This review contains spoilers.
8.16 I Was Feeling Epic
True to form, a lot happened during I Was Feeling Epic, spanning decades of time and featuring more twists and turns than should really be allowed in a single hour. But this is The Vampire Diaries, and its biggest sin would have been if it was boring.
The tease from the end of last week’s penultimate instalment is resolved fairly quickly, with Bonnie straddling the line between life and death once again before Elena and Enzo tell her she’s not quite done yet. The fact that Elena is walking and talking and able to interact in this limbo place will be important later, but I loved that Bonnie was the first person who got to hold her close.
Vicky’s understandably still intent on burning the whole world to the ground, but Damon throws her out the belltower window in the episode’s first of a large amount of comedy deaths. Because she’s basically a zombie, she climbs right back up, and even Matt’s tearful pleas for her to stop don’t work.
Vicky doesn’t want to live in eternal torment anymore, and releasing hellfire on the whole town will mean she’ll finally be really, properly dead. They have until 10pm.
Damon and Stefan go back to the mansion to find what looks like Elena up and about and not in her coffin and, as we all saw in the promos, she gets a lovely reunion with the Salvatore brothers. Unlike what we saw in those pre-released clips, however, it turns out this is none other than Katherine Pierce. We couldn’t very well leave Mystic Falls without one more Nina Dobrev-switcheroo now could we?
Let’s dwell on those promos for a second, because I bet a lot of people are feeling kind of cheated right now. Me? I think they were genius. I’ve been grumbling all week about how they were spoiling the big moment of Elena’s return, and to have those clips be revealed to be of Katherine was just perfect.
As the episode progresses, the brothers keep using the bone dagger to send Katherine back to hell for a few minutes at a time, and I honestly don’t know whether this was supposed to be funny or not. It’s hilarious, and also means that Katherine’s only around briefly for some gloating and scenery chewing before somebody puts her out of commission again.
Stefan goes to the high school to collect Elena’s still-sleeping body, and we find out that Kai had one last parting gift for our antiheroes. She’s trapped, and so all of her friends and family debate over who can be the bigger martyr. That’s basically the rest of the episode – Alaric yelling at Caroline to leave, Caroline asking Stefan to escape with her, and Stefan refusing to go until he knows Damon will be safe.
The genius of the back half of this season was that it managed to feature a lot of grand, tearful goodbyes or reconciliations before we even got to this point. Series finales are so often bogged down with rushed scenes between couples or friends the writers know the fans want to see one last time.
But Damon and Bonnie got their great interaction in Nostalgia’s A Bitch, and so did Damon and Alaric a couple of weeks later. That means this episode is able to be a little more focused, primarily on Stefan and Damon as well as their connection with Elena. The only other loose end is Stefan and Caroline, who managed to get through an entire wedding last week. But despite their recent nuptials they decide that family comes first, which is pretty much the show’s mission statement.
The arguments over who needs to stay with Katherine while Bonnie redirects the hellfire (or something) are a bit tedious, but I guess casual fans would probably need a reminder of Stefan and Damon’s central conflict. Stefan has always felt guilty for being the reason Damon turned in the first place, and his human status means he’s technically giving up fewer years than Damon would be.
Knowing that someone major was going to die before the end of the episode, it always felt right for it to be Stefan. That debt could only ever be repaid by gifting Damon with the human life he should have had in the first place, and would one day be able to enjoy with Elena. Stefan becoming human earlier in the season made sense for his character, but it also made sense narratively for this finale.
So he took the cure out of himself – meaning his days were numbered anyway – and gave it to his brother.
Meanwhile, Bonnie got her big damn hero moment when she rediscovered her connection to the entire Bennett line. As Matt and his dad stood in the square waiting for Vicky to ring the bell one last time – accepting their fate if it would unite them – Bonnie managed to literally keep hell at bay with the help of her family. “Now you’re finally ready to live,” Enzo tells her.
Is it a bit anticlimactic? Maybe – I could have done with a little bit more mayhem and destruction – but at the end of the day this finale first and foremost had to wrap things up for the characters. Bonnie didn’t die, which would have been the easy way out, but instead discovered that she’s always had enough magic to break the bond between her and Elena.
In fact, no one had to die, except for Stefan.
Feeling epic, his hero hair dashing as ever, Stefan meets Elena in the same limbo space in which she had spoken with Bonnie earlier. The rules of magic are being stretched to their breaking point in this episode, but it hardly matters when we get scenes as good as this one.
Not romantic, but familial, and with his parting words providing comfort to Caroline. I’ve always loved The Vampire Diaries for putting as much emphasis on all different kinds of love – siblings, best friends, parents and, yes, romance. Stefan’s happy place, in the end, was reuniting with Lexi after making peace with his two epic loves, Elena and Caroline. He also got to be the one to kill Katherine, which feels right.
Our final montage wraps things up for the remaining characters, which includes Elena along with cameos galore. Matt got his own bench in the square, Alaric and Caroline opened a magic school for their girls at the Salvatore mansion (recruiting Jeremy to help out), Elena finally went to medical school and Bonnie grabbed her passport and headed for the rest of her life.
The shippers even got their happy ending with some final words exchanged between Klaus and Caroline.
And what a perfect note to finish on with Bonnie, a woman who’s been trying to die for eight seasons, to finally decide she deserves to live a life not tied to the fates of her friends. Run far away and never look back, Bonnie Bennett, you deserve everything life has to offer and more.
The episode finished in the only way it could, with Stefan and Damon – not a shred of animosity between them – reunited. For all the fanfare surrounding the return of Nina Dobrev for this finale, it always had to be them seeing the show off. After living a long and full human life with Elena, Damon chose to spend his afterlife with his brother, drinking bourbon by the fire for all eternity.
So now it’s done, and because it’d be impossible for me to sum up what this show has meant to me and so many others over these past eight years, I’ll leave off instead with words from Elena: “This life will be good, and beautiful, but not without heartbreak. In death comes peace but pain is the cost of living. Like love, it’s how we know we’re alive. And life goes on.”