“Mystic Falls. I was born here. This is my home. For centuries, supernatural creatures have lived among us. There are vampires, werewolves, doppelgangers, witches and even hybrids. There are those who protect them. And those who want them dead. They’re our friends. Our enemies. The ones we love. And the ones we’ve lost. And then there is me. I’m human… at least I was.”
And, of course, that was the big news as season 3 of The Vampire Diaries ended and season 4 begins. To save her life Elena was turned into a vampire by Damon’s blood. She died in a crash while the blood was still in her system, and as Damon reminds us, we all know either you feed or you die. Those are the choices. What will she decide?
What is Mystic Falls? Who the heck are Damon and Elena, you ask? Vampires? You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers, but not here. You’ve heard me say this before, and it’s become more and more true of television shows these days. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re just not ready for season 4 of The Vampire Diaries. But you are in luck. You can check out my reviews for the three previous seasons here: Vampire Diaries Reviews. Then you can pick up the first three seasons. Once you’re up to speed, join us back here for the next thrilling installment.
Everybody up to speed? Great!
“Do I have your attention? Good. Then let’s talk about vampires.”
There’s a lot going on in season 4. The story begins when the Mystic Falls town council takes over the town. They arrest the mayor and sheriff and have a plan to clean out the beasties once and for all. But the next thing we know they’ve gone and blown themselves to bits. What the heck is up with that?
It’s all about the season’s new quest. It’s the search for the cure. Apparently, there is a big bad original immortal lying cold somewhere clutching a vial that contains a cure for vampires. Every one of our players wants the cure for their own reasons. Of course, Stefan wants the cure for Elena. Klaus wants the cure to continue his dream of an army of hybrids. Some want the cure to destroy it. Others want the cure to destroy the originals and all of the vampires they’ve sired. Some have other reasons. The pieces are held by a few key players.
Enter Professor Atticus Shane (Alplay). He’s training Bonnie in a new kind of magic that doesn’t require a connection to the spirits. It’s quite powerful and is called expression. He’s going to need it, because he’s also in the race, but not for the cure but for Silas himself. The legend says that Silas will bring back the dead, and he has a loved one he wants to see again. He also has been working on the puzzle for years and has been to the island where it all lies hidden. He’s going to lead the group on their quest. Of course, he’s not telling all either.
The map. Jeremy has discovered he was intended to be a vampire hunter. There is a group called the Brotherhood Of The Five, and each time they make a kill a body tattoo grows larger, eventually revealing the location of Silas and the cure. Only another potential can actually see the tattoo, and when a visiting member of the Brotherhood arrives in Mystic Falls, Jeremy begins his journey. His urges to kill vampires might be a little problematic when his sister happens to be one these days.
The key. Klaus has a sword which works a lot like a Da Vinci Code device and can interpret the symbols on Jeremy’s expanding tattoo. No one really trusts Klaus, so getting his cooperation hinges on his feelings for Caroline who needs Klaus to give up a vendetta he is loath to let go.
Typical of The Vampire Diaries, this all sounds pretty convoluted in such a limited summary. It’s a game of alliances that change about as often as a bad episode of Survivor. With so many conflicting and merging agendas it really is hard to keep track of who is on whose side this year, and that’s exactly the way the show runners want it. You really have to be paying attention, and even then players are changing teams fast. If you thought free agency made it hard to follow sports teams and athletes, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Of course, there is much more going on here than the quest. Each of the characters has their own little struggles, and Nina Dobrev really gets to shine here. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a particular fan of the actress. But it’s not for lack of talent. There’s just something about her that I could never really attach to. Even I have to admit that her acting chops are tested like no actor on television this season. She has to play so many sides of Elena that I’m impressed that she just manages to keep track of who she is supposed to be each week. The character begins by dealing with not wanting to be a vampire. Then she must contend with a relationship with Damon complicated by a sire bond. At one point she turns off her humanity and delivers her best stuff in the entire series. There’s the Elena who begins to accept her new life and the one that is an emotional wreck as all of the loss crashes upon her at once. Then there’s the reappearance of her doppelganger Katherine. It must have been an exhausting year for the young actress, but the results help make this the most compelling season of the series yet.
I also got quite a kick out of seeing so much of Joseph Morgan as Klaus. He’ll be heading up the spin-off series The Originals next year, and this season did spend a lot of time on the character to set all of that up. It was quite a treat. The series took a bold step by featuring him almost exclusively in an episode that did not contain the other series stars. I saw there was a backlash from some fans, but I found it refreshing and a welcome break. Perhaps my perspective is shaded by watching the entire season in a very short time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of this angst and drama when watching this stuff in a marathon-like setting. More than that, this season made me realize what a nice performance Morgan is capable of. Klaus is no longer merely the baddie of the season as he was the previous year. There’s a lot more to this vampire/hybrid and an emotional level I never saw coming. I’m really looking forward to The Originals.
The show also ventured out beyond the city limits of Mystic Falls this season. The island scenes were quite refreshing to see. At first it was a little unsettling to see these characters in such a wild and natural setting, but soon it was rather a nice change of pace. The visit to New Orleans was equally welcome. Sure, the show went to other “cities” before, but honestly they all pretty much still looked like Mystic Falls. This year we’re really getting out and expanding the old horizons.
Each year the show has kind of featured a different big bad. In season 1 it was actually Damon. Now he’s pretty much the choice of Elena. I have never read the books, so I wasn’t looking forward to these inevitable events, but it shows how far things change here. In season 3 it was Klaus, and now he’s become something different again. This season the big bad doesn’t show up until the final episodes of the year. It’s Silas, and he can take on any shape he desires, so you never know who the bad guy is from moment to moment. It should make for an interesting season 5 as this situation spills over into the coming episodes. At least you’ve got a chance to get caught up with the Blu-ray release of season 4…and just in time it is.
The Vampire Diaries is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec. Warner has done things right by providing only six episodes on a disc. That means a solid high-definition image presentation. Most impressive are solid black levels that allow a lot of shadow detail on the many darkness scenes. Colors are not flashy but are quite strong.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a huge asset here. There’s those celery crunches as vampires dig into flesh and the sucking sounds that follow. The show has an amazing score, and it really does sound dynamic here. Ambient sounds abound, and the surrounds put us right in the thick of the action. Dialog is always clear.
There are a few Audio Commentaries on selected episodes. There are spoiler warnings, so do not listen to them until you’ve seen the season through at least once.
All features are in HD
Deleted Scenes: Many of the episodes have deleted scenes available on the same disc as the episode.
Second Bite: (3:24) Gag reel.
Creating Silas’s Island: (5:44) Go on location to Lake Lanier near Atlanta where the island scenes were shot. This feature takes you behind the scenes for a look at the logistics of filming on location.
Blood, Boys And Bad Behavior – Becoming A Vampire: (5:26) Cast and crew talk about how the relationship dynamics have changed, and each declares for Team Stefan or Team Damon.
The Evolution Of Elena Gilbert: (8:36) Cast and crew talk about Elena’s transformations over the season.
The Ultimate Prop Master: (4:38) Meet Joe Connolly, who makes all of the show’s cool stuff.
Fan Video: (3:07) A fan makes a pretty impressive video showing how the show brought her and her father closer together.
With this season Vampire Diaries has really set itself apart from the similar HBO show True Blood. While that show appears to have lost its focus and direction, Vampire Diaries is getting better with each new season. The best shows always do. And while I still bridle at the teen angst and drama, this show has allowed itself to evolve beyond the trendy Twilight syndrome, and that’s why it will be around quite a while longer. I really like the show, and trust me, “I don’t do teen drama”.