Last week we got enough of a reprieve to see Caroline (Candice King) and Stefan (Paul Wesley) tie the knot! This week’s final goodbye went through so many emotions that I am still recovering from the roller coaster of the one-hour final episode! There is always a danger of a series finale leaving viewers feeling a bit incomplete. Heck, I’m STILL annoyed with the ending of How I Met Your Mother! However, I can honestly say that this finale left me completely gratified. For eight seasons, these characters overcame so many obstacles, and in the last hour, you get a sense that they have discovered themselves in a way that leaves you feeling good. Moreover, what is a series finale without a big shocker?
Before we get started, I will freely admit that I shed a good amount of tears while watching the episode and a few as I wrote this recap!
The episode begins with Bonnie (Kat Graham) who was knocked unconscious due to the first strike of the bell. Stefan attempts to revive her but it doesn’t work. Caroline finds them and gives Bonnie her blood, which is also unsuccessful. Stefan tries CPR, but that doesn’t seem effective either. With a flash, Bonnie appears in a wooded area. Unsure where she is, she begins to navigate through the trees and as if in a fairy tale, she comes upon Elena (Nina Dobrev) who is sleeping on a stark white bed – sleeping beauty. Elena wakes up and rushes to hug her best friend. She suddenly realizes that this moment might mean that Bonnie is dead and the delight of their reunion quickly vanishes. Bonnie tries to convince Elena that she is ok and is ready because now she can be with Enzo (Michael Malarkey), but that was not the deal. Bonnie was supposed to live a long life and grow old before they switched places. At that moment, Enzo appears and reiterates that it’s not Bonnie’s time. He takes her hand and she is jolted back into her body. Overwhelmed with what just happened, she tells Caroline and Stefan that she saw Elena.
Back at the bell tower, Vicki (Kayla Ewell) continues to ring the bell. Like Kelly, her mother, Katherine also gave her a task – ring the bell every five minutes and release hellfire to destroy the town. Katherine promised her that by doing this, she would escape an eternity of torture. Hell must seriously be awful for all these people to do such horrible things! Damon (Ian Somerhalder) quickly arrives to stop her and defiantly she resists. His solution? Fling her out of the window! Of course, this occurs just as Matt (Zach Roerig) reaches the platform. Matt and Damon bicker about his decision when suddenly Vicki reappears at the stairs and heads for the bell again. Damon stops by snapping her neck. This time, however, he is testing a theory. In seconds, Vicki is awake again. Since she is already dead, there is no way to really kill her or stop her. He decides that since it is useless to keep killing her, he will leave it to Matt to try to talk some sense into her instead. While Matt is used to seeing the unexplained, he is still shocked to see his sister after such a long time. Damon quips, “The fate of Mystic Falls lies with you and your family.” Geez, no pressure there!
Seeing how determined Vicki is, Matt initiates the town’s evacuation plan and his reason, “Gas leak…yea again.” If I lived in this town, I would be very suspicious of all these gas leaks!
Unable to stop Vicki, Damon and Stefan hurry back to the house where they discover an open coffin. RUH ROH! Perplexed by an empty coffin, a seemingly awake Elena greets them. Damon rushes to hug her, but quickly figures out that the woman he is holding is NOT Elena. As he let’s go, her expression turns dark and the imposter lets out an evil snicker as she gloats on how successfully she was able to deceive them,
Wicked Katherine has finally come out of the shadows and she is not messing around! But wait, if that is Katherine, where on earth is Elena? DOUBLE RUH ROH! Refusing to reveal where she has hid Elena’s body, Katherine instead divulges that she influenced Cade while in hell, and she is the main reason why he showed such interest in the brothers. Damon furiously demands to know where she has hidden her, and again she deflects the question by stating that at 10 p.m. the town will burn as will Elena along with it. She then adds that most likely one of them will also perish with her. Before she can place her bets on which of the brothers will die with Elena, Stefan plunges a dagger into her. That’s one effective way of shutting her up! Now it’s become a race to find Elena before it’s too late.
