First off, I thought it would be fun to list my order of ep faves based on my first watch throughout the season, compared to my rewatch list. There is DEFINITELY a difference.
01. The Return
03. The Sun Also Rises
04. Daddy Issues
05. As I Lay Dying
06. The House Guest
07. The Sacrifice
08. Know Thy Enemy
09. Plan B
11. Kill or Be Killed
13. The Descent
14. The Dinner Party
16. The Last Dance
17. The Last Day
18. Memory Lane
19. Bad Moon Rising
20. Brave New World
21. Crying Wolf
22. By the Light of the Moon
01. The Return =
02. The Sun Also Rises >
03. As I Lay Dying >
04. Masquerade <
05. The House Guest >
06. The Sacrifice >
07. Daddy Issues <
08. Kill or Be Killed >
09. Katerina >
10. The Last Dance >
11. Plan B <
12. Know Thy Enemy <
13. By the Light of the Moon >
14. Memory Lane >
15. Brave New World >
16. Klaus <
17. Bad Moon Rising >
18. Rose <
19. The Descent <
20. The Dinner Party <
21. The Last Day <
22. Crying Wolf <
Now, here I'll explain the movement of some of these and their placement. The biggest surprise for me was the huge improvement that "By the Light of the Moon" had from the initial watch which let down all expectations from the previous episode and was the last new episode for six weeks to how much better it played all-around in just about every way without having any expectations and going straight into the next episode. As for the rest, well, there were some episodes that would have placed higher were it not for one aspect -- Stefan and Elena. I am sorry, but this season effectively killed any tolerance, let alone like, I once had for the couple.
For example, their selfish stupidity in "Crying Wolf" weighed against what was good in the episode (basically everything except for Stefan and Elena) just knocked that episode really, really, really far down on the totem pole to the very bottom. I mean, come on. Going away during the whole mess of everything was a huge part of how bad things got. Damon wouldn't have been taken down if Stefan had been there to help ward the weres off, and Stefan and Elena wouldn't have been in the danger they were because they would have been surrounded by their family and friends and their combined strengths.
With "The Last Day," it was the same thing: The utter and complete stupidity of Stefan and Elena. The sacrifice is going down. Klaus is in town. SHIT IS GOING DOWN! And Stefan takes Elena to look at waterfalls. I mean, really!??!?! This is one of the rare cases that while, yes, it was totally Klaus (and Katherine)'s bad in the end, JENNA WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN VAMPED AND STAKED had Stefan and Elena not decided to go and look at fucking waterfalls ... ON THE DAY OF THE SACRIFICE. I mean, come the fuck on! It was only because of how freakin' awesome everything else was in this episode that "The Last Day" is not last on the list. As it is, I can barely stand to watch the Stefan/Elena scenes because their stupidity infuriates me. I get that Plec/Williamson wanted that anti-Bella, Elena choosing herself moment. I get it; it was awesome, Nina Dobrev delivered the hell out of it. But you know what? That scene would have worked just as well on the beautiful Salvatore patio, or even in Stefan's bedroom. Really, the setting wasn't what made the scene work, it was the words spoken and the acting. So, so, so, soooooooooo stupid, and one of the few times I blame the writers for making the characters stupid as opposed to it being in character stupid (ala "Crying Wolf"). However, the rest of the episode was so incredibly strong that I just couldn't put it at the very bottom of the list.
As for "The Dinner Party," this is so far down the list because of one-half of the pairing, and it saddens me to see it so near the bottom because the other half of that pairing was fucking awesome. The awesome? Elena Fucking Gilbert. Not so much? Stefan Kill-Me-Now Salvatore. I love Stefan; I genuinely, totally do. He is my fourth favorite character and it honestly jumps between him and Caroline based on the episode. I love him, I love him, I love him. Except in "The Dinner Party." This is the only episode that I actively disliked Stefan. He was a self-righteous, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious, annoying idiot, in my not so humble opinion. I did not like him. And any episode that made me thoroughly dislike one of my favorite characters just can not be high on my list of favorite episodes at all. I never want to watch another episode of The Vampire Diaries and tell Stefan disgustedly to shut up. I love him too much, and it hurts to do so, but the words kept coming while watching this one again. Grr. Why it's not lower is because of the awesome of Elena, and well, every other moment of the episode.
