Episode grade: 10.
We’re down to the final weeks of this wonderful series, and I am going to miss spending time with these characters! Thank goodness for the modern age, with Blu-ray box sets and Netflix-CW deals, allowing us to watch the best shows over and over again for all time. Remember when we had to make our own tapes of shows, with the VCR, and they’d either preserve the commercials, or you’d have to carefully hit pause on the recording and restart it at just the right time? Just me? All right, never mind.
In the final season’s blast from the past parade, we start by welcoming Matt’s crappy mom back to Mystic Falls. Remember Kelly Donovan? Drunk and embarrassing, neither providing a good example for her kids nor watching over them? Yeah, she hasn’t been exactly missed. Including by Matt, who reacts to his long lost mom in about the same way you might react to running into your high school bully at a chain restaurant. She’s apparently here with Peter, because contemplating hell makes one want to reach out to the wives they abandoned and make some amends, I guess.
Our heroes are hatching a plan to deal with the imminent return of Katherine, and it’s Damon who suggests that Katherine would be helpless to resist ruining Stefan’s wedding. I think there’s a little more to this, of course, that Damon is determined to see Stefan get a happy ending, and he knows that in their lives, the longer you wait to start your happy ending, the less likely you are to get there at all. So he chooses a Katherine plan that conveniently also lets him celebrate his little brother’s humanity and happiness. Notably, though, Caroline is not quite as sure about this plan. She says it’s because she wanted a big, beautiful wedding with time to plan (and no super-villain waiting in the wings), but it’s hard not to read a little uncertainty into her reluctance.
Stefan overhears Bonnie and Caroline in a moment of girl talk, and while the text is clearly about why Bonnie won’t be there as maid-of-honor (no offense, bestie, but you’re marrying the man who murdered my true love a couple of weeks ago), the subtext is unmistakably that Caroline isn’t really sure about this pairing. I think there’s a chance she’d back out if she actually believed the wedding was going to occur; she’s kind of rolling with this, because she’s pretty sure the ceremony won’t be completed. From the look on Stefan’s face, I think he’s reading her the same way I am.
Also instrumental to the Katherine plan? An actual instrument with which to bring about her bitter end. Taking their inspiration from the Cade blade, they note that luck is on their side for once–Katherine’s body was burned here in Mystic Falls, so her bones are still around to turn into weapons. Peter Maxwell finally gets to be useful, because he’s a legacy metalworker, so he’s given the crucial task of forging the weapon. Don’t screw this up, bad dad.
Bad dad’s task leaves Matt alone with his crappy mom, giving us a chance to see her cough up some black goo and kill the hell out of a random chick, because Kelly Donovan is actually back…from hell!
Back at the mansion, Caroline finds a gift that is 100% obviously from Katherine, but she won’t realize that, because plot and stuff. I mean, seriously, it’s a printed card, not written, so there’s no handwriting to recognize, it’s addressed simply “To the Bride,” which is ominous AF, and inside the card, the typed message of “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” has the first phrase circled. Get a clue, Caroline. But hey, she’s got stuff on her mind.
Here comes Damon, a very drunk Stefan in tow…no vampire metabolism anymore means rediscovering the experience of drinking yourself into a stupor and waking up hungover. Um…yay humanity? While Stefan is passed out, Damon and Caroline share a lovely moment. He puts her through a series of no doubt hilarious practice toasts for the reception, but we only see the last of them; he gets real and toasts to his dear friend Liz Forbes, who raised this strong, wonderful woman he is now honored to call his family. This is the truest smile from Caroline yet–even if she’s not 100% sure about Stefan, she can’t deny that being Damon’s sister-in-law is a-okay.
Damon puts Elena’s necklace on Caroline’s wrist, adding the “something borrowed,” and ensuring her friend is part of her day in some way. Damon, I’ll miss you most of all.
Caroline is getting ready for the wedding, and she opens a gift from Bonnie–here’s the something new! It’s a gorgeous tiara, because Bonnie’s a good friend who knows this isn’t the wedding Caroline has dreamed of…but that doesn’t mean she can’t still be a princess.
As another surprise gift to Caroline, Lizzie and Josie come running in, all dressed up for the big day! Alaric explains that Katherine would smell a rat if Caroline’s own daughters weren’t at the wedding, so Valerie did a protection spell to keep them safe that day.
He, on the other hand, will not be there…Alaric was, after all, engaged to Caroline a few years ago himself. And just last week, before Stefan again showed up to screw him over, Alaric had been reaching out to Caroline about building a future together, centered around their kids…while it wasn’t overtly romantic, you could see the light in his eyes when he looked at her. I should note that I’m not often a fan of a storyline about a wistful love triangle and marrying the wrong person, but this really works for me. Alaric is such the better man! And while it made some sense that she had unfinished business with Stefan because of his having to go on the run, and it made some sense for vampires to be together…those aren’t factors anymore. She could have been free of her obligation to Stefan, but he came back and begged her to marry him anyway, and Caroline’s defining characteristic has always been steadfastness. She is being fairly railroaded into this wedding ceremony, and Alaric’s heartache is reasonable, not to mention beautifully acted.