There is a lot of chaos as residents of Mystic Falls try to evacuate. Peter (Joel Gretsch) finds Matt at the hospital and he knows something isn’t right. He heard the bell and then found out about the evacuation orders. Matt wants to move him to another location for his safety since he is still recovering from the attack by Matt’s mother, Kelly. Peter, however, questions this decision. If Matt’s not ringing the bell, and Peter isn’t ringing it either, then who is? Poor Matt has to break the news that it is his daughter, Vicki.
Meanwhile, Stefan brings Caroline up to speed over the phone and they set plans to meet at the high school. Caroline takes a tender moment to look at a picture of her mother and her before Alaric (Matthew Davis) comes in for the rest of their girl’s bags. They are packed and ready to head to the Armory, along with Bonnie. Caroline tells him that she is going to stay behind with Stefan to search for Elena and Alaric is not pleased. He doesn’t want her to take the risk because the girls need Caroline just as much as Damon needs Elena. Caroline promises that she will get to safety in time. She should know better than to make a promise when it comes to supernatural threats!
At the high school, Stefan discovers Elena’s body in the boiler room. He quickly grabs her and heads towards the door, but learns that an invisible spell is keeping him from escaping with her. Stefan informs Damon of their situation – thanks to Kai Parker he can’t get Elena out of the room. Damon has to get Katherine to break the spell. Now THAT sounds like a piece of cake!
Lucky for Damon, Katherine conveniently appears. While the bone dagger can kill her and send her back to hell, it can’t keep her there. Frustrated with her games, Damon demands to know what it is she really wants. She tells him that only Kai Parker can release her and he’s unfortunately inaccessible. Her hate for the town, Elena, and the boys is her only focus. Damon states, “You’re jealous of Elena because you know that Stefan and I both would choose her over you every time.” She quickly retorts, “And she would choose Stefan…” Why Damon asks? “Because I would, any woman would. Stefan is the better man.” With that last comment, Damon drives the dagger back into her. Something tells me he has had enough of this conversation!
As Alaric and Bonnie drive towards the Armory with the twins, Caroline and Stefan update them on the latest situation with Elena. Unfortunately, they are too far to help and they all realize that Damon will never leave without Elena. With this, Alaric tells Caroline that she needs to leave now using the tunnels since it’s faster. This had to be difficult for Alaric, because even though he is concerned about Elena, Damon, and Stefan, he can’t lose Caroline for the sake of the twins. We all know that Damon won’t leave Elena and that means that Stefan won’t leave Damon. Oh the slow welling of tears has begun folks!
Stefan is going to try to convince Damon, but Caroline fears that he won’t be able to. She is torn between the love she has for Stefan and her promise to Alaric and the girls. Her anguish is unbearable, especially when she says, “Family first.” After one last kiss and a ‘I love you’, she races out of the high school, leaving her husband of only a few hours behind.
At the Armory, Alaric gets the girls settled. Even though Alaric is feeling guilty about asking Caroline to come back, Bonnie understands his reasons. She notices a pile of documents and inquires about them. Apparently, Dorian (Demetrius Bridges) and he learned that the only way to destroy Cade’s hell would require a substantial amount of mystical energy. Bonnie wonders if the energy they need is similar to what would be contained in hellfire. Perhaps their ‘Hail Mary’ plan is not a total loss after all! She swiftly calls Stefan to tell him that they might have plan, but in order for it to work, Katherine has to be in hell when Bonnie destroys it.
Bonnie thanks the twins for helping her realize that she had the magic she needed all along. Just then, Caroline shows up, and Alaric tells her that they have to go right now. Bonnie tells Caroline that she is going to save the world and Caroline needs to go with Alaric and the twins. There is little time to argue so Bonnie tells Caroline she loves her, to which Caroline responds with, “Don’t do anything stupid, Bonnie Bennett.” Bonnie’s reply, “I’ll be fine. Promise.” The foreboding music and her look do not leave a good feeling in my stomach and the welling of tears start again.