"The Descent" is so low on the list because, honestly, for me, other than the Rose/Damon dream scene and the final scene with Damon, it was a fairly subpar episode. Had we not had the stupid, stupid Stefan/Elena stuff in the others and the douchebaggery Stefan in the third, this easily would have been my least favorite. I didn't buy Damon's concern for Rose. I think that Lauren Cohan is not a very good actress. I'm peeved that after a half-season of Elena's anger at Damon, we got a casual "I'm your friend" and Damon's easy acceptance of that statement with no kind of major moment between them before that. Stefan was a douche to Alaric. Oh, and he made a phone call. Jules was an annoying character until her return several episodes later. Yeah, again, other than those two scenes -- especially the last one, just not a strong episode for me at all. And I hate saying that because that final scene was Ian Somerhalder's best acting to date. He was utterly magnificent, but so much of the rest of the episode just was not up to his level of excellence (or the show's normal standard).
Then there is "Klaus." The first time I watched it, I had issues with Damon and his interaction with Stefan, and Andie at the end of the episode. I rewatched it the weekend after it aired, read a Julie Plec thingie where she pretty much explained that Damon not killing Andie was that moment I'd predicted would come for him that would prove he'd changed. Ie, he killed Jeremy in the premiere, didn't care until after, killed Jessica in "The Descent" and was miserable during the whole ordeal, and I speculated that a time would come when he would be pushed to the brink, be about to kill again, but make the choice not to. That's what happened here. So after that, I wrote a much more glowing review of the episode. The problem and why it dropped four spots on the list now? The second rewatch gave me the exact same issues I had the first watch prior to my first rewatch/Plec's quote.
There was this big deal about Stefan saying Damon was in love with Elena. I don't get it. In "Rose," Stefan said it (sure, in the form of a question, but he still said it). Isobel said it in "Isobel," everyone and their dog knew that Damon was in love with Elena. It wasn't some big surprise, and I just ... the fact that I had to reach and really try and figure out why Damon was all pissy is just so unlike this show. You get it, you get the characters, you get their motivations without reaching. Not in this one. Not for me. But, damn, if the flashbacks and every Elijah scene isn't pure gold, and boy, oh boy, did this episode make me fall hard for Elijah/Katherine. But yeah, for the only time in the series, it was the mis-writing of Damon that hurt this episode for me.
"Brave New World" which slightly underwhelmed upon first watch coming off of the still-stupendous premiere ("The Return") was much, much better, but, damn, that final scene was not only beyond cheesy, the CGI/leap/whatever that Stefan did with Elena onto the ferris wheel was so incredibly bad it completely took me out of the episode. And, frankly, the rest of the season was so damn good, that whatever small issues the other episodes had, none were as glaring and obvious as that horrible, horrible moment. So very bad.
"Daddy Issues" dropped a bit. Not because it wasn't still a very strong episode, because it remains incredibly kick-ass, it's just that a few episodes later (namely the final two) were so magnificent, and a few other episodes held up better than I expected. There's nothing to ding "Daddy Issues" about, some others were just better.
The only other episode that didn't really hold up as well was "Know Thy Enemy." And this was still an incredibly strong episode. (See its placement at #12.) I just think that it, like "The Descent," being the first episode back after a hiatus made it come across as better than it was when compared with others. I was just so damn happy to have my show back that I was on high-squee alert. I remember being giddy and all woohoo! about this one when it aired. Hmm, thinking on it now, I should have realized just how disappointing "The Descent" was since I wasn't all gung-ho about that even after a six-week hiatus.
