Be forewarned: If you plan on visiting Mystic Falls, avoid deserted locations at night, particularly around wooded environments. Failing to do may send you to a grim fate, much like the victims from “Night of the Comet,” the latest episode of “The Vampire Diaries.” Yet despite the romantic factor, the follow-up to the pilot continues its momentum in exciting viewers with its bloody thrills and vampiric rampages.
An episode like “Night of the Comet” is somewhat of a surprise when the vampire storyline almost takes a backseat to the more crafted human relationships. Sure it starts off as deja-vu, when yet another random couple is murdered one night, but while this acts as a nice plot device for Damon’s character, (Ian Somerhalder) it serves as reminder for us the danger at hand.
The first half of the episode ties up some loose ends by going through the aftermath of Vicki Donovan’s attack. We witness both her brother Matt, and Elena’s brother, Jeremy, check in on her. However, it’s Jeremy who steals the scene every time he’s with her. It’s a definite credit to the show in casting Steven R. McQueen who, despite a noticeable growth spurt since the pilot, provides enough wit and vulnerability necessary for us to connect with his character.
In the original book, Elena’s sibling is a younger sister. There have been doubts as to whether the changes would diminish the quality. Fans should rest assured because the deviations from the original all work in adding into the spirit of books; the eternal strength of love, and the act of finding redemption.
The director for “Night of the Comet,” Marcos Siega, doesn’t waste time working up the tension between Elena and her brother, Jeremy. One pivotal scene happens at the coffee house when Elena confronts her brother once again about using drugs. The blocking of the scene is tight, and just when you think Jeremy will say what we want to hear, he just takes off. Another scene stealer is Elena and Jeremy’s aunt, Jenna (Jenna Somers), a somewhat free spirit who finds she must adapt quickly to new responsibilities of being a parent to her sister’s children. Her presence in the episode adds the much needed humor to balance the brooding angst. The rants she makes while scouring for drug paraphernalia in Jeremy’s room is an episode highlight. The combination of all these scenarios is part of how “The Vampire Diaries” will continue to thrive this season.
On the romance front, Stefan and Elena continue to make inroads, but to her credit she doesn’t take the typical route of the “damsel” by rushing to her “dark prince.” Instead she takes a step back and lets Stefan know she’s still dealing with the loss of her parents. Naturally, this doesn’t stop Stefan from making an effort, but it’s a relief to see Elena act level headed about her relationship.
Paul Wesley really owns the role of Stefan, and the chemistry he has with Nina Dobrev in this episode is enough to make even the snarkiest critic secretly root for them. Damon’s part in the episode, however, is a bit of a toss up. Somerhalder’s take on the more puckish, sarcastic side of his character is a bit inconsistent. At times he’s spot on, like during the rooftop scene where Damon taunts Stefan by taking hold of Vicki and accusing his brother of “eating bunnies” for strength. Other times he seems almost a little over the top when he is at the boarding house flirting with Elena. It’s all slightly too unrestrained, and he needs to pull back a little. This isn’t to suggest Somerhalder is without his own appeal, he certainly has the acting chops to take on the devious Damon. The issue really comes from his strong onscreen charisma. He doesn’t need to do much to make a point. All it takes is just one sideways grin, threatening tone, or intent glare to speak volumes.
The best scene where this works is during his confrontation with Stefan informing him that the only time they’re closest to humanity is when they’re ripping someone’s throat out. Another other highlight takes place at the counter at what appears to be the coffee shop. In this scene Damon is alone, and Vicki seems to recognize him. She insists she knows him, and he responds without any pretense that it is “unfortunate” for her. It begs the question as to whether Damon perhaps feels as burdened with his existence as Stefan. Again, it’s the little details Somerhalder injects into his role as Damon which stand out.
If the pilot set the premise, then “Night of the Comet” gives us tone for the series by showing there is more to love than just the pretty undead. “The Vampire Diaries” has a lot of characters that are not just likable but at times easily relatable. All in all, “Night of the Comet” is a pleasant surprise with a couple of small growing pains. However, if the trailer for the upcoming episode, “Friday Night Bites” promises anything, it will certainly pick up on the action.
“The Vampire Diaries” is on Thursday Night at 8 p.m. on The CW