Six years is a long time. Six years ago I was just barely over wearing skirts with Uggs, you know? A lot can change in that time. For instance, a girl can go from being a high-school cheerleader to an orphan to the center point of a love triangle between two vampire brothers to a vampire herself to a human being in a lifelong coma. That’s just an example, but you get what I mean.
Last night we said good-bye to Elena in what can only be described as a stroke of pure unadulterated genius, a.k.a. the brain of Julie Plec. Elena’s ending was so perfect it almost seemed too perfect. Of COURSE this was the answer. Of COURSE we were always going to end up here. But none of us could have possibly seen it coming. That’s always been the beauty of this show — simple, profound solutions buried so deeply under adventure and twisty plot that we don’t recognize them until they’re staring us straight in the face.
Elena’s in a coma and won’t wake up until Bonnie dies. Elena hasn’t always been known for being super self-aware. We’ve looked at her passion as selfishness, sometimes unfairly. But Elena’s exit was the ultimate selfless act. She is going to stay gone so Bonnie can live. And when she wakes up? She’ll still have four out of six of them, and the Salvatores will have maintained their six-packs. Not bad!
Elena was our fulcrum. She was our sun and our moon and our stars, and for six seasons we revolved around her. Now it’s time to move on. If any show can do it, The Vampire Diaries can. Thank you for the memories, Nina. We love you.
For the last time with our brown-haired girl, let’s recap.
We opened with Damon lying in the road where he first met Elena. This was the first in a series of vision-scapes that would pepper the episode and serve as Elena’s good-bye. Plus 20.
The look on Alaric’s face as he held Jo was nearly too much to bear, and we weren’t even a minute in. Minus 20.
I have loved Kai even when he did the most terrible things, but talking smack to Alaric while he was holding his dead wife was too much. Minus 18.
Second vision-scape of the night went to Elena and Alaric. He was training her like he did way back in season three. Remember? When she wanted to get fit to be able to protect herself against Stefan? I do. I also remember Damon grabbing her under her Lululemon tank top and telling her, “I’ll do whatever it is you need me to do, Elena. No ones gonna hurt you.” Hot. Plus 25.
“Bonnie Bennett. You have no idea how good it is to hear your voice right now.” —Damon. Friend shipping these two in season seven so. Hard. Plus 15.
Even dead, Stefan and Caroline snuggle. Plus 25.
Kai killed himself so the whole Gemini coven would die. Which prompted Tyler to tell Liv he loved her. Also, he had a piece of glass stuck in him. So he was going to die, too. Liv had a plan: Tyler would kill her so he would become a werewolf again, thus healing himself. He kissed her, and then suffocated her. There was a time in which I thought Tyler was the truest, best human (?) on this show. I felt that way again last night. Plus 18.
Mama Salvatore admits to Stefan that she gave Kai her blood. Kai is now a vampire, which seems … bad. Did Kai just lick his dad’s TEARS? Jesus Christ this was some sadistic shit. Minus 30.
Alaric put his dead wife in the trunk, and then took out a gun with his blood-stained hands. It appeared he was going to kill himself until he saw Kai. He shot Kai, and then did try to kill himself, but there were no more bullets. The pure despair Matt Davis was displaying in this episode was epic. Seriously, such incredible work I have to give it plus 29.
Back in Elena’s vision-scape, she and Matt are standing on the bridge, saying good-bye to her, just like they did when she became a vampire two years ago. I’m not sure she was a great girlfriend, to be honest, but man, these two. So much heart. Plus 20.
“It’s just not as threatening when I’m seeing like four blurry versions of you.” A moment of humor. I’m going to miss Kai so much. Of all the brilliant guest stars on this show, I fell in love with him the most. Minus 40.
Here was the deal: Kai linked Elena’s life to Bonnie’s. As long as Bonnie is alive, Elena will be in this coma. It was perfect. Because this time Bonnie could not sacrifice herself, not again. Bonnie has worked her way to being one of the most valuable components of this show, and even she knew it was time for Elena to gift her back. Bonnie has sacrificed, and suffered, but she’s also persevered. She’s made us LIKE her. And her journey isn’t over. Her life has been earned. Plus 300.
I was not ready. Stefan and Elena were on a hike, the same hike they took the day Elena went to sacrifice herself to Klaus, when she told Stefan she didn’t want to be a vampire. She tells him she doesn’t know how to say good-bye to him, and I wept. The truth: The Vampire Diaries has given us a lot of love stories. Stefan and Elena’s will always be my favorite one. It was beautiful and pure and will go down in my heart as one of the greats. Right up there with Pacey and Joey, Liz and Max, and Buffy and Angel (I’m old, okay?). Thank you, Julie, for Stelena. Just because it didn’t last doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. Plus 50.
