For weeks we have known that the fourth coffin of Klaus's family could not be opened but Bonnie may have discovered that its secrets may be tied to her dreams and past.
After yet another dream, Bonnie realizes the key to opening the fourth coffin of Klaus's family is her mother. After a quick chat with Elena, the two decide to take a road trip to visit her mother, Abby Bennett, without letting Stefan know. Elsewhere, Tyler apologizes to Caroline for biting her last week. Naturally, she doesn't believe his sincerity but to prove himself he brought her dad to help break the sire control that Klaus has over him. What Tyler doesn't know is that in order to break Klaus's hold over him, Caroline's father will make him turn into a werewolf every day, until the agonizing transformation is painless. When Elena and Bonnie finally get to Abby's home, Bonnie gets the answers she has been waiting for her entire life but gets an even bigger surprise when she realizes Klaus got to her first.
The aptly titled, The Ties That Bind, describes the multiple stories throughout the episode perfectly. Beginning with Bonnie and her mother Abby the show plunged into family ties, with Tyler it was the control that others have over us and with Stefan and Elena it was the love that binds two people together. The examination of three separate instances of relationships is fantastic concept. The show never once looked at the relationships as nurturing but instead as constricting ties each character is forced to live with.
While it was entertaining, The Ties That Bind suffered from slow pacing in the first act and one third of the show failed to measure up to the others. The first half hour of episode was so incredibly slow that I was almost bored and this was due to Bonnie's story with her mother Abby (Played by Persia White from 90s classic Breaker High). At no point throughout the course of the series was I remotely curious about Bonnie's past because next to Caroline, she is one of the least interesting characters on the show. I appreciate the time spent to develop more depth for Bonnie but Kat Graham doesn't have the range in her acting to make the role compelling. Also, the reasons that Abby gave for abandoning Bonnie were easily the most selfish reasons a character could give to abandon her child. By choosing herself over her infant child, the writer's have instantly made her one of the least likeable mothers on television today (I'm sure there are others that smoke crack or something). The return of Jack Coleman as Bill Forbes was also a welcome surprise and his psychological attempt to break Klaus's hold over Tyler will be hopefully make Tyler the intriguing character he was before he became a hybrid.
Lastly, the scene between Stefan and Elena near the end of the episode elegantly reminded us just how much the characters have changed since last season. Paul Wesley has really deserved praise since Klaus changed Stefan. Like Nina Dobrev playing Katherine, he seems more comfortable playing Stefan with a harder edge and I personally find him better than he has been throughout the series. Stefan punching Damon at the end also showed us that the old Stefan is still in there somewhere but the fact that he can still hurt and simultaneously be the villain is impressive.
The Ties That Bind was probably one of the best episodes of The Vampire Diaries in quite some time. Even with a painfully slow start, the complexity and character development was well worth it. Things will only become more interesting now that Elijah has returned when The Vampire Diaries returns February 2nd with Bringing Out the Dead.