Guests are arriving, starting with Matt’s lousy parents. Kelly Donovan greets her ex, Peter Maxwell, then instantly pries for details on the weapon he’s been forging to kill Katherine. When he acknowledges he’s already delivered it to Stefan, he is rendered useless to this hellcat, and she slashes his throat.
Bonnie again proves what an amazing person she is, showing up to the wedding to support Caroline. Enzo’s been the angel on her shoulder, begging her to put aside her anger toward a version of Stefan that no longer even exists. Aside: Enzo and Damon are both really good at compartmentalizing Ripper vs. Stefan, and that’s really because they are not like Stefan. Being a Ripper puts Stefan in a completely different category of vampire. Enzo and Damon can flip their switches and be legitimately different people than they were a moment before. Stefan is a Ripper, so his evil is a more ingrained part of his personality, not just a position on his humanity lever. But bless them, they don’t have his weakness, so they give him the benefit of the doubt.
Because Matt Davis is a truly spectacular actor, one of the best scenes in the episode is Alaric’s monologue to Dorian, remembering the long and winding road that brought him into these people’s overly complicated lives. I’m so grateful TVD made time for this quiet moment with one of my all-time favorite characters.
The wedding is getting started, and Caroline looks gorgeous walking down the aisle, of course! But when she takes her place beside Stefan, he recognizes the cameo necklace she’s wearing, and just as the audience knew, it was totally sent to her by Katherine. She freaks out, but Stefan says to leave it on, because Katherine will hate seeing it on her.
Sitting out in the crowd, Matt whispers to his lousy mom about how his dad should be there by now. Hilariously, she makes a well, isn’t that just like your dad? face, which is recognizable to any child of divorce.
Damon, acting as the officiant, loudly invites anyone to voice their objections to this union. When Katherine fails to show, Caroline’s moment of panic is evident–she really didn’t expect to have to go through with this wedding. But it’s too late now!
Because they expected this to be interrupted by now, and perhaps because neither of them really believed the wedding was a great idea, the bride and groom have failed to prepare vows. Oops. Credit to Stefan for coming up with something charming enough to win Caroline over in the moment. By the time he kisses the bride, it seems like they’re both in the spirit of the event again, despite all the craziness.
There’s a little timeline weirdness here, in that Kelly Donovan runs out before the daytime wedding is over, yet it’s full dark out and well into the reception before Matt is seriously looking for her. Fortunately for Peter, she didn’t strike too deeply with her scary knife; Matt finds him alive and learns the truth about mom.
No one else knows yet, so we’re treated to a drunken toast from Kelly Donovan in the reception tent. She rants about how this crappy town never gave her a chance, and she reminds Damon of that time they made out (ha!). Then she brings up what he did to Vicki, who “never hurt anyone” (this is important). Finally, she gets in Matt’s face about how he cared for her so little that he didn’t even know she was dead. And the penny drops.
Confronted with the question of what Katherine is up to, Kelly honestly says she has no idea; she was too busy starting a gas leak in the house. Caroline knows that Bonnie just took Lizzie and Josie in to use the bathroom, so they’re all in a house about to explode…which it does.
Inside the blazing mansion, Bonnie and the girls are standing in a bubble of safety. The girls are magic siphons, after all, and holding Bonnie’s hands gives them access to her latent magic. Enzo appears to her to say his goodbyes; letting her magic get siphoned will save her life and the girls’, but it will also sever her connection to his pocket dimension. She doesn’t want to give him up, but the alternative is death, and he talks her into living. It’s heartbreaking. Enzo, you were the best vampire.
With the girls and Bonnie safe from the fire, it’s time to get back to squeezing Kelly Donovan for information. She took a deal from Katherine in exchange for a true death, returning to oblivion rather than more torture in hell. She reveals what else she knows of the master plan: Katherine is using the Maxwell hell bell!
But wait, it can only be rung by someone in the Maxwell family line…and Kelly reveals that Vicki has also come back from hell for this assignment. And here’s where I again question the bizarrely selective quality of hell. Vicki died as a vampire, and she died long before the Other Side was destroyed. It makes sense that Katherine was so bad she was sucked into hell, but Vicki really wasn’t a bad person! Her mom just made a point of that in her drunken toast. I mean, I’ll take it–nice to see you again, Vicki–but I’m not sure it makes total sense. (Granted, I do recall Jeremy’s visits from ghost-Vicki who begged for help because she was in pain, and that fits with hell…but I’d still like an explanation of how she wound up there.)
Ah, TVD, I’m going to miss you. One more week of this gloriously well-written and well-acted series. Thanks to The CW for giving us The Vampire Diaries, and for letting it end with a plan, honoring the show as it deserves.
Who will you miss most of all? Comment with your favorite character!