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Sunday, March 18, 2012

"1912" is a great year for The Vampire Diaries

This week's entry of the CW's The Vampire Diaries is called "1912." Sheriff Forbes (Marguerite MacIntyre) arrests Alaric (Matt Davis) for the serial killings happening in Mystic Falls. Elena (Nina Dobrev) is convinced that Dr. Fell (Torrey DeVitto, Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill) is the actual guilty party, so she and Matt (Zach Roerig) break into Dr. Fell's house to search for evidence. Damon (Ian Somerhalder) would also like to help Alaric, but becomes more concerned with Stefan (Paul Wesley), whose cold turkey method of quitting blood drinking is brewing trouble. Damon's memories of 1912 tie Stefan and the killings together via Sage (Cassidy Freeman, Smallville), an important vampire in the brothers' lives.

While flashbacks are important in the story of The Vampire Diaries, they haven't made for the best episodes. They reveal important milestones in the growth of who Stefan and Damon are, but are rarely exciting on their own. "1912" is a little different because of the addition of Sage, and the point in the personal history of the Salvaores that it chooses to show.

Damon and Stefan both struggle with the urge to drink human blood with varying degrees of success. Fans know that both have gone through differing periods where their personalities have changed. Stefan's issues stem from a tendency to swing to the extremes, whereas Damon, while complex, remains more consistently true to himself. However, that doesn't mean that Damon isn't capable of growth or regret. Feeling guilty for failing to stop Stefan's mistakes in the past, "1912" finds Damon stepping up, taking a proactive role to keep Stefan from having another freak out.

Sage is a mysterious lady, with her intentions for Mystic Falls remaining a mystery. She helps Damon see what feeding should be to vampires, and a way to do so without turning into the hunted monster of the town. But why she does so isn't clear, nor is what happens to her after her brief story in "1912." Luckily, she will be returning to present day events in The Vampire Diaries next week. It's lucky, because Freeman proved her skills as an actress in another CW series, especially in mixing threatening, sexy, and vulnerable, and it's wonderful to see her bring those talents to bear again.

There is also some great Damon / Rebekah (Claire Holt) interaction in "1912." He may treat her poorly, but there are indications that they could possibly have a real relationship, once Damon begins to get over Elena. Not saying they're going to get a happy ever after, but they could make a go of it for awhile.

In the present, much is made over the Gilbert tendency to go insane, not unlike Stefan, but through no fault of their own. Samantha Gilbert is the serial killer in "1912," so it's not without merit that one may begin to wonder if Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) has returned to town, and is behind the latest slaughters.

Alas, no. The Vampire Diaries has done a masterful job, yet again, of tossing in the unexpected twist. The latest being that Alaric really is the one responsible, and Dr. Fell is going to great lengths to help him. Which makes her a character very much worth having around, and hopefully, she will stay in town. Of course, why she didn't just come clean in the first place doesn't make a lot of sense. But still...

It's very possible that the fault lies in Alaric's ring, but will removing it stop him from killing? And no ring leaves Alaric highly vulnerable. The Vampire Diaries has a history of killing off any human who isn't supernatural or has major supernatural help. Alaric isn't as valuable to the Salvatores as Elena, so he could be screwed without that ring, unless he wants to hang up his vampire hunting ways forever. No matter how awesome it is to see Alaric getting some meaty screen time, it's not worth it if it takes him off of the show for good.

Most episodes of the series are terrific, but sometimes it is nice to slow down the action and let half the cast take a week off. This week's episode is the perfect example of that. "1912" is great because it takes the time to focus intimately on a couple of characters and plots, rather than trying to fit in everyone.

One will not want to miss what happens next! Watch The Vampire Diaries Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

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