Elena says goodbye

The Vampire Diaries Season 6, Episode 22 (“I’ll Be Thinking of You all the While”)
Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder, The Vampire Diaries

After six seasons, we say goodbye to Elena Gilbert. When I was first watching through the series I was very nervous to start Season 7. I had been binging through the series at a very fast pace but I actually paused after this episode and went back and rewatched some of my favorite parts of the show before I would start the next season. It is incredibly difficult for any show to lose its main character and still continue on. I will wait until we actually get into Season 7 before discussing how the show deals without Elena but it will certainly be different. But if you have to say goodbye to a main character this is the way to do it.

Being a supernatural show gives The Vampire Diaries the opportunity to write her off without killing her off. Kai casts a spell to link her life to Bonnie’s so that as long as Bonnie is alive, Elena will remain asleep. She is still human but she will be perfectly preserved, as is, until Bonnie dies. This also allows for the friendship forged between Bonnie and Damon in this season to really pay off. Just a season or so ago Damon would have let Bonnie die in order to get Elena back. But now he actually cares about Bonnie. He doesn’t just let her live because he knows Elena wouldn’t forgive him, but because he doesn’t want to live without her either. But this episode isn’t really about Damon, or Kai, or Bonnie. It is about saying goodbye to Elena and reminding us of how important she has been to everyone’s lives.

At the beginning of the series, Elena is just a human who has recently lost her parents. Throughout the next few seasons she is very quickly introduced to the supernatural world. Confronting darkness and violence that she never knew existed. In many ways it strengthens her. However, instead of it making her darker, it leads her to fight for humanity even harder. She then becomes a vampire and struggles to deal with the knowledge that she her instincts were to hurt innocent people. Though she eventually finds her middle ground, she always longed to be human again. She gets her wish but her experiences in the supernatural world will likely still shape her. Making her appreciate life more but still remaining sympathetic to those with darkness inside them.

Elena ending her arc on the show by becoming human is exactly as it should be. And with the promise that she and Damon will reunite in 60-70 years means that the love triangle that fueled six season is also finally put to rest. Throughout the episode we see Elena say goodbye to everyone individually and in ways that sums up her relationships with them perfectly. So going in order of how they are presented in the episode:

  1. Alaric. This episode is rough for Alaric as he loses Jo, his unborn twins, and Elena (who he definitely will not be seeing again). But unfortunately with everything else going on his grief is only briefly reflected on. However, there is always next season for that. He and Elena formed their own little family back in Season 3 after Jenna died. They helped each other get through that time and the show rightfully calls back to their training sessions in that season to do their goodbyes.
  2. Matt. Another Season 3 callback as they meet at the bridge where their did her fake eulogy for her pre-supernatural life. They have been friends a long time and though they haven’t been as close since the show started, they still care about each other. Matt is literally her only human friend and has helped keep her grounded throughout all of this.
  3. Stefan. They nicely reflect on what their relationship means to them in the larger picture. As Stefan tells Caroline, yes they loved each other but for Stefan the real importance of Elena in his life is how she brought him and Damon back together. Even if she also tore them apart a bit when she left him for Damon. But prior to her, Stefan and Damon had been estranged for 150 years. But her caring for both of them, helped repair their relationship. Stefan helped Elena to be happy again after her parents died. Even if they didn’t end up together, they can still look back on their time together fondly, knowing that it has changed them for the better. Their goodbyes take place in a Season 2 callback to when they hiked to the top of some waterfalls to discuss whether or not she wanted to be a vampire.
  4. Caroline/Bonnie. Probably for the sake of time they combined these two but it really focused on Bonnie. Caroline is immortal and will be around when Elena wakes up, but Bonnie won’t. Elena asks them both to write everything down while she is gone so that she can read it all when she wakes up. She and Bonnie call back to Season 1 when Bonnie first told Elena she was a witch by making the feathers from her pillow float. It’s a reminder of the light and beautiful side of magic. Whenever Elena’s life has gotten to be too overwhelming, she could always find comfort in Bonnie and Caroline. Even when none of them were human, they felt the most connected to their humanity when they were together.
  5. Jeremy. He makes a very brief appearance in the episode to say goodbye to Elena and let us know that he is happy with his life. He wants her to know that he is doing what he feels he is meant to do. Jeremy’s character was wrapped up earlier this season but it was nice to see him come back.
  6. Tyler. As discussed in the last review, this was also Tyler’s last episode as a main cast member. We will see glimpses of him in the last two seasons but not much. He starts off the episode triggering his curse by killing Liv (who would’ve died anyway). It is a heartbreaking way for Tyler’s story to end but I think ultimately he will be happier as a wolf. Elena urges him to leave Mystic Falls and embrace his werewolf side. This also may have been the only time Elena and Tyler have a one-on-one scene together.
  7. Damon. Elena’s sleeping spell will of course be felt the most by Damon. They share a beautiful final dance and Elena tells him not to wait around for her. He should live his life and be happy. He didn’t get a chance to take the cure yet so he will remain a vampire while she sleeps. When she wakes up we can assume that he will take the cure and then they will start their lives together. We already know Damon to be very capable of patience when it comes to love. He waited for Katherine for 145 years, but that is also part of what made him into the angry, impulsive, bad vampire we first met. Elena changed Damon, will he be able to live up to that while she is gone?

