‘The Vampire Diaries’ Season 8: For Whom the Bell Tolls

TVD 15

As “The Vampire Diaries” heads into its final four episodes, I thought it was high time for another check-in, especially with the latest developments. Since out last chat, we’ve had three episodes, beginning with “Nostalgia’s a Bitch,” which was one of the best episodes of the season yet, thanks to some familiar faces from the past cropping up, as one might expect from that title.

In it, Damon was essentially a prisoner of his own mind, after Sybil switched back on his humanity in full force, making him remember every nasty thing he’d ever done over the years. As such, we had an appearance from one of his key victims: Vicki Donovan (Kayla Ewell, soon to be seen in a leading role in the TV series “Me and My Grandma” after a series of guest shots on a variety of other shows, including “Lucifer” and “Grandfathered”).

TVD 2

As we know, Matt (Zach Roerig) has never quite forgiven Damon for killing his sister- something which almost led to his torching Mystic Falls, when he found himself having to choose between the two things- either forgive Damon or kill the entire town he’d fought so long and hard for over the years. As it turns out, neither had Damon quite forgiven himself for the same offense, as Caroline (Candice King) and Bonnie (Kat Graham) discovered when they took a peek inside Damon’s mind.

Also cropping up were Caroline’s mother Sheriff Liz Forbes (Marguerite MacIntyre), who had no memory of her relationship with Damon in his mind, but quite the bone to pick with her daughter for being a vampire; and Bonnie’s beloved Grams (Jasmine Guy), who was shocked to hear of her granddaughter’s involvement with a- gasp!- vampire by the name of Enzo. (You and me both, sister, lol.)

TVD 4

In the end, it took an assist from- who else?- Stefan to get Damon to resurface from the recesses of his guilty conscience. This led to a key moment in the series, as it turned out that, deep down, it wasn’t himself that Damon needed to forgive for all he’d done in order to resurface- though that was part of it- but an apology from Stefan, who had caused all of this in the first place by turning him into a vampire. Damon finally got it, but it was clear that, even in Ripper mode, Stefan was taken aback to find Damon still held a grudge against him for it.

Speaking of forgiveness, Bonnie was also finally able to forgive Damon for all that he’d done when she- and we- at long last heard the contents of his letter to her that she’d never read after he took off. I don’t know about you, but her having read it probably would have saved a lot of time and grief, because boy, was that heartbreaking. Caroline was also able to forgive Damon for all he’d done after realizing how close to her mother he’d been, especially at the end of her life.

TVD 6

While all this was going on, Sybil and Seline were engaged in a battle for the bell, with both hoping to use it to take out the other. In the end, though, both sort of got their wish, though probably not in the way they hoped. Ultimately, Matt was forced to ring the bell unless he forgave Damon for killing his sister, which he did eleven times- just one short of the amount needed to annihilate the town.

Fortunately, Damon was able to stop him just in the nick of time, but not before the ringing of the bell managed to free Cade to walk the earth, which he celebrated by taking out both Sybil and Seline in one fell swoop, much to the delight of their detractors, no doubt. Still, this was obviously a big problem, as now everyone had him to deal with.

TVD 5

Oh, and in case you missed it, there was also a nod to the first episode of the series, when we glimpsed a photo of Darren Malloy and Brooke Fenton in a newspaper, who were Damon’s first victims on the show. Also cropping up were Tyler (Michael Trevino) and Henry Wattles (Evan Gamble) and the Anberlin cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” which was heard in a scene at the Mystic Grill and was previously played when Damon and Vicki danced in the episode “Lost Girls.”

So, yeah, this was one episode that lived up to the title- itself a line from Damon in the episode “Miss Mystic Falls,” in keeping with other such titles this seasons derived from quotes from the series- but in the best of ways for longtime fans. As such, it was absolutely one of the best episodes of the show, and not just of the season itself.

TVD 1

In the following episode, we got a sort of vampire version of “Sophie’s Choice,” in which both Damon and Stefan were given impossible decisions to make, with Damon tasked to either kill 100 people in a limited amount of time or his brother’s girlfriend, Caroline; while Stefan was given the choice of also killing 100 people, or his brother’s love, Elena. (Okay, well, technically Elena’s already sort of dead, but you know what I mean- destroy her body so there would be no coming back this time, period.)

While Stefan finagled a loophole in getting to where Elena was really being kept- a house in Bonnie’s name, which she bought with her father’s inheritance- Damon scrambled to figure out a way to both stop him and avoid killing Caroline. Stefan compelled the realtor in charge of the sale to sign over the house to him so he could enter freely, but unbeknownst to him, Bonnie and Enzo were there, as Bonnie had planned to extract the vampire cure from Elena to make Enzo human again.

