Rapid Reaction: "The Vampire Diaries" - The Return

"The Vampire Diaries" Season 2 premiere -- The Return -- picked up right where Season 1 left off, and quickly tied up most of the serious cliffhangers from the Season 1 finale. Jeremy's attempted suicidal turn didn't work, John survived his stabbing at the hands of Katherine and Damon, Stefan and Elena all quickly put two-and-two together and figured out that Katherine was back in town.

With so much to resolve, this episode could have easily slipped into epilogue mode (feeling more like an extension of Season 1 than a start to Season 2), but after the first commercial break, this really felt like its own episode. That was because of the strength of Nina Dobrev, who really made Katherine and Elena feel like two different people. She was delightfully devious as Katherine, to the point that it frustrated me when she was back in pouty Elena mode. I loved the scene midway through the episode when she shifted seamlessly from Katherine to Elena (as Katherine was trying to keep up appearances), and it seemed as if Katherine was almost disgusted at having to pretend to be such an emo bitch (and I mean that in the nicest way possible, Elena).

There was a lot of Katherine-Stefan stuff in the episode, including Stefan being the first one to figure out it was Katherine and not Elena (well, save for Jonathan, but he had the stabbing hint to help him out), but I was more interested in the Katherine-Damon stuff. Ian Somerhalder was the strength of the show last year, and he's off to another great start this year. I love the way he manages to be flippant about kissing Katherine -- who he thought was Elena -- while also brooding about it (though not in an Angel-y way). Then, after dealing with all the Elena crap all episode, he manages to have it out with Katherine in the best scene this show's given us in 23 episodes (so far).

As if all that wasn't enough, there was so much packed into the last five minutes of the episode that rather than try and recap it all here, I'll just say that it was all spectacular and completely set the groundwork for the rest of the season and the allegiances that will define "The Vampire Diaries" for the next 21 episodes.

In other storylines, there's a new Lockwood in town, which should lead toward unlocking the mystery behind that family -- the ones that were affected by the vampire-hunting device from the end of last season but aren't vampires. Stefan threatened Jonathan and told him to leave town, but before Jonathan left, he shared a nice family moment with Jeremy (oh, and I still find it weird to hear David Anders speak without a British accent, even though he's American). Oh, and Caroline got a Damon-infused pick-me-up to survive her accident, only to be smothered by Katherine (part of that crazy last five minutes). 

If "The Vampire Diaries" gives us more episodes like this, and more of Dobrev as Katherine, it could make the leap from guilty pleasure to full-fledged great show.

For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page