After eight seasons of doppelgängers, witchcraft, deaths, resurrections and vervain, The CW supernatural drama The Vampire Diaries (TVD) has fed for the last time. The final episode, entitled “I Was Feeling Epic”, returned to the show’s roots. “I Was Feeling Epic” was a very satisfying finale that showed redemption was possible and worth striving for until you died. Many long running shows grapple to deliver a finale that is able to encapsulate the entire series. Genre shows are notorious for getting tangled up on their own continuity. They may also forget to address one critical question. How should the characters’ journeys end in a manner that makes sense, but respects the fans? Fortunately this was not the case with The Vampire Diaries.
TVD returned to its beginning by featuring the show’s quintessential triangle (ahem rectangle) of Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) and Katherine Pierce (Elena’s ancestor and doppelganger). This would not have been possible without the onscreen return of actress Nina Dobrev, who also portrays Katherine. A large portion of this episode’s success can be attributed to the return of Elena and Katherine. After Dobrev departed the show after season six, Elena was often utilized as an unseen McGuffin in various power struggles between the Salvatore Brothers and their newest foes.
Even though Elena was still a comatose McGuffin for the majority episode, seeing the character interact with her bestie Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham) on an astral plane was this fan’s wish come true. I swooned over Bonnie and Elena briefly reuniting, but the party did not truly begin until Dobrev appeared onscreen as Katherine Pierce. Years of falling prey to the machinations of doppelgängers taught the Salvatore Brothers how to quickly deduce an imposter. After several seasons of inactivity, Katherine and the Salvatore Brothers continued their lethal dance without skipping a beat. Damon and Stefan were determined to save Elena and their home town (Mystic Falls, Virginia) one last time, even if it cost one of them their life.
In true TVD tradition, Bonnie Bennett overcame emotional and physical trauma in order to wield the magic that was instrumental in saving everyone. Bonnie, who has spent seasons six and seven struggling with loss of her witchcraft, began displaying psychic bursts that would make Jean Grey from the X-Men take notice. Following the death of Bonnie’s vampire lover Enzo St. John (Michael Malarkey) in episode eleven, she unleashed a psychic cry. In the penultimate episode, Bonnie taught the magical twin daughters of Caroline Forbes-Salvatore (Candice King) to use her innate powers to save them from an explosion. These Jean Grey Phoenix style power-ups culminated in Bonnie calling upon the strength of her Bennett Witch ancestors in order to manipulate the hellfire Katherine’s puppet Vicki Donavan (Kayla Ewell) unleashed upon the town.
Matt Donavan (Zach Roerig), one of the show’s only non-supernatural beings, usurped the role of McGuffin from Elena’s comatose body in season eight. Earlier in the season Matt discovered he was descended from the Maxwell Family, one of Mystic Falls founding families. Matt’s bloodline along with an object forged by one of his ancestors was a key part of Katherine’s plan. This resulted in Matt having an impromptu family reunion with his long-dead sister Vicki and their deadbeat, but still alive father, Peter Maxwell (Joel Gretsch). Like so many other supporting characters, Matt became just another cog in the machine that supported the Stefan/Elena/ Damon/ Katherine quadrangle until the end.
By returning to its origins for the finale, TVD was forced to reduced screen time some of its more recent couplings like Caroline and Stefan (aka Steroline). Unfortunately Katherine’s return also derailed any potential honeymoon plans. Steroline fans would need to be satisfied with the couple’s wedding which occurred in episode fifteen. Caroline and Stefan were allotted screen time during the finale to put a bow on their relationship. Katherine’s return also caused Caroline’s co-parent and mystic relic hunter, Alaric Saltzman (Matt Davis), to spend most of the episode trying to get his daughters to safety. However snippets of dialogue highlighted Alaric’s friendship with Damon. If there were any doubts about Alaric being TVD’s version of Giles (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) the ending montage laid those claims to rest.
Part of the onscreen success of TVD’s finale can easily be attributed to Elena and Katherine returning. However it was the behind the scenes heavy lifting that brought the episode together. The episode’s co-writer and director Julie Plec (along with the other co-writer and series creator Kevin Williamson) crafted a fitting coda to eight years of supernatural insanity. Many of the show’s former supporting cast members appeared in an onscreen cameo. Plec even managed to pay homage to TVD’s spin-off The Originals and acknowledge the elusive Klaus (Joseph Morgan)/Caroline pairing. If The Vampire Diaries’ finale could be graded in gymnastics terms, Plec and company ‘stuck the landing’. It is ironic that TVD aired its series finale on March 10th, 2017. Twenty years ago Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired its first episode on The WB, The CW’s predecessor. Buffy helped pave the way for The Vampire Diaries. Now The Vampire Diaries joins the television afterlife for vampire and supernatural dramas.