TVD 9

As such, Stefan promptly killed Enzo, while a heartbroken Bonnie, left with no real choice, injected Stefan with the cure instead, thus stopping him dead in his tracks. As such, the shoe was on the other foot now, as it was Stefan’s turn to remember all the nasty things he’d done as a vampire, overwhelming him almost as much as it did Damon- but with no escape this time into his mind, as his brother had done.

Finally, in “What are You?”, Damon made a deal to recover an old Maxwell journal for Cade in exchange for saving his brother’s soul and keeping him out of Hell. The problem- and the reason- it also potentially contained the lone way to kill Cade. Naturally, Alaric refused to hand it over, for obvious reasons, but Damon being Damon, he took it anyway, once the opportunity presented itself, despite Alaric’s best efforts.

TVD 19

Cade promptly burned the journal, but no fool he, Damon sneaked a peek and figured out what was needed to do the deed- a crystal-looking dagger supposedly made from the ashes of the villagers Cade burned when he was forming Hell, which was located in the cave underneath the Armory.

Along the way, we got a flashback of Ethan Maxwell (also played by Zach Roerig), aka the skeleton in the cave, who, as it turned out, had been in love with Beatrice Bennett (Jaz Sinclair, “Paper Towns”) one of Bonnie’s ancestors, and a fellow witch. We discovered that the number 100 had a significance, as 100 witches burned themselves to save the town back in the day, aka 1790.

TVD 17

Interestingly, it was none other than Sybil and Seline that revealed how Cade could be killed, which Ethan left in coded form in the journal, as he had been compelled to not say it aloud, and thus, could only write it down. Thankfully, Alaric’s employee, Dorian (Demetrius Bridges) had the device needed to crack said code, which presumably was used by Damon to read it later.

Meanwhile, Stefan was arrested for a multitude of crimes he committed after being pulled over by a cop and arrested when he saw Stefan was covered in blood from killing Enzo. Caroline went to the police station and compelled all concerned to let Stefan go and get rid of all the evidence concerning his crime and all mentions of him in the system, thus solving that particular problem.

TVD 18

However, while there, Stefan spotted the daughter of the realtor he’d compelled in the previous episode, who’d he left for dead in the woods. Stefan and Caroline rushed there to retrieve her, finding her still alive, but freaked out enough by his reappearance to stab Stefan. Caroline was able to heal the realtor, but not Stefan himself, who it would seem is immune to the healing power of vampire blood now that he’d taken the cure.

This retroactively means that Damon’s blood wouldn’t have healed a cured Elena after the wedding attack, so that answered that question finally. Fortunately, Stefan’s wounds weren’t fatal, and thanks to Damon’s actions on his behalf, he’s free to live out the rest of his mortal life free from Cade’s clutches- if Stefan can stay out of trouble himself, that is, which seems unlikely, given what happened in this episode.

TVD 16

Last- and perhaps least- speaking of that wedding, we had the last minute return of none other than Kai Parker (Chris Wood, now a regular on “Supergirl”), who oddly materialized in the aforementioned cave with Damon and Alaric, claiming he had a better way to eliminate Cade. Not sure what that could be, and we don’t get any more than that, as the episode ends there.

As my loyal readers know, I’m not the biggest fan of Kai as a character, but I assume they’re just using him as a means to an end, as tends to be the case when characters reappear after extended periods of time on this show. Still, I am curious as to what would make Kai risk coming back to a place where literally everyone hates him- and with good reason. We shall see.

TVD 14

All in all, a decent run of episodes, with “Nostalgia” an obvious stand-out. I was a little surprised at how quickly they got rid of Sybil and Seline, though that quick dismissal seems to be an unfortunate habit of the show in more recent years- see also Julian and most of the Heretics. Still, a lot of fans of the show hated them, so I suppose in most people’s eyes, it’s no big loss.

Hopefully, we will be able to say the same when Kai is taken out before too long, as he inevitably will be, right? Until then, Cade is clearly the “new” Big Bad, now that Stefan is no longer the Ripper and Damon is back to normal. (I say “new” because he’s been lurking around the fringes of the show for some time now, obviously, but only recently in the “real” world.)

TVD 10

With only four episodes to go, and the return of Nina Dobrev confirmed, it will be interesting to see how they wrap all of this up. Hopefully, it won’t feel rushed, as the show is wont to do at times, especially in recent years. I feel like it’s a distinct possibility that it won’t be, as they have plenty of time to deal with all the balls in motion in a decently paced way.

As for predictions, it’s a little too soon to say, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that most everyone will have a happy ending of sorts, save the always-maligned Bonnie, of course, who was already robbed of hers with the death of Enzo, because we all know Bonnie can’t have nice things for long. (Though I can’t say I lost a lot of sleep over that one, personally.)

TVD 7

What did you think of the last few episodes? Do you like the direction this seems to be headed in? Any predictions on how it all ends? Sound off down below and join me next month for a look at the final run of episodes!