Vampire Diaries: I Was Feeling Epic

“You’re nothing if not utterly predictable.”

Eight seasons—and 171 episodes—ago, Billie and I, like many of you, were underwhelmed by the latest Buffy copycat. Since that lackluster premiere, the show has shifted from great to decent to dull, but this final episode brought it to a satisfying close.

Creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson masterminded this episode, and their skill shows: just a few weeks ago I noted that recent TVD episodes were slow, with scenes that seemed to drag on—a far cry from the previous mile-a-minute pace that kept this show hopping in its glory days. But “I Was Feeling Epic” is as fast-paced as some of the show’s best.

And it was satisfying—I can’t think of a better word. The plot was a bit murky (why did Vicky have to ring the bell 12 times over the space of an hour?), but I don’t really care. We got to see Katherine, and we got to see her killed numerous times by gleeful Salvatores. Elena returned, Damon is human (wow!), and Caroline finally realized the responsibilities of motherhood.

Stefan’s sacrifice was the biggest surprise, although I rewatched the pilot a few weeks ago, and was surprised to note that it opens with Stefan saying this was “his story.” That planted a seed, and it was nice to see that seed grow into a satisfying—there’s that word again!—end to the Salvatore with the hero hair.

Does it suck for Caroline and Damon? Of course it does. They’ve both lost so much in their lives, and Caroline, in particular, ought to have a shot at happiness. But she still does: as much as some elements of the fandom seemed to ship Steroline, I never really got behind it. I hope she runs the school like a peppy authoritarian and has romantic weekends with Klaus. (Caroline always liked him more than I did, and I support her right to have those wrong opinions.)

Bonnie’s magical victory was the big moment. Having realized she still has her magic (how?!), she managed to funnel the Bellfire (how am I just now discovering that pun…) into Hell itself, shutting down operations and killing Katherine in the process. I love that Bonnie’s Grams was there, and all the Bennett women. It was a powerful nod to the girl-power-via-Buffy roots of this show, and one that let Bonnie live the life she completely deserves.

That Elena and Damon reunited makes me happy, because they wanted it—everyone wanted it—so much. That we saw very little of their lives together is appropriate, as nothing is more boring than a couple in love.

I’m more interested in the afterlife: Elena, after a long life, finds “peace” with her parents, Aunt Jenna, and Sark!, aka her uncle-dad. (I was glad Alaric’s first wife Isobel, Elena’s birth mother, wasn’t included.) Damon’s peace is with Stefan—and since they’re all still in their old Mystic Falls houses, I assume he and Elena can have an afterlife romance, too. Stefan gets Lexi…it all works out.

Perhaps the best part, though, was the acknowledgement that the people we lose are still with us. Caroline had a moment when she sensed her mom; Alaric has a moment when he sensed Jo. Matt got to see Tyler and Vicki. With the Other Side long gone, and Hell a burned-out husk, maybe ghosts can visit their loved ones when they want. It’s a beautiful thought, and a lovely reminder of how this show began: two brothers torn apart by the past, and a young girl struggling to live life without the people she loved.

Bites and Pieces:

• There were some great shout-outs to the pilot, but my favorite was the random crow who reappeared when Elena was journaling.

• Bonnie conquering a huge ball of Bellfire was pretty awesome, too, as the first time she really kicked magical ass was making a bunch of candles flare in the first season.

• How did Katherine get a new outfit every time she returned from Hell? Oh, I don’t care. She’s Katherine.

• You know you’re watching a show on the CW when everyone wears miniskirts to the funeral.

• So, Originals fans: are you expecting Caroline to drop by New Orleans?

