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Throwback Thursday - The Vampire Diaries - 3.22 "The Departed"

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

You may remember that at the beginning of this month, we covered The Vampire Diaries season 3 premiere for this throwback segment, and as luck will have it, I'm back for more with the season 3 finale! Which is nicely symmetric, and especially fitting since this episode is all about parallels.

To catch you up a bit, Alaric went from vampire hunter, to Original vampire aiming to kill vampire-kind (quite the twisted promotion, I hope he updated his Linkedin profile!), whose life is linked to Elena's. Let the Originals kill Elena and automatically neutralize evil Alaric the threat to vampire-kind so they can be free? Or finish off Klaus and his Original siblings, and eliminate all the sired bloodlines, and thus the entire vampire species including our favorites? Definitely one of the most important episodes in The Vampire Diaries entire series, this episode is a true a turning point for the back half of the show. Mostly though, this episode if full of choices.

Dead-dead Klaus, or Beef-jerkified Klaus?

Following her collapse, Elena is in the hospital with a concussion, and it's honestly surprising that over the course of three vampire, werewolf, and hybrid filled seasons, this hasn't happened more often. Then again, when you have vampire blood and witches handy, who needs jello cups and fashion-challenged hospital gowns, am I right? The Salvatore brothers immediately berate Jeremy for bringing Elena to such an easy trap where every Original can easily kill her, but in all fairness, it's probably the most normal thing anyone has ever done on this show.

« Damon: Have I told you lately, how much I appreciate you NOT being the dumbest brother on Earth? »
Thankfully, the B-team arrives and after some reassurance from Meredith about Elena's state, she's brought back home by a vampire, a hybrid, a ghost-whisperer, and Mystic Falls' quarterback. All perfectly normal. Since Elena's supposed to be in a weakened state, and, you know, the target of the most powerful vampires in the land, she's on house (and couch) arrest for the foreseeable future. Enter Elijah. You see, after being bullied by Klaus for months, the Mystic Falls gang was finally free. In his current form, he couldn't hurt them anymore, and the plan was for him to stay that way, and stay hidden, lest the stake should find its way into his heart and kill him for good, which would eliminate his bloodline with him. But with Alaric on the loose, and in possession of the stake, the whole Original family could just kill Elena and eliminate him. Elijah offers safety for Elena's life, in exchange for his brother's body. Elena agrees to Elijah's terms, to Damon's (justified) outrage. Damon, by the way, is en route for the middle of nowhere, to hide Klaus's body from anyone who'd want to either revive him, or kill him for good.
« Damon: NOT! Hello! Did that concussion give you brain damage? His lunatic siblings will kill you the first chance they get! »
Meanwhile, Alaric has a plan of his own, and is conspiring with Jeremy (this is not going to win you any points with Damon, Little Gilbert!). See, it's simple: Jeremy tells him where Klaus is hidden, Alaric kills Klaus and any other Originals, causing their bloodlines to die with them. Vampire-kind ends, Elena is free of them, and lives the rest of her natural human life vampire-free, until her death causes Alaric's simultaneously, and voila. Jeremy seems tempted, but ultimately decides to join team Elijah, and they lure Alaric into a trap by sending him off after Klaus's body.
Fight or Flight

Aside from coming up with deadly plans, Alaric has also been busy wrapping the whole town around his little daylight ring finger, and has conveniently outed Caroline and Tyler to the council, as well as their protective mothers. There's nowhere to hide (and certainly not those cellars where Tyler used to turn) so they're forced to leave everything behind. It's a far cry from the premiere, in which Mama Lockwood was happily firing verveine shots at Caroline after she and Tyler finally got together, or even before that, when Caroline's mom would rather have had no daughter at all, than a vampire daughter. Now, Caroline is a lot of things, but an uncoiffed one is not one of them. After promising Tyler she'd meet him after helping their friends (still not sure why because aside from saying "Stefan?" at one point, she does...not...help?), they share a tearful hug before what looks to be a tale of two star-crossed lovers on the run, and only needing each other...and a curling iron. Gotta keep those priorities straight!
A hundred miles from there, Damon and Bonnie are staring at bird cages, mini fridges, and one very desiccated Original vampire. Bonnie is supposed to spell him so he's unplottable, but similarly to Elena, after everything he's put them through, it seems she's having some qualms over letting him get away with it.
Damon: You know, I'm not half way out of Virginia and Elena sells our souls to the Originals?
Bonnie: It was her call.
Damon: You know what else is her call? Everything bad, ever.
Case in point, back in Mystic Falls, Elena and Stefan are having one of their incredibly boring conversations about which current family member she wants protected (Jeremy), which Stefan seizes as an opportunity to kiss her.
Stefan: Just in case there is no 'later'.
Listen, I get it. All season long, it's either been Elena clinging to the idea that Stefan would come back to her, or Stefan (once he was un-Rippered) angsting over the fact that during his corpse-filled absence, his ex-girlfriend had fallen for his brother. So when faced with quite terrible odds as to whether they'd both make it out alive this time, Stefan had to do it. Just like he had to know her back when he thought she was Katherine. He has this whole schtick about free will, and letting Elena make her own choices, but the fact that he puts his own desires before hers doesn't really uphold his holier than thou position. Actions speak louder than words, Stefan...
Damon: You just had to let her make the choice, didn't you?
Stefan: What would you have done, Damon?
Damon: Grabbed her, gagged her, threw her in a well, I don't know, anything other than let her trust Elijah.
Stefan: You know she'd just hate you for it, right?
Damon: Yeah, but she'd be alive and she'd hate me. Thus, the eternal difference between you and me, brother.
Tea or Vodka?

