‘The Vampire Diaries’ Series Finale (Season 8): It Felt Epic

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Well, what one would assume was the longest piece of epistolary fiction ever is in the books- or the diaries, as it were- and it’s time for one last look back at the series that was “The Vampire Diaries,” before we close that diary forever. Or at least until the inevitable multi-disc Box Set release. (Does anyone buy those things anymore, though? Or just us wonky, old-school collector types?)

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The final set of episodes saw Cade (Wolé Parks) handily vanquished by a late assist from Stefan (Paul Wesley), after Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Bonnie (Kat Graham) couldn’t quite get the job done together. Though somewhat quickly done and a bit rushed, this was par for the course as of late of the way the show has dealt with most of its recent villains over the last few seasons, so not that much of a shocker that it was done that way again.

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Not long after that, the ever-annoying old foe Kai Parker (Chris Wood) was likewise taken care of in highly amusing fashion, when Bonnie sequestered him to a personal Hell that consisted of his having to listen to his least favorite song ever over and over again for all eternity! (Cue the Spin Doctors… which is something I can safely say I never thought I’d say ever.) Now THAT I can’t say I had a problem with, lol.

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That cleared the way for the ultimate final foe, who, but of course, was none other than Katherine, which really, was as it should be. When it was announced that the final episode, “I Was Feeling Epic,” would only be the length of a typical episode of the show, I was a little worried, but, as it turns out, they really didn’t need to drag things out to end things effectively.

Indeed, the show pulled out all the stops, between sly references to early episodes (Stefan and Elena’s first exchange at the school; Damon’s first- and as it turns out, last- words to Stefan; also the episode titles this season were all quotes from the first season, as far as I could tell), to cameos galore from most of your favorite characters over the years, thus ensuring that all fans’ boxes of things they could possibly want to see were almost entirely checked.

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Oh, I’m sure there was someone out there who was like, “What, no Dr. Meredith?” or whoever, or who wanted a certain something to happen a certain way that didn’t, or who noticed a certain plot thread left dangling (I guess Georgie is just scattered to the Four Winds at this point), but there’s no pleasing everyone, I suppose. All in all, it was actually quite effective, and had a nice full circle quality to it that, as a longtime fan, I really appreciated.

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I mean, who didn’t appreciate that final scene with Elena, reunited with her entire family- extended or otherwise- at the end? I mean, Jenna (Sara Canning) and John (David Anders) and Elena’s parents in one fell swoop, all in one heart-aching, drive-by frame? Yes, please. For good measure, we also had Matt’s extended family: his recently-returned dad, Peter (Joel Gretsch) and mom, Kelly (Melinda Clarke), plus sister Vicki (Kayla Ewell).

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Plus, there was Jeremy Gilbert (Steven R. McQueen) cropping up at the school (!) started by Caroline (Candice King); Dr. Jo (Jodi Lynn O’Keefe) appearing to Alaric (Matthew Davis); Sheriff Forbes (Marguerite MacIntyre) appearing to Caroline; and, be still my heart, sexy Lexi herself, Arielle Kebbel, who I was shocked to see in my research only appeared in nine episodes total, including this one, given the impression she made on me- and plenty others, for that matter. Kebbel also hosted a lead-in live show featuring several cast members and showrunner/executive producer Julie Plec for good measure.

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As for the content of that last episode itself, I liked that the also-returning Nina Dobrev got to play both Elena and Katherine- to say nothing of Katherine-posing-as-Elena- one last time for the road. I also appreciated the fake-out of it being Stefan that ultimately saved the day instead of Damon, as they led us to believe would be the case. It makes perfect sense, given how much Stefan wanted to atone for all he did over the years, that he would find a way to step up in the end to make the ultimate sacrifice, both for his brother and Elena.

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However, for me personally, the most triumphant element of the show was the fact that the ultimate hero was, in fact, Bonnie, who managed to boot and rally her powers by calling on the spirits of not only her mother (Jaz Sinclair) and her Grams (Jasmine Guy), but a host of other dead witches, which, among them, I assume were the old-school colonist witches that banded together to save Mystic Falls back in the day.

After all this show has put poor Bonnie through, especially over the last few seasons, it was nice to see Bonnie’s selfless acts not only play the most vital part in saving the day, but for her to emerge both victorious and still standing at the end, with the show resisting the whole “let’s kill off a bunch of people just because it’s the last episode” trope and making Bonnie a martyr yet again.

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I don’t know if that was the returning Kevin Williamson’s doings or Plec’s, but given how much crap I’ve given Plec over the course of the last few years, I’m going to go ahead and give her a little credit where it’s due for letting it happen even if she didn’t write it herself. Lord knows Bonnie earned that hero moment, that’s for sure.

In a way, all her actions over the years make her sort of a kinder, gentler Snape (as in the “Harry Potter” series) in retrospect. I mean, who sacrificed more- or seemingly gave her life more than Bonnie? If anyone deserved to ride off into the sunset on this show to live her life drama-free and happy, it was her, am I right? So, no matter who was more responsible for that, kudos to both Plec and Williamson for making that happen. As a longtime Bonnie fan, I was perhaps more satisfied by that than anything else on the finale, I must say.

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This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the finale as a whole, though- I totally did. It hit all the right high marks and yes, I got the feels more than a few times throughout the episode. What more could you want, really? Between the finale and the retrospective that aired before it, all the bases were essentially covered. Hell, they even left the door cracked for Caroline to potentially crop up on “The Originals” moving forward, and in fitting epistolary fashion, through a letter from Klaus.

All in all, a pretty solid finale. Yes, the last few seasons were a bit disjointed, and the last few sets of villains left something to be desired on the whole, but overall, I thought the final season was pretty enjoyable, even if things were a bit rushed on occasion. The fact that they managed to stick the landing- not an easy thing to do for a show that’s been on this long- means a lot, though, and makes up for a lot of complaints I might have had about the overall season as a whole.

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So, as I write my own final epistolary send-off for the show, I’d like to thank “The Vampire Diaries” for providing a worthy enough successor to one of my all-time favorite TV shows- vampire-related or otherwise- “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (which turned twenty this past week- God I’m old, lol)- and a less-embarrassing follow-up to all that “Twilight Saga” claptrap. Yeah, it could be a little on the cheesy side at times, and some of the plot developments and/or characters could be a trifle ridiculous in retrospect, but I’ll say this: it was never boring, at least.

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I’ll miss the show, to be sure, and hopefully, “The Originals” will soldier on for a few more seasons to help ease the transition, and allow for the odd “TVD” guest star from time to time. (Join me next month for my ongoing coverage of that show.) I can live with that.

Gone but not forgotten, “The Vampire Diaries”- you will be missed.