This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
After being dogged by rumors for months, it was finally confirmed at San Diego Comic-Con that season eight of The Vampire Diaries would be its last. It’s had a great run, especially for an old-fashioned series that exists on a network now almost entirely devoted to DC superheroes, and the fandom feels ready to say goodbye.
But final seasons of long-running shows are tricky. Old ideas can ruin series that have evolved, and new ideas can seem thrown together without an eye on a show’s history. Too many shows have gone out on a bad note, but there’s every chance that The Vampire Diaries can sidestep some of those problems and finish at its best.
Here are my ten wishes for the show’s final run…
A return to Mystic Falls & the Salvatore mansion.
If there’s one thing that was missing from season seven, it was the lack of Mystic Falls. It’s always nice to have a change of scenery every once in a while but, without the Mystic Grill or the Salvatore mansion, the show lost a lot of its texture. Instead, we got a lot of characters talking on the phone to each other from their cars.
It’s the final hurrah for the show, and — cliched as it may be — the town is a character that needs to return. We want to see Stefan and Damon arguing in the living room, or emotional moments shared in that crypt set, or Alaric drowning his sorrows at the Grill. No more phone conversations. No more car journeys.
Keep Damon single.
Last season was kind of remarkable in its resolve to explore Damon’s character without handing him any love interest at all, despite Elena more or less granting him permission to live his life in their final moments. I hope the writers aren’t tempted to lure Damon away from that self-imposed abstinence while he waits for the love of his life to return to him because, for the most part, it’s led us down an interesting path.
When we met Damon, he had been waiting for Katherine for generations, so it’s definitely in character for him to finish out the show without getting a new girlfriend. With this decision, fans get to enjoy a rare single character on a CW teen fantasy show, and Damon’s platonic relationships with brother Stefan and best friend Bonnie get some very welcome air time.
Let Alaric be happy.
If there was ever a television character who deserved a happy ending, it was Alaric. Introduced as a widower and then quickly handed yet another dead girlfriend, he’s had tough break after tough break, even as he’s been pushed more and more into the background of the show. He was even dead for several seasons before actor Matt Davis became available again, and, since then, the character has just been put through even more trauma.
In the season six finale, when his third partner (and mother of his unborn children) was killed in front of him, we had to watch him attempt suicide. Then, after getting a glimmer of hope in the form of Caroline’s mystical surrogate pregnancy, he seemed happy and settled after the three year time jump.
But this is The Vampire Diaries, and this is Alaric. He took Caroline leaving him like a champ (hey, at least she wasn’t murdered), but I fear that he’s in for some more tragedy this season. I want Alaric to be happy, the guy deserves it.
Let Matt be happy
The only other human character on the show besides Alaric, Matt has had almost as much trouble staying out of the inevitable mayhem that comes with your friends and family being vampires, werewolves, and witches. But the writers have made Matt’s humanity matter over the years — he’s the moral center, the shoulder to lean on. For a series as often manic as The Vampire Diaries, that kind of calm in the storm is valuable.
It was hard to like Matt last season, as he finally snapped and decided that the only way to sort his life out was to wipe out all of the show’s other main characters. Funnily enough, those plans failed, and he opted instead to leave town. But he’s back for the final season (with rumors of his missing father turning up), and I hope he finally comes to terms with his role within the group.
Leave the Mikaelsons out
It’s going to be tempting — in a season teeming with cameos and guest stars — to bring back Klaus, Rebekah, and Elijah, who moved over to their own series in 2013. But while the Mikaelsons may have all been introduced on The Vampire Diaries, The Originals is now very much its own universe, and it’d be stupid to pretend differently.
It may be an unpopular opinion, but the best spin-offs are good precisely because they become so separated from the mother show that crossovers stop making sense at all. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel are, as ever, my reference point for this. It may have been great fan-service to have David Boreanaz in the Buffy finale, but it didn’t make much sense in the context of the individual shows.
Thus, having Klaus appear to Caroline wouldn’t feel right. Shippers are always going to ship, but relationships end and not everything has to be resolved in a nice, neat way. In any case, there’s nothing stopping The Vampire Diaries characters from crossing over to The Originals after next season.
Keep cameos to a minimum.
As with the Mikaelsons, there’s a danger that too many cameos and old faces might simply distract from the task at hand: wrapping up stories and arcs for the existing characters. The Vampire Diaries has had more trouble than most letting dead characters stay dead, and this has had bad results as often as good.
Important characters like Jeremy or Tyler are fair game, but I have no desire to see Aunt Jenna or Lexi again.
While this wouldn’t the show we love without a few emotional reunions between long-separated friends, lovers and family members, there’s a fine line between doing this to elicit great, satisfying moments and doing it just so the cast and crew get to work with beloved actors again. Many a show has been burned by this in its final season, and I don’t want The Vampire Diaries to fall into the same trap.
Don’t kill off Bonnie.
Many of The Vampire Diaries‘ problems have become more noticeable in recent seasons, as with any show that’s been running for eight years, but one of the most surprising things about seasons 6-8 was the rise of Bonnie Bennett: Bad-Ass Female Lead.
We’ve known since the sixth season finale that in order for Elena to return, Bonnie has to die. Now, being a fantasy show, we know The Vampire Diaries can choose to retcon that particular rule if it wants, but there’s a danger that it could feel like a cheat if it does.
The other options are to kill her off at some point in the final season, allowing Elena to return, or to simply flash forward to some point in the future, when the character has died of natural causes after a long and happy life. Kat Graham has finally been given interesting things to portray, and deserves to go out like a hero. Having her die would cheapen her arc — as well as Damon’s — and I really hope the writers can find a way around this.
Focus on the friendships.
For a show that started as a love letter to melodramatic love triangles, we’ve been surprisingly free of ship wars since Elena finally settled on Damon in later seasons. It’s been nice, having Stefan, Caroline, and Alaric sort out their weird family dynamic like adults, or having Damon’s rivalry with Enzo be about his friendship with Bonnie, rather than any romantic interest.
This sets a precedent I hope means season eight is about more than who ends up with who. Really, the endgame couples seem more or less in place, and the conflict will most likely come from outside forces. This leaves space for the season to be about some of the great friendships that exist on the show, from Alaric/Damon to Caroline/Bonnie. That’s where the show’s real strength is, and should be celebrated.
No new characters.
A focus on the characters at hand also means that new players should be kept out of things as far as possible. Nobody wants to see one of our central characters hook up with random newbies, or for villains like the Heretics to take over the narrative like they did in season seven.
This is a big cast, with infinite relationships to mine for drama. It’s too late for us to effectively bond with anyone new and, bar characters directly connected to those we love, it’s bad storytelling for an ensemble drama like this to ask us to care about new people at the eleventh hour.
Have Elena return, but not until the end.
We’ve only just said goodbye to Elena, and we don’t necessarily need to dwell on it again so soon. She may have been the female lead of the show for its first six years, but she’s gone now and the end of its run shouldn’t revolve around her. Bottom line: we know how everyone feels about Elena, and we know how Elena feels about everyone in return. If she were to appear before the finale’s final moments, she would surely pull focus.
That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t return, as was promised when Nina Dobrev chose to leave the show back in 2015. Anything else would be unsatisfying, not just for Elena fans but also fans of her relationship with Damon or Alaric or Bonnie and Caroline (or Jeremy for that matter).
A final coda in which Elena and Damon reunite would feel just right, but more could just overwhelm things.
The Vampire Diaries returns to The CW on Friday, October 21st.