On the other end of the spectrum, boy, oh, boy, did "By the Light of the Moon" improve upon a rewatch and sandwiched nicely within the other episodes with no expectations. It really was a strong, solid episode with strong performances. Everyone was in character, and the issues I had with it the first go-round were all gone. Again, no expectations, straight into the next episode and how so much in it offered foreshadowing of what was to come was actually pretty durn brilliant in hindsight.
"The Last Dance" played out much, much better without all of the build-up that pre-airing reviews gave it. It was incredibly strong and I'm glad that I was able to enjoy it for how awesome it was the second go-round. Bonnie kicked so much ass; damn, I loved her (and her and Jeremy) sooooooo much in this episode.
The three episodes that played better upon rewatch were "As I Lay Dying," "The House Guest" and "The Sacrifice." Now I loved, loved, loved all three very much upon first viewing, but based on that first watch, I preferred others over them. Whatever quibbles I had with the finale, the only one that remained was Elijah and Stefan casually entering Alaric's apartment. Everything else was pretty much fantastic, and the teeny issues just didn't matter. I thought less of "The Sacrifice" as time passed because I genuinely thought the fact that it was easily the heaviest and best Damon/Elena episode we'd had all season colored my viewpoint. But no, it really was an incredibly strong episode all-around.
Finally, "The House Guest." I know there's only one spot difference between its original placement, but that one spot was pretty significant considering it jumped ahead of "Daddy Issues" -- one that I was originally warring with for the number three spot. I did love it when it aired, but I REALLY loved it upon rewatch. Like "The Sacrifice," I thought my love of one particular aspect had raised it in my estimation (namely the awesome on-screen interaction of Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev, this time as Damon and Katherine). But nope, I pretty much loved every single solitary second. This episode KICKED ASS! Only the uber-awesome, near-perfection of "The Return, "The Sun Also Rises," "As I Lay Dying" and "Masquerade" outdid it. And considering how unbelievably awesome I thought those four episodes were, that's pretty impressive. So, go "The House Guest." As great as the rest of the season (mostly) was, my top five were in a special realm of awesome.
Alrighty then, some random thoughts.
- I can not believe that people who actually watch this show still don't give Nina Dobrev her due. For the most part, Elena and Katherine genuinely feel as if they are played by two different actresses. She varies her stance, her tone of voice, her facial expressions, her body movements, the way she walks between the two characters. It is incredible. She really has done an outstanding job.
- I don't even care. People can grouse all they want about Ian Somerhalder's eyebrow/wide eyes acting. I DON'T CARE. It works; it fits Damon, I have no problem with it. He continues to be a marvelous revelation in this role. The guy can take the most mundane of lines, hell, a single word ("Lie" in "The House Guest") and make it zing. Or break your heart. Or crack you up. He. Is. Fucking. Amazing. And I love him. Period.
- On the other end, yeah, Zach Roerig is so very much the weakest member of this cast. Sorry. I was just not impressed with much of his "angsty" acting. If we had to lose someone, I would have much preferred he went bye-bye over the luminous, underused Sara Canning.
- The make-up and hair departments on this show SUCK ASS! Ian Somerhalder is one of THE most beautiful male specimens on the planet, yet, half the time he does not even remotely look as hot as he is. Why? I don't know. I can only imagine that the above named departments have decided to test their skills and see if it's possible to ugly him up. It's not. He's still hot. But they damn well are trying their damndest. The hair on almost all characters have way more bad days than fictional television characters should have. The guy-liner on Alaric (oh, Alaric), Damon and Stefan is RIDICULOUS! The fake eyelashes on Elena paired with her muted make-up, unchanging hairstyle and muted, unchanging wardrobe* is ridiculous paired with zzzzzzzzzzzz. Please, show, hire new people. Pretty please.
* Okay, fine, Elena's wardrobe we can blame on the wardrobe department. She's the only one whose fashion I can complain about; everyone else dresses pretty dang well. Still, her boring and redundant wardrobe is so very lame and very worthy of complaint.
