Gird your loins, everyone — we’ve got new Vampire Diaries in a week! (Feel free to pause reading this and do a little happy dance in your chair. I’ll wait.) And in light of the revelations in last season’s finale — particularly regarding a certain smirky vampire’s first meeting with a certain doppelganger — I thought I’d get in the mood by taking a look back at the pilot episode.
Now, I haven’t rewatched this since it aired, and all I remember is that I found it super cheesy the first time around. Predictions: everyone will look kind of young and goofy, and Damon will be more evil than I prefer him. And on that note…
… we open on foggy woods at night. Stefan voiceovers that he’s lived in secret for over a century because… HE IS A VAMPIRE. DUN! Also, he thinks this is his story? Funny. I always thought it was Elena’s.
Cut to a generically attractive young couple driving through the fog on a deserted road. They hit someone, freak out, get out of the car to check, and are both promptly eaten. Because, duh, it was a vampire. We don’t see the actual face (yet) but it’s heavily implied he can fly. Um, okay. Glad they didn’t stick with that.
The next morning: Stefan watches the sunset from his roof for no reason I can tell other than he wanted an excuse to dramatically jump off the side. Glad they don’t have the budget to do stuff like that all the time either. It’s just kind of silly.
Leave the building jumping to Selene, Stefan! She looks better in vinyl than you do anyway.
He voiceovers some more about how he shouldn’t have come back to town, but he “had to know her.” Good lord, after three years of previouslies, I am so sick of hearing that line. Also, you know how much I enjoy listening to Stefan whine about his problems. Off to a strong start, writers!
Oh, here’s Elena! Yay! She’s writing in her diary, which means more voiceover. Again, I find myself side-eying this show’s life choices. The camera pans past pictures of her parents. Who are noticeably different (and more age appropriate) people than the ones we saw in the flashbacks last season finale:
Anyway, Elena is trying to will herself into having a good day. But downstairs, Jenna’s (HI, JENNA!) stressed and rushing around to meet her thesis advisor and Jeremy’s already being a snotty little bastard to his sister. So the day’s not great already.
On the way to school, Bonnie tells Elena how Grams wants her to believe she’s psychic, and isn’t that crazy? Oh, Bonnie. Although given her first prediction is that all the sad and dark times will be over and Elena will be beyond happy, I’m going to say… no. Not so much with the psychic abilities.
Suddenly, something hits the windshield and freaks them both out. Bonnie thinks it might have been a bird. Elena, visibly shaken, tries to pull herself together, saying she can’t be scared by cars forever. Elena, honey, I have been in a car hit by a bird at high speed before and there was some screaming, believe me. So don’t feel too bad.
After, the camera pans to A Menacing Crow watching them. And I think we’re supposed to think that’s the vampire from earlier? Aka, (spoiler!) Damon. Which is… dumb. So many things I’m glad they dropped after the pilot!
At school, Bonnie is gossiping and generally acting much more like a ditzy mean girl than I remember. Cute!Matt (HI, MATT) is across the hall, staring like a sad, sad puppy dog/creeper:
Elena’s upset that he hates her now, but Bonnie exposits that he’s just sad and rejected from being dumped. Caroline shows up, all human and superficial, and I remember that I didn’t really care for her at first. Anyway, it seems like Caroline, at least, hasn’t seen much of Elena all summer since her parents died. Which is kind of weird. Did she go out of town or something? A big focus of this episode is her complaining about people asking if she’s all right all the time, so I’m guessing not?
Baby Jeremy is smoking his pain away behind the school with alive and human Vicki. Tyler rolls up and is the douchiest douche I remember loathing for so much of the first season. Jeremy is sad and jealous. Also, his neck is much smaller that it is in season three.
Stefan’s at school! Bonnie and Elena perv on his ass as he registers for classes, i.e. compels the administrator into thinking all his papers are in order. I’m fairly certain that using vampiric mind control powers to get into high school rather than out if it is a serious breach of the vampire coolness contract, Stefan. Elena is distracted from the ass ogling by Jeremy’s stoned appearance, and follows him into the boy’s bathroom to yell at him for being a such a washout.
Meanwhile, all the girls — including both Bonnie and Caroline, which is WEIRD — visibly swoon over the beauty of Stefan’s precious face, which the camera still hasn’t show us. Until Elena comes out of the bathroom and runs smack into him, naturally.
They do that annoying/cute thing where both try to move in the same direction and keep blocking each other. Elena is flustered and embarrassed. Stefan is clearly at least 25. It’s all very tortured. Later, Stefan creeps on Elena in history class while Bonnie and Cute!Matt watch, happy and resentful, respectively.
After school, Elena goes to the cemetery. It’s where all the cool kids hang out! No, she’s writing in her diary some more while sitting in front of her parents’ grave. Aw, Elena. A crow shows up on the grave, distracting her from noticing someone’s turned on an industrial strength fog machine somewhere nearby. She tries to shoo the bird away and gets a little freaked out, running off before noticing there’s A Mysterious Dude lurking.
