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Ian Somerhalder Breaks Down His ‘Ode To Season 1’ Of The Vampire Diaries

Somerhalder tells MTV News how he honored Season 1 during his third and final time in the ‘TVD’ director’s chair

When The Vampire Diaries makes its final midseason return tonight (January 13), prepare yourself for what actor-director Ian Somerhalder calls an “ode to Season 1.”

In “We Have History Together,” the Brothers Salvatore — now full-fledged servants to Cade (Wolé Parks) — head to anger management. But it’s not to work out their decades-long mommy issues or their penchant for emotionally terrorizing one another; instead, Damon (Somerhalder) and Stefan (Paul Wesley) are on the hunt for their next victims. For Somerhalder, directing the episode was a chance to imbue the show’s final season with a sense of nostalgia for the show’s much simpler beginnings.

“The early seasons, Season 1 and Season 2, were my favorite time of storytelling in the show, so I was grateful to direct this episode, which is an ode to Season 1,” Somerhalder explained. “It’s just two cameras and actors. It’s performance-driven, and we push the stakes and find some levity, the moments that let the actors breathe a little bit. It’s just an A-B-C story line, as opposed to an A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J story line. It was fun because it was simple. We didn’t have to blow up five cars and kill 20 people.”

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The last time we saw Stefan, he had flipped his humanity switch to do Cade’s dirty work, effectively turning him back into his old Ripper self. However, Damon might not be on the same page. Upon entering a support group at the top of the hour — a place Somerhalder described as being inspired by Fight Club and Mr. Robot — Damon starts to have second thoughts about Stefan’s dark and manipulative ways.

“Throughout the episode Stefan really starts to question his brother’s motives and his commitment to their mission,” Somerhalder said. “That happens as a result of these little glimmers of humanity showing up in Damon, which throws his brother off — and it really pisses him off.”

As any faithful Vampire Diaries fan knows, however, Damon and Stefan can never be on the same page. Now, with their roles reversed and Damon’s humanity on the line, things are about to get even more complicated for the Salvatore brothers. But Somerhalder doesn’t mind; in fact, it excites him. After all, the frayed threads of Damon and Stefan’s relationship are the very foundation of the show.

“They’re so close, and they’ve been through so much together, which makes them really fun to watch,” he said. “Paul [Wesley] and I spend every waking second of our time together, so we don’t even have to talk to each other to know what [the] other is thinking.”

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While Damon and Stefan’s relationship turmoil might be at the center of the episode, it’s Matt (Zach Roerig) who finally gets time to shine, turning out a “beautiful and moving” performance. As Matt and his estranged father, Peter (Joel Gretsch), team up to do a little digging into their family history, they find that they have an interesting connection to an object that Sybil (Nathalie Kelley) wants.

“Matt is such a beloved character on this show, and you get to see how he is with his father, and it’s cool because we never got to see that,” Somerhalder said. “We get to see this boy who’s become a man — and there’s this push and pull between him wanting to be next to his father and at the same time hating him. ... There’s something really beautiful that happens when Matt and his dad are together.”

“There’s a scene that happens where we start to understand why his father left and why he abandoned his family,” he added. “Zach gives such a beautiful, layered performance, and it was really touching for me to direct. There are these incredible moments, like how Matt watches his father’s mannerisms, and they can say so much to each other without saying anything at all.”

It’s those quiet moments between two actors that remind Somerhalder of that first season, a time before hybrids and phoenix stones and sirens. And as the show approaches the end, it’s those moments that become even more special.