The Vampire Diaries comes to a bittersweet end

The Vampire Diaries Season 8, Episode 16 (“I Was Feeling Epic”)
Nina Dobrev, The Vampire Diaries

After about a year and a half of writing these reviews I have finally made it to the series finale! It is definitely bittersweet. I have very much enjoyed doing these reviews but the last few seasons have been a struggle. The finale, however, is pretty strong, even if it is a bit of a cheese-fest. To be fair, it is hard to write a non-cheesy series finale if you want it to be a happy one. I mostly want to talk about everyone’s endings and whether or not they were deserved and my enjoyment of the series as a whole.

Briefly, plot-wise the finale accomplishes both killing Katherine and destroying Hell along with it. Bonnie reconnects with her magic just in time to save the town from devastation. Really they all would have been dead a long time ago if it wasn’t for her. Katherine has always gotten what she wants but in the end she loses which is only fitting. She was the genesis of everything that happened in this series so it is fitting that it would end with her final death. There are lots of little callbacks and devices that reconnect the show to its roots, which I have detailed below.

So where does everyone end up? Let’s start with the Salvatores who definitely had the biggest question mark next to them about what kind of ending they deserved. Stefan sacrifices himself to save the town, Elena, and Damon. Is this a fitting ending for Stefan? Should Damon have been the one to die? Should they have both died? I know this is something the writers went back on forth on for years. And for a while the plan was to have them both die and Elena would marry Matt in the end. But that was before the show went on for so many years and Nina Dobrev left. Obviously at this point that would not be a very fair ending. And someone needs to sacrifice themselves in the hellfire along with Katherine to ensure that she actually dies. With Katherine you can never guarantee anything.

Damon and Stefan fight over who is more worthy of living. Stefan sees his sacrifice as atonement for all the blood he has shed, but that would mean Damon should die too. Would Stefan have lived a happy life with Caroline? Or would he have always felt the guilt for everything he did? Damon is more easily able to forgive himself and move on. He gets his happy ending but in a way Stefan does too. He got to marry Caroline and his death meant something. He turned Damon into a vampire 150 years ago, something he has always felt guilty for. Giving Damon a human life with the girl he loves is his way of atoning for that. I don’t think it is so much a question of whether Stefan deserves to die but whether this was a fitting ending for him and I think it was. He is reunited with Lexi in the afterlife and then about 60 years later he is reunited with Damon too, so all is well.

Elena does wake up without Bonnie having to die (through some loophole that is not explained). She ultimately goes to medical school, opens up shop in Mystic Falls, and marries Damon. And in her afterlife she is reunited with her family, which is something she has always wanted. Even Uncle/Daddy John is there. There wasn’t much to wrap up with Elena at this point since she has been in a coma for two seasons. She made her choice on Salvatores a long time ago. And because of that, Nina Dobrev spent much more of the episode as Katherine than Elena.

Poor Caroline loses her husband like two seconds after they get married. But she understands why he makes the decision and accepts it. Caroline was always going to outlive him, that day just came sooner than expected. She is the only one left an immortal at the end. What will she do with her immortality? At least for now she is going to be helping Alaric out with the new school and a letter from Klaus implies that their story might not be over. Hopefully she will get out and see the world just as Klaus encouraged her to do way back when. Alaric opens up the Salvatore Boarding School for the young supernaturals, setting up the Legacies spinoff. Though that is more fully done in the final season of The Originals.

Bonnie’s ending is pretty open ended. She gets to be a witch again and decides that she wants to travel the world, actually enjoying her life. It is a happy ending but I feel like she deserved more. Is she just going to hold out for Enzo for the next 60 years? Will she allow herself to fall in love again? Finally, Matt continues on being sheriff of Mystic Falls. They even name a bench after him. Matt has no desire to leave Mystic Falls and has always striven to protect it. It is fitting that he would go on doing just that. Are Mystic Falls’ supernatural problems over? Or will it continue as it always has? I’m guessing with the boarding school opening up they will still very much be a problem, but the finale doesn’t really hint at that. I like to think that no matter what Mystic Falls will always be a supernatural hot spot, anything else just doesn’t seem right.

This has not been a perfect show by any means. It has had a lot of ups and downs, especially towards the end. The last couple of seasons I really struggled to keep writing through because it just wasn’t the compelling show that I had fallen in love with anymore. Even the first few seasons that I love had their issues, but as a whole this is a show that I have just completely fallen in love with. There is just something about this show that is so compelling. Part of why I wanted to start writing these reviews was to figure out why that is. It is a show that you have to look below the surface to really see why it is so good. It would be easy to watch it and just get caught up in the plot and love triangle drama and not really see why these stories are so interesting. This is not a show about vampires, witches, or werewolves. Those are just devices. It is a show about humanity, morality, forgiveness, and family. That is at the heart of everything in this show. And the characters are so well written. I can’t think of too many other shows where every character is complex and has at least some sort of redeeming quality. Of the main cast at least there are no characters that I totally hated. Even if some took longer to get there.

Another thing I love about this show is how much it opened up my eyes about genre. I was definitely prejudiced against the supernatural genre in general prior to watching this show. It didn’t just change my mind on that but also in general just really making me realize that there is no such thing as a categorically bad genre. There is good and bad storytelling in all of them. What is most important is having a story worth telling, the plot is just the mechanics. It is also great escapism and allows me to dream of living a life where I don’t have to work, pay taxes, have insurance, and do all the other mundane things humans have to do. Would I really want to live the vampire life? No, but the idea of living an immortal life of freedom and pleasure is very appealing. I would not be sticking around Mystic Falls for eternity that is for sure. I would travel around and live as many different lives as I could.

Episode Grade: 9/10

Season Grade: 7/10

All The Callbacks

  • Matt calls for an emergency evacuation of the town, again. How many times have the residents of Mystic Falls but forced to evacuate for a gas leak or other made up reason?
  • Katherine pretends to be Elena once again, though she doesn’t trick them for long.
  • Of course the final episode would center around saving Elena, and someone having to sacrifice themselves to do so.
  • The Mystic Falls tunnels prove useful once again.
  • All of the Bennett witches spirits show up to help Bonnie reroute the hellfire, including Grams, Lucy, and Bea. I cried a little when Grams showed up.
  • I also cried when Lexi and Stefan were reunited.
  • Diary writing bookends. Elena writes kind of a mirror of what she wrote in the pilot, but this time it is more hopeful. She says that she will have a beautiful life even if it brings pain, that is the cost of living.
  • So many dead characters make an appearance at the end as they are watching over their loved ones from the afterlife. Vicki, Tyler, Enzo, Liz, and Jo.
  • Jeremy also returns to help out with the school. I feel like he and Dorian are going to be besties.
  • The fucking crow.
  • “That’s for me to know and you to dot, dot, dot”
  • Tiki’s grandpa?? “Where’s my granddaughter? Where’s Tiki?” If I had taken bets on who would show back up in the finale it would not have been him.
  • Episode Title: “I was feeling epic” is something that Lexi says to Stefan in “162 Candles” in Season 1 about talking to Elena for him.
  • Body Count: If we are not counting people who were already dead, just Stefan.

Final Body Count Tallies (listed from most to least number of bodies)

  • Stefan: 92
  • Damon: 83
  • Klaus: 46
  • Caroline: 18
  • Enzo: 15
  • Elijah: 11
  • Alaric: 8
  • Katherine: 8
  • Matt: 7
  • Jeremy: 5
  • Bonnie: 3
  • Elena: 3
  • Tyler: 3
  • Total Deaths, including miscellaneous characters: 394. And I am sure I am being conservative in that estimate.

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