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Vampire Diaries: The Departed

“This isn’t how our lives were supposed to be.”





Vampire Diaries doesn’t usually deal with the big questions, but the problems of fate, free will, choice, and simple bad luck permeated this episode. Stefan believes in the power of choice: he let Grayson Gilbert sacrifice himself to save Elena, and let Elena sacrifice herself to save Matt. “Nothing wrong with free will,” he said. We all pave our own roads to hell, knowingly or unknowingly.

Damon, on the other hand, is the control freak who likes to manage the situations around him—thus screwing himself out of the significance of the possibly-fated first meeting with Elena. Damon made clear that he’s willing to force Elena into safety, just as he was willing to compel her not to remember their first meeting before the events of the pilot episode. I wish Damon had been the one to find Elena and Matt under Wickery Bridge.

Those people who have read the books on which the series is based, or who accidentally got spoiled years ago reading a comment on TVLine (thanks, anonymous spoilery jerk!), knew that someday Elena would become a vampire. I just never expected it to happen so soon, or the way it did.

I thought it would be her choice.

That Elena has begun the process of becoming a vampire through a series of unfortunate coincidences is a tragedy. She made clear that she never wanted to be a vampire in “The Last Day.” She wanted a normal life and a normal lifespan, a choice that makes mortality beautiful. That choice was shared by Bill Forbes and Alaric, both of whom chose not to transition. And the difficulty of the initial stages of vampirism were made clear with Bonnie’s mom, who lost more than just her life when she vamped. She lost her connection to the earth and to her ancestors.

Elena said that “every time someone walks out of this house, [she] worries they might not make it back home.” Now she is the person who will not return home, at least not in the same way. Her life, her goals—everything is different. And we know there is no going back, mid-transition, because if there were, Bonnie would have figured it out with her mom, with Bill Forbes, or with Alaric.

In “The Descent,” Damon gave Rose a beautiful mind-walk goodbye. Elena’s cerebral hemorrhage and the drugs Matt gave her (possibly even the vampire blood that Meredith slipped in) all gave her a chance to relive some simple human moments with her parents and with Jenna. It was a wonderful send-off for the human Elena, and the parallel structure of both the flashbacks and the present-day scenes leading to two version of a car crash was wonderful and horrible at the same time. I’ve jokingly referred to “Elena’s superpower” as self-sacrifice, but it’s her willingness to let someone else live that got her in this situation, and that is a tragic irony.

I’m still in such shock at this development that it’s hard for me to even mention, much less process, the other events in this episode. Alaric’s second death. The return of Elijah. The Klaus/Tyler body switch. Bonnie’s possible switch to the dark side. Even Elena’s choice, which will obviously be irrelevant now that she has an eternity to choose. (And now that she remembers everything she was compelled to forget—not just her first meeting with Damon, but also his declaration of love in “Rose.”)

Instead of processing, I keep thinking of the most beautiful scene in the episode: Damon, holding the body of his dying best friend, knowing that he is losing Elena as Alaric dies.


• Damon: “Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you not being the dumbest brother on earth?”

• Damon: “Our life is one big, proverbial coin toss.”

• Caroline: “I’m thinking…maybe tea with vodka.” Ew!

• Damon: “No, no, no, no. Did I mention, no?”

• Tyler: “What do you need?”
Caroline: “Just you. Maybe a curling iron.”

• Matt: “I suck at tea.”

• Elena: “It’s Mystic Falls. Nothing bad ever happens here.”

• Damon: “You want a love that consumes you. You want passion, and adventure, and even a little danger.”
Elena: “So, what do you want?”
Damon: “I want you to get everything you’re looking for.”

• Ghostaric: “I just want you to know, that I will always be here to look after you, Jeremy. And you’ll never be alone, okay? I promise.”

And Pieces:

• I hate morning people who dance shortly after getting out of bed. Freaks.

• The title of this episode is, among other things, a reference to the movie The Departed, which is one of my absolute favorites.

• While there are many parts of this season I didn’t love, in part because I just don’t really like Klaus much, in looking back I’m astonished at how neatly the season was organized around those beautiful, terrible, final moments.

Four out of four sobs.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. I'm so happy that for once nobody spoiled a huge finale moment for me. That ending was just mind-blowing and SUCH a game-changer. I truly can't wait to see where they take the show next as season four now has the potential to be TVD's strongest season yet. This is going to be one long summer...

