I once read that if you don't originally like someone, but then you grow to, you'll actually like them more than you would have if you'd liked them from the start. It's because you feel guilty. I've privately dubbed this the Vincent D'Onofrio Effect in honor of the years it took me to finally watch him on Law & Order: Criminal Intent after being traumatized by The Cell. I think that guilt is part of the reason why Tyler's torturous transformation in this episode was so effective. We all thought he was a verbally and physically abusive douche in season 1, and it turns out, he doesn't want to feel that aggression at all. If you've listened to our latest TV Insiders podcast (in which Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec call in to discuss the episode, as well as the companion series they're developing), you know that I watched this midseason finale with Dalton Ross and Annie Barrett, clutching a pillow and alternately shouting at the TV and whimpering.
This was Michael Trevino's episode to shine, and he seized the opportunity. Seeing him with tears in his eyes guts me. I wasn't sure if he was saying "I'm sorry" to Caroline because he'd snapped (verbally) at her during his violent reaction to drinking the wolfsbaned water (now a verb!), or because he was sorry he was putting her through the pain of watching him. And when his right arm hit that bone-breaking angle and he cried out "It hurts, it hurts," I was torn between praying for the scene to end and praying for it to continue. No one from the show was lying when they said this was going to be a long, brutal process. They really went there.
You may have been yelling for Caroline to leave before Tyler's werewolf teeth came in, but every time you saw her cradling him, and him clasping her hand, you had to be happy she didn't listen to him and stayed until the last possible second. I loved that shot of him laying on the floor with his head in her lap. It was like he was a 16-year-old dog, about to be taken to the vet, shivering from pain. And then those shots of him spinning around on all fours, ripping out one of those chains that was supposed to withstand 5,000 pounds of pressure, and clawing at the cell door as Caroline left? So good. She sobbed outside the entrance door until his screaming stopped. Then it was quiet until he started trying to break that door down. We'd seen him transform (what was the worst part? that arm? the ribs and spine? the leg?) but all she saw was teeth through the holes he'd slashed. She reinforced the door, and super-sped away.
She eventually came back. "Tyler?" "Caroline?" Their voices were so innocent and sincere. It was the kind of moment that made me agree with the person (@Steer_Displaced) who tweeted me post-episode that she "wants to ship Tyler and Caroline. But not romantically. They're like the supernatural Harry & Hermione." I could get behind that. Even though part of me wanted Harry and Hermione together in the movies, I appreciate the idea that a teen boy and girl could have that deep of a friendship. And clearly, the man behind Dawson's Creek does this well. Tyler, however, may not: In the promo for the show's Jan. 27 return, Tyler and Matt both try to kiss Caroline. I don't really care either way, as long as Tyler still gets to be shirtless a lot. Contrary to what Dalton says, I was not "panting" when Tyler first got half-naked and later walked around the cellar in chains. I just made the occasional audible "ooh," as in "someone really knows how to shoot him."
NEXT: "I'd like to suggest to Tyler that he invest in a pair of male stripper pants, the kind that have velcro down the sides."