The Vampire Diaries season 3 episode 5 review: The Reckoning

Finally! The Vampire Diaries season 3 explodes back into life, with one of its best-ever episodes. Here's Caroline's review of The Reckoning...

This review contains spoilers.

3.5 The Reckoning

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks aimlessly contemplating the slowing pace of The Vampire Diaries, a show that used to put all others to shame with a plot that never meandered and a death toll to rival the bloodiest of cable shows. Well, someone must have heard me, because The Reckoning not only brings the show back up to its best standard, but it could be one of the strongest hours we’ve been given since it started.

We’re given a taste of what’s to come in the episode’s teaser, something else the show has been known to pull off flawlessly. Starting off as a standard ‘what’s lurking behind him in the shadows’ opener with Matt wandering around the school at night, it turns into a throw-back to youth in a teenage prank night orchestrated by a perky Caroline, before again taking a turn when Klaus makes his surprise entrance.

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All these things are expertly played, reintroducing characters who haven’t had much to do lately (most notably Matt and Bonnie), reminding us that they’re still at school, and placing the threat in a previously untouched venue. It’s masterful, and followed up with an episode just as clever and outwitting. Just when the viewer thought they had things figured out, the writers decide to play their ace. And that’s where the show succeeds: by getting a finale-load of twists and turns and putting them in episode five.

Getting Damon and Katherine out of the way at the end of last week helps the narrative to focus on the teenagers, who you’d be forgiven for thinking were no longer attending high school. What with Vicky hanging around too, the whole episode has echoes of the much more conventional start to the series, but with all the flavour of modern Vampire Diaries thrown into the mix. Matt gets more than one chance to shine here and I hope, despite Bonnie’s protests, that his episode-arc means he can step up and play with the cool-gang more often.

And Klaus is certainly living up to expectations as a deliciously evil villain. In a show full of grey areas and forgotten evil deeds (Damon, we’re looking at you), it’s kind of refreshing to get a bad guy so darn despicable. The threats and games he plays with have real weight, and in a show that offs much-loved characters almost bi-weekly, it’s easy to find yourself on the edge of your seat whenever he sets his sights on someone. It’s clear at several points of the episode that someone might be in real mortal danger, but you’re kept guessing who right up until the end.

Stefan gets a reboot of sorts this week, but not in the way people might expect. Although it has the potential to play out well, I’m not sure I like the new direction they’ve taken him in. By removing a large part of responsibility from his actions through compulsion and the ‘switch’, his inevitable return to the fold now seems way too easy down the line. Without revealing too much about the events of the episode, he’s back cohabitating with Damon by its final moments, making for a very unconventional family unit.

I wondered last week if a season-long story arc would serve the series better at this stage than the usual smattering of cliffhangers and mythology reveals. So far, I think that’s true, and this episode proved it more than ever. Counting the interesting and important things that happen in this episode would be a long job, but when wondering what’s been resolved or tied up you might realise how much more could lie ahead. The Reckoning is not only an outstanding hour of television, but it could signal many more just like it in the weeks ahead.

Read our review of episode four, Disturbing Behavior, here.

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