This review contains spoilers.
Holy crap! Just when The Vampire Diaries had fooled us all with its apparent complacency, willingness to coast on its love triangle and inability to make character deaths matter, it delivered Home – a season finale that single-handedly redeems the last two years with one brave, gut-wrenching sequence. Season five has been a frustrating experience for fans, and that doesn’t change, but it’s largely forgotten when a show going into its sixth season can deliver something this powerful. Did they just kill one of their stars? Does this mean no more ghost episodes (good riddance)? What the heck are they going to do now?
The Vampire Diaries has always, to some extent, been about Elena’s shifting affections towards the two Salvatore brothers but, in recent seasons, it’s also been about the inability to let favourite characters permanently ride off into the sunset. I’m cautious about accepting the end of this episode as anything remotely permanent, especially given that the last time I had this visceral a reaction to the show was back when Jeremy was killed and Elena burnt their house down (we know how that ended), but surely doing away with The Other Side permanently will remove the writers’ favourite shortcut to guest appearances?
That’s the big question that hangs over this finale and the season six premiere, as the promise of killing Bonnie and Damon for good leaves us in a strange position. If they’re not really going to die then I can’t see the show surviving for too much longer but, if they go through with it, then we’re going to be watching Vampire Diaries without one of its central, most beloved characters. Damon is an incredibly popular, and important, presence on the show – one third of the love triangle and our resident redeemable anti-hero. I said last week that killing off your main character usually gets some attention, and how right that thought was.
I began watching this episode with my usual lowered expectations, not knowing what to expect but anticipating yet another ‘epic’ showdown between the group and whatever mystical coven were currently hanging around Mystic Falls (they honestly blur into one after a while). What was delivered, however, was a really strong finale that suddenly made the show about the characters again. Even Bonnie, who has always been used as a day-saving plot device in past seasons, was given something a lot more substantial to do – merging her usual role in things with a movingly heroic ending.
But it wasn’t just Bonnie – everything mattered again. I don’t know if it was nostalgia at seeing Alaric again (series regular for season six!) or just the shock of being surprising by Vampire Diaries again, but even moments like Jeremy not reaching Bonnie in time, Lexi sacrificing herself for Stefan one last time and Luke putting his sister above the group felt so well thought-out, moving and important. Somehow, they didn’t even distract from the main event – Damon failing to return from the other side and Elena’s subsequent devestation (bravo, Nina Dobrev) – instead adding to the drama of it all.
There’s a chance I’m giving the show too much credit but, even if we do end up seeing Damon and Bonnie back in a rebuilt Mystic Falls next season, that shouldn’t diminish the impact of this episode. Every now and again, a series past its prime can make faithful fans sit up and pay attention again, and that’s what Home did. It’s been far too long since people have been able to get excited about the show, which used to be one of the best and bravest shows on the air once upon a time.
This potentially marks a return to form, despite being far too late in the day for such things, and promises a lot more to come in its upcoming sixth season. See you there for more Alaric, more Steroline and potentially, possibly, maybe less Ian Somerhalder.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Promised Land, here.
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