If we are being honest, Elena was never the most interesting character on this show. But, she was the glue that held it all together and the character that most of the plot revolved around. Luckily The Vampire Diaries has many well developed characters that can keep the story going, but it is going to be different. Her departure gives the show some opportunities though for some new directions in the final two seasons. Without giving away how well they do or don’t achieve any of this, one of the biggest opportunities is to refocus the show on the bond between the Salvatores. Their relationship is the true core of the show, thought it has been a while since they really explored it. I feel that the show can and does survive the departure of Elena, but could not continue on without both Salvatores. There is also the chance for Bonnie and Caroline to be brought to the forefront. They have been the secondary characters for six seasons and definitely deserve their share of the spotlight. Finally, it will force the show to reinvent itself some, which any show 7 seasons in kind of has to do anyway to stay interesting.

Elena will be gone but not forgotten. If this episode showed us anything it is that every one of the remaining characters will feel her loss deeply. She has made a lasting impression on all of them and her leaving will change them all. Though I am sad to see her go, I am excited to really evaluate how the show moves on. The last two seasons contain some real series highlights and will give the characters new questions to explore. Even if it is a bit of a bumpy ride.

Episode Grade: 10/10

Season Grade: 8/10

Other Thoughts:

  • Kai killed Jo in order to keep her from having twins that would challenge him as leader of the coven in 22 years.
  • I had completely forgotten exactly how everything went don’t with Kai and was very impressed with the reveal. He got Lily’s blood in exchange for her companions. Then killed himself in order to kill the rest of the coven. Then fed on his own father’s blood to complete the transition. Too bad Damon killed him though, I am going to miss him.
  • I think for Caroline and Bonnie’s goodbye they were supposed to be in Elena’s old room, but they definitely would have taken down that set. It looks like they just converted the Whitmore dorm set to look like her old room. You can tell from the window placement.
  • The episode ends with a flash forward of an unknown amount of time though it looks like it has been a few years. We see Matt as a cop driving through Mystic Falls which looks like it has been hit by a hurricane and then we see Damon standing on top of the clock tower looking kind of evil, implying that he won’t be taking Elena’s loss very well.
  • I loved that Kai revealed his big plan to Bonnie via the camcorder. It is one final shout out to the 90s theme of the season.
  • The writers are careful to close any gaps that would allow the characters to see Elena’s face in the future. They spell her coffin shut so no one can visit her and do the mind sharing thing they did in this episode. Kai also mentions that his death finalized the spell so there is no breaking it.
  • Lily gets her family back already setting up who the villains will be next season. Enzo also joins them.
  • Stefan tells Caroline that he will wait for her to be ready for him because he has been changed for the better knowing and falling in love with her.
  • Body Count: Liv, Jo, Papa Parker, and many other Geminis, all by Kai (3+). Though technically Tyler killed Liv I am going to put this one on Kai. Damon kills Kai (1).

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