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Love You to Death, Season Two
The Unofficial Companion to the Vampire Diaries
By Crissy Calhoun
ECW PRESS Copyright © 2011 Crissy Calhoun
All rights reserved.
Never a Dull Day on The Vampire Diaries
"The second season is always scary because you never know — are they still going to like you? Are they going to get tired of you? Are they going to get over you? But [the audience has] been just as enthusiastic." So said Julie Plec, midway through season 2 of The Vampire Diaries. Coming in to their sophomore year, show creators Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec had finished the first season on a high note, one that promised fans that they'd return to Mystic Falls in September to be treated to the juicy repercussions of Damon kissing "Elena" on her front porch and the sure-to-be delightfully evil Katherine Pierce, live and in the flesh.
Though major awards eluded TVD (as they do all shows on The CW), The Vampire Diaries was a fan favorite, the highest-rated program on its network, and increasingly a critical darling. It landed on "best of the year" lists on Entertainment Weekly, CNN, TelevisionWithoutPity.com, Fearnet.com, E! Online, Zap2It.com, BuddyTV.com, and IGN.com; it received People's Choice and Saturn Award nominations and won seven Teen Choice Awards. The New York Post 's PopWrap, in naming TVD the best show of 2010, wrote, "Scoff if you will, but for my money, no show on television has better pacing, plots, or performances than The CW's Vampire Diaries ... which achieves the near impossible task of seamlessly crafting a series that is at once a comedy, a thriller, a drama, and a character piece. The world Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec created is lush, rich, and filled with amazing personalities — characters that are in good hands with the excellent actors who have assembled to bring this tale to life."
While season 1 focused on introducing the audience to the world of Mystic Falls, its vampires, witches, and founders — with the spotlight primarily on Elena, Stefan, and Damon — season 2 promised to open up that insular world both to new characters and to those patiently waiting in the wings. Explained Julie Plec, "One of Kevin's and my disappointments in the first season was that as much as we wanted to bring a deep, rich life to the secondary characters, a lot of them ended up getting sidelined to make room for the core story — for what we call the 'power of the three.'" Kevin Williamson agreed. "You want your secondary characters to evolve and to be layered. We wanted to do everything with them that we were able to do in season 1 with Damon, Elena, and Stefan. Michael Trevino hung in there last year; he was frustrated. There were about six episodes where he said two lines. I kept telling him that this year would be 'The Year of the Wolf' and that he would eventually become a multi-layered character that people would root for, care about, and be traumatized by. And boy, was he ready." Michael Trevino enjoyed watching the fan reaction to his character change as Tyler was given more screen time and depth in season 2. "The whole fan reaction in season 1 was ... 'I hate this character.' ... Now I get sympathy, because we see the humanity in him. Because he is just this kid, at the end of the day. It's fun to see fans change a little bit and feel sorry for Tyler, because in season 1 there was no way anybody was feeling sorry for him." With the large ensemble cast, it was still necessary to leave out a few characters from time to time (most cast members, with the exception of the main three, were in 17 of the 22 episodes), but Matt Davis, Sara Canning, Kat Graham, Zach Roerig, Steven R. McQueen, and, in particular, Candice Accola were given meatier plot lines in season 2 along with Trevino.
Though Paul Wesley reevaluated his approach to his work heading into season 2 ("I realized, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so I'm preparing myself for the long run"), the season looked most different for Nina Dobrev, who would be playing Katherine Pierce, as well as Elena Gilbert, with much more frequency. That change meant Nina was always working, always on set filming one or the other of her characters. "It's almost like I've developed split personality disorder myself," said Nina. "It messes with your head when you have to go back and forth so often between these two people. But it's cool and it's fun ... both characters feed different parts of my cravings; I'm in love with both my characters."
The series stayed in Georgia to shoot, benefiting from the state's tax incentives, and episodes were filmed on location in Covington as well as in studio just outside of Atlanta. Marcos Siega stepped down as co-executive producer at the end of season 1, but many of the core crew from the first season stayed on to keep the look and feel of the series consistent. J. Miller Tobin came on board to serve as producer for season 2. A director with extensive experience in episodic TV (Oz, Numb3rs, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Make It or Break It, and a handful of cw shows like 90210, Life Unexpected, Melrose Place, Supernatural, and Gossip Girl), Tobin was also in the director's chair for season 1's "The Turning Point" and "Isobel." Also on board for the first 15 episodes of the season was John Shiban, best known for his work on The X-Files (with an Emmy at home as evidence of that) as well as Supernatural, Torchwood, and Breaking Bad, among other series. Production on season 2 began in July, and over the nine months of filming, there were a few unexpected hiccups: Paul Wesley was in a cast for an ankle injury, Ian Somerhalder had walking pneumonia for two months, Nina Dobrev threw out her back, an unusually snowy winter (for Georgia) delayed shooting, and even Kevin Williamson injured himself on a set visit.
