9:00 pm EDT, October 21, 2016

‘The Vampire Diaries’ season 8 premiere review: Hope hurts

The Vampire Diaries season 8 premiere kicked off the show’s final season by taking us all the way back to season 1.

The creators and cast have been saying that season 8 of The Vampire Diaries will pay homage to its beginnings, and the premiere proved they meant it. The throwbacks included the return of the OG writing pair of Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, and the use of the classic line, “Hello, Brother,” as the episode title, but they didn’t stop there.

The episode actually began in the exact same way as the very first episode. Actually, my mistake. In the pilot, the couple in the car was arguing about music. The couple in The Vampire Diaries season 8, episode 1, was arguing about movies. Totally different. Unfortunately, they both happened upon a wild Damon Salvatore in the middle of the road.

Upon our first encounter with the possessed Damon and Enzo in season 8, they appear to be the same as we left them at the end of season 7. However, their situation quickly becomes more fleshed out, and it’s clear that they’re not having nearly as much fun as they were having in their first abandoned warehouse full of bodies. Apparently, the honeymoon period is over.

We still don’t have a full understanding of what the vault monster is and what kind of hold it has on our boys, but The Vampire Diaries season 8 premiere cleared a lot of things up. According to Damon and Enzo, they are the “unwilling employees/slaves” of the monster. Their minds are being controlled to bring the “worst of humanity” to the warehouse and feed them to their master.

the vampire diaries, damon, enzo

A lot of fans were excited to see the return of a villainous Damon Salvatore in season 8, but that’s not really what we’re getting. The most captivating aspect of Damon’s character, good or evil, is his passion, and this version of him is entirely lacking in that.

He may or may not have his humanity switch flipped, but either way he’s simply performing the tasks that the vault monster requests, without deriving any pleasure or pain from it. It doesn’t even seem like he and Enzo have bonded much over their mutual misfortune!

The vault monster, along with everything we learned about it/her in this episode seems cool, but I’m already ready for Damon and Enzo to be set free from their slavery. It’s fun to watch Damon be the bad guy without all of the self loathing (although that will surely come later), but I like my eldest Salvatore best when he’s free to make whatever heroic or deranged decisions he pleases!

While Damon and Enzo search for the “dregs of the earth,” everyone else is still searching tirelessly for them. However, they’re allowed to take a little time out for some extracurricular activities to stay sane.

Caroline and Stefan are stronger than ever, and it’s so nice to finally see them together and happy. In every scene they shared, it was so evident how important they are to each other and how much each one relies on the other for support. They were each other’s rocks even when they were just friends, so it’s great to see that continue. I just hope their romantic relationship doesn’t end up tearing them apart because they both need that support system so desperately.

Bonnie is keeping busy by writing to Elena and practicing her guitar. Her teacher is a little preoccupied, but we got some more glimpses of the time that they spent falling in love. I definitely appreciated this, since their relationship was severely underdeveloped in The Vampire Diaries season 7. Every time we see how happy they are together, it makes me like him, and them as a couple, a little bit more. Maybe fans will even be able to tolerate Enzo by the end of the series! Fingers crossed.

the vampire diaries, caroline, alaric

Since Caroline and Alaric are busy with their jobs, their children, and their hot nanny, it seems that Stefan and Bonnie have been chasing down most of the leads they find. This isn’t a pair that we get to see too often, but it makes complete sense because they easily have the highest stakes in the matter.

Even though their relationship is obviously different, their scenes together reminded me a lot of Damon and Elena searching for Stefan in The Vampire Diaries season 3. Damon lost faith in Stefan when he killed Andy, but Elena made sure he kept fighting. Elena lost hope when they ran into the hybrids, but Damon saw something that made him hang on. If Stefan and Bonnie can make sure the other keeps fighting, they should be able to bring the terrible twosome home in no time.

Even though “hope hurts,” it’s all any of them really have right now. Luckily, Enzo might have the most hope of them all. Damon seems to be resigned to his fate, but Enzo (I’m seriously coming around on him) left some pretty smart clues for Bonnie to help her figure things out.

How Detective Bonnie knew that the victim’s scar was from a guitar string rather than a regular wire, I’ll never know, but the odometer, the wax, and the position of the victim were all genius. These clues all lead Bonnie to the conclusion that Enzo is still in there somewhere, and that the vault monster is something similar to a siren! It’s always cool to play with new mythologies in the world of The Vampire Diaries, so I’m really excited to see what this villain has to offer.

Despite the information we got about her, there’s clearly still so much more to know. Between Damon’s nonsensical monologue about a “fire and brimstone hell,” and Virginia’s attack on Josie and Lizzie, I’m potentially more confused now than I was before.

the vampire diaries, stefan salvatore

While I wasn’t able to grasp much of anything from Damon’s speech, Stefan, of course, was able to latch on to a fresh helping of guilt. Stefan and Damon went through such a journey in season 7, so I hope that isn’t all negated now. Obviously Stefan is going to feel guilty for letting his brother enter the vault alone, since guilt is basically his default emotion (resting guilty face), but I’d like to see these boys move into some new territory in the rest of season 8.

Now, we obviously have to talk about that flashback. Damon still has at least a sliver of humanity left in him, and it’s the thought of Elena Gilbert that’s helping him hang on to it. Between the continuous diary entries and physically seeing the precious, teenage Elena, her presence was more ubiquitous in this episode than it was in all of season 7. I really hope this continues because her character is so important to the show, and let’s just be honest, The Vampire Diaries fans love their flashbacks!

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