And now the world has one more quarterback. Bravo Stefan.
Continuing in the hours following Elena and Matt's crash over the bridge, Elena wakes up in her bed, confused and without the memories of what happened. It's only after Stefan and Damon give her the quick refresher that her memories come flooding back, including the small bit about taking vampire blood before she died. Elena is now in the early transition stages of becoming a vampire and if she doesn't drink blood soon, she won't live to see the next sunrise. Elsewhere, Jeremy and Bonnie are trying to find another way to save Elena but while that is happening, Mystic Fall's council is making its move against the vampires. Caroline is drugged with vervain, Rebekah is staked with an arrow, Stefan is held up and a dying Elena is taken for the ride. To top everything off, Klaus is still alive and in possession of Tyler's body, determined to re-enter his body and kick start his hybrid family. With Elena's life hanging in the balance, it's a race against the clock for Damon and the others to save their friends but get through the council as well.
For its fourth season, The Vampire Diaries is off to a great start. Not willing to start the season slow, Elena's life is immediately in jeopardy from the beginning and the episode's pacing was well executed. Growing Pains built the tension when it was needed and gave the audience the break at the end for the moments between Stefan and Elena when each seemed more desperate than the last. The premiere also brought all of the characters together in a meaningful way and with such a large cast that's a difficult task to pull off. Even with the apparent destruction of the council, I wonder if we have seen the last of them but it was refreshing to see another human element added to the show besides the occasional witch and useless guy (a la Matt and Jeremy).
Although the show would never kill off Elena (let's face it, Nina Dobrev is the star), I was relieved that Bonnie's spell wasn't completed. Had The Vampire Diaries went through with Bonnie's spell, this season could have easily been a rehash of the last and would essentially say that consequences don't exist in world they have created. Elena becoming a vampire was the natural evolution for the series and will likely lead to some exciting episodes this season now that Elena's life won't constantly need to be saved by Stefan or Damon.
Speaking of Damon, the brief scene between him and Elena had more emotion and impact than the several that Elena had with Stefan throughout the entire episode. Ian Somerhalder nailed his lines and made that scene. The fact that he admitted to being so selfish that he would sacrifice Matt's life for Elena's happiness just shows how in love with her he is. Elena may still be here but she died and now has a future she didn't choose. If Damon's love is selfish, don't we all want a love so great it would give itself for another?
Overall, Growing Pains was a bold episode and a great way to start the season. Even Tyler got his body back and Klaus can't get anymore of Elena's blood so presumably that will mean less hybrids in the show's future. Hopefully The Vampire Diaries can keep this up in next week's episode, Memorial.