For seven years, The Vampire Diaries has delivered complex characters, tight plotting, intense drama, fascinating fantasy, and gorgeous acting (by gorgeous actors, too). As we head into the final year (No!!!), here’s a look back at Season 7 and a reminder of where we left our favorite vampires and their friends.
Lily and the Heretics vs. Mystic Falls
Damon and Stefan technically got to have a mother again, but it went about as well you’d expect. She displayed no warmth toward her children, making it clear she saw the Heretics as her true family. She allowed the Heretics to rampage through Mystic Falls, manipulated poor Enzo with his puppy-dog attachment to her, and brought Julian into our lives. Julian was the worst.
Of course, then we got that episode flashing back to Damon and Stefan's childhood, and we saw how much she tried to shield them from their father's abuse, which means she suffered that abuse intensely. For her own survival, she had to emotionally detach from them in order to allow herself to get away and seek a life worth living. Doesn't exactly make her mother of the year, but it does make it harder to judge her too harshly.
And having been an abused wife, she was the perfect target for a sociopathic sleazoid like Julian, who treated her just well enough to feel special...but then also emotionally abused her enough to keep her dependent and eager to please.
But those Heretics–what a bunch of awful, irredeemable jerks. The Heretics ruined Mystic Falls and caused nothing but trouble. Nora and Mary Louise were vicious mean girls, and Valerie was a conniving bitch.
Of course, when you got to know Nora and Mary Louise, you had to acknowledge that on top of being outcast magic siphons like the rest, they were also lesbians in a time long before it was remotely safe to live your true life. Their bitterness and distrust toward humanity isn’t without reason, and their love for each other is powerful. By the time they knowingly went to their deaths, hand in hand, you probably liked them as much as I did.
And it turned out Valerie had serious history with Stefan. Way back when they were both human, they spent a magical day together (she’s a siphon, of course, so the “magical day” was metaphorical) and fell in love. Stefan never knew she wanted to return to him or that she was pregnant. Julian beat her to cause a miscarriage, because Julian is the worst. As Valerie opens up about her pain, she stops punishing the world for it, so…she’s actually really nice.
As for Lily, she ultimately chose to do the right thing, turning against Julian. She died in the attempt to take Julian down, and that led to some painful deathbed stuff. Damon refused to forgive her or show her any affection as she died. On the one hand, he still blames her for Kai’s rampage that put Elena in a magical coma. On the other hand, damn, Damon, you of all people should have learned a little something about forgiveness by now.
Enzo’s a tragic figure who has tried so hard to connect with others throughout his long life, but it doesn’t go well. Lily vamped him and vanished (through no fault of her own, but still), Damon abandoned him to the Augustines who held him captive for decades, Lily turned up again 100+ years later only to choose her psychopath ex while Enzo pined away…Enzo’s had a rough go of it. So when some chick shows up and says, hey, I’m from the same bloodline as you, which makes me the closest thing in the world you’ve ever had to family, he is inclined to hang out and get to know her.
Enzo’s evil relatives run a place called the Armory, and they capture (experiment on, imprison, torture, etc.) supernatural beings. But he’s family, and more important, he’s susceptible to their manipulation, so they just use him instead of hurting him. They’ve also got Tyler Lockwood in their evil Rolodex.
In their basement, they have a door that’s magically sealed shut, and it leads to a demonic hell chamber inhabited by an immortal evil not of this world. Only a Bennett witch can open it, so they’ve got a mad-on to get their hands on Bonnie and force her to unseal the vault.
In short, Enzo’s evil relatives are also dumb as dirt.
To keep Bonnie off the magical radar, Enzo's been dosing her with a drug he found in his pseudo-family's evil medicine cabinet. It suppresses magical abilities, but he didn't check all the contraindications; it's also totally, 100%, no exceptions, fatal. Once he learns this, he's on a mission to find another solution, because in the years of stashing her away in a cabin and drugging her, he's also fallen madly in love with her. She's gonzo for him, too, and it's actually beautiful. Their relationship is the highlight of the season.
Ultimately, Bonnie is forced to come to the Armory (because they’re a bunch of jerks who use everyone she loves against her, of course) and open the vault. But Bonnie’s hardcore. She opens the vault, but she seals the Armory, trapping Enzo’s relatives inside with the thing they insisted on unleashing. They totally had that coming.
Rayna Cruz and the Phoenix Stone
Alaric has this mystical relic called the Phoenix Stone, and his understanding of its function is woefully flawed. He is determined to use it to resurrect Jo, and briefly believes he’s gotten his miracle…but no, he's merely allowed some random vampire to body-jump her. The day he spends realizing this is a poignant, sad, beautiful episode, and it at least gives Alaric some sense of closure.