But that didn't stop the show. Debuting in September with a killer first episode back, the pace was set with "The Return," and that pace kept up straight through to the show's finale in May 2011. And, with the popularity of Twitter and other online social media, the creators knew immediately just how the fandom had responded to any plot twist or character development. "One of the greatest things about this experience is that our fan base is very vocal. The community runs very deep and they're very, very supportive and that's good," said Julie Plec. The fandom's support extended to the other projects affiliated with TVD; cast members could be sure of enthusiasm for their projects outside of the show as well as for their philanthropic endeavors (see following sidebar).
One of the most interesting TVD-related projects for the fandom was The CW's new series The Secret Circle, which was developed by Kevin Williamson and picked up for the 2011–12 TV season. Another Alloy Entertainment project based on novels written by L.J. Smith, The Secret Circle is not a spin-off of TVD, rather it is a separate universe that happens to be inhabited by witches. (So don't expect Bonnie Bennett to show up in Chance Harbor.) For those fans who are concerned that between writing Scream 4 and executive producing The Secret Circle, Kevin Williamson may have less time for Mystic Falls, the showrunner assured the Hollywood Reporter, "I'm not going to step away from my vampires. I'm too invested at this point; it's too much of a family for me to walk away from, but there's room in our day for me to help guide The Secret Circle along the way."
When The Vampire Diaries' second season was mapped out early on, the creators considered the long-term direction of their hit show and they took steps to write the mythology and introduce characters in a way that best set the stage for the seasons to follow. "It's much more Dark Shadows," said Julie. "It's a gothic horror, soap, genre, character piece. It's really hard to write, by the way. The world is small, but it can keep growing and expanding on itself and you can introduce new elements in due time. And there's always a great high-stakes emotional roller coaster happening."
When asked what it was that appealed to audiences about The Vampire Diaries, Paul Wesley expressed what he finds appealing about it. "There's a good balance of humor, evil, darkness and light, and the characters are not one-dimensional. The show also has amazing cinematography and an awesome score. It becomes addictive, even for people who aren't into the genre." For the creators, crew, actors, and audience, Nina's quip during the 2011 TCA press tour was bang-on: "It's never a dull day on The Vampire Diaries."CHAPTER 2
Season 2 (September 2010–May 2011)
* * *
CAST: Nina Dobrev (Elena Gilbert/Katherine Pierce), Paul Wesley (Stefan Salvatore), Ian Somerhalder (Damon Salvatore), Steven R. McQueen (Jeremy Gilbert), Sara Canning (Jenna Sommers), Kat Graham (Bonnie Bennett), Candice Accola (Caroline Forbes), Zach Roerig (Matt Donovan), Michael Trevino (Tyler Lockwood), Matt Davis (Alaric Saltzman)
RECURRING CAST: David Anders (John Gilbert), Lauren Cohan (Rose), Trent Ford (Trevor), Daniel Gillies (Elijah), Randy Goodwin (Dr. Jonas Martin), Bryton James (Luka Martin), Taylor Kinney (Mason Lockwood), Marguerite MacIntyre (Sheriff Liz Forbes), Michaela McManus (Jules), Joseph Morgan (Klaus), Dawn Olivieri (Andie Star), Gino Anthony Pesi (Maddox), Tiya Sircar (Aimee Bradley), Lisa Tucker (Greta Martin), Susan Walters (Carol Lockwood)
* * *
Damon: I just need the truth, just once. Katherine: Stop. I already know your question and its answer. The truth is I've never loved you. It was always Stefan.
2.01 The Return
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: September 9, 2010
WRITTEN BY: Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec
DIRECTED BY: J. Miller Tobin
The aftershocks of Founder's Day ripple through Mystic Falls as the Lockwoods mourn the mayor, Caroline's friends rally to save her life, and Damon is rejected by the woman he's been chasing for 145 years.
With an opening sequence that feels plucked from a horror movie, "The Return" picks up in the same moment the previous episode left off with the frantic, high-stakes and high-emotions energy of the Founder's Day finale of season 1. The remaining tomb vampires are dead, but the lone vampire missing from the tomb — Katherine Pierce — proves she can raise more hell than the rest of them combined. Katherine's reappearance in Mystic Falls is already yielding interesting consequences for Stefan, Damon, and Elena but this episode reaches past the three core characters to promise compelling storylines in season 2 for those who received less attention last season.
