The Vampire Diaries season 3 episode 6 review: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Ghosts take centre stage in this week’s episode of The Vampire Diaries. Here’s Caroline’s review of Smells Like Teen Spirit…

This review contains spoilers.

3.6 Smells Like Teen Spirit

After last week’s standout episode pushed Vampire Diaries forward a few thousand steps, this week it’s back to school, keeping with the nostalgic teen drama of the season, but losing some of the momentum that made last week so much fun.

It’s senior year, and Caroline is still on a mission to inject some old-school pep into her classmates. Understandably, not everyone is receptive to her particular brand of school spirit, with Bonnie, Elena and Matt preferring to dwell on their not so insignificant problems. Elena’s dealing with the new unwanted house-guest from last week’s climax, Bonnie’s brooding about her boyfriends penchant for talking to dead ex-girlfriends, and Matt’s seeing his sister all around school. If year one was about vampires, and year two introducing werewolves, then this is surely the year of the ghosts.

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And dead-Vicky comes centre stage this week, with her dastardly plan to return to the land of the living backfiring on Matt and his friends. I’ve complained in the past that Matt doesn’t get enough to do on the show, so I’m glad the writers have cooked up something substantial this year. He was even more of a minor character when his sister was alive, so we never really got to see their dynamic. We’re told it’s there though, and Matt’s admission that he feels alone is more than a cheesy line to serve the story, but a summation of the character and his always uncertain place in the group.

He’s pretty stupid trusting the girl though, and his plan for some company backfires spectacularly. Bonnie helps with the fireworks, as she gets fed-up with sharing her boyfriend and finally decides to do something about it. I’m getting a little confused as to the nature and size of Bonnie’s power at the moment, as one week she’s essentially powerless due to her messing with life and death last season, and the next she can do whatever she pleases. It was a good move for the plausibility of the show to take away some of her ability, but there needs to be more consistency if her character is going to work at all.

Back at the school, everyone’s getting psyched up for senior year, and with that comes the senior year bonfire. There’s alcohol there, and there’s also Elena with a clichéd red cup in her hands. It’s nice to see the teenagers back after so much time away from school and, even though the show separated itself by being less about the soap opera of high school, it helps to be reminded of the sheer lunacy of its kids’ supernatural statuses. Everyone seems to be reverting back to their season one personalities, too, not least of all a newly vampiric Tyler.

As a completely new being for the show, the writers gloss over Tyler’s new found thirst for blood, and the trauma that comes with it, very quickly. All his traits are heightened, Caroline reminds him, so he has to be careful not to return to the ‘old’ him. For Tyler, that means the bully, date-rapey Tyler we were offered in the beginning, someone not in keeping with his girlfriends vision of the perfect life. Tyler is something of a ticking time bomb this week, as no one seems to care that he’s the only living hybrid. You’re left wondering if there are bigger plans for him later on, and the final moments confirm that it’s not going to be an easy ride.

And that leaves Stefan, who’s not only moved into his old haunt, but is attending class with his fellow seniors too. I said last week that I was worried about the direction Stefan was being taken in, and this week just felt wrong. Everyone concerned, but especially Elena and Damon, are leaving him be. Even though he’s a dangerous, emotionless monster intent on causing havoc, not many people seem to mind him roaming the halls and cornering Elena in dark rooms. There’s little effort at an intervention, and it leaves you thinking that the gang deserve everything they’ll eventually get.

But if the ghost subplot comes front and centre, this could be a fun year. I assume, like the werewolves last year, the spirits will have some part to play in the hybrid/originals plan or defeat, but for now it just means we can have old characters come back into play. Some more pop up at the end of the episode, in a more solid way than the previous two, and you get the sense that the writers could take full advantage of their high body count. Let’s hope so, because they need to inject some new life into this back-to-basics Vampire Diaries.

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Read our review of episode 5, The Reckoning, here.