Episode grade: 10. Pure perfection.
All week long, I was both looking forward to and dreading Friday night, because one of my all-time favorite shows is coming to an end…but man, it’s going out strong.
We start with Cade menacing Damon for another crappy deal (all Cade’s deals suck because he is literally the devil). This time, Cade wants his dagger back–you know, the one thing that could kill him. And of course, Damon’s going to play along, because Cade has Elena’s coffin, delivered helpfully by Kai.
Elsewhere, Bonnie’s throwing herself into the beautiful pocket dimension she’s able to access, in which she and Enzo can be together. Stefan ignores the “if my dreamland’s a-knockin’” sign and starts bugging her with his guilty conscience. She’s all, Not my problem, brah, and I don’t blame her a bit. Enzo’s a little more forgiving, though, and he urges her to let Stefan off the hook.
Rebuffed by Bonnie and continuing to wallow in his self-pity, Stefan is about to bail on everyone. He agrees to put his broody walkabout on hold when Damon asks him to help get Elena back from Cade. First step: Find Kai Parker.
TVD, I love you. I love you for so many things over the last eight years, but right now, I love you for making time in your final episodes for the delightful insanity of Kai Parker doing karaoke, tweeting (under the amazing handle CobraKai1972) in what can only be described as (ahem) presidential fashion, and hilariously refusing to pronounce Stefan’s name correctly.
Stefan gets stabbed through the hand (this is important), but Damon steps in to take Kai down. They drag Kai into the Armory and toss him in a cell. Alaric is gravely displeased at having his archenemy back under his roof. Of course, Alaric has other things on his mind right now; his daughters have been going all Firestarter.
With Kai stashed away, and the devil dagger in hand, Damon and Stefan head out to find Cade. At the last minute, Stefan insists he has to be the one to kill Cade, because atonement yadda yadda. Damon rationally points out that hey, I’m still a vampire, and you’re not, so of the two of us, I’ve got a much better chance at actually pulling this off. But Stefan is determined to be the hero, so he actually vervains Damon, and OMG Stefan you selfish jackass. Here’s where Stefan’s hand injury is an issue for me. He’s not only mortal, he’s got a freshly maimed stabbing hand. He’s refusing help killing the devil when he’s not even at full strength for a human.
To be fair, he does have something of a plan…he’s tasked Alaric with ringing the Maxwell hell bell. Since Alaric isn’t part of the Maxwell family line, he won’t be able to access the bell’s full power, but Stefan correctly guesses that the bell’s ringing will at least cause Cade some pain. (I’m choosing to ignore the minor plot hole about how the bell was deconstructed and taken away, yet is now back in the tower. I mean, Bonnie and Enzo had it with them, but her house was stolen from her, so it’s not a safe place anymore…and I am pretty sure Peter Maxwell had taken another component of the bell with him when he left town…but you know what? Screw it. Given the choice between expository dialogue about the bell or Kai Parker singing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” at karaoke, I'll pick the latter every time.)
Speaking of our favorite evil scion of the Gemini coven, Kai and Caroline are having a heart-to-heart about her daughters, who are also, of course, Kai’s nieces. They’re siphons, just like him, and he offers Caroline a personal perspective on the crazy crap her kids are pulling lately. He tells her about growing up a magic-siphoning abomination, treated with disdain and fear, an embarrassment to his magical royal family. Being shut away and ignored, watching as his twin sister was nurtured in her gifts. Occasionally getting a blast of magic when he was able to siphon it from someone or something, and feeling like a druggie the rest of the time, desperate for more. It’s a powerful monologue, subtle and intense, and Caroline is as captivated as the audience is.
Then Kai explains that the reason her kids are suddenly out of control is that they’ve been dumped into an environment so full of magical artifacts, they simply can’t be expected to control their siphoning. He says a place like the Armory practically has magic in its walls…and then he demonstrates by siphoning the very glass that separates him from Caroline. Kai is out, loose in the Armory.
Right now, Alaric is dutifully ringing the hell bell, and it’s basically doing what Stefan thought. Cade is vulnerable, and Stefan’s got a shot here…until Alaric’s phone rings. Josie and Lizzie are calling for their daddy because Kai is coming after them with an axe. Alaric walks away from the bell without a second glance, and Cade’s back on his feet.
