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The Vampire Diaries - Episode 5.22 - Home (Season Finale) - Review

Confession: historically, I have always absolutely loved Vampire Diaries season finales. These episodes tend to be so jam-packed with twists, turns, and tugs on the heart that they seem to lodge themselves in my memory with unusual perfection and take a special place in my mental pop cultural rolodex.  Spoiler alert: nothing has changed.  I absolutely loved this episode, even if it ripped my heart out like whiny Julian on a tangent.

To begin at the beginning, we were coming off of the ramifications of Stefan's death last week, which to my extreme enjoyment, quickly became a non-issue since soon, everyone was dying left and right and coming back in such a pile of pandemonium that one practically needed to take notes to keep track.  I knew Stefan would be fine, just like I now expect that Damon will be too, but that's getting ahead of ourselves, sweeties.  

Caroline's complete misery at Stefan's temporary demise was wonderfully played by Candice Accola and a nice precursor to several Steroline references that would supplement it later in the episode.  Of course, Elena and Damon's reactions to Stefan's corpse were extremely sad as well, but everything in the early part of the episode was almost deceptively important compared with the immensity that lay ahead.  Neither Damon nor Elena was about to accept that Stefan was simply, irretrievably dead, of course, as I would fondly expect...but frankly, Caroline's snapping Luke's neck had to be my favorite of all proactive solutions, because it simply cut to the chase.  

The gang needed Liv to cast a spell to bring Stefan back, but to get her to do it, they needed an incentive.  I know that plenty of TVD fans appreciate Caroline's take-no-prisoners attitude when someone she dearly loves is threatened, and I count myself among that number.  I laughed so hard at that part, even though I can sympathize with Luke's situation.  Because what that scene represented was the fact that it's enough already.  The witchy twins, the Travelers.  As we've all discussed herein, they've gone from underwhelming to annoying as plot devices or villains.  But now, they were messing with the very tenets that underpin the emotional makeup of the show.  When it comes to the loves and the friendships on TVD, it's going to take a hell of a lot more than some really bad monologuing (hello, Markos) or some "suddenly I'm here, so you should care" situations (hey there, LivLuke) to defeat our core characters or divide them permanently.  After seeing the gang jerked around by the Travelers and witches last week, it was really good to watch them get comeuppance in this episode.
When Caroline killed Luke, it was intense proof of how much she cares for Stefan, and a fantastic progression to the darker side of her character that basically fascinates me.  How far can Caroline go to protect the ones she loves while keeping herself and her ability to respect herself intact?  In many ways, I think that's her main arc as a character.

Backtracking, we also had Tyler/Julian's "death."  I did enjoy the extent to which Liz played a role in taking down the Travelers in this episode from the start, and seeing her carefully trying to deal with Markos in this scene later segued into her getting the Traveler boss where he needed to be for the explosion at the Grill. Going over the town line was enough to revert Ty to a guy with a werewolf gene who had a broken neck, rather horrifically. Tyler's obliteration would have seemed monumental in a less eventful episode, but we had bigger fish to fry, to say the least.  It was interesting that Tyler was human when he came back to life later, and this sets his character up for a new type of journey next season.

Damon concocted a fairly neat plot to blow the Travelers up and facilitate Bonnie's scheme to undo the chanters once and for all, saving as many deceased and beloved supernaturals as possible along the way.  That so many Travelers had to die in order to bring the spell to fruition felt like poetic justice.  But someone had to activate the explosion and die themselves in the process.
Elena not letting Damon just go there alone was excellent.  Sure, we had that gorgeous scene between them of Damon professing his plans to be the one to go into the bombing, and Elena telling him the intensity with which she sees a future with him.  So totally romantic and lovely.  And the image of Damon and Elena kissing with the sun flashing between them was one of the most beautifully evocative, haunting images in this exceedingly well-directed hour.  It's tied with the moment of Damon sitting on his car in front of the Mystic Falls sign as my favorite shot of the episode.
But Elena wasn't going to sit back while Damon rode to his doom, even if she did have to choke back the throes of her human demise to ride shotgun.  To me, that is what makes Elena, Elena.  She's comprised of love and that's what drives her.  So whenever we may flag in our patience with her as a strong heroine, I truly feel as if that's what brings me back to her and will keep me rooting for her through and through.  I really respect the strength of her undying loyalty and unwavering devotion.  It was also great to have Damon and Elena go into this as partners, no longer vacillating or playing games with each other to avoid embracing their relationship. 

I totally fangirled out on Stefan encountering Lexi on The Other Side, not least of all because

"I’ve saved you from metaphorical darkness and actual darkness. I think you owe me a beer."  - Lexi

 As much as I have always enjoyed Lexi, because Arielle Kebbel knocks it out of the park every time, man, this might have been the ultimate Lexi episode.  Certainly, in terms of defining what friendship means in its utmost and most unfathomable lengths, Lexi met and exceeded that ideal.  I also effing loved that it was Lexi who expedited Markos' journey to oblivion.  I can't imagine a more satisfying end for a hated, ineffectual villain, than to be given his due by a much-loved character who just hasn't been in the show as much as she ought to be.  There might be some tiny part of my brain that rooted for a When Harry Met Sally situation for Stefan and Lexi, but hey, seriously, there's something so much deeper and more heartfelt in their platonic friendship's profundity, what with Lexi being a total Steroline shipper.  Wow.

Speaking of the return of adored and missed characters...you know where I'm going with this.  Alaric.  And he's coming back as a series regular next season.  Yes!