Meanwhile, during every concussion-induced nap, Elena has been having flashbacks. This time, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene, it's sophomore year again and Elena's only worries are not being able to go to the bonfire that evening, as well as Jeremy's increasingly lengthy showers. Ugh, did not need to know that about Little Gilbert, thank you very much. Well, that and the fact that current boyfriend Matt has mapped out their entire future already, conveniently skipping one minuscule detail: Elena isn't sure she wants to be a part of it.
It's family night at the Gilbert residence, and Elena's parents want her to be there since Aunt Jenna's staying for dinner. All in all, it's pleasant to see this lighthearted, happy, version of Elena, before her life went (quite literally) off the rails. I'm not saying I'd watch an entire show about it (because I wouldn't), but having seen her suffer so much, at such a young age, it's a nice throwback to when life was simple.

Back in the present, she wakes up to see Matt looking after her, and feels doubly guilty that she strung him along back in sophomore year, and yet he still cares about her deeply enough to have forgiven her. Which brings her to her current brand of guilt: choosing between Stefan and Damon. Three seasons in, she can finally admit that despite the world as they know it being threatened to be upended at any minute, and most everyone in her life (including herself) on the brink of getting killed, she's stuck in a love triangle and needs some motherly advice. That's not to say I'm complaining about the love triangle, it still is one of the most entertaining ones to follow, but the discrepancy between the life and death storylines and this one, is quite hilarious when put together.
Elena: No, it's not that. It's – after the accident, I kind of felt like I didn't know how to live anymore, like I didn't want to, but then being with Stefan...it just...somehow I figured it out. And that's what love should be. You should love the person that makes you glad that you're alive.
Matt: So then, what's the problem?
Elena: The problem's Damon. When I'm with him, he just consumes me. And I know that I can't love them both, I know that it's wrong, but I – when I choose one then I'll lose the other. And I don't want to lose anyone else.

All of this just proves one thing: Elena's humanity. Now, I'm not going to launch into a metaphore of Stefan equals tea, and Damon would be vodka (and yet...) because I love both and I don't want tea to be the boring option when I drink some every day. But it's pretty easy to analyze nonetheless: of course she doesn't want to let go of the past, Stefan represents the way she came back to life after suffering from a debilitating loss. He's reassurance, he's safety, he's the guarantee of always having someone be there for her. It's hard to let go of that and set off in the unknown, especially having gone through all that trauma. But choosing the past, because the future daunts you, is no way to live either, and her feelings for Damon aren't going to disappear just because picking Stefan feels familiar and comforting. And after all, when Stefan left to save his brother, and transformed again into the Ripper, she never gave up on him and it's a true testament to how they felt about each other. But that doesn't mean it has to be forever, out of duty more than desire, either.
It turns out that unlike Caroline, Matt (and Jeremy) made good on the "tea AND vodka" promise and drugged Elena's drink so as to... kidnap her, gag her, stuff her in a car drop her in a well, and take her away! Not everyone agrees with Stefan and his free will mantra, when the free will leads to, you know, getting killed by murderous Original Vampires.

Goodbye, or Farewell?

