Five years after The Vampire Diaries series finale aired, we’re looking back to see if it’s as eternal as its immortal characters.
We’re back again with Subjectify Media’s Third Thursday Throwback. On the…you guessed it…third Thursday of every month, we’re revisiting the movies, TV shows, books, albums, and games that we’ve loved in the past, and examining all the reasons why we still love them!
This month, we’re celebrating the five year anniversary of the end of The Vampire Diaries by looking back at the show’s finale with fresh eyes. Fresh eyes that are extremely full of tears, that is. It’s been two days since I rewatched the episode, and I still find myself welling up when the words “I will love you forever” pop into my brain, but I shall persevere.
That, right there, is the very thing I love most about The Vampire Diaries, and why it is, to this day, my absolute favorite show. No show has come along and made me feel even close to as much as this one does. The depth of the characters, the intensity of the relationships, and the sheer epic-ness of the storylines is unmatched, in my opinion. This show completely, indisputably, and irrevocably has my heart. Honestly, even writing The Vampire Diaries in a headline again gave me butterflies!
The Vampire Diaries has always had a way of completely annihilating heartstrings. The show has an incredibly crafted mythology and a deeply rich history that provide such a strong foundation for all of its twists and turns. With these things at its core, it can build the tension up to unbearable levels. They’ve perfected the art of taking the characters and audience from the lowest of lows, where success seems absolutely impossible, to the highest of highs, when they pull things off by the skin of their very sharp teeth, and then back to some deliciously complicated in-between place (sometimes literally) when you realize that success didn’t come without consequences. It’s just the best ride.
I can’t think about The Vampire Diaries series finale without being transported back to the first time I watched it. I was sitting in the Mystic Falls town square, which in reality is in Covington, Georgia, in the shadow of the famous clocktower that became a centerpiece of the episode. It was literally a perfect day complete with tours of other filming locations, including the gorgeous Lockwood mansion, a meal at the Mystic Grill, and even a photo op on the Miss Mystic Falls float! By the time the episode screened to a town square packed with the biggest fans of The Vampire Diaries, my emotions were definitely, as the vampires would say, heightened.
Of course, being as thoroughly biased as I am, I loved The Vampire Diaries series finale immediately upon watching it. It made me feel absolutely all of the things in the way only The Vampire Diaries can, and it was a beautiful way to say goodbye to the characters that I love most. That being said, after that kind of day, The Vampire Diaries could have aired an artistically shot 43 minutes of Elena sleeping and I probably would have lost my mind over it. So with that in mind, I couldn’t wait to revisit the episode to see what I thought, five years after its release.
I prepped for the viewing by doing a complete rewatch of season 8. To jump into the finale cold would be to make myself far too susceptible to the very effective and not-at-all-subtle emotional manipulations that The Vampire Diaries deploys in the form of its soundtrack and the otherworldly beauty and expression of its actors. I wanted to have the whole season fresh so I was fully able to interrogate and enjoy the story aspects of the series finale as well.
I doubt season 8 is a favorite for many fans, mainly because the show’s characters are far too separate for the final season and the prevailing themes of eternal damnation are heavy handed at best, but there is a lot to love about it.
Watching this as an isolated season, I felt far more drawn to Bonnie and Enzo than I had been previously. While they’re both a far cry from the dramatic loves we obsessed over in the rest of the series, they exemplified a commitment and a love that proved itself through consistency, rather than grand gestures. I also felt deeply for Stefan and Caroline, who shared some very beautiful moments, but they also made some huge mistakes that made it clear they still had a lot to figure out. But hey, Stefan was going through a lot with the whole “selling his soul to the devil” thing.
I also loved how much Salvatore brother time we got in the final season, and with Elena still hitting the snooze button, it was clear this was the story they were focusing on. Stefan and Damon covered a ton of ground in The Vampire Diaries season 8, which was all necessary as a setup for the eventual conclusion.
So let’s just get to the conclusion then! Leading up to The Vampire Diaries series finale, Salvatore and co. had discovered that the literal devil was really only interested in them because he, like almost everyone in existence, was wrapped around the finger of one Katherine Pierce. Did this kind of cheapen the whole hell plot line? Yes. Was it incredibly fitting that the end of this story would come down to Katherine. Also yes!
To see Nina Dobrev reprise the roles of Elena and Katherine was one of the best parts of The Vampire Diaries series finale, even five years later. Luckily they wasted no time letting us see her in Bonnie’s mind, and it was a perfect set up to the rollercoaster we were about to embark on. That combined with the mention of a “gas leak” and the “written by Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson” on my screen had me primed.