The Phoenix Stone is part of a sword carried by an immortal(-ish) vampire hunter, Rayna Cruz. If the sword injures a vampire, Rayna can track them anywhere, forever. When the sword kills a vampire, their soul is trapped within the stone. Lily wants the stone because Julian is trapped in it. The Heretics are divided on the subject, because some love Julian, and some knew he was a sociopathic sleazoid.
When a vampire is stuck in the Phoenix Stone, it’s like a psychodrama set in your own personal hell. Both Damon and Stefan suffer through this, and it leads to the lowest point of the season: Damon, in the throes of Phoenix Stone PTSD, beats Tyler Lockwood to a bloody pulp and sets Sleeping Beauty Elena on fire.
Anyway, the Phoenix Sword eventually returns to its rightful wielder, Rayna Cruz. She stabs Stefan, who is now marked for death and must go on the run forever. Damon captures Rayna and starts killing her over and over, because he’s learned of the “immortal-ish” catch: She was gifted with the natural lifetimes of the shamans who sacrificed themselves to create her power, but after those lifetimes are up, she will actually die.
He has a little too much fun torturing and repeatedly killing Rayna Cruz, but that’s Damon. She’s down to her last life when Damon learns of the other catch: When she dies, any vampires she’s marked with the blade will die too. He stops killing her, but what now? Well, now Nora and Mary Louise, dying of anti-magic drug trials the Armory put them through, go up in a blaze of glory and heroically destroy the Phoenix Stone.
Of course, there’s a catch here too: Every vampire trapped inside is now loose, body-jumping and raising hell. Rayna’s connected to all of them, and it’s torture for her. She makes a deal with Damon.
She’s tired of being the vampire hunter. It’s been a long, lonely, painful existence, and she’s ready to move on. Bonnie’s dying from the anti-magic drug, so she’ll let them magically transfer her final lifetime to Bonnie. In exchange, they’ll just have to fulfill her dying wish: an epic vampire killing spree of all the Phoenix Stone escapees.
Damon throws himself into this mission to buy Bonnie a second chance at life. Always good to see that, while he's a dick most of the time, Damon really will do anything for a friend, even delay his reunion with Elena.
The epic vampire killing spree is such a large undertaking that Caroline and Alaric are dragged back into the fray, and they have to admit how much they missed being badasses. It also awkwardly reunites Caroline and Stefan, who haven’t seen each other since she became a mom and he became a marked man.
Transferring Rayna's last remaining lifetime to Bonnie does save Bonnie's life...but again, there’s a catch! The curse transfers as well, triggering a violent hatred for vampires. Her loving friends try to do their vampire mind-meld trick before she wakes up, believing her subconscious will be strong enough to beat the curse if she remembers her friends. It so doesn’t work, and Caroline is psychically marked for death. She’s on the run, just like Stefan had to be all those years.
Then Bonnie wakes up, and Damon tries to connect with her IRL. Come on, Bon, you love Damon as much as we do! But no, the curse is too strong, and now he’s marked too. Amazingly, Matt Donovan rescues Damon by tranking Bonnie and taking her away. Of course, he's not so much saving Damon from Bonnie as saving Bonnie from the pain of killing her friend, but that's our Matty Blue, always coming through with the heroic choice.
Damon and Enzo always were a great pair (when they weren’t trying to kill each other), and their mutual love for Bonnie unites them again in a quest to free her from the curse. They learn there’s a chance…but it involves getting back into the Armory, which Bonnie herself made impenetrable in order to trap the ultra-evil force from the demonic hell chamber.
This is where having magic siphons around comes in handy! You can’t undo a powerful witch’s spell, but you can bring Alaric and Caroline’s adorable kids over to negate the magic. Damon goes in. Stefan, too, but Damon insists on carrying this burden, and for once, Stefan listens.
Bonnie and Enzo are struggling, and it’s the most heartbreaking scene of the season. She can’t help trying to kill him, and he can’t overpower her (just like on Buffy, slayers are a bit stronger than the average vampire).
He tells her it’s okay, he loves her, his three years with her were the only joy he’s ever known in over a hundred years of existence. He begs her not to dwell on this final moment, because it’s not her fault. And tears are streaming down her face (and mine), and he’s smiling at her with the love he wants her to know he feels even now, to make it easier on her.
And just then, Damon gets the job done at the Armory. Bonnie’s sane, Enzo’s safe, and they’re in each other’s arms. The chemistry between these two really is terrific.
Bonnie and Damon talk on the phone, best friends again. Then he turns immensely stupid. He said he can hear Elena calling him, and he ignores Bonnie’s frantic reminder that dude, you’re in a demonic hell chamber, nothing is real in there, so get out now! I assume the evil force has hypnotic powers or something, because otherwise, Damon’s stupidity here is actually too much to bear.