"Friendly advice: when you finally get the girl… don’t blow her up." -Alaric

There's something to be said for shows understanding the emotional significance that certain characters hold when they bring them back after an extended absence.  Seeing Alaric come back in such a poignant way was rewarding.  I loved Lexi's build-up to finding him, adored Ric's brief but sweet reunion with Damon (my possible favorite tv bromance ever!) and was thrilled to see him pass through Bonnie to reclaim life.  But the most stunning Alaric moment was definitely him being there for Elena, so exquisitely fluidly, at the exact second she needed him most: in the aftermath of Damon's being trapped on what was left of The Other Side.
Okay, so I've buried the lead slightly on that one.  The Damon and Elena scene in the wake of his being unable to pass back through to the living world was completely devastating, even though my having been around this block a few times leaves me in little doubt that he will somehow be okay.  Again, I was impressed with Nina Dobrev as she completely nailed Elena's heart-wrenching breakdown into utter despair.  And Damon's belief that he's simply peaked as anything approaching a human being by experiencing such complete love from Elena Gilbert was marvelously and painfully succinct.  Ian Somerhalder aced the combination of grief, longing, and solace in a scene entirely befitting of the highs, lows, and transcendence of the Damon/Elena relationship.  

Elena: "Please don't leave me."
Damon: "I don't have a choice, baby. You are by far the greatest thing to have ever happened to me in my 173 years on this earth. The fact that I get to die knowing that I was loved, not just by anyone, but by you? Elena Gilbert? That's the epitome of a fulfilled life. It's never going to get any better than this. I peaked. I love you, Elena." 

Once Stefan and Caroline reunited, they were also united in the grief of losing so much.  Caroline still hadn't recovered from losing Stefan, or so she'd feared.  Okay, well now, Lexi and Damon, the two people that Stefan had cared for the longest, were obliterated from existence (for now, guys, for now).  And Bonnie was gone, too.  The sight of Stefan and Caroline embracing in such mutual and comforting sadness was as melancholy as it was bonding and heartening.  Also...I think Stefan protests too much about not knowing the extent of his feelings for Caroline.  I believe he knows them all too well, though he doesn't care to admit it, as indicated by his easy response to Lexi when she prodded him about the unfortunateness of him dying before he had his first date with Car...awww, in the mix of all of the craziness, so cute.

Certainly, no series since the heyday of Buffy and Angel has had me so shockingly compliant with going from deeply hoping for one couple to be together (Caroline and Klaus), only to be pretty much okay with one of them being with someone else (Caroline and Stefan).  Klaroline, Steferine, Steroline, and Caroline/Enzo (what are we calling that, people?)!  Guess what, I like them all...maybe not equally, but yes, TVD has managed to suck me into multiple, weirdly coinciding romantic hopes regarding Caroline or Stefan with seamless precision, despite the obvious chaos of the gambit.  It just brings me back to the days of feeling as if Buffy and Angel were endgame but then being completely cool with Buffy/Spike and Angel/Cordelia.  It takes la creme de la creme of shows to achieve this feat with me, let me tell you.  And when I stated that list of Caroline and Stefan ships above, mentally, I did want to flip my head back and forth like Faye Dunaway in Chinatown ("my sister, my daughter!" "Klaroline, Steroline!").
Moving on to the Bonnie and Damon aspect: the ending.  What I perhaps most value in TVD is its ability to bond morally disparate characters in the seizing, irrefutable extremity of life-or-death choices. I enjoyed the simple perfection of Bonnie and Damon each acknowledging that there might be others they would rather hold hands with at the moment of their existence ending, but well, the universe had determined that they would be together at that time, and they were really united right then.  Fantastically moving, and finally we saw a few glimpses of the Bonnie/Damon connection from the novels that many fans have waited to find in the show.  The element of Damon's words, "I don't know," being cut off into the white screen was also excellently provocative and suspenseful and deep.

This is something of a sidebar because I was so taken with the rest of the episode, but I can't let this go unsaid: I loved seeing Silas again in all of his haughty glory, and seeing him taken down deservedly by Bonnie. "Bygones." Very satisfying.  Enzo was, again, awesomeness defined, and never more so than when he stalked back into the human world with a flirtatious line to Caroline.  

Matt and Jeremy didn't have all that much to do in the hour, but I'm always glad they are both there.  Matt's wonderfully simplistic and self-aware quips are soothing ("Can we talk about the irony of killing the only place dumb enough to hire us?") and Jeremy's concern for Bonnie was -- while not as epic as it should have felt -- significant and at least indicative of the way her character has been bound so long by self-sacrificing plotlines that she doesn't put much value on her own life, though others thankfully do.  The scene between Bonnie and Grams was also touching in this same light, and I wonder what Grams did to help her granddaughter find peace.  What is going to happen to Bonnie's soul, to Damon's, to Lexi's?  This rather harkens back to the mystery of seeing Katherine sucked away to oblivion/hell (?) earlier in the season...there are certain aspects of the afterlife that have not been fully explained on TVD and I want to see them explored.

So many questions are left hanging by this finale.  Elena, Alaric, Enzo, Stefan, Tyler  -- all impossibly returned from the beyond.  What can they do to bring about the return of Damon and Bonnie?  Can we have Lexi, too?  Haha, I know we'd be lucky just to get Damon, but it's hard not to want them all.  I cannot wait to find out in Season 6.  It's going to be a long summer.

What did you think of this episode?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author - Virginia Mae Fontana
Virginia is happy to be reviewing The Vampire Diaries, Hart of Dixie, Nashville, Beauty and the Beast, Witches of East End, Covert Affairs, and Continuum for Spoiler TV. She is a college English instructor and enjoys obsessing over films and pop music - in addition to tv shows, of course! You can find her blog, SugarRushed, at http://virginiamaeblog.blogspot.com/ and her Twitter handle is @SugarRushedBlog

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