Cade’s about to kill Stefan, but here comes Damon to save the day. Except that Cade already has the dagger now, and he still has Elena, and now he has Stefan as well. Damon has no leverage in this situation. Cade laughs that he’ll give Damon this much: Damon can choose whether it will be Stefan or Elena who dies today. Damon can’t accept this choice, so he asks Cade to take him instead. Cade agrees, requiring Damon to stake himself. Stefan, you know this is your fault, right?
Bonnie feels the psychic ripples of the danger to Elena, and she follows the feeling to where Cade is about to collect Damon’s soul. Bonnie says, Oh hell no, and she and Cade get into a psychic battle. The beauty of a psychic battle is that the opponents are too busy to do anything else…leaving Cade far more vulnerable to attack. Stefan finally does something right, and the devil is dead.
Back at the Armory, Kai’s stalking the girls, because not being the only surviving member of the Gemini coven is kind of a sore spot for him. He follows their voices into the Siren cave, then siphons away the magical wall Beatrice Bennett put up so long ago…except he hasn’t found the girls, he’s found Ric, pulling a pretty neat trick with his phone on speaker. Ric gets in a good punch or two, but he’s a little outgunned under the circumstances. Fortunately, Caroline is awake from Kai’s neck-snap nap, and she saves the day.
Damon, magically blown back into his body by Bonnie’s psychic rage storm, is able to convince Stefan to stick around and not be a self-pitying jackass for a few minutes. I mean, we’ll see how long before the full-bore brooding starts back up, but for now, Stefan is able to appreciate the miracle of the life he almost lost…presumably, because they’re all operating with the belief that killing the devil also destroyed hell, so they’re no longer living with damnation hanging over them. Funny how Stefan is suddenly less ravaged by guilt now that he thinks he’ll escape punishment. He proposes to Caroline all over again, and she says yes, even though she and Ric seemed to be having a moment, and Ric is so totally the better man on every level.
(Also, Stefan is all excited about the future he sees as possible now, and he’s yammering about how great it will be to grow old and help raise kids, and be with his best friend? What best friend? He doesn’t mean Caroline because he listed her separately in the marriage portion of the speech, and he doesn’t mean Damon because he has always consistently called Damon his brother. Lexi’s dead, and that’s the only best friend I was aware of…I’m confused.)
Kai awakens, chained to a chair, in the karaoke dive bar from earlier. The delightful 90’s song, “Two Princes,” is starting up. Kai clearly doesn’t like this song as much as I do. Bonnie relishes the moment as she fills Kai in on his new normal: He’s in a new prison dimension, built to approximate his personal idea of suffering. All alone, no magic to siphon, no tricky escape hatches to work on, with a song he hates that will never stop playing.
But Kai has a parting gift for Bonnie, too: the truth about hell. Killing the devil didn’t destroy hell; sure, Cade created hell, but perhaps it took on a life of its own, nourished by the imaginations of all the people who feared it. Or perhaps a pocket dimension simply doesn’t exist in the head or at the whim of its creator; maybe, once created, it’s a true place that can’t be unmade so easily. If the latter, I would like to point out that Bonnie’s new pocket dimension is not simply a place to keep Enzo safe; it might be the place where all her loved ones can spend eternity–the new version of the Other Side!
But I digress. Kai’s revelation to Bonnie continues: Hell is still very much a real place, and there’s someone else who was waiting for Cade to be deposed so that they could step into the top dog spot. Gee, who else do we know who was that bad? Who absolutely went to hell, rather than to the Other Side?
You got it.
Granted, this raises another question about how bad someone had to be to wind up in hell rather than the Other Side–remember that Silas was on the Other Side, and he was as bad as they come! But that’s a minor aside, and I’m more than okay with it. Katherine is coming back to remind us why she’s “the baddest bitch of them all,” and I can’t think of a more fitting story arc to carry us into the bittersweet ending of this gorgeous series.
Finally, can we talk about the gift to villainy and television and acting that was Chris Wood's portrayal of Kai Parker?
I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed a villain more. Chris Wood is masterful, chilling and hilarious by turns, impossible not to pay attention to every moment he’s on screen. I don’t like Kai, obviously, but I love having Kai around. With every other villain we’ve had on TVD, I’ve been thrilled to see them breathe their last. By the time our heroes vanquished the Travelers, or Silas, or fricking awful Julian, I was cheering to have them gone. With Kai, even though he’s terrible, even though it’s clearly good that they’ve bested him!, I’m sorry to see him go.