Meanwhile, Damon is waiting for predictable Katherine to show up in the tunnels away from town. Now it’s his turn to gloat as he tells her that Bonnie is going to save the day. Katherine doubts this is possible because she doesn’t think Bonnie is capable. How could little, pathetic Bonnie draw the most powerful source of energy within hellfire away from the town? Damon’s money is on Bonnie as it rightfully should be! He then discloses that he and Katherine will both be waiting in hell for the fire to destroy them both. While Katherine calls him on his bluff, Stefan appears. As the brothers argue about who is going to stay behind to ensure Katherine is dead when the fire comes their way, Damon daggers Katherine once again. I have to say watching her get repeatedly stabbed throughout this episode quite amusing! Stefan pleads with Damon that he needs to do this in order to make up for what he has done to Enzo, Bonnie, and everyone else. Stefan’s need for redemption has been haunting him and this might be the only way to acquire it.
As they argue about who needs the redemption more, my heart breaks, because it’s now more apparent than ever, that one of them is going to have to make the biggest sacrifice of all. The tears now have turned into a steady stream! As these two brothers say their final goodbyes, Damon goes to compel him in a last ditch effort to save the only other person he could never live without.
In the bell tower, Vicki is dangerously approaching the final ring. Peter and Matt make it up the stairs and while she is shocked to see her dad, she declares that this last minute effort to stop her won’t work. However, they have been brought up to speed with Bonnie’s plans, so they aren’t there to stop her. When Vicki questions why they are there if not to stop her, Peters tearfully says, “I just wanted to see my daughter one last time.”
We are about halfway through and I’m still desperately holding hope that everyone will miraculously make it out unharmed! A gut feeling tells me I’m so terribly wrong.
The moments that follow are filled with scenes accompanied by ominous music as each character comes to terms with the risks they are about to take. Bonnie is alone in the Armory and prays to her Grams for help. She then begins to recite the spell. As she does, Vicki looks on to Matt and Peter, who are safely by the road, one last time. Meanwhile on the road, Caroline pleads with Alaric to tell her what is going on, and as he reveals to her the plan their audio fades into the music and her despair is clearly visible through the car windshield. Overcome with grief, Caroline forces Alaric to pull over and she calls Stefan. Since he doesn’t pick up she leaves one last message in the hopes he will get it in time, “Stefan, please call me, please, I need you to know that I understand. I love you. I will love you forever. I understand.” Full fledge sobbing now!
As Vicki strikes the bell for the 12th and final time, she unleashes hellfire and it engulfs the tower. A swift roar of the flames and it encloses on itself as Bonnie continues her spell. The fire races through the tunnels just as Katherine wakes up. Damon has a gratifying smile on his face as he watches the flames pass. Stefan, who we thought Damon had compelled, snaps out of it and runs back. As the flames reach the Armory, Bonnie manages to hold it steady. She is clearly struggling since the fire is powerful. She screams that, “It’s not my time!” When this happens, Enzo appears by her side and lets her know that she is not alone, “Keep fighting, love.” Her Grams (Jasmine Guy) takes her hand, along with Beatrice (Jaz Sinclair), Lucy (Natashia Williams), and every other Bennett witch. Together they fight the flames and force it back into the bell, effectively destroying it and hell. She then faints.
All the while, we are wondering what happened with Stefan? The next scene cuts to the high school. The camera pans through the trophy display. Elena is there and runs into Stefan. She is confused and so he explains that Damon sacrificed everything for her and the town. He tells her that he is human and Damon tried compelling him, but he should have known that it wouldn’t have worked. We then see Stefan grab a syringe and take some of his blood. We watch him inject that needle into Damon who is struggling to keep Katherine in place. In between my hiccupping sobs, my fears are closer to coming true – Stefan just might be the one to sacrifice himself for EVERYONE! Once he had given the cure to Damon, his body will rapidly age, which means he will die soon. He drives the dagger into Katherine one final time as they stand in the path of the fire that is returning to the bell. His last words as he turns to Damon,
It is obvious now that like Bonnie’s experience earlier, when she had briefly died, he was able to reunite with Elena in the moments between life and death. The last encounter brings their special relationship full circle; as he tells her how his wish is to see Elena get to know the Damon he knew growing up, “He’s the better man. He’s the right man.” While they hold each other close one final time, he whispers into her ear. Am I the only one who yelled at Elena – ‘Don’t let him go’?