Caroline still thinks Elena and Stefan were soul mates. I need to write all of this out, because it’s important. Here is what Stefan tells her, word for word: “I don’t think Elena necessarily came into my life to be my soul mate. We loved each other, but she was also the only person I’ve ever met who actually believed that my brother was worth loving. And she reminded me that I used to believe that about him, too. Her faith in him, it brought Damon and me back together, and yeah, I loved her, more than I ever thought I could love somebody else. But I think in the end I needed him more than I needed her."
Just gonna leave that right there. And these points. Plus 400.
Stefan then asked Caroline if she thinks he hasn’t moved on, if that’s why she needs to stay away. She told him she couldn’t do this right now, and left. Minus 20.
Damon finds Bonnie on the brink of death. He pretends to leave her, thus saving Elena, but just uses the time to decapitate Kai, then rushes back to Bonnie, and in one of the most touching moments of the episode, feeds her his blood, telling her, “I’m not out of nicknames for you yet.” Plus 30.
And now, for the waterworks portion of the program.
The gang is gathered in the Salvatore’s living room, Elena’s casket open by the window. It’s time to say their good-byes. Caroline helps Bonnie take Elena’s hand, and the three of them are transported to a bedroom just like the slumber parties they used to have in the old days. Elena tells them to write it all down. What happens in their lives, who they love, the children they have. She wants to read about it when she wakes up and they’re no longer here. Plus 80.
“You have spent your entire life making sacrifices for me, now it’s my turn to do it for you,” Elena tells Bonnie. Then she asks her best friend to make the feathers fly. This was around the time when it got super hard to see the TV through the tears. Plus another 50.
Matt was in his sheriff’s uniform, and Elena told him to keep fighting for good. They hugged. They promised to see each other again. Their relationship wasn’t one that was given a lot of screen time on the show, but we all knew its power. Matt brought Elena back to her humanity. In so many ways, he was her anchor to her old life, her human life, the one she will someday return to. Oh, my God. Plus 65.
Elena hugged Alaric, telling him he had to feel the pain, but then eventually he had to let it go, that life was worth it. Plus 30. I hope he does.
Jer bear! Jeremy showed up. He took Elena’s hand gingerly. She started to cry seeing her little brother. It was pretty brutal. Plus 48.
Elena tells Tyler he needs to get out of there. To embrace his wolf-ness. To do him. Good-bye, Trevino. Honestly I don’t really believe you’ll stay gone, so plus only 30.
And then Stefan came forward. He took Elena’s hand and closed his eyes. She told him how he changed everything for her. She told him how much she loved him. She told him to be happy. “I’ll see you, Elena.” Plus 100.
Stefan and Damon standing over Elena’s casket is a scene I’ve been simultaneously terrified of and looking forward to for the last six years. It was beautiful. Those two brothers, the great loves of this girl’s life, closing her chapter. I couldn’t believe we were here, finally, watching this. Wow. Plus 70.
Elena calls Bonnie Damon’s best friend. Plus 50.
“I’ll wait. And when you’re ready for me, I will be ready for you.” Stefan and Caroline are in love. And we’re headed there, and that … is going to be something worth sticking around for. Plus 40.
Elena and Damon danced. They danced a proper dance. He looped and twirled her around that road. And they kissed and held each other, and it was beautiful. “I love you, Damon Salvatore.” Elena Gilbert’s last words. There you go. Plus it all.
So that’s a wrap on Elena Gilbert, and on a personal note, it is for me, too. This will be my last recap. I sob a bunch about it here, but the bottom line is this: I have loved sharing this space with you. I have loved crying with you and laughing with you and getting angry with you and falling in love with you. Every Friday I looked forward to posting this recap and getting to talk to you guys about a world that we’ve all, for better or worse, chosen to live in. It has been one of the great highlights of my professional career, and I thank you. We began this recap pitting Stefan against Damon. I’m glad we’re ending it with them on the same side.
I’m going to keep watching, and I hope you will, too (what’s Damon doing up on that clock tower, anyway?). And if you need me, of course, you know where I’ll be: with Stefan, duh! Elena’s gone now. What, did you think I was going to give you my Twitter handle or something? Well, just in case this thing with Caroline works out: @RebeccaASerle.