- Jeremy and Bonnie are FREAKING ADORABLE! Rewatching their little love story play out without breaks and weeks in between is just like the cutest thing ever. My gosh, they are sunshine and rainbows and puppies and I just want to squish them and squee! And I take back my complaint about their first big kiss; it was hot and well-done. I love them, I love them, I love them. They are full of squee!
- I also love Caroline and Stefan. When we have them. Because there is so little, I am able to put aside my uber-love for them and enjoy the moments with Caroline and Matt, and Caroline and Tyler. And doing the rewatch, I found that romantically-speaking, I actually was more entranced by the Caroline/Matt stuff than any Caroline/Tyler stuff. The "Eternal Flame" serenade and stage kiss made me all giddy. But Stefan and Caroline? Oh boy. That bathroom scene in "Brave New World," all of their scenes in "Bad Moon Rising," "Katerina" and especially -- most, most especially -- "Daddy Issues" nearly made me swoon. Paul Wesley and Candice Accola have TO DIE FOR chemistry and if the show never takes advantage of it, I will weep copious tears of regret. (Okay, not really, but I'll be feeling the pain.)
- Stefan really sucks at peace talks. Everyone gives him credit for being so great at it (except for Damon), but he really, really sucks at it. There were at least four separate occasions where Stefan went off to broker a peace ... and he failed MISERABLY all four times. Sorry, Stef, I still love you.
- What really sucked as a Damon fan this season was realizing upon rewatch that he literally, LITERALLY, did not have one single, solitary second of happiness all season long. Not one. Sure there were the fake happy moments, but they were, you know, fake and put-upon with sarcasm. The four closest moments were when:
- 1) He thought Elena was running toward him with joy after he (and Stefan, hah) rescued her in "Rose." The keyword is "thought." Of course, she was running towards Stefan and Damon's happiness was ground to shattered dust a few seconds later.
2) He rejected Katherine in "The House Guest," but that was bittersweet.
3) Elena being alive and not a vampire in "The Sun Also Rises," but that was leavened by (a) she was still pissed at him and (b) Jenna's death.
4) In "As I Lay Dying" with Elena on his deathbed. Lest you missed why the latter didn't count ... he was ON HIS DEATHBED.
- I really love Sheriff Forbes. Haters to the left. She is awesome, and Marguerite McIntyre does a fabulous job.
- On the other hand, yeah, Lauren Cohan really was not good. Rose could have been a great character. She wasn't, and I blame that all on the actress. Normally, the casting agents are so ON with this show, but I think they really dropped the ball with her and Luka (Bryton James, Mr. Anti-charisma himself). They almost made up for it with the uber-awesome of Daniel Gillies' Elijah, but Rose was a very important lever in Damon's development, so casting for her being so subpar was just not cool at all. On the other other hand, despite some issues I had with Dawn Olivieri (due to her interviews and some leakage on her part, ahem), I came away being as impressed with her take on Andie as I was initially.
- Although, I still think Andie's role was lessened due to storytelling time constraints, or the actress getting a pilot. And that was felt. I also think that the Katherine/Stefan angle was dropped to a degree as well, due to storytelling time constraints like Tyler's werewolf story was in season one. Unlike the Andie-angle though, I think this worked better because we should be able to get a fuller, richer tale out of it with the Stefan situation coming next season.
- Speaking of .. next season better really, really give us a shitload of Damon and Elena because Damon/Elena fans were really, really, REALLY gypped this season. BIG FUCKING TIME. Knowing that fact as you watch it week by week, with hiatuses and upcoming stuff that sorta highlights some of the Damon/Elena moments isn't the same as watching all twenty-two episodes over a three-day period and really having it driven home.
- With that said, I still love this show so much. It is definitely more than the couple for me. I love all the characters (okay, except Matt and Tyler, but I really, really like Tyler, and I do like Matt). I adore the acting. I uber-worship the writing and the plots and twists and relationships. It's a fantastic show and I love it so very much. So. Very. Much. Bring on season three! :D WHEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And I think that's it :)