The Vampire Diaries 4.03 “The Rager” TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writer: Brian Young
Director: Lance Anderson
THE ONE WHERE Elena has problems controller her berserker rage when Rebekah winds her up, and Klaus suddenly secretly saves vampire hunter Connor from certain death when he discovers that he’s one of “The Five”.
VERDICT Although “The Rager” continues to put Elena’s experience of becoming a vampire at centre stage, overall the episode feels more like a return to the tried and trusted Vampire Diaries formula after the histrionics of the past couple of weeks. Hell, there’s even a party! Sure, Elena’s still having problems with her new life-after-deathstyle, but here it’s played more for fun or shock value, rather than the constant high tension of the season so far. Elena in hedonist mode makes for very entertaining viewing, but not quite as entertaining as seeing her being wound up mercilessly by Rebekah, who has discovered a whole new level of evil… in outright pettiness. Their blood-fuelled, turbo bitch-fests take high school rivalry to new levels.
But these scenes also highlight an uncomfortable problem with the show; Klaus and Rebekah have become almost ’60s Batman TV show villains. When Damon says to vampire hunter Connor that he’s had to fight Klaus, who’s about as evil as evil comes, you can’t help thinking, “ Really ?” Klaus seems to tie himself up in knots not to actually do anything evil – just to threaten it loads and make a few tasteless jokes – while Rebekah is now a lonely High School student desperate to eat new friends. When Klaus comes to Elena’s rescue with his blood at the episode’s end – because, he says, he now has a new (undisclosed) reason for wanting her alive– you can’t help but groan at how contrived his excuses for not simply killing everyone in sight are becoming. At the moment, the pair of them are so defanged, the new “greater evil” that’s apparently on the way may as well be the Health and Safety inspector.
Don’t get us wrong; Klaus and Rebekah are still a lot of fun to watch. It’s just impossible to think of them as a credible ancient evil anymore.
Damon, however, is on great form. You have to wonder at first why he didn’t extricate himself from the bomb-triggering-arrows booby trap that Connor left in his Winnebago; surely Damon's vampire speed and strength would have been enough? But after he calls for Dr Fell’s help, and she later accuses him of looking for a new partner in crime, you begin to wonder if he is – like Rebekah – just desperate for a new BF. Whatever the case, Fell’s rejection spurs him on to offer to train Elena how to be a vampire his way, after Stefan has clearly failed with the bunny-eating approach. This scene is cleverly juxtaposed with Caroline telling Stefan what a great mentor he was to her (it’s a very sweet moment). Stefan clearly isn’t habitually a dead loss as a tutor to the newly-turned; the difference must be Elena herself. Either her vampire subconscious is screaming at her, “Shag Damon! He’s the one for you!” or there’s some physical difference about her vampirism because she’s also the doppelganger.
The ending was a pleasant shock too; not just because Klaus secretly saved Connor from the bomb blast in the hospital after learning that he was one of “‘The Five”, but also because Connor doesn’t appear to know what Klaus means by “The Five”. Well, neither do we at the moment, but considering what the next episode’s called , that may not be for long…
So, a solid, event-packed slice of The Vampire Diaries . Lots of blood. A few genuinely icky moments (though Elena sticking her hand down a working waste disposal unit could have been way ickier). Some effective heart-to-hearts. A couple of decent twists. It ticks all the boxes. But it also feels like more of a setting up exercise for the main arc plot of the season. Bring it on, health and safety inspector! We’re ready with the forms…(opens in new tab)
GRATUITOUSLY SHIRTLESS SCENE Happens 17 minutes in, and after Damon’s got his shirt off his starts undoing his flies and asks Elena, “You staying for the show?” She doesn’t.(opens in new tab)
SHINDIG OF THE WEEK Unless you count the mass funeral last week, this week features the first Mystic Falls shindig of the season, an “Anti-Curfew Party” thrown by Rebekah (who’s partly probably just looking to make a few new friends and, erm, drinking buddies). You have to love Elena’s party piece: doing a handstand on a beer keg while someone pumps booze into her mouth straight from the beer tap. She’ll be playing rugby next.(opens in new tab)
BLOOPER When Elena is starting to clamber up to her feet on the back of a moving motorbike, there’s a long shot of her (stunt double) as the bike passes a gate and dusty drive. Then we get a few more close-ups of the as she gets into standing position, before another long shot of her (stunt double) passing the same gate. The slightly different angle isn’t fooling anyone.
IT’S WOSSERNAME Tyler’s werewolf ex-lover Hayley is played by Phoebe Tonkin, last seen in The Vampire Diaries exec producer Kevin Williamson’s swiftly-axed other show The Secret Circle . Tonkin played vampish witch Faye and was of the few half-decent things about the show. (As an aside, anybody else really wish that when Klaus was goading Tyler about his relationship with Hayley, the speech had ended, “She was gorgeous, with the same animal instincts as you. Emotions ran high, inhibitions ran low. Then in a moment of weakness… you said, ‘Let’s make puppies!’”)(opens in new tab)
Dr Fell: "Tell me that is not a bomb.”
Damon: “Okay, it’s a kitten. It’s an adorable exploding kitten.”
Dr Fell: “Why didn’t you call your brother?”
Damon: “Because I’m proud and stubborn and… oh, look, you’re already here.”
New episodes of The Vampires Diaries season four debut in the UK on ITV2, Mondays at 9pm
• Read more of our reviews for The Vampire Diaries season four