This review contains spoilers.
6.22 I’m Thinking Of You All The While
When the news broke of Nina Dobrev’s imminent departure from the show she’d been the centre of for six whole seasons, it was hard to imagine just how the writers would be able to whisk Elena Gilbert out of everyone’s lives without killing her off. Doing so would have been a huge betrayal of why people loved her character, I think we can all agree, but at this point in her journey it would be equally awkward to have her just skip town once her humanity was restored.
So here we have a middle ground – getting Elena out of the picture without actually having her die forever – and, while a little inelegant, it made for a fitting finale for both the character and The Vampire Diaries as we currently know it. Elena won’t wake up as long as Bonnie is alive, and she fully intends for her best friend to live a full and happy life.
Things won’t be the same when we return, as proven by the apocalyptic teaser tacked onto the end of this finale, but it’s a testament to everything the show’s managed to do this season that so much change is exciting rather than worrying. Getting rid of a protagonist can often go either way, especially for a series so obviously based around certain relationships, but I have a good feeling about it here.
And while there’s a definite headline, it has to be said that I’m Thinking Of You All the While is also a pretty decent season finale, highlighting so many of the things The Vampire Diaries has managed to do right over the last eight months. Think about it – had Elena’s fate come down to Bonnie a year ago, I think the majority of the audience would have been steadfastly on the side that the latter is expendable. Now, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We’ve finally been given reasons to love Bonnie Bennett, and my favourite moment of this episode full of instant-classic moments was probably the double-bluff of Damon leaving her to die. All those weeks in 90s Mystic Falls came down to this, Damon having something he cares for almost as much as he cares for Elena, and choosing that person over his own end-goal.
It’s easy to believe that he would choose Elena over someone, anyone else when the stakes are this high, but we can equally trust that he’s developed enough of a bond with Bonnie that he would save her in place of his own happily ever after. The old Damon would have risked Elena hating him for the sake of having her – think back to Stefan saving Matt in the car accident – but he’s changed, and that’s never been more apparent.
It was a smart decision to weave the flashbacks/dream visits throughout the episode, so as not to make the last act bottom-heavy with nostalgia, and the choice of scene was perfect for pretty much every character.
I lamented last week how much suffering Alaric has had to go through over the last six seasons, and wow did Matthew Davis sell just how devastating it all is. Having a character point a gun at his head and pull the trigger is pretty dark, but then so is stabbing a pregnant woman through the chest on her wedding day. As gruesome and upsetting as some of the things that The Vampire Diaries throws at us are, though, it’s rare we see such a visceral, human reaction.
I’m curious as to where Alaric’s going to go next year, after a season of playing at having his life back. I hope this, combined with Elena’s words to him during her goodbye, bring back the hunter Alaric of old because, aside from this episode, his arc has kind of felt like a waste of bringing him back at all.
I’d like to forget Tyler but, as this was also Michael Trevino’s last episode, that would be unfair. I’ll go as far as to say I feel quite sorry for fans of the character after this, though. If it wasn’t enough for him to be shoved out the door as an afterthought, or him exiting the show as a werewolf, his last act was to suffocate his girlfriend in order to keep himself alive. Yeah, she asked him to, but he barely hesitated.
I do appreciate the writers’ keeping him in character until the end, and it’s arguable that biting Kai was a conscious (failed) attempt to save the day, but a semi-heroic exit (or an exit at all) wouldn’t have gone amiss.
But those goodbyes were such a treat (aka source of emotional trauma) for long-time fans of this show. If the callback to Bonnie floating the feathers – a flashback to a simpler time of youthful wonderment at the magic in the world – didn’t get you, then Matt’s grief at his humanity meaning he’ll never being able to see his oldest friend again will have.
It’s all the things that defined their relationships, right down to Elena now being a caregiver to Alaric, instead of the other way around. It was also nice to have Jeremy comfort Alaric just as much as he did Elena, making good use of his short cameo return.
And Damon’s goodbye was as ridiculous and epic and romantic as that love story has always been. They danced in the road on which they first met as the show’s love letter to the past, all while looking to the future with a re-establishment of Stefan and Caroline’s love story for the future.
But really, as important as Elena was as an audience gateway and face of the show, The Vampire Diaries has always really been a love story between two brothers. That’s why Stefan’s realisation that Elena’s lasting effect on his life had been his relationship with Damon was such a fantastic moment. For a show that sells itself on its love triangle, that’s huge.
The Vampire Diaries has evolved past its humble beginnings as a show about a teenage girl in love with two vampires. It hasn’t been about that for a long time. This was the perfect point in the narrative for Elena to leave, then, with Damon and Stefan now the de facto leads with their own compelling histories and stories to tell.
Not all of the people we love have to be our soulmates and some of our soulmates don’t have to be romantic ones – it’s wonderful for the show to make this distinction as it moves into the next phase of storytelling.
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