Pacing in front of locker not #666, Damon is waiting for "Sexy Bex" (someday, I want to read a compilation of every single nickname Damon ever gave anyone) to come pick up her coffin-bound brother (as one does). Unfortunately, Alaric's newfound popularity (bet he got those 500+ relations on Linkedin along with the Original promotion!) means that Jeremy's fake lead didn't lead him astray, but right into Damon's waiting arms. Or rather neck. As in a very twisted, and very (temporarily) dead, Damon. Alaric has the stake and neither Damon, nor Rebekah (who finally arrives) are any match for him. The unthinkable happens and Alaric stakes Klaus, whose body immediately bursts into flames while Damon and Rebekah can only watch. Vampires whose bloodlines cease because their Original sire was killed, die in not even an hour. Which means...
Stefan: Well, if he wasn't lying, an hour is not enough time to get you all the way back to Mystic Falls.
Damon: For us to have our epic goodbye, Stefan?
Stefan: Not us, brother. You and Elena.
Damon: Well, I guess you'll just have to say goodbye for both of us, won't you? Call me if you cough up a lung.
You see? Not to toot my own horn, but even Stefan knows Elena should pick Damon and is rooting for them to be able to say goodbye! Unfortunately, while Damon and Stefan can hold out hope that Klaus wasn't the one who sired their bloodline, Tyler doesn't have that kind of loophole. As a hybrid, he almost immediately starts to feel the effects in front of a grief-stricken Caroline who refuses to leave his side.
Back on the road, Elena's time in Denial Land is quickly fading to a close. As it turns out, while the whole time Matt has been coaxing Elena's feelings out to help her, he's ultimately become the one she has to give her choice to now that Klaus has been staked and time is running out.
Elena: We have to go back. Listen to me, Matt, if Klaus is the one that turned their bloodline, then they're all gonna die. [Matt doesn't respond. Shouting.] We have to go back, Matt!
Matt: Elena.
Elena: What?!
Matt: Damon's not with them.
Elena: What?
Matt: He's a hundred miles out of town. I can keep driving to him or I can turn around and go back to Stefan. It's your choice.
The look on Elena's face as she realizes that like she predicted earlier, she wouldn't be able to keep not choosing and the moment is right now... Her heart is being pulled in two opposite directions, and with everything she's been through, she chooses safety, and who can blame her? (I do. I blame her. How could you leave Damon to die alone, with just a phonecall!). You know what else is heartbreaking? Damon's voice, when he faces the fact that she's going home, that she's choosing Stefan. Again.
Damon: Ah, I know, I get it. So, since I'm possibly a dead man, can I ask you a question?
Elena: Yeah, of course.
Damon: If it was just down to him and me and you had to make a choice who got the goodbye, who would it be?
Elena: I love him, Damon. He came into my life at a time when I needed someone and I fell for him instantly. No matter what I feel for you, I – I never unfell for him.
Damon: Yeah, I get it. Stefan, it's always gonna be Stefan.
Elena: I can't think about always. All I can think about is right now. And I care about you, Damon, which is why I have to let you go. I mean, maybe if you and I had met first.
Damon: Yeah, maybe.

Maybe. MAYBE. MAYBE!
Because you see, the flashbacks keep coming. Very specific flashbacks in fact, to the exact day Elena went to a party she wasn't supposed to be at. The day when her parents had to come pick her up. The day her parents died in the water below Wickery Brige. The day she first met Stefan, who saved her life in the sinking car. And, as it turns out, the day she first met DAMON. Before any of all this happened, back at the bonfire, when he was a mysterious stranger, and she was a cheeleader falling out of love with her life in front of her.
Elena: So, Damon, tell me. What is it that I want?
Damon: You want a love that consumes you. You want passion, an adventure, and even a little danger.
Elena: So, what do you want?
Remember how Elena told Matt she feels about Damon? He consumes her. And she and Damon did meet first. Yeah. So even though she chooses to go back, chooses Stefan, chooses to let Damon go... It's like Damon said, she never truly had a choice, because her freewill (ha!) will always lead her back to him.

Sink or Swim?

Klaus dying drives Goldylocks Rebekah over the proverbial bridge bend, such is her devastation. Which means her agreement to Elijah's terms, i.e. not killing Elena in order to kill Alaric, is off the table. Much like Damon's favorite pastime when he's hungry (lying on the road, waiting for his next victim), she strikes a pose on the infamous Wickery Bridge, waiting for Matt and Elena to cross it. Which they do, and fate heartbreakingly repeats itself. Mirroring the crash in which her parents died, the car plunges into the water, and we catch a glimpse at Elena's parents' final moments, with Elena's father insisting Stefan save her first, and not them. Elena's guilt over being at the party and making her parents come pick her up rears up again, and this time, she gives up her life to save Matt's, drowning under Wickery Bridge.
As a murderous Alaric suddenly turns slack while trying to kill him, Damon immediately realizes what this must mean for Elena's life and simultaneously loses his best friend, and the love of his life. Or so he thinks because... Remember that concussion Elena had earlier, and her little sojourn in the hospital? As it turns out, not just a concussion. Meredith had to give her vampire blood to save her. Meaning Elena wakes up a brand new vampire, which magistrally concludes three seasons of inevitability, and yet constant fight, over staying human.

Sidenote: It also goes to show Damon's growth though, since the last time Elena's life was in mortal danger, he force-fed her his blood in order to save her. He could have done this exact same thing this time around, but the thought never crossed his mind, because he respects her freewill too much (ha, again).

The final twist is that as Stefan and Damon surviving seemed to signify: Klaus isn't dead, Bonnie transferred him to Tyler's body so Alaric couldn't kill him. Which means everyone survives, yay!

Aaaand, that's it! I want to apologize for the length, and all the quotes, but this episode was just so good, I couldn't help myself. I kind of wish I could watch season 3 all over again right now, to be perfectly honest, and I may or may not be considering Legacies as something to tide me over. Anyway, what did you think of this finale? Did it deliver on everything season 3 promised? As always, sound off in the comments!

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