In the wake of Isobel's return, Rick and Elena's long buried feelings are brought to the surface while they try to determine if she is an ally or an enemy.
Picking up in the moments following from the last episode, Isobel is standing at Elena's door while both Elena and Jenna pick their jaws up from off the floor. Apparently John Gilbert has been making some calls since he got back into town and thought calling Isobel was a good idea, a decision he will definitely regret by the end of the episode. At the Martin residence, Jeremy, Bonnie and Damon are looking for the spell that will allow Bonnie to harness the power of a hundred dead witches for the inevitable clash with Claus. Back at the Lockwood estate for another social gathering, Elena is captured by the treacherous Katherine who hopes that by giving Elena to Claus he will let her live. When the old magic prevents Damon from following Bonnie and Jeremy, he leaves the two of them to their date just in time to arrive at the Lockwood estate after John Gilbert has been killed by his ex wife, Isobel. By the way, I forgot to mention that Caroline also told Matt everything about her vampire secrets and now her mom knows too. Bummer.
If the last paragraph sounded like a lot was going on in one hour, you would be exactly right. It's hard to gauge an episode like "Know Thy Enemy" simply because it almost felt like a blur of the highlight reel from three episodes being combined into one to save time. While the content itself was strong, there was never any time for the desired emotional affect to sink in after each scene because the show was going from one group of characters to the next at a breakneck pace. As a result, the story felt muddled and each segment almost felt like a distraction to what was happening with Elena. The Vampire Diaries has quite a few stories to tell but it was only to their disadvantage in "Know Thy Enemy".
Even Damon's charm felt misplaced as he got stuck with the two worst characters on the show, Bonnie and Jeremy. We have seen Bonnie's powers grow, be taken away and now become stronger than ever but she is still an annoying character bent on sacrificing herself to save the ones she loves while Jeremy tags along. It's the same motions the two of them have been going through for the majority of the season.
Though the show was rushed, the scene between Matt and Caroline's mom was incredibly forced. Matt's reaction to Caroline being a vampire was authentic; he was startled, in disbelief and it seemed as if the world had collapsed around him entirely. Matt joining forces with Caroline's mom is contrived and doesn't even make sense if you remember how Caroline compelled her mother to forget that she was a vampire in the first place. What made her mother suspect that she was a vampire? It's a weak move just to weave other characters into the supernatural elements of the show when they have enough already.
In another surprising twist from the Vampire Diaries (Spoiler Alert!), I'm pretty certain we've seen the last of Isobel. Unless she finds a way to resurrect from the ashes like a phoenix, which might actually make a good plot line, her death happened too quickly as if it was just to accomplish a goal. During her final moments next to Elena she confessed that she was a disappointing mother and regretted that she did not get to know her daughter before committing suicide and Elena felt badly for it. Had their relationship developed over another episode, this would have had a much greater impact but with the impending return of Claus it hardly seems possible.
Speaking of Claus, I'm not sure if turning Alaric into the first vampire was the right choice, but it's an exciting choice and I can't wait to see where it leads. Alaric has always been a terribly underused character and adding the extra dynamic of turning one the "good" guys into the antagonist this season will challenge several characters. How do you kill the villain wearing your friend's face?
"Know Thy Enemy" was far from the best episode of the Vampire Diaries but it set up the last five episodes of season two quite well. With everything shaping up, I'm looking forward to next week's "The Last Dance".