  2. I think the only reason I liked/loved/adored Klaus is because he's Joseph Morgan (if we got married, I would be Morgan Morgan) and I don't think I could stomach TyKlaus?

    Can I just say that I love all the Originals? I sobbed when Elijah hugged Rebekah. The Originals really need their own spin-off.

    Although I'm bored with the Stefan/Elena/Damon triangle. Like Caroline, I'm Team Stefan. Although it makes me laugh how the entire male cast have scenes with Paul's wife, while Paul doesn't.

  3. I loved the episode right until the moment when Elena chose Stefan, again for the freaking billionth time. So much buildup between her and Damon through the whole season and the powers-that-be make her choose Stefan again? WTF?

    From that point of view, the end of the episode felt like a huge payback from Lady Fate. If she hadn't chosen Stefan (and thus hadn't driven home across the bridge), she wouldn't have died. Dear Elena, do you need an even bigger sign that Stefan is bad for you? :D

  4. This finale was so good and so jam-packed with stuff that I had to watch it twice. I couldn't believe they actually did this to Elena. And yet, as you said, Josie, it's what they've been working toward all season. I'm really looking forward to where they go with all this, especially since Elena will now remember everything Damon told her and made her forget.

    Elena did say that she chose to say goodbye to Stefan not just for him but because of Caroline and Tyler, too. If Stefan had been at the storage locker and Damon back home with Caroline, where would she have gone? But then we wouldn't have had that moment with Damon holding Alaric and realizing that Elena was dead, too. Awesome.

    Thanks again for getting me to watch this show, Josie.

  5. I loved the episode, but there's just ONE thing that's bugging me. If Stefan is a freaking vampire, why couldn't he save them both. He's supposed to have the strength and speed to carry them both. I have no problem with Elena being a vampire, but come on!

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  7. I knew this was coming (having had the misfortune of reading some of the rather crappy books the series is based on), but I wasn't expecting it so soon. Still, Elena changing was a big part of the books... no reason why it shouldn't be a big part of the show. At least she'll be able to kick ass now.

    Is it just me or are the captchas getting harder to read? Has anyone tried pressing the audio button instead? It's like taking LSD. I imagine.

  8. Oh my god. what an overwhelming season finale. Epic and sad. My God what was those two scenes between Rebekkah and Elijah and Damon's goodbye to Alaric? I really sobbed. Hard.
    And I had started sobbing way before it when I thought TYler was dying, not because I love Tyler - I don't, but oh, poor Caroline. And he is Klaus?! And Bonnie is tired of getting told what to do? And yes, Is Elena a vampire? WTF!!!
    The good part of it is that she'll now remember everything Damon compelled her to forget. And among the new things she'll have to overcome in her new life, those new memories will surely play an important part. I hope. Sincerely. Unlike stupid Petrova women I would chose Damon. Always.
    Can I say I knew Bonnie had been up to something? I just did not know what. And wow, wow, wow.
    Can we start the countdown for season four? It'll be a long wait.

  9. Wow, what a ending to the season! I don't think I've gasped as loudly since the season 2 finale of Alias ;)

    Though at times a bit inconsistent, I really loved this season. My only complaint is that it's been way too long since we've seen Katherine. I can't wait to see the first time Elena and Katherine meet as vampires!

    Thanks for the great reviews Josie, looking forward to next season.

  10. Oh my God Julie I didn't even think of Katherine and Elena's first meeting now that the latter is a vampire. Pure epic brilliance. Can't wait! (Nina sure is going to have a challenge tackling that one)

  11. Well, that certainly changes everything. Are we sure Elena was human before she turned? No one, bar Disney princesses, wakes up at six in the morning that upbeat and with hair that perfect.

    I hope Caroline take on the role of Elena’s vampire mentor. I just love the idea of these two now being vampire BFFs.

  12. I'm one of those who read the (increadibly BAD) books and knew about Elena's change to vampire (and even weirder things!), but the series is so completely different from the books that I didn't quite believe they would follow that path! Major shocker in an episode full of shocks! My two favourite moments were definitely Damon and Jeremy with ALaric, both realising what that meant for Elena... *sob*

    lol! Vampire Elena vs Katherine? Bring it on!!! :o)

    And I don't like the idea of this new Klaus... didn't care for the actor portraying Tyler. ugh!