When she stumbles and falls, suddenly Stefan is there. Elena babbles like an idiot. It’s kind of cute. They properly introduce themselves and flirt some more. She notices his enormous, gaudy daylight ring. Stefan, for his part, notices she’s cut herself, then has to turn away when she rolls up her pant leg to reveal the blood. We see his veiny vamp eyes and teeth, but Elena misses it. He’s gone when she turns around.
Later, he writes in his diary about almost losing control and not being able to resist her. Ugh, Stefan. I’m already so bored with your stupid drama.
Over at The Only Restaurant In Town, Jeremy’s pathetically stalking Vicki while she waits tables. They exposit that he’s been providing her with drugs and she “deflowered” him over the summer. Multiple times. Ew. I did not need to know that. He tells her that douchey Tyler only wants her for her ass; she points out that Jeremy is no better. Touché, Vicki.
Caroline and Bonnie come in, the former having already obtained Stefan’s life story and planned their future wedding. DOUBLE EW. I really enjoy Caroline and Stefan’s brotherly/mentor relationship in the present, so her lusting after him here is really oogy.
Meanwhile, Elena’s headed out to join them, but Stefan is waiting at the front door of her house. Because he is a creeper.
He apologizes for bailing on her at the cemetery and returns her journal, promising her didn’t read it because he wouldn’t want anyone to read his. Elena, naturally, is smitten by the news that he’s a fellow diarist. There is intense staring. Elena steps back inside for a minute and indicates he can follow, but neglects to actually give him an invitation, so he’s stuck. Until she asks him to come with her to the Grille instead.
Cute!Matt, whose long hair is making him look really young, is at the Grille already, asking Bonnie about Elena. Bonnie thinks she just needs more time.
But then, of course, Elena walks in on Stefan’s arm. (Also, it looks like Tyler and Caroline are playing pool together, which seems so natural until I remember they’re not actually dating at this point and also, he’s an enormous douche.)
The girls end up sitting with Stefan, the better to interrogate him about his life. He tells them his parents are dead (but neglects to mention he killed at least one of them) and claims he has no siblings… that he talks to. Meanwhile he’s living with his “uncle”. Elena, of course, empathizes instantly. And you know what? I think it’s kind of shitty of him to use that as part of his connection with her. I know it’s probably the easiest explanation for why his parents aren’t around, but it still feels extra manipulative, given he knows exactly how sensitive dead parents would be for her right now.
Later that night, Placebo’s “Running Up That Hill” plays as he broods at home. Uncle Nephew Zach shows up, angry about the news of the dead couple from the teaser, who he thinks Stefan killed.
He also calls Stefan “uncle” (which would be more of a DUN! if we didn’t already know Stefan is a vampire, so whatever) and wants him to leave town, saying it’s been quiet, but there are still people who remember. Stefan gets shirty with him and refuses to say why he’s staying. After Zach leaves, Stefan pulls out a portrait of Katherine, who, of course, is a dead ringer for Elena. DOUBLE DUN!
Side note: both Damon and Stefan have been in town for the whole summer, right? Because they were both there the night Elena’s parents were killed at the end of the school year. How has Damon been feeding all this time without people noticing?
At school the next day, the pre-Alaric history teacher is being an asshole to everyone for not having the exact number of people killed in the town’s big civil war battle memorized. Because in Mystic Falls, the only history that ever gets taught is town history. Also: not sorry this guy ends up getting eaten later. Shut up, douchey Mr. Tanner. (Apparently, he was also Elena’s teacher last year? How does this school work?)
Stefan, of course, knows exactly how many casualties there were, because he was there. He also shows the teacher up with his insider knowledge of the battle. Ooh, local history throw down! Elena is suitably impressed.
Party in the woods! Stefan shows up and uses his vampire hearing to spy creepily on what Elena’s saying about him. Before he can head over, Caroline swoops in for the kill. Meanwhile, Elena passes Bonnie a beer and when their hands touch, Bonnie has a psychic vision of the crow/fog/man encounter from earlier. One more thing I’m glad they toned down later, because Bonnie constantly having visions would be annoying.
She explains it away that she’s just drunk. (I do appreciate that these kids actually drink sometimes like real teenagers and there are no overt negative consequences or PSAs about how bad it is.) Stefan shows up soon after and he and Elena flirt some more. They go for a walk and she reluctantly tells him about her parents driving off the bridge last Spring. Stefan gamely pretends not to know all of this already. I’m struck, once again, by wondering why he didn’t approach her at any point during the summer. Maybe just giving her space to grieve?
Meanwhile, Tyler leads Vicki out into the woods and then refuses to take no for an answer when she doesn’t want to have semi-public tree sex with him. Charming.