I’ve ragged on the writers a lot in the past couple of years, but I’d like to thank them for creating a good show that was sometimes great. I’d also like to thank the actors, who made me care about these people (some of whom were hard to care about) and their wacky lives. TVD didn’t go out with a bang, but it left me satisfied. And now we’re done.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She's planning on changing this bio soon, since she just lost her longest-running show. When Josie isn't writing, she is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

10 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I totally agree that it was a terrific finale. I actually cried, and I didn't expect that I'd be so emotionally involved after being so dissatisfied with this last season. Stefan has never been my favorite character, but his sacrifice totally got to me. Bonnie's power in stopping the Bellfire :) did remind me of Willow in the Buffy finale, but I also loved that we saw all of the Bennett witches behind her at the Armory, and that Bonnie got to go live her life with the ghost of Enzo cheering her on. And it was so appropriate that so much of the episode took place in the high school where it all started (again, like the Buffy finale). And all the ghosts -- especially Jo and Lexi -- lovely.

And actually, I do think they've set up Caroline moving to The Originals, with the writing out of a specific character and what they've been doing with Klaus, and I shouldn't say more because I don't want to spoil anyone.

Thank you for eight seasons (!) of clever, on point reviews, Josie. You're the reason I retried this show and got so into it. I wonder if I would have continued to ignore it for eight seasons, or if I would have eventually tried it again?

Paul Kelly said...

I was pretty determined not to enjoy this. When I saw Katherine getting offed over and over, all I could think of was: they brought Nina back for this? Really? But then all the emotional malarkey kicked in, with virtually everyone in the history of the show turning up, and finally I started to enjoy it.

I was however slightly miffed that--as you point out--it felt like an episodes from the old days. So why did they pull out a classic style romp for the last episode, yet make us endure probably three seasons of yawnage leading up to it? It was like: yeah, this is what the show is actually still capable of... we just couldn’t be arsed to do it.

I'm glad not everyone survived. I'm not a fan of Delena--in fact, I think Damon is an utter knob--but I don't begrudge them their happiness. And who would have guessed that Bonnie would end up being such a damn cool character? I haven't rewatched the early series in a while, but was she really so bad, or was everyone just apathetic towards witches back then?

In retrospect, I kind of wish they'd made Bonnie awesome sooner, and ended the show when Nina left. After Dobrev left the show Plec came out with some waffle about the show actually being about Damon and Stefan, and although I can buy that it was partly about them, to me Elena was the planet around which all the characters revolved. Her leaving left a big hole that they never really managed to plug.

Thanks for reviewing the show, Josie. For a long while it was actually pretty awesome wasn't it?

Juliette said...

I haven't watched this show in a few years, but this review makes me want to catch the finale. Thanks for 8 years of awesome reviews Josie! :)

Mallena said...

Since I never was a fan of Delena, their happy ending really didn't do much for me. I'm a fan of the characters separately, but I didn't really care who was paired with whom. I'm sad that Stefan went to the Great Beyond, but I did like his scenes with his brother. I was a little miffed that Stefan seemed to forget about Caroline the second he saw that other dead girl, I forget her name. Oh, well. The ending was nice, but not really epic.

TheShadowKnows said...

Let me just echo the thanks to Josie for all the time she put into these reviews. You made the good shows better and the bad ones bearable.

Well, they managed to knock off LOST one last time with the "afterlife" ending (right down to the opening door and white light at the end) but honestly there are worse things to rip off than LOST and BTVS. For a show that was always carrying the baggage of being based on a not-great YA series, it was pretty good overall. I think we can forgive the odd poor episode (and season). I for one am satisfied.

Anonymous said...

TVD lost it's story after s4e15. Wish KWilliamson had been around to stop JPlec from "shocking" the viewers into a comatose state. Typical CW, shame.

Lamounier said...

I loved TVD's first two seasons, but I stopped watching it after season two. I hated how they killed off aunt Jenna and hated even more when the following episode was emotionally centered on Damon and Elena as opposed to being centered on the fallout of Jenna's death, for crying out loud.

My sister kept watching it and told me season three was excellent, but I never came back. Later, when I read that Dalena was sucking the life out of the show, I knew I had made the right decision. And that's not only because TVD went downhill, it's because of how great those first two seasons were and so I got to remember the show only for its ups.

I did watch the finale, though, and it was a cute finale. I was a little lost, obviously. I knew that Caroline had daughters, but I didn't know Alaric was the father. Speaking of him, he used to be much cooler, what happened? And Katherine... the sass was there but she just kept getting killed over and over. Not a lot of fun there.

