Much of the reason I was so enthralled with last week’s premiere of The Vampire Diaries was how assured and calm it seemed. Even while heads rolled off of bodies and werewolves were tortured for fun, there was an undeniable sense of “yeah, we got this” attitude bursting from every scene, and it felt like a more mature show in all of the best ways. “The Hybrid” took this new maturity and used it to tell stories in a very familiar Vampire Diaries fashion, with excellent results. Season three is off to quite the start.
Picking up where we left them last week was Klaus and Stefan, who have their dead werewolf friend Ray and are in search of his pack in the mountains of Tennessee. Klaus’ plan is to feed his blood to the weres, kill them, and when they wake up have them drink human blood to complete the vampire portion of their transformation. Since Klaus doesn’t do anything small, instead of waiting for Ray to turn and seeing what happens he attempts to turn the whole damn pack at once. Things don’t go smoothly with the transitions, though, with the half-baked hybrids taking on more of the characteristics of zombies than anything else. This is when the magic happens, my friends, because we finally get a few more pieces to the puzzle. You see, Klaus was told if he broke the curse and killed a vampire, a werewolf and the doppelganger he would be able to create more hybrids. (Stefan’s face upon hearing the world doppelganger is priceless, by the way.)
Klaus’ face seems to give away a mild realization that Elena might not be dead, which is the best thing that could happen right now. As fun as I personally find the Klaus and Stefan Southern Werewolf Domination Tour™, this story needed to dovetail with what’s going on back in Mystic Falls, and fast. It’s also welcome to know that Klaus does have a specific plan for Stefan (even if he won’t reveal it) which has been bugging me a bit. Whenever I start to doubt the writers, they seem to address my exact concerns. This is how you know you’re in good hands as a viewer.
Klaus and Stefan’s moonlight wood stroll wouldn’t be fun without a few more complications, which arise when Elena decides to find Stefan at all cost and uses a tip from Tyler to track down their location. Elena convinces Alaric to go along and Alaric does the best thing for everyone and surprises Elena with Damon as a hiking partner as well. If you’re going to go into the werewolf infested woods on a full moon, it’s probably best to bring another supernatural being with you. Just in case. They manage to find a very messed up Ray but only Damon runs across Stefan (while Elena and Alaric are busy running for their lives). Damon and Stefan confront each other for the second time in as many episodes, but this time Damon notices there is still fire in Stefan's eyes, and he isn't a lost cause.
Meanwhile, back in Mystic Falls Jeremy spends his time convincing Matt to help him summon Vicki’s spirit so he can find out why she needs help. It’s a minor story plot-wise, but does give Matt some nice emotional material to work with. When they finally do see Vicki, she tells Jeremy she can come back but she needs his help. Immediately after, however, Anna shows up and tells Jeremy not to trust Vicki. Who’s lying and who’s telling the truth? And what the heck does she mean by "come back"? Things are about to get interesting.
Also interesting is what’s happening with Tyler, Caroline and Carol Lockwood. Carol is no dummy, and immediately tests Tyler with vervain to see if he’s a vampire, too. Tyler realizes what she’s doing and very calmly tells her Caroline is not a monster, then shows her you can’t judge “monster” in absolutes by forcing her to watch him change into a werewolf. She vows to make sure Caroline isn’t harmed, but it might be too late for that. See, she summoned a mysterious man named Bill to take care of her Caroline problem, but he seems less willing to let her go when Carol requests it. We learn why when he goes to visit Caroline (in her gross Hostel dungeon) and she greets him with a simple, “Daddy?” Oh, Caroline. You always get yourself into the finest messes.
The growing maturity of this season was probably inevitable, as these people have seen so much death and destruction if the show around them didn’t mature in response it would almost feel disingenuous. Take Tyler, who had a standout episode here. The Tyler from most of season one was your typical high school bro: Brash, insensitive, and profoundly selfish. The Tyler of “The Hybrid” was respectful of his girlfriend, truthful with his mother, and apologetic towards his former close friend. Pre-werewolf Tyler wouldn’t even recognize himself.
Also maturing is Damon, who has saddled himself with the monumental task of making sure Elena Gilbert doesn’t get herself killed. Elena with laser focus—especially laser focus involving one Stefan Salvatore—is a force of nature, and tends rank personal preservation dead last on her daily to do list. The Damon of just last season might do something rash (blood rape, anyone?) or be so inflexible he fuels Elena’s stubborn nature even more. Tonight, he used something far more powerful than force to help Elena; he used their growing bond and emotional connection. It might be considered less personally mature to then force her to admit their growing bond, but forcing her to face it created one heck of a scene. Damon wants her to remember how she felt while Stefan was gone, and I think there’s no way she’s going to be able to forget.
- Nothing made me happier tonight than Alaric moving back in. The new daddy!
- Damon and Stefan’s relationship was defined in one sentence tonight: Neither of them can let the other die. It’s not necessarily healthy, but it’s fiercely important to who they are as characters. It informs everything they do.
- The saddest thing about this episode was Matt saying that his sister stopped being his sister when she became a vampire. It’s a very interesting character trait, but as a Caroline defender it saddens me to think he doesn’t even see her as worthy of being anything significant to him anymore.
- At one point tonight, Damon’s hair looked like my Aunt Peg’s. Now, Peg is a lovely lady, but I doubt that’s what Ian Somerhalder is going for, here.
- “Happy birthday, Elena. Stefan killed Andie. Cake?”
- “You’ve heard of me. Fantastic.”
- “Oh, and Caroline? She’s not a prostitute.”
- “You want to hunt down a pack of werewolves on a full moon?”
- “You’ll know why I’m keeping you around when I’ve decided I want you to know.”
- “Are you a sucker for a lost cause or what?”
- “No, he’s not okay, Elena. He’s an insufferable martyr who needs his ass kicked. But he can be saved.”
- “Because when I drag my brother from the edge and deliver him back to you I want you to remember the things you felt when he was gone.”