It really is amazing that they managed to make me love him later. I’m just going to pretend the whole date rape thing was all werewolf related.
Anyway, Jeremy steps in and gets Tyler off her, but she’s not impressed with his stalking and wanting to talk and share feelings as well as bone. She runs off. Poor Vicki. This night just isn’t going to end well for her. And sure enough, she is promptly attacked by A Mysterious Figure.
Back at the party, Stefan has his patient listener face on while Elena explains about her break up with Cute!Matt, with whom she just felt “no passion.”
HMMM. See, I know their relationship was already a little rocky, but now I’m wondering if Damon’s compulsion the night he and Elena really met might have helped influence her to break up with Matt so quickly. Didn’t he wish a life with all-consuming passion for her?
Anyway, Stefan loses control again and gets all vamp-eyed. When he flees, Cute!Matt takes the opportunity to come over and tell Elena he still hasn’t given up on their relationship. Oh, Cute!Matt. That’s really sad. Because it’s never going to happen.
Caroline corners Stefan — who has gotten himself back under control — and flirts aggressively. Ugh. STILL WEIRD. He shuts her down firmly and heads back to Elena, but she ditches him to go follow her brother into the woods… where they promptly stumble over Viki, unconscious and bleeding heavily from the neck.
Cute!Matt catches Stefan watching, looking disturbed at the edge of the crowd. And it just occurred to me that we’ve been supposed to think maybe Stefan was the one attacking people and creeping around in bird form this whole time. Oops. I guess I might have fallen for that if I hadn’t seen all the promotional materials and known that Ian Somerhalder was going to show up at some point, all bad cop to Stefan’s boring cop.
And sure enough, here he is! Stefan rushes home to tell Zach someone else is in town. The crow is there again… and so is Damon. Oh, okay. So he can’t transform into a bird. He just, what — summons them and the fog? Whatever, it’s dumb, and I’m glad they don’t do that Dracula crap anymore. (Even Stefan agrees!)
Anyway, Damon! Yay! He is flippant and smirks a lot, as is his wont. Apparently, it’s been fifteen years since they last saw each other. He also knows that Stefan is in town to creep on Elena. They name check Katherine some more, and Damon taunts Stefan about his squirrel-drinking habits and how good Elena would taste — until Stefan snaps, vamps out, and throws them both out the window. Drama queen much, Stefan?
Outside, Stefan pleads with him to give the whole feud and not kill anyone else in Mystic. But Damon reminds his brother that he promised him a eternity of misery.
Which is interesting knowing now that the feud started not only over Katherine but over Stefan turning Damon against his will, and that Stefan himself has done his own fair share of killing over the years. Damon casually tosses him into a wall, reminding him that if he’s not drinking from humans, he can’t match Damon’s strength.
Bonnie tells Elena that she knows she’s not psychic, but she has a feeling that all this is just the beginning of something bad. Well, duh, Bonnie. It would be a boring show if this drama was a one time event. Elena tries to mother Jeremy some more and he doesn’t take kindly to it. But when she tells him that people are going to stop giving him breaks and he has to move on, he points out she hasn’t exactly been practicing what she preaches. Elena acknowledges the point.
At the Grille, Bonnie is trying to sober Caroline up enough to get her home, but Caroline is having a crisis of confidence over Stefan’s rejection. She complains bitterly that Elena gets everything without even trying, while Caroline tries so hard and can’t seem to get what she wants. Bonnie gently explains that it’s not a competition. Caroline thinks it is. I think my love for present day Caroline is making me more sympathetic this time around, because I remember finding her super annoying for the first few episodes, but now I just kind of want to give her a hug.
Cute!Matt sits by his sister’s bedside. She wakes up and whispers something about a vampire. DUN!
Montage! Elena and Stefan both tell their diaries that they thought they could force themselves to get over the past and start a new happy life, but it doesn’t work that way. As the voiceover continues, we see Stefan looking at Katherine’s picture, Jenna watching as Jeremy holds a picture of his parents, and Caroline and Damon catching each other’s eyes at the Grille. Ugh, I did not need that reminder that he basically rapes her for several episodes following this.
In the final scene, Stefan shows back up at Elena’s house to check if she’s okay. They have another moment and she explicitly invites him in this time. Stefan smiles.
So, Damon and Elena don’t meet face to face at all in the first episode? Bold choice, show. I wonder if we weren’t supposed to be rooting for that relationship at first? I mean, besides the whole “he’s evil” thing, which, frankly, the show has never seemed as bothered by as I am.
I’m also curious about what Damon was doing all summer between now and the time he ran into Elena in the field and told her he wasn’t ready for people to know he was there yet. What did he need to be ready for? Was it something to do with the scheme to break Katherine out of the crypt?
Whatever, I don’t even care, because ONE MORE WEEK UNTIL VAMP ELENA!