan-Elena reunion, but I am very happy to be wrong in this case. The scene with Stefan finding Elena in the hidden closet was extremely tense and very well acted in silence by Wesley and Nina Dobrev. Their follow-up conversation outside the club was similarly solid. It’s expected for Stefan to push Elena away and claim that it is for good, but the actors do such a great job that familiarity isn’t much of an issue.
“The End of the Affair” is The Vampire Diaries at its best. The premiere was relatively focused on character, last week’s episode picked up the pace substantially and then this one feels like the series is full-gear already. It’s only the third episode! This one threw a lot of information at us, but the flashbacks and the structure of the episode helped keep things tense and compelling throughout. The table is really set for a whole lot of nasty, insane things to happen in the future and I really just cannot wait until next week.
- The flashbacks also looked splendid as well. The set design people did a fine job with dressing up that club to fit the period and the costuming is always lovely on this series.
- I didn’t mention it above, but Jack Coleman is a great addition to the series. He plays conflicted fathers better than just about anyone and I appreciated that his character wasn’t interested in flat-out killing his daughter outright. Obviously trying to “fix” her is misguided and inappropriate, but it’s something.
- Still no Bonnie this week. Seriously, what the hell is going on there?