Bonnie and Enzo rush to the Armory. The door they can’t get past isn’t magic, just keypad-locked, so they need an Armory insider, like Enzo…except Enzo’s already in there. He wants to save his girl’s best friend without endangering her, so he goes in alone. It’s a good impulse, but it doesn’t work out, because Damon’s already infected or possessed or whatever this will turn out to be. It’s creepy as hell but mostly sad, because we love Damon and Enzo, and it hurts to see their personalities overwritten by this invading entity. The season ends on these two killing people and hanging them like meat.
Damon was erratic last year, even for Damon! He really hurt Bonnie’s feelings by telegraphing a slight ambivalence about her survival (her death means Elena’s return, so he has mixed feelings at times). But then life without Elena was too hard, and he didn’t trust himself, so he locked himself in a casket, intending to sleep through the rest of Bonnie’s natural life. He actually only slept through the time jump, but you can see how she’d have hard feelings about her best friend bailing on her entire life like that.
Stefan was brooding last year, even for Stefan. He learned his first love, Valerie, had long ago been pregnant with his child (Julian is the worst!). He started to build a relationship with his mother, but that was doomed (again, because of Julian). He and Damon both got stuck in the Phoenix Stone where they were forced to live out torturous psychodramas. He fights so hard for Damon every time, yet Damon chose to sleep through his pain rather than return the favor.
His relationship with Caroline was going okay for a while, considering it started in the middle of a war zone and coincided with the return of his first love. Of course, he then got stabbed by the Phoenix Sword and had to go on the run to escape the relentless Rayna Cruz. On TVD, love bites.
Caroline continued to mourn her mother as she tried to build a relationship with Stefan. Her trademark enthusiasm was almost enough to overcome the war zone and Valerie obstacles. Then the craziness of TVD landed on her like a ton of bricks: She was magically pregnant with Alaric and Jo's twins! Turns out the Gemini coven, out in force to attend Jo's wedding, would do anything to protect the next generation: in this case, transferring the fetuses from their dying human mother to a much sturdier nearby vampire womb. Caroline and Alaric grew close as she carried his children and then moved to Texas with him to raise them far from the aforementioned craziness.
Then she reunites with Stefan. Apparently, Alaric doesn’t mind that much, which is a little weird. Like, they were mostly together for the kids I guess, but he says he loved her for real, yet he easily sends her off to Stefan…it’s fine with me as a viewer that they breeze past what might have been a boring melodramatic interlude on most shows, but I did trip over it a little, because Caroline and Alaric are both really deep and emotional characters, and this seemed like the writers just wanted to get their relationship over with.
This brings us to poor Matt Donovan. It was a rough year for Matty Blue. His emotional reckoning had been a long time coming. He has every reason to hate vampires, particularly Damon, who murdered his sister (as Rayna-Bonnie sharply reminds him, “Because he was bored!”).
But Matt is a good guy with an open heart, and he’d known some of these vampires, witches, and werewolves his entire life; they're good people, so he couldn't hate them...and by extension, he couldn't really hate supernatural beings by default, he had to take them as individuals.
To hate Damon, for example, he’d also have to hate Elena for the rampage she went on after Jeremy died. He can’t hate Elena, right? And on and on, this poor guy has gotten bent until he inevitably broke.
The break is clear in the S7 premiere, when he is forced to shutter his home town and evacuate innocent citizens. He looks at Bonnie with no real warmth for the first time, and he points out that all this is happening because she couldn't control her thirst for vengeance against Kai. Her look of hurt confusion is telling--this is Matt Donovan, the most forgiving and understanding friend of all time, and he's laying the blame on me? But, but…
And as one of the only mortals with a real awareness of this other world going on around us, he took on the incredible responsibility of being the sheriff of an empty town overrun by Heretics. He sought to protect the world from even having to know the horrors he dealt with. He was one of the true heroes in the world of TVD, the ones with no supernatural advantage.
Then he met a girl and fell in love, and they were on the way to a good life together until she was killed. The circumstances of her death were insanely convoluted and mysterious throughout the season, but it almost didn’t matter in the end; the real point was that Matt is a human trying to be part of an inhuman world. He didn’t belong there, and he never would. The season finale had him driving off to start a new life without vampires. Farewell, Matty Blue. You deserve a peaceful, happy life.
Looking back at a season of The Vampire Diaries, I always think, No...that's impossible--I must be combining two seasons, because that much story cannot have happened in one year! But that's one of the things we love about The Vampire Diaries, right? It doesn't milk the crap out of its plot lines, dragging stuff out to avoid closing loops or answering questions. I’m going to miss this show.
What about you? What was your favorite moment from S7? What do you most want to see happen in S8? Comment below!