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Episode Rating Scale: 10 Exceptional 9 Excellent 7-8 Enjoyable 5-6 Forgettable 3-4 slightly Disappointing 1-3 Very Disappointing  

The Vampire Diaries 816 Series Finale Recap “I Was Feeling Epic” #TVD #TVDforever

Episode grade: 11. (Yes, I know it’s a scale of 1-10…but this one goes to 11.)

There’s so much sadness in saying goodbye to a beloved series, but credit to The CW and the showrunners for making the conscious decision to end it at a specific point. That allows the writers to craft a deliberate ending, to plan the long-term story arcs that lead toward it, and to deliver a finale worthy of the characters and the devoted fans. Bravo!

We left off the previous week with Bonnie’s magic overloading. Her nose bled, and apparently, her heart stopped. Stefan does CPR, Caroline steps up with the vampire blood, but nothing’s working. 

In the space beyond life, Bonnie finds herself face to face with Elena, and they share a joyous embrace. One of the beautiful things this show has been able to give us at several points throughout its 8-year run is a reunion of dear friends who thought they’d never see each other again. Damon and Alaric, Stefan and Lexi…those moments stand out even in a show so full of powerful moments. It’s a testament to how deeply, lovingly realized the characters are; we care about these friendships as if they’re our own connections.

Bonnie is happy to see Elena again, and she thinks this is the best of all possible outcomes; she will die and be with Enzo, and Elena can be returned to the world. But not so fast: Enzo is there to take her hand and propel her back to the world of the living because he wants her to have a rich, full life before joining him. He loves her so truly, and he can wait. (I just teared up a little, because Bonnie and Enzo are the most stable, least melodramatic couple of this whole series, and I love them together so much.)

Back to the real world, where Bonnie’s just awakened, Damon superspeeds to the bell tower and flings Vicki Donovan out a window. Matt comes along shortly and is all, what the hell, man? (Come on, Matt, you should be well past being surprised by Damon’s methods!) But it doesn’t matter, because Vicki’s fine again, more annoyed than anything else. So Damon snaps her neck! Matt looks hilariously peeved, but Damon assures him this is no big deal, and he’s right: Vicki clearly can’t be killed.

Vicki accepted Katherine’s offer to end her suffering. She’s been ordered to ring this bell once every five minutes (which means the action of this episode takes place essentially in real time, as twelve rings at five-minute intervals would come out to an hour. There is a slight problem with the timing, in that Stefan is no longer a vampire, and he covers a fairly impressive amount of ground for someone without superspeed, but I choose to forgive this because this episode is amazing).

Damon turns to Matt and basically says your sister, you deal with it. As Damon leaves the tower immediately, Matt asks where he’s going. Damon explains that he’s going to get to a safe distance, because “I’m anticipating your failure.” Ha!

But he’s not wrong. Matt doesn’t fail so much as decline to argue with his dead sister. He can see that she’s been suffering so much, she’s beyond reason and disinclined to place others over herself (which, I guess, might somewhat explain her being in hell in the first place…though I still do wonder about that, because dude, Silas didn’t even have to go to hell).

Because he is a devoted brother but also a responsible sheriff, Matt immediately calls for an evacuation of Mystic Falls. “Gas leak. Yes, again.”

Stefan and Damon return to the mansion, where Elena’s coffin has been left sitting out in the open, and that seems like a questionable choice for so very many reasons, but whatever, because this episode is awesome. 

They find the coffin sitting open and empty, and Stefan notes that Bonnie’s heart stopped earlier–maybe that was enough to trigger the end of Kai’s spell! Elena steps out from around the corner, and Damon runs to sweep her up in his arms…and then dumps her with disgust because of course, this is not Elena. Welcome back, Katherine!

She snarks and taunts them, and it’s hilarious when they unceremoniously dagger her because they have much more important things to do than let her monologue at them! They’ve got less than an hour to find Elena wherever Katherine has stashed her away.