Basically every fan has a complicated relationship with Katherine Pierce, and that was definitely no different in this episode. She was so Katherine. From impersonating Elena, to turning the tomb spell around on the brothers, to actually coming up with a pretty masterful plan, she was the Petrova doppelganger everyone loves to hate, through and through. Crazily enough, although she did not “survive” the finale, she did end up taking one of the Salvatore brothers down with her. I guess it was kind of a cool full circle moment. Stefan first died to save Katherine, and now he’s dying to kill Katherine.
As biased as I am about this show, I’m still conflicted by Stefan’s death. I’ll start with the good stuff. I love that both brothers essentially made the same sacrifice. Damon fully intended to take the heat when he compelled Stefan to leave, which was another amazing moment in the episode. But surprise, surprise, Stefan was the better martyr. He played last and he played best, and it cost him his life.
I also liked that Stefan’s reason for sacrificing himself for Damon was not because he still thought he owed him something. It was because he wanted to give him the life he felt he deserved, and Damon was actually getting really close to being worthy of it. One of the best things The Vampire Diaries season 8 did was put past grudges behind Stefan and Damon, making their actions in the finale far more impactful. Finally, I am happy that Stefan truly found peace, and that his best friend was there to greet him on the other side.
What you might notice is that most of the things I liked about Stefan’s death weren’t about Stefan at all, but about Damon. In the end, I really do feel like Stefan’s story was literally sacrificed for Damon. It all became about Damon’s growth, with Stefan’s being a complete afterthought.
Nobody would have doubted on day one of The Vampire Diaries that Stefan would have sacrificed himself for the people he loved. It’s all there in his hero hair, and in the 100 years of guilt that he carries around with him at all times. Instead of moving past that guilt and choosing a life with his loved ones, he ended up being consumed by it. It’s not exactly what I would call a great character arc.
With the ending in mind, every moment between Stefan and Caroline in The Vampire Diaries series finale packed a huge punch this time around. Again, that “I will love you forever” from Caroline in her voicemail to Stefan will haunt me for weeks to come. My heart broke for her, knowing what her husband was about to do. And the fact that her last words to him were “I understand” solidifies that Caroline is perfect and that I will love her forever.
Now, one cannot discuss this episode without giving a huge shoutout to Bonnie Bennett, who came into her power just in time to save all of Mystic Falls! The moment with all the Bennett witches behind her was such a celebration of everything she’s accomplished in this series and everything these witches have done for the town, and it was so nice to see them all uniting for something wholly good. Bonnie has always felt so conflicted in her relationships with the vampires and their sympathizers, but vanquishing the devil’s flames from her town was something they could all rally behind.
I also really connected with Matt Donovan this time around. Sadly, after eight seasons, Vicki Donovan certainly wasn’t redeemed, but Matt gave her such a loving gift anyway. While she was not going to stop ringing that bell to bring hellfire into Mystic Falls, Matt forgave her and brought her father to see her one last time. It’s a moment that can get overlooked with everything else going on, but it’s an amazing example of forgiveness and love and such a testament to Matt as a character.
The Vampire Diaries actually ended on a really hopeful note that paid tribute to the many characters that have been lost over the show’s run. Much like Stefan, everyone found peace with their loved ones in the end, although they got to live long, happy lives first. Except for Caroline, of course. She’s just chilling as the last vampire standing.
We did get to see some of what she was up to though, as she and Alaric built the Salvatore Boarding School for their girls with the help of Jeremy and a generous donation from Klaus! When I first saw this, I remembered thinking, “Did we just get a Klaroline endgame?!” Knowing what I know now about The Originals, it just made me even more sad for Caroline.
I really liked that they were able to tie everything together with the characters from the past, while still giving our favorites the happily ever after we needed to see. Wrapping up eight seasons of mythology and character development was a tall order, but for the most part, The Vampire Diaries series finale did a damn good job of it.
I have my complaints about how the story ended, but if after five years this episode can still reduce me to a puddle and bring back all the feelings I developed for these characters over eight seasons, I’d say that’s a pretty good finale. With its final chapter, The Vampire Diaries did what it’s always done best, which is make us care so deeply for these characters and their little town that we’d jump into hellfire ourselves for them!
Now I’ll just have to wait and see how I feel on the finale’s ten year anniversary… (Spoiler alert: I’m still going to love it!)