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The Vampire Diaries “Growing Pains” 

Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW

Welcome to season four of The Vampire Diaries! I’m your host, Heather.

This is a season of new beginnings as Elena has to face the choice that was made for her, and everybody around her gets to deal with it in variable shades of acceptance.

At The Vampire Diaries, we spend a lot of time on Elena’s choices, something that irks the hell out of Damon, and in the closing moments of season three, Elena made the choice to die to save Matt. She was happy, she was at peace, and she was ready to let go. As we found out afterward, Dr. Fell undid that by injecting Damon’s blood into her when she was hurt.

When Elena wakes up in her own bed at the beginning of the premiere, she’s surrounded by watchful Salvatores and light is too bright, sounds are too harsh, and feelings are too intense. She has to wrap her head around the fact that she’s alive, for now, and she has to make one more very crucial choice before the day is out—whether to feed or die.

Damon is livid. Stefan is empathetic and guilty. Jeremy is terrified. Bonnie is trying to fix it. Matt is ashamed and heartsick. Caroline is trying to find even footing in the wake of her own (presumed) loss of Tyler. Thrown into the mix is the heretofore unseen Pastor Young, a Council member who’s taken the ball from Alaric and run with it, kidnapping vampires (Stefan and Rebekah), arresting Liz and Carol, and secreting Elena away for safekeeping.

Stefan does what he can to prep Elena for what her day is going to be, wanting to give her the whole day in case Bonnie can fix it. Damon would rather she just get on with it and feed. While most of the transition seems to be light and sound and nausea and mania, it’s also accompanied by glimpses of the truth about her and Damon—she remembers (offscreen) the scene we saw in the finale of how they originally met, and the scene where he told her he loved her before he compelled her to forget. She tells Damon all of this before the end of the hour, but she ends the hour on a roof with Stefan, hopeful and embracing the dawn (with a shiny new undeading ring of her very own).

Bonnie dances with the dark side, and instead of being the one to bear the scars, she apparently inflicts eternal suffering on Grams’ soul. This is after her attempt to bring Elena’s soul back to humanity fails and Klaus threatens Tyler’s body with harm if she doesn’t undo the body swap right now. As for that body swap, there’s very nearly some action when “Tyler” rescues Caroline from the Council and she’s overjoyed to find him alive, until he lets slip a “love” and she decks him.

Early in the episode, Rebekah is doing some wailing and grieving of her own (about Klaus) and when she stops for a moment to taunt a newly arrived Damon about a dead Elena, he starts to throw down but the pastor’s goons get the jump and whisk Rebekah away. Later, she’s held captive and vervained in a stable alongside Stefan and a transitioning Elena. When she watches Elena and hears Stefan as the couple pledge their troth to each other from separate holding cells (while Elena’s clock winds down), her heart might actually grow two sizes.

She finally steps up and helps Stefan kill one of the guards so Elena can feed. That times out well for Elena to get the jump on Damon, who’s really hell bent on killing Matt because he survived. Matt gets away and drags himself inside where Stefan feeds him to help him recover from Damon’s attack, but Matt fights taking the blood. Stefan then tells him to man up and accept that Elena wanted him to live. Then Elena and Damon have their chat about what she knows but both fall silent before any sort of forward movement on that front. She does, however, call him out and he confirms that he wouldn’t have saved Matt for her.

The closing moments of the episode set up the big bad arc for the season as the pastor nukes himself and a houseful of followers, I’m assuming, to put the blame on the vampires and set up a war. Not sure how much I love that idea yet. We’ll see how it’s executed. Also, Klaus and Rebekah break up (again) when she destroys his remaining stash of Elena’s blood, so it would seem his hybrid factory days are over.

And that’s our premiere. We have a host of newbies on their way so I was very grateful that the season’s kickoff was just about our home team before we meet the expansion players.

Overall, I liked the premiere, but I wasn’t feeling the intended gravitas about Elena’s fate, i.e. we really couldn’t be expected to buy into the idea that she would die. TPTB have pretty clearly discussed her future as a vampire, so unless that was a Class A fakeout, it was a foregone conclusion that she would be a vampire before the hour was up. I did, however, wonder whether we might lose Bonnie or Tyler. I figured (hoped) Matt was safe because Elena and Stefan went to a lot of trouble to keep him here.

When we got to the closing moments of Stefan and Elena on the roof, reunited after a really long third season apart, I had a moment where I realized how long we had gone without seeing them together, and how much they were the heart of the first and second seasons. So, I’m curious to see where we go now that they’re back together, time is infinite, and she has all of the information about Damon.

She teases Stefan that they can be together forever now “if she wants.” And that’s the kicker, really. We’re not dealing with human limitations of time, so it will be interesting to see if she sticks to her decision to stay with Stefan. Earlier, when she thinks she’s dying, she tells Stefan she was on the bridge because she was coming back to him, because he was her choice.

I want to see how tightly she holds to that choice, and where things go with Damon since he’s now pissed off for other reasons. It was one thing when she didn’t want him while human. It’s another if they’re all going to be around for a while. I’m so glad we’re back. I didn’t rewatch the third season over the summer so I really did miss them over the five-month break and was ready to pick them back up again.

If you missed the premiere, you can catch it online at The Vampire Dairies is back on the Thursday schedule at 8 pm/7c with new episodes through November.

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