Also feeling the time crunch is Alaric. He’s got the car packed up and wants Caroline to get her ass in gear about this evacuation plan. She’s determined to stay in Mystic Falls and help find Elena…and of course not leave her just-married husband behind. Ric has got zero patience for this nonsense, plus he still has feelings for her and believed they had a shot until Stefan swooped back in…again. He’s so committed to getting her to come with him, he even plays the dead mom card, and that’s harsh. 

Down in the boiler room of Mystic Falls High School, Stefan finds Elena, but there’s a small problem (of course!); the room has been hexed, so Elena cannot be carried out. Kai apparently did this for Katherine before Bonnie banished him to karaoke hell.

Here’s an Easter egg I love: Stefan tells Damon where he found Elena, and Damon comments that a high school boiler room reminds him of a horror movie. It’s a tiny little throwaway line, but it’s sweet. See, Kevin Williamson, co-creator of TVD, got famous when he wrote a wonderful movie called Scream, which was directed by the great Wes Craven, who got famous for the classic horror film Nightmare on Elm Street, in which Freddy Krueger haunts the town where he was burned to death in a high school boiler room. So this little moment is a touching homage to Wes Craven.

Katherine finds Damon to subject him to some more villainous taunting. She’s either behind on the relationship dynamics in Mystic Falls, or she’s just implying that Stefan’s going to leave Caroline eventually because she doesn’t seem totally aware that Elena is Damon’s girl these days (and always will be! #Delenaforever). She says Stefan is the better man, which isn’t remotely true, but it’s reasonable that she thinks it, because Damon is so much more like her than Stefan is, so she’s basically admitting her own crappiness.

It’s again hilarious when Damon just daggers her and moves on.

The Armory is apparently at a safe minimum distance from Mystic Falls, because that’s where Alaric has brought Bonnie and the girls. (Note: Bonnie assuages his conscience about bailing on their friends, because there’s nothing they can do…but that’s not true, is it? His silence and guilty expression make it clear that he knows Josie and Lizzie could siphon away the spell on the boiler room to free Elena. It’s not unreasonable that he’s not willing to risk taking them back into the danger zone, but there is something they technically could do.)

Bonnie realizes there’s another option, though. It has to do with the tunnels connecting the Armory to Mystic Falls, a hellfire contingency plan Alaric and Dorian were researching, and the fact that she knows she has magic again. She calls Stefan and plays the you-killed-Enzo card, which is totally fair. Stefan knows it, too; redemption is his one true goal, and Bonnie’s the one person who could offer it to him.

Stefan and Caroline part tearfully, because he agrees with Alaric that her place is with her kids. He doesn’t exactly say goodbye, but it’s implied. After all, as I have noted, he’s no longer capable of super-speeding to safety, and the hour is passing quickly. When Caroline reaches the Armory, Bonnie sends her away with Ric and the girls, and Bonnie also makes a point of not saying goodbye…but it’s implied. Caroline is being deliberately kept in the dark because everyone’s goal here is to keep her with her kids, rather than letting her try to save everyone.

They’re a decent distance away before Caroline gets Alaric to tell her what’s going on. She begs him to stop the car, and she gets out to call Stefan. There’s no answer, so she leaves a desperate message about how much she loves him and always will. Alaric hears this, and the pain in his face is so tragic. Alaric is truly the better man, and it hurts to know that even if he and Caroline wind up recouping, he’ll never feel like her first choice. 

Damon lures Katherine to the crypt, where she vamps at him some more, and he (again, hilariously and with aplomb) daggers her. Every time she’s daggered, she bounces back to hell for a time. This is crucial to Bonnie’s plan because Bonnie believes she can use the blast of hellfire as a weapon to destroy hell, and it will also destroy Katherine if she happens to be in hell at the time. 

Stefan joins Damon and announces his intention to carry out Bonnie’s plan, thereby earning his redemption and ensuring Damon’s future with Elena. Damon is not having it. He compels Stefan to walk away and save himself, because being a big brother earns him the right to protect his little brother, and he’s damn well going to do that. And every Delena fan who wants the Delena happy ending, and every Bonzo fan who will never forgive Stefan for killing Enzo (incidentally, I’m both of these) screams, “No!!!”

