Hello, hello, and welcome to the last In Review of The Vampire Diaries Season 4! Thanks for your patience in awaiting this post; we hope you’ll accept this sneak peek at the super-sized episode write-ups you can expect to find in Love You to Death – Season 4: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries. The book version will have additional sections – Circle of Knowledge, History Lesson, Previously on The Vampire Diaries, and Off Camera – but below is the review (pre-edit!) that you’ll see in the book. We’re also happy to announce that we can add showrunner Julie Plec to the interview list we teased last month. You can pre-order LYTD4 on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
After high-school graduation, real life begins — or at least it can feel that way as the last rite of passage of the teenage years means everything becomes optional and what happens next is a choice. For most of the seniors assembled in Mystic Falls (congrats for living to see this day!), the question of what comes next is a huge one. That “anything’s possible” spirit of graduation comes into a neat contrast with the guys willing to blow up Grandma and Grandpa at the Grill to see that their immovable destiny is fulfilled. The Hunters return to life determined and more goal-oriented than Caroline Forbes on a prom steering committee. There’s no two ways about it: Silas must be destroyed with the cure. Their presence drives the action of Graduation, as do the resurrected massacred interested in keeping that veil down, but that single-mindedness about their purpose is about as far from the average graduate’s state of mind, and it acts as a supernatural foil to the big decisions the seniors have to make now that high school is over, and they’re moving on to the next phase of their lives — whether in this realm or on the Other Side.
In the season premiere, Stefan told Matt that he doesn’t “have to live” with the guilt of surviving Elena in the car crash, he gets to: “You better earn it.” And after nearly getting blown to bits by a vampire hunter, after graduating with his friends, Matt decides to relish the fact that he’s alive (and that there’s a hot vampire offering to show him the world). Rebekah teaches him that the first rule of truly living is to do the thing you’re afraid of — for her, that’s kissing Matt — and for him, it’s leaving the only place he’s ever known to explore the world. In the context of the “you reap what you sow” theme of the episode, both Matt and Rebekah get what they deserve — Rebekah has been striving to be a better person and longing for love (and for Matt), while Matt has been consistently a standup good friend and slogs away at his crappy job because there’s no one for him to lean on. Now he can enjoy a reward for once, as he embraces the offer that Rebekah makes him after she selflessly saves him from peril. (And keep in mind: though she won’t be killed by the blast, she will suffer the pain of it.)
There’s a parallel between former beaus Donovan and Forbes: Caroline also has an Original courting her, and that infatuation comes in handy as Klaus arrives in the nick of time to save Damon. But tellingly he didn’t come back to town for Damon’s sake, he came to see Caroline graduate. (Of course, Caroline sent him a graduation notice. Oh, Caroline, never change.) And, to boot, he saves her from Aja’s witch attack with what is, perhaps, the most creative beheading of all time. Caroline hasn’t accepted Klaus’s past offers to travel the world with him, as Matt does here with Rebekah, and Klaus wisely instead gives her what she truly wants: a pardon for Tyler. This magnanimous gesture speaks volumes about how far Klaus has come through knowing and loving Caroline, and it’s the one thing he could do to prove how earnestly he wants to be in her good graces. His line about wanting to be her last love is just about the most swoonworthy of all lines ever on TVD, and to think it’s spoken, convincingly, by the man who for two seasons was the gang’s worst nightmares. As Klaus begins his New Orleans adventure, he is, like the graduates, on the precipice of big change, big choices, and new experiences. Like the actors, writers, and crew “graduating” from TVD to The Originals, whose absence will be felt and their presence missed when season five rolls on, Klaus has been a huge part of the past few seasons, and here’s hoping he finds his way back to Mystic Falls on occasion.
Elena’s journey this season has in part been an exploration of a question you’d never want to personally find out the answer to: is it worse to lose someone you love or to lose yourself? Elena Gilbert, overachiever, goes for door number three: both simultaneously, that’s the worst. And after a season of torment, Elena is finally (finally!) able to enjoy herself, as she sits in the cemetery eating burgers and drinking bourbon with Alaric and Jeremy, able to laugh at what’s she done (like burning down their house) before feeling the weight of it. She’s able to feel without losing herself to grief or rage.
Emerging on the other side of her battle acclimatizing to vampirism, experiencing the life of an emotionless version of herself, becoming fueled by rage, and finally having the catharsis of being reunited with her dead brother, Elena also finds that she’s no longer subject to the sire bond. Whatever she feels, she feels. The question of whether Elena earnestly felt for Damon plagued the brothers Salvatore since the bond was discovered (Elena felt sure and at ease with her feelings for Damon), and here she’s able to finally express herself to him with restraint or coercion. Of course, because it’s Damon and Elena, the conversation is passionate and argumentative, but it manages to address a lot of the issues that Stefan and Caroline had with their pairing. Elena knows that Damon is “wrong” for her, but that is in part what fuels her love for him. They challenge each other, and change each other, and never is that more apparent in their fireworks filled, feisty disagreement that surges into their proclamations of love and epic kissing. Neither will apologize for who they are, or how wrong they are for each other — and that’s what makes them so right.