She watches Stefan head towards the door, and when he walks through it, Lexi Branson (Arielle Kebbel) is waiting for him! This really made me happy because in my mind, she and Stefan always had a real special bond! I was delighted to see her be the one to welcome him into what I can only hope is a peaceful afterlife.
In the final moments of this episode, Elena narrates as she writes to her diary. When she wakes, and this time it’s for real, Bonnie is at her side. She has finally figured out how to break Kai’s spell! Elena asks where ‘he’ is, to which Bonnie answers, “He is with Caroline. Saying goodbye.”
Damon and Caroline are seen at Stefan’s grave, and the inscription reads, Brother-Husband-Friend. At the bottom it says, Now At Peace. All those years of constant torture and now he can finally rest. That thought seems to provide some comfort for Damon and Caroline as they hold onto each other. Even though Damon wonders if there is such a place and if he would even make it there, Caroline is confident they will, “We’ll see him again.” When Caroline comes out of the Salvatore crypt, she sees Elena and Bonnie. Damon is right behind and their embrace is truly EPIC! Elena also has a message for Caroline from Stefan, “One day when you wake up, tell Caroline I heard her and I will love her forever too.” Her tears only make the message bittersweet for me, because I truly did loved them together! Alaric and Matt join the four of them so they all can say a final farewell to Stefan.
“And life goes on.”
I am going to do my best to finish this without losing it, but I know better than to promise that! In these final minutes, we fast-forward to the future. Each of the characters narrates where they are and what might be in store for the future. The kicker of it all is that while we watch, we see that they are not alone. Long-time fans get to see some familiar faces that are also keeping an eye over their loved ones.
Matt Donovan – He remained Sherriff of Mystic Falls, got a bench named after him, and is thinking to run for mayor. Vicki and Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino) both smile as they move on.
Bonnie Bennett – She is determined to keep her promise to Enzo. She is going to travel and live her life to the fullest. We see that Enzo is still right by her side and part of her knows this. Oh my heart!
Alaric Saltzman – Damon gave him and Caroline the one thing that Stefan wanted for them – Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted. Jo Laughlin (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) is nearby watching over her family, and for a minute, it seems Alaric senses her.
Caroline Forbes – To help with the school, Caroline and Alaric enlisted the help of Dorian and Jeremy Gilbert (Steven R. McQueen). It was so wonderful to see that Dorian stayed on and that Jeremy returned! As she reaches for a stack of letters that she drops we see her mom, Liz (Marguerite MacIntyre), briefly touch her. For a second she also senses this! We see her then open a letter from a very old friend and apparently a new donor for the school. The letter is from Klaus Mikaelson, and Alaric is heard saying, “But that is the beginning of another story.” I certainly don’t mind the suggestion that these two might somehow find their way back to each other! She deserves happiness!
Elena Gilbert – We see her continuing to write in her journal and spending some quality time by the Salvatore crypt. She went to medical school and then returned home to grow old and live out her ‘epic’ life. She recounts how her coming back to life after her parents’ death was all due to Stefan and she would continue to live it for as long as she could. We soon see Damon patiently waiting for her. She takes his hand and they walk off together.
In the next frame, Damon and Elena’s hands now have wedding rings, and they are walking through town. At first, it’s not clear at what stage of life we are seeing them, but when we see Damon vanish and Elena turn to discover her family, it implies that perhaps this is them, crossing over into the afterlife. A peaceful afterlife where they can reunite with loved ones after living a long fulfilled life together. Her aunt, Jenna (Sara Canning), her parents, and her biological father, John Gilbert (David Anders), all excitedly welcome her with open arms.
Throughout his life, Damon continued to fear that he would never find peace and, as a result, he would never see Stefan again. However, when we see Stefan standing in front of a fire in what appears to be their mansion that possibility quickly disappears. He turns towards the door and as he opens it, he smiles! Damon is standing there,
I don’t know about everyone else, but this series finale had me at ‘hello’! So many magical moments and it possessed the one thing I crave most for our characters – CLOSURE! It was so satisfying to see that the afterlife isn’t all about darkness. That somehow between them saving the world (multiple times) and destroying hell, they all found peace both while they lived and for some, in the hereafter. My final thoughts on the series – Thank you for one hell of a ride!