Back at the bell tower, Vicki’s finishing her eleventh ring and five minutes away from the hellfire detonation. Matt and Peter come to see her. She reminds Matt that he can’t stop this, and if he’s nearby, he’s going to die. She also sneers at the notion that Peter might think he can show up now and have some kind of fatherly impact on her. He just smiles and says he’s only here to see his daughter one last time. Matt explains that there’s a plan in the works. Check how deeply he believes in Bonnie, that he’s risking his life by being at ground zero. You’re a good man, Matty Blue.

Down in the tunnels, Katherine wakes up, and Damon gets ready to stab her again…but not until the time is right. In the Armory, Bonnie’s bracing herself for the biggest magical fight of her life. And in the town square, Matt and Peter stare up at the bell tower, where Vicki’s ringing the bell for the twelfth time. Kawoosh! A blast of hellfire disintegrates Vicki, blows out the bell tower windows, but then is sucked back in on itself and down through the bell tower interior, into the tunnels.

Bonnie calls on the Bennett witch legacy in her time of need. She’s all alone, and the power is too intense; she’s ready to let go and accept her death, but again, here’s Enzo to remind her that he’s not willing to watch her die today. And bolstered again by his love and belief in her, Bonnie steels herself to continue fighting…but this time she’s not alone. Grams takes her hand, and Beatrice appears at her side, and soon the room is filled with the spirits of the Bennett legacy, supporting their scion. 

In the tunnels, Damon holds the dagger at the ready, gripping Katherine to keep her from getting away. Every fan is wishing for something to deus ex machina Damon to safety. And then–

Elena wanders out into the Mystic Falls High School halls, and she sees Stefan, who fills her in on how Damon was prepared to sacrifice himself to save everyone…but of course, that isn’t what happened. Stefan has been taking vervain since he became human again because he knows better than to leave himself open to compulsion in this crowd. He allowed Damon to believe he’d been compelled, but really, he went straight for a hypodermic needle to draw the Cure from his veins. He went into the tunnels, waited until the moment was near (smart–human Stefan could not have held Katherine for long), stuck Damon with the Cure and flung him out of harm’s way, then daggered Katherine and went up in a blaze of glory, saving the day. 

Stefan says his goodbyes to Elena, asks her to deliver a message to Caroline and goes forth to be at peace…with Lexi! OMG, it’s Lexi, and my eyes well up, and I’m so happy. Stefan and Lexi’s reunion is exactly what I wanted. I love you, TVD.

From there, the tears basically never stopped flowing. Elena woke up (for real this time) and was reunited with Damon for the happy ending we all deserved. Stefan’s funeral faded to a montage of all the happy endings with individual voiceovers:

Bonnie’s going to see the world, and Enzo will always be at her side, in spirit. 

Caroline joins Alaric to start the school he envisioned for kids with magical gifts–he’s basically Professor X, and it’s awesome. Jeremy Gilbert is on staff, as is Dorian. This scene contains the ultimate moment of fan service: The school receives a generous donation from none other than Klaus Mikaelson, again reminding Caroline that the torch still burns. (OMG please make this happen. The Originals could use a little Caroline Forbes magic!)

Matt continues on as sheriff of Mystic Falls. Like Liz Forbes before him, a bench is built in his honor. Being compared to Liz Forbes is no small thing, of course (there was some Twitterverse yammer about how the bench seemed paltry…not so!). He’s thinking of running for Mayor. (Hey, is the Lockwood mansion still in his name?)

Damon and Elena get married, and she becomes a doctor. They live happily ever after.

The final moments are a little ambiguous, deliberately so. Are we seeing a true scene of the afterlife, many years hence? Or is it more symbolic in nature, showing the awareness of the peace that lies before them? It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that it’s a happy ending, and they’ve earned it.

I cried my eyes out for about the next half an hour. I’ll miss this show and these characters. I’ll watch and rewatch the series over the years to come. It’s a gift for a show to stay this good for so long and end this well. Thank you, TVD, for this beautiful journey. It was worth every moment.

What will you miss most about The Vampire Diaries? Reminisce in the comments!