With only two scenes, Susan Walters as Carol Lockwood puts in a great performance as the grieving widow and the confused mother of a violent son (perhaps chillingly reminiscent of the late mayor for her). Her grief is mixed with anger: who is responsible for the mistake that led to Richard Lockwood's death? Carol understandably wants someone taken to task for it, but Liz Forbes isn't able to explain what happened. She was against the plan in the first place, and it unfolded against her will. Nor can she explain why Richard reacted to the Gilbert device. Like Carol, Sheriff Forbes needs help as she tries to balance personal tragedy with the supernatural fallout, not realizing that the friend she turns to is the opposite of what he seems, or that her two worlds are about to collide as her daughter is on her way to becoming a vampire.
Help comes to Carol in the form of Mason Lockwood, the chilled-out surfer and "black sheep" of the family who's returned for his brother's funeral. While no Vampire Diaries character is ever as simple as he or she first appears to be, Mason offers Tyler hope: a way to overcome the rage that sometimes consumes him. In this regard he is the opposite of Tyler's father. Mason calls the blinding rage they all share the "curse of being a Lockwood," and he seems to have it under control. Tyler's grief confuses him: he hated his father but is angry with him for dying and leaving him. The love/hate relationship he had with his father can never be resolved. As he did after Vicki was discovered dead, Tyler finds a brief moment of connection with Jeremy, no stranger to loss. The contrast in how the boys deal with their loss, and how they felt about their fathers, builds on the tense dynamic between them explored since the pilot episode. As the series opened, Elena and Jeremy were children who'd lost their parents; "The Return" begins with Tyler as the grieving son, a position that foreshadows his increased importance in season 2.
Though his real father is dead, Jeremy confronts one of his father figures, his uncle John Gilbert who claims to hold the same values his brother Grayson did. But John is also responsible for Anna's death. While Elena describes John as seeing "the world with such hatred," he escapes being strictly a villain when he gives Jeremy his ring — a selfless act of love for a man so filled with hate. Besides protecting Jeremy from a death with supernatural causes (something that comes in handy sooner than either could have guessed), the ring is a symbol of family and a reminder to Jeremy that he's a part of the Gilbert legacy, just as Tyler is a Lockwood whether he likes it or not. Jeremy's resurrections bookend "The Return" and leave open the question of how the shaky sense of self that plagued him in the first season will develop from this point on.
A season ago, the brothers Salvatore could be reduced to the "good" brother and the "bad" brother. Now it's more a question of which one is holding it together and which one is falling apart. Stefan acts as a quick-thinking, confident leader while Damon's need for emotional release after the not-Elena kiss overwhelms his ability to control his destructive and vindictive instincts. Damon's final act of the episode creates chaos. But Stefan manages chaos, rather than creating it, by being the most intense version of himself: from literally slapping some sense into Jeremy, to scaring Uncle John straight out of town, to playing along with Katherine in order to see what her game is, to sensibly backing down when Damon puts up his dukes. Even when he feels himself giving over, Stefan refuses to fight or be goaded into an action he'd regret by Damon or Katherine. In the past, Stefan has been protective, violent when he deemed it necessary, manipulative for a greater good, and willing to engage in psychological warfare; but Stefan the Return Edition is somehow even more ... Stefan than he has ever been before. He's on top of his game, and it keeps him from falling prey to Katherine the way his big brother does. Stefan's history with Katherine makes him react emotionally to her — he comes close to losing his cool when he professes his hatred for her — and the sparking intensity between them makes Katherine's claims that he once loved her believable. But could he turn from hating her back to loving her?
Like Stefan says to Damon, "how we respond to [Katherine] will define us." Consider Damon defined by his response. It takes the back-to-back heartbreaks that he suffers from Katherine and Elena to bring out the beast in him again; Elena was wrong to fear that Katherine's return alone would do it. Despite realizing early in the episode that Katherine played him and that he had kissed her, not Elena, Damon stays on his best behavior. He continues to play the town hero, coming to the aid of Sheriff Forbes, and seems genuinely concerned and willing to help; he mediates her conflict with Carol Lockwood, telling them, as his brother later tells him, "We have to stick together — trust each other"; and he saves Caroline's life with his blood, a redemptive act considering how he abused her at the beginning of season 1. But as hard as he tries to be good, Damon still itches for a fight with his brother, and though harsh, Bonnie's matter-of-fact assessment of his fake persona isn't far off the mark. The old Damon is there, lurking beneath the surface, ready to snap. What Damon is unable to handle is the hurt he feels as he's rejected by the two women he's loved.
Excerpted from Love You to Death, Season Two by Crissy Calhoun. Copyright © 2011 Crissy Calhoun. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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