"I Know What You Did Last Summer" is a messy premiere. TVD gets to reboot a little bit now that the originals are hanging out in New Orleans on Tuesday nights (starting this Tuesday). The premiere introduces the new college setting and almost discards the high school aspect entirely. It introduces two, and possibly three, threats in Mystic Falls--one new and one old. I think the episode started badly with the narration/letter-writing montage that filled in the audience about what the characters were up to during the summer. The characters weren't doing anything all summer. Elena and Damon had sex a lot; Caroline spent her summer designing her dorm room and missing Tyler; Jeremy lifted weights endlessly and is even MORE of a behemoth; Bonnie refused to move on; Stefan drowned over and over again under the water.
The premiere immediately splits characters up, divides the story amongst the main crew, and so what follows is scatter-shot. Fans want to see Damon and Elena together. The writers tease it during the opening montage before splitting the two up. They existed in pizza land (as a buddy would call it) for the summer, deluding themselves about Stefan's acceptance of their relationship and the subsequent disappearance from Mystic Falls. Elena's in Whitmore College in a town near to Mystic Falls, or it's in Mystic Falls but far from Damon like Buffy was far from Joyce in season 4 even though Sunnydale had two streets. College has been hard for writers to integrate into the series. TVD introduces Elena and Caroline's roommate. For a brief stretch, she's the typical unwanted roommate character. Caroline doesn't trust her. Elena wants to feel normal and trust her. No kidnappings or torture sessions for at least their first month of college; it's sort of like the 'don't go home for a month' thing told to freshmen at orientation. The twist is that the roommate dies, the university covers it up, and she's connected to Elena's dad. The roommate drank vervain water but died via vampire bite.
Damon, meanwhile, assumes responsibility for Jeremy. Jeremy almost dies again, which must be something the writers feel they must do, like how Matt gets hurt in every episode. Damon meets Silas-as-Stefan. Silas is a potent threat. He's the complete package for a fictional villian: he reads minds, compels, controls crowds, kills the mayor, and brainwashes the townspeople to track down Katherine. Damon willingly gives up Katherine for the sake of Stefan. Silas reminded Damon of the guilt he repressed during the summer. Damon's motivated by love for his brother, to make amends for what happens, and because he hates Silas. Paul Wesley plays the villain with relish and glee. He's very good as good ol' Stefan, but he's amazing as soulless Stefan. His Silas isn't his bad Stefan. Wesley's Silas is restrainingly menacing. Silas' scene with Sheriff Forbes was a great first scene for the new-and-final form of the character. It showed viewers the essential Silas. He's not ruthlessly violent, but he's unapologetically violent. And he hates everyone.
Stefan's drowning over and over in the Mystic Falls creek and hallucinating conversations with Damon and Elena. I compared a good chunk of last season with Buffy's final season. Stefan's misery in the water echoes Angel's misery in the water. Angel hallucinated feasts with his friends, sexy time with Cordy, and was pulled out before he wasted away by badass Wesley. The hallucinations show Stefan's love and bond with his brother and Elena. He listens to Damon about turning off the switch, and he listens to Elena when she tells him to not let go. Stefan's struggle with the switch has been great for the character. It's interesting watching it through his different bonds with the two people he loves most in the world. The series doesn't need Paul Wesley portraying two evil characters. Nina Dobrev does that well as Katherine/Elena.
Bonnie's continued involvement in the series is an annoyance. Jeremy's her cipher. The story will most likely lead to her coming back to life somehow or leaving in an emotional episode during November sweeps, but she's a useless character, completely and totally useless. She's as effective as Greek chorus. Jeremy's feeling about Silas-is-Stefan is supported by Bonnie. Bonnie doesn't clue him in. He feels a chill when Silas touches him. Bonnie watches Silas slit her father's throat. There's a compelling story if she's watching her friends and family get hurt and die without being able to do anything since she used to be powerful and capable of stopping anyone.
By the end of "I Know What You Did Last Summer," it's actually less of a reboot. It's a typical season premiere. New storylines introduced. New pairings.Other Thoughts:
-Matt gets a storyline all his own involving a skinny Central European and her warlock buddy. Matt spent his summer having threesomes with Rebekah and models from Central Europe. Until he gets wonked out by Nadia and her buddy, he serves beer at a Mystic Falls town event.
-I'd criticize the size of Elena and Caroline's dorm room; however, colleges across America have built new, fancy dorms. Dorms are air-conditioned now. I lived in a dorm for two years. Both dorm rooms resembled prisons. I got a kick out of Caroline and Elena not getting through the threshold to get to the party. Nina and Candace were really fun. TVD needs more comedy.
-Steven R. McQueen's a hulking beast of a man. He was a scrawny kid on Everwood. Now he has the body of Chris Hemsworth. McQueen's destiny to play a high school kid for his entire acting career continues. Damon compelled the principal to give Damon a suspension instead of expulsion.
-Katherine distinguishes herself as a human by not brushing her hair. That’s great.
-Caroline Dries wrote the premiere. Plec's busy producing three shows for The CW right now. Dries is now the Marti Noxon of The CW. Lance Anderson directed it.