The Vampire Diaries is two episodes into its new season, and The CW's supernatural soap opera has gotten a new shot in the arm from its brand new status quo. Even if you're sick of vampires — even if you feel like vampires have been overexposed and the Twilight-inspired "nice vampire" thing is an abomination — you should check out Vampire Diaries. This show is managing to say some pretty fascinating things about the nature of power.
The X-Men have their debate between Charles Xavier and Magneto over whether mutants should assimilate into humanity or fight for supremacy. The Vampire Diaries, meanwhile, has the endless debate between Stefan and Damon Salvatore over whether vampires should feed on humans. Back in season one, Damon was a pretty clear-cut villain — you'll notice in last night's episode, all the people Stefan mourns with his paper lantern were murdered by Damon.
But since then, the show has hinted that Damon may have a point. Vampires, by their nature, are predators, consumed with bloodlust, and Stefan's way — total abnegation — leads inevitably to a messy fall off the wagon. As witnessed by Stefan's episodes of becoming the Ripper, a serial killer who tears people's throats out. So maybe it's better to indulge your bloodlust, in moderation.
(And the show generally won't admit that there's another answer to this: if vampires really are all bloodthirsty predators, maybe the people who want to wipe the vampires out are right, after all.)
At its basis, this debate is about appetites, but also about power and responsibility. Just like Spider-Man. Vampires have powers beyond ordinary people, and with the help of witches like Bonnie, they can minimize the drawbacks like vulnerability to sunlight. There's always been more than a touch of noblesse oblige about Stefan's care to avoid hurting humans, as if he owes a duty to us weaker, vulnerable little creatures.
On some level, Damon is a Social Darwinist, believing it's natural for the strong to prey on the weak — although in recent years, he seems to have decided the strong can avoid actually killing the weak most of the time. And Stefan is a middle of the road Social Democrat, who believes in strong restrictions on the powerful, and tries to share his power with the little people as much as possible.
In any case, now that Elena is a vampire, we're seeing this debate all over again, only focused through the lens of the endless Salvatore Love Triangle — even though Elena allegedly chose Stefan over Damon, that won't stop the love triangle, because then the show would be about Jeremy and Matt going out clubbing and trying to pick up hybrid girls or something.
Stefan wants to start Elena out on animal blood right away, on the theory that if she never even starts drinking human blood, she'll never have any of the problems everyone else has had. This isn't just Stefan trying a crazy experiment out on his girlfriend — he points out that everybody else has killed at least one person when they first turned, including Caroline. So Stefan gets Elena started drinking deer blood — and it doesn't go so hot. She vomits up the blood as soon as she drinks any of it.
Damon steps in and tries to help Elena out, hooking her up with human blood in a blood bag — but she can't keep that down, either. She needs human blood, from the vein. Even when she drinks Damon's own blood — which apparently is kind of an intimate thing, and a dick move on Damon's part — she can't keep it down.
Complicating matters, there's an actual antagonist in the mix. For reasons that are somewhat unclear, The Vampire Diaries decided to discard the quite-intense vampire-hunting preacher from last week, having him kill himself and his whole posse in a gas explosion that's hinted to be some kind of weird magical sacrifice. (Maybe the gas-loving pastor will be back, later in the season, as some kind of supernatural entity.) Instead, now the vampires are being stalked by Connor, a vampire hunter with cool vervaine-soaked gloves and magic vampire-killing bullets. He shoots Tyler at one point, and we're told that if Tyler were a pure vampire, he'd be toast.
All of this leads to a pretty fantastic scene, where they're having a big memorial at the Mystic Falls church, for all the people who died in the aforementioned gas explosion. And Connor has the pastor's daughter, April, tied up in the balcony with her blood dripping down so any vampires in the audience will smell it and react. Connor has his vampire-killing rifle ready, all set to shoot any vampires who poke their heads up. And meanwhile, Elena is finally having a meltdown because she hasn't eaten anything since she became a vampire and started suffering blood-limia.
So first Elena gets up to speak at the church, swaying and slowly losing her shit in front of everybody. And then to save Elena from being found out, the guilt-stricken Matt lets her drink his blood right there in church. As Annalee said last night, this is the standard by which all other TV shows will be judged for a while: "Does it have bloodsucking in church?" And then Tyler gets up to speak — and since Connor already knows he's a (part) vampire, Connor lets loose and shoots him in the chest, causing a wee commotion.
So all of this has driven a bit of a wedge between Stefan and Elena, because she went to Damon instead of Stefan — she thought Stefan would be too disappointed in her if she wasn't able to stick to the nice, sweet "animal only" diet. And instead, Stefan is pissed off that she's been drinking Damon's blood.
So what sort of vampire is Elena going to be? Is she going to be nice, like Stefan, or a bit of a manipulative jerk, like Damon? We get our first clue at the end, when April is traumatized by being slashed and tied up by a gun-wielding psycho — and the always amazing Caroline pushes Elena to use her newfound mind control powers. And Elena finds that she's able to reassure April and make her forget her ordeal. And does Elena enjoy her new power a little... too much? I guess we'll see.