This review contains spoilers.
After last week’s furiously fast set-up for the year to come, Memorial gives us some time to take stock and get used to our newly undead protagonist. Except, not a lot has changed in terms of Elena’s personality, wants, or needs, and we get to watch the old do-gooder heroine wrestle with her violent blood-lust. The episode is one of those brilliant examples of when The Vampire Diaries manages to create a moving ensemble piece without skimping on the drama or action, and we even get two intriguing new characters thrown into the mix as a bonus.
Stefan is convinced that by starting Elena off on animal blood he’ll avoid the inevitable murder spree, but her body apparently disagrees. Everything she drinks comes up in an increasingly gross manner, from warm deer, to hospital blood bags and Damon’s eager wrist, and she slowly starts to starve to death. Damon’s argument is, predictably, if you’re going to be a vampire you may as well commit, but I can’t help but side with Stefan on this one. Should Elena eventually murder someone, not only would it make her a questionable protagonist, but it could also drive her over the edge. A heroine who’s switched off her humanity probably wouldn’t be good for the show.
Whilst Elena and Damon are engaging in some sexy ‘blood-sharing’, Caroline and Tyler are both officially alive and back together. You have to question why the writers switched Tyler and Klaus (who, along with Rebekah, are missing this week) at all, since there’s been zero fallout from the incident. His hybrid status also apparently makes him invincible as he narrowly escapes two attempts on his life this week, and this zaps the little interest I had in the character right away. Caroline gets slightly more to do simply because she’s recently gone through the transition, and I look forward to her coaching of Elena down the road. I’m bored of the couple, though, and don’t think a proposed love triangle with Klaus would change that.
Thankfully, the two new characters both seem like winners, with April Young donning a white hat in opposition to ruthless new hunter Connor’s darker headwear. April (Nine Lives of Chloe King’s Grace Phipps) is Pastor Young’s daughter, now an orphan, and I guess she’s taking Elena’s place in the ‘poor little parentless child’ seat. It’s all down to the actress at this point, since we know very little about her, but she’s sympathetic and engaging and I can’t wait to see more of her. More immediately compelling, though, is the new hunter, doing the job properly in Alaric’s place. Armed with wooden bullets and a brutal attitude, he’s a blooming marvellous addition to the show and has a nice antagonistic chemistry with Damon.
But it’s the resident ‘normals’, Matt and Jeremy, who step into the spotlight this week as the whole gang band together to help each other out. Even after watching the series for so long, I can’t remember the whole cast being together that often, and this episode used the ensemble to its full advantage. Matt seems kind of at a loss as to how to relieve his guilt as the episode begins, but finds a way to compensate once he sees how badly Elena’s struggling. We’ve heard rumours that Matt’s red stuff would form part of Elena’s new diet, and this first incident was beautifully done. In secret, in church, and just as things were about to get desperate, he offers himself up and pretty much saves her life in the process.
The final memorial scene was nice, but also pretty hilarious considering most of the dead people the characters were mourning had been offed by Damon. I was waiting for the acknowledgement, but it didn’t come. What did, though, was a brief return from Alaric. The actor’s departure was so vague last season that most of us predicted a return in some form but, if this is the final time we see him, that’d be fine with me. His bond with Damon is a bromance designed for obsessive fans (of which I’m one), and the entire speech from Damon followed by a simple “I miss you too buddy”, was perfect.
So, another great outing for a show in transition, proving once and for all that killing off your heroine doesn’t necessarily kill your series.
Read Caroline’s review of the season four opener, Growing Pains, here.