I knew Damon was going to make it, there was no way Stefan would be the surviving brother if Dalena was the endgame. But they still managed to pull some good twists to get there. Stefan meeting Elena and his message to Caroline were also nice moments.

My favorite part was Bonnie and the fellow witches controlling hellfire. I was rooting for her and I'm glad she survived. Also, Enzo. Wow, what a gorgeous man. If you are going to be hunted by someone that looks like that, you won in life.

The reason I called this a "cute" finale is because they chose the "in the end, everybody is happy" route, which is a valid one, but also one that favours closing the story with a good feel instead of a powerful one. I mean, if you sacrifice Stefan and show him happy right afterwards, there is no death there and so the sacrifice loses some of its punch. But I can't deny it was pleasing to see most of the dead cast returning briefly. In the end, they priorized family over romance, I'm shocked. And pleased.

What a fun coincidence that Buffy and The Vampire Diaries will have matching anniverseries (premiere and finale, respectively). There is a cartain dramatic irony that's attached to all this. A synchronicity that borders on predestination, one might say.

Mallena said...

Another great season was season 5. It had so many characters that were doppelgangers of Elena; it was a lot of fun. Poor Stefan was going through another trauma and then season 6 was pretty good, too. Downhill after that, though.

Two years from now it will be the 20th anniversary of Farscape. I guess I'll have to have a party of one. I'll make the decorations and bring the cake.

Katie Hart - Freelance Writer said...

The reason I kept watching this show after seeing the pilot was this site. As I marathoned through the seasons (since I came to the show late), I read every review. Having seen some spoilers, I wasn't as shocked/disappointed as others over changes in the show - and I actually liked Delena (not surprising as I'm a Spuffy and LoVe shipper as well).

I tend to be forgiving of long-lasting shows - so unless a show completely abandons its roots and rewrites its characters, I'm grateful for any additional episodes. Even if seasons as a whole don't live up to previous seasons, for most shows there are always enough good scenes and episodes to make them worth watching.

The finale was satisfying. I wish there had been less Katherine and more Elena, but I realize the episode needed to have some plot. I loved that they brought back so many characters. I also loved everyone's endings - not exactly happy for most, but fulfilling, and also open-ended enough to provide for some Originals cameos for almost any cast members.

I will miss this show. I'm glad The Originals is still around, so it won't feel completely gone, at least for a bit.

Patryk said...

I finally watched the episode. It was a satisfying finale for what's it worth. It wasn't one of those finales that spoil the entire series by existing like say Dexter, True Blood or HIMYM. In fact the finale repaired some of the damage the actual previous dull seasons did and made me excited about watching. Some great sendoffs for most of the cast and hints of to be contnued on the Originals.

@Paul: the vieverws hated Bonnie in the beginning because the show is about vampires and she was mostly putting roadblocks for the vampires by not participating in their zany schemes. Bonnie working together with the main cast is a likable Bonnie so at least that was mostly fixed in later seasons.

I find it also cool that they confirmed the existance of "heaven" that was hinted in the season 5 finale when not everyone was sucked into Hell when the Other Side was breaking down. Lexi ascended somewhere else and we finally got to see that place in the end of this episode. So can't say the afterlife was not foreshadowed here. That's another plus.

To wrap up I'll say taht I loved seasons 1-3, there were actual stakes. Pun intended. We lost many characters then, like Vicky, Isobel, Sark, Aunt Jenna, Alaric, Elena's life.

But then season 4 arrived (which I still really liked thanks to the Originals mostly) and they could not make Jeremy's death stick, just to write him out anyways in the later seasons. That was the first nail in the proverbial stakeless coffin. That's not to say shows can be kept fresh only by killing characters, but when You actually kill them, stop bringing them back.

Season 5 had to deal with losing Klaus and co and the really bad travelers, Season 6 was envigorated thanks to Kai but Elena left which led to more problems. Seasons 7 and 8 never recovered up until the finale.

Thank You Josie for the reviews, especially the "Why VD doesn't Suck" piece that got me watching. Even with all the gripes it was an entertaining series.