'Vampire Diaries' 'Memorial' recap: Julie Plec talks Elena's first 'feed' and that very special appearance
The reason that "Memorial" was so successful was that it brought us back to the show's roots. While we love the Original family and can't wait to see the fall out from Klaus' fight with Rebekah, it was nice to focus on the Mystic Falls gang that we met in Season 1 and, thanks to the introduction of April, to be reminded that these kids had lives and other friends before the vampires took over. Seeing everyone together, working as a unit and supporting each other, was heartwarming. It added some real gravitas to the situation when vampire hunter Connor ( Todd Williams) stepped in to muck things up. Let's chat!
Elena's bloodlust... and Elena's actual lust. Who knew deer-eating could turn out so sexy? It's been a while since we've seen some real sizzle between Stefan and Elena, since they spent all of last season dealing with and recovering from Stefan's ripper interlude, so it was a welcome turn of events when things heated up in the woods. Of course, it was just a distraction from the problem at hand: Elena was starving, in need of human blood from the vein, as Damon put it. Stefan -- determined to protect her from the guilt of killing, or determined to protect himself from the pain of watching her do it -- was holding her to a strict Bambi diet. The result? She interrupted what could've been some hot forest vampire sex by barfing blood all over the place. Mood-killer.
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I initially thought that Elena's doppelganger-ness had something to do with the transition failing, but of course, Katherine seemed to get through it just fine. In the end, Damon was right. Blood from a bag didn't work for her, and neither did Damon's blood, which he shared with her in a moment of intense, tingly intimacy. Of course... she puked his blood all over the church bathroom, too.
The only thing that finally hit the spot was Matt's blood, served up in public -- in a church, during a funeral, no less. "Ultimately, we decided that her transition feed should be a stranger," executive producer Julie Plec tells Zap2it, "but we wanted to honor this great moment in the books, which is what informed our decision to have her feed from Matt in the second episode." And it was a great moment -- because in addition to satisfying Elena's craving, it allowed Matt to assuage his own guilt a bit.
Geometry problems. Though they spent the season premiere bickering and fighting, Elena and Damon are still closer than ever, and the sexual tension between them has even increased as Elena's emotions were heightened. It was a little bit heartbreaking to watch her feed on Damon, because it clearly meant more to him than it did to her, but the connection was still tangible. Meanwhile, she's still desperately trying to be the person Stefan wants her to be, and Stefan is still trying to protect her.
There's no doubt that the love triangle is still a point of contention for Stefan and Damon, though Elena has made her "choice." Damon told Elena that she should keep the bloodsharing a secret, but then he spilled the beans to Stefan at the first opportunity -- knowing full well that Stefan would feel betrayed. Still, the last two seasons brought Stefan and Damon closer, and that's not going to go away because Elena's still flip-flopping. One good punch and the brothers were over their tiff.
Elena is still going to grapple with her choice, though. "Now that Elena is a vampire, her feelings are magnified, including her feelings for Damon, and they're much harder for her to ignore and push aside," Plec tells us. "She's hungry, she's anxious, she's unpredictable, she's confused, she's angry, she's changing. As she's learning to live as a vampire, she'll find that she maybe has more in common with Damon than she does with Stefan, and that scares her, but it also makes things more exciting and opens her eyes a bit."
Meet April. We've already sung the praises of the newest addition to the Mystic Falls gang, April Young. "She's a very innocent human who doesn't know about the town secrets," Plec explains. "April finds herself the victim of the vampire madness more than once. Elena feels protective of her, and Matt certainly feels protective of her, in her innocence, but she wasn't brought in as a love interest. She was brought in as someone who our heroes need to protect, who kind of raises the stakes again." She's sweet, and sassy, and immediately likable -- and I'm glad that she was brought in as a friend to Elena, as opposed to being brought in as a love interest. She seems to have been raised well despite her late father's obvious fanaticism, and her connection with the Gilberts is palpable right off the bat. It was heartbreaking that Elena had to use her first compulsion on a friend, but also a sweet moment with the best of intentions.