  13. They say good things come to those who wait. Well, I had to wait four days for iTunes to finally upload this, but it was certainly worth the wait. Goodness me, that's a lot for one episode of television.

    I honestly never thought that Elena would become a vampire. As Meredith was speaking, and the implications of what she was saying began to sink in, I was stunned. I just stared at the screen, willing it to stop, especially since (as you say, Josie) she did not choose for this to happen.

    As much as I had grown to dislike him, I cried through the final Alaric scenes. Damon's grief as he realised he was not only losing his friend, but Elena as well was heartbreaking. And the scene with Jeremy was lovely. I'm glad that the last time we saw him, Alaric was "good" Ric.

    Not wild about the Klaus/Tyler switch (although, now it is pretty clear that Klaus sired them all) and am a tad concerned about Bonnie becoming next year's Big Bad. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

    In the meantime, I plan to re-watch all three seasons this summer to catch all the clues I missed the first time through.

    And, Josie, thanks so much for another year of great reviews. They really add depth and insight into a series that I started on your recommendation. I owe you.

  14. ChrisB, I accept payment in cash or in kittens.

    (What?! They're delicious!)

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this show.

  15. Wow, they really fit so many things into this one. I knew what happened in the book series, so I knew there was a chance of this happening, I just didn't think it would be so soon. Of all the deaths this year, Elena's mortality is the biggest of them all. Great review.


    Couldn't have put it better Josie. I want to second Billie in saying Thank you for getting me into this series :-) Looking back, this was an almost perfect wrap-up of the Season.

    I am SO glad that Elena chose, and that it was Stefan. For her to choose Damon, when she and Stefan have had so so many happy times together would be unthinkable. It's not only that he makes her happy, he's the stable one, the clearer-thinking one, the quintessential 'good brother'. I don't think it is as simple as 'he got there first', just rather than Stefan is more loveable. But Vampire Elena may not feel the quite same. Who can say?

    I am also so glad Matt didn't die, that Elena saved him. I really thought he might bite it, since he featured quite heavily in Elena's flashbacks. The writers did a great job muddying the water regarding which of the two in the car was going to die.

    The one part I am not quite clear on - when exactly did Tyler and Klaus switch bodies? Is Tyler dead? Who was it who was turning into a werewolf - was that Tyler or just Klaus acting. Can someone explain? I am not sure Michael Trevino has the acting skills to give us more mileage out of the Klaus character, but I am prepared to give him a chance.

  17. Harry, I'm not really clear on that either. There's an interview with Julie Plec here that has a few answers: http://tvline.com/2012/05/11/vampire-diaries-season-3-finale-post-mortem-julie-plec/

  18. Yay - I'm caught up, and just before season 4 starts! It's been great fun reading your reviews, Josie, as I've marathoned my way through the series. 65 episodes (since I watched the pilot earlier) in 19 days. Just about the only thing I knew going into the show (besides a few scenes from the season 2 finale) was the big spoiler from this episode - that Elena would become a vampire. Looking forward to the new season, but don't know how I'll be able to stand only getting one episode a week!

  19. Congrats on catching up, Katie, and just in time! I absolutely love this show and can't wait to find out how they're going to resolve this cliffhanger.

  20. Katie: I'm in about the same boat. I marathoned the whole series in the last month. I didn't quite make it in time for the Season 4 opener - but that is what the internet is for. ;)

    Great show! Thanks again Josie for getting me into this show.

  21. I'm finally going back and getting caught up on this show, there's been way too much good TV on the last few years, this show fell by the wayside for me.

    "Just you! Maybe a curling iron."

    That line is absolutely Caroline in a nutshell. :) Turning her into a vampire was the smartest thing the show ever did, she is without a doubt my favorite character.

  22. Someone - a really bored someone, mind you - should go and measure how much liquor is consumed on the show.

  23. Will Mystic Falls please put some guard rails on Wickery Bridge! It is so obviously not safe!

    I don't really get why it was Elena's decision alone to accept or decline Elijah's proposal. It didn't only affect her. It didn't even primarily affect her. I would have agreed with Damon to throw Klaus in the bottom of the Atlantic.

    I'm not clear on what Bonnie was supposed to be doing with Klaus's body.


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