Connor is downright terrifying. After Mikael turned out to be less threatening than I'd expected, I had some doubts as to whether Connor would live up to the description on the casting breakdown. The thing that makes Connor stand out from previous villains is that he's a human being, willing to sacrifice innocent human children for the sake of his hunt. He gutted a teenage girl at her father's funeral because he needed bait, and then he left her lying there to die while he headed to the bar for a drink.
He's ruthless, and smart, and in the upcoming episodes, he's going to target Jeremy. It's definitely no coincidence that Jeremy is the only person who can see Connor's tattoo, and it has nothing to do with Jeremy's ability to see ghosts, either. "This is something completely separate from that," Plec tells us. "This is a whole new thing that ties together pieces of a story we've been setting up in seasons one to three. This really fulfills the promise of a legacy for Jeremy. It's really something we haven't explored yet, and Steven McQueen is doing truly wonderful work this season."
Tyler's moment to shine. As I revealed earlier, Tyler really got to be a hero for his friends in this episode. As the only vampire who had been exposed to Connor, Tyler probably should have gotten out of town, but instead, he stood his ground and stood by Caroline's side as they attended Pastor Young's memorial. When things became extremely dangerous for the entire group of vampires, Tyler bravely took the stage and made a loaded statement about being part of a team before he was suddenly riddled with bullets for the second time. It was touching, because when "The Vampire Diaries" started Tyler wasn't part of the community that Elena, Caroline, Bonnie, and Matt shared. He was an angry, lonely teenager, without a strong family to speak of. Now, he's found a family, and he's willing to do anything he can to protect it. Heart him!
"I miss you, too, buddy." And now for the best part of the episode! Stefan gathered the Mystic Falls High kids (minus Tyler, who was getting his wounds fake-tended to at the hospital) for a sweet memorial ceremony of their own. It was cathartic not only for the characters, but for the viewers, and it offers us a fresh start from all the tragedy. Even after their fight, Stefan tried to include Damon -- but the sentimentality of it all felt juvenile to the elder Salvatore, who was suddenly feeling very alone in Mystic Falls. And who can blame him? Last season, he swore he'd get out of town if Elena chose Stefan -- both to give them a chance to be happy and for the sake of his own broken heart.
Now that she's turned, though, he has to stick around, and without Elena or Alaric, the "babysitting" is a lonely job. His final scene was absolutely heartwrenching, as he poured out his feelings to Alaric's headstone ... and the camera panned over to reveal that in Damon's loneliest moment, he wasn't alone at all. Alaric is still with him "on the other side," watching over the town and sharing a drink with his best friend. (I might be crying again just writing this. Excuse me.) There's a certain sadness wrapped up in the idea that Alaric is still around, watching helplessly as the people he loves suffer, but there's a comfort in that, too.
Obviously, producers went to great lengths to keep the secret of Matt Davis' return -- and, in fact, to get him to return in the first place. Davis, of course, is the leading man on The CW's midseason series "Cult," which films far from Atlanta in Vancouver.
"It was harder than we thought it would be! Matt was happy to come back, but from a logistical, scheduling standpoint, we thought we had all this time because 'Cult' didn't start filming until long after we did. Our schedule kept being pushed because of weather, so when all was said and done we had one day to get him in, get him shot, and then get him out so that he could move to Vancouver," Plec tells us. "It was a shame, because we had all these plans, outside of filming, just to have him back in Atlanta with the family. Really, this moment was for us. Of course it's for fans, too, but it was a moment for us to write a love letter to Matt, because he's really such an important part of our family, and will always be. He's part of the heart of 'The Vampire Diaries,' he's part of the core."
The scene also gave us a rare moment of vulnerability from Damon. "It was a nice way for us to get into Damon's head and understand where he's coming from right now -- not only why he's still in Mystic Falls, but just the depth and grief in how much he's missing his friend. It was also our way of saying, to Matt and to the fans, that we hope he comes back to us, as often as possible," she says.
We hope so, too.
Now it's your turn, vamp fans! Join me for a special chat tomorrow at 12 p.m. PT (3 p.m. ET) over at ConnecTV. It's going to be a fun time to talk about all the "Vampire Diaries" relationships, villains, theories, and more! Last week we had a great time, so make sure to get signed up at ConnecTV in advance so you're not late to the party. You can do it on your regular computer or on your iPad.
In the meantime, weigh in below in the comments section.