Though Damon gives Elena the cure as a kind of graduation gift, Elena believes that Stefan deserves to have the cure. Knowing that he would have taken the cure himself if he could, to free himself from the guilt and pain of being a vampire, she wants him to have it. In an episode of gift-giving (and re-gifting, in this case), Elena’s marks an important turn in her relationship with Stefan, despite the fact that he doesn’t keep it in the end. She wants to take care of him in the way that he’s always looked out for her. Now that she has come to peace with who she is as a vampire — able to feed on blood bags, free of the sire bond, and her emotions in control — she understands that his struggle is greater than her own. What she says as she gives it to him is that he deserves “whatever you want out of life”; it’s a testament to the love that’s still shared between them, despite her not being in love with him, that she would make this gesture. But Stefan, being Stefan, can’t keep it: he wants her to have what was taken from her in “The Departed.” If she has the cure, she has back that choice of whether or not to be a vampire.
But not for long. In the wake of getting dumped by Elijah, Katherine wants to get even with her doppelganger. She believes (rather hilariously, but oh-so-Katheriney) that Elena has a better life, all the luck. The happiness in Elena’s life is not “deserved” because Elena’s a “good girl” — it’s just luck, if you ask Katherine Pierce. But she messed with the wrong shadow self on the wrong day. In the doppelganger showdown of the century, Katherine’s bad day only gets worse, and she certainly doesn’t get what she wants. Besides it being so freaking cool to see Elena and Katherine have a realistic-looking and kickass fight, it’s an important moment for Elena. She would rather use the only cure in the world on Katherine than be killed. No longer willing to die, as she was with Kol in The Walking Dead, Elena fights for her vampire life, so restorative was it for her to see Jeremy again, to have that family moment with him and Alaric, to be able to have a peaceful reconciliation. And so instead of Katherine getting the super immortality she wanted, she’s had the cure crammed down her throat. What will Katherine Pierce be like as a human? Will she try to turn again? Will Klaus be interested in her hybrid-making blood?
While Katherine’s revenge-seeking attack on Elena comes off as sour grapes (followed by just desserts), Damon proves that he many not actually know what the word “selfish” means. After being infected with the werewolf toxin, Damon goes into hero mode. When Elena realizes what’s happening and that Damon will die soon enough, she urges him to take the cure, but he refuses. Instead he decides to be the brother who concerns himself with the “supernatural apocalypse,” and he distracts Vaughn with a wild goose chase for Silas in order to protect his loved ones, and graduation day, from the obsessed Hunters. Even after Vaughn’s been dispatched — how amazing was it to see Ric grinning at Damon after saving his ass, kicking Vaughn’s, and holding on to the cure? — Damon refuses to take the cure. He wants Elena to have it, and he would rather die than be mortal again. (Which earns him a serious slap from Elena for that choice.) While he’s still his Damon-y self, the bad brother has been pretty good this season and he is gifted with one of the happiest fates of the finale (besides nearly dying): he gets the girl.
Not all of Mystic Falls’ “hero protectors” have their dreams come true like Damon, though. What Stefan jokes he should be doing during the supernatural apocalypse instead of enjoying his brief moment with Lexi, Bonnie actually does: she puts her friends and the town above her own interest, safety, and happiness — even though she’s dead. She promises Caroline a “friend day” and she delivers, but for Bonnie it is bittersweet — she knows that when she hugs her friends before graduation it’ll be for the last time and then when she thanks her father, for everything, it’s her last moments with him. When Kol tries to make her permanently take down the veil, she explains just how desperately she’d love to do just that — to stay in the world of the living, rather than haunt it from the Other Side. But she knows she can’t do unspeakable and irreparable damage to the world just for her own personal happiness. Unlike Kol who flip-flops on his opinion regarding Silas and the Other Side after spending, like, five minutes dead, Bonnie has the strength of her convictions, and while she’ll risk her own life to bring back Jeremy, she won’t risk the lives of anyone else for selfish gains.
And Bonnie’s sacrifice goes further: for the first time her friends are okay, and she doesn’t want them to suffer, knowing she’s died. So she doesn’t say goodbye while she can. Bonnie is successful in putting the veil back up, and in resurrecting Jeremy’s life, but now that she’s on the Other Side, in season five, in addition to losing a best friend, the gang won’t have a witch to call on for magical fixes to big bad problems.
And Jeremy will have to live knowing that his life came at the cost of Bonnie’s. (He should talk to Matt about survivor guilt.) While there are many questions regarding Jer’s future — like, um, everyone thinks he’s dead so how will that be explained? — what’s certain is that he and Bonnie’s romance has rekindled this season and is cemented with what might be their last kiss in Graduation. Jer’s had some experience loving a ghost before (and his relationship with Anna ended his romance with Bon), and Jeremy’s the only one who will be able to still see Bonnie and talk to her, if not touch her. His resurrection, done in great part for Elena, will have a huge impact on her; her identity is so wrapped up in being a sister to Jeremy, just as the Salvatore brothers are to each other.
With Lexi back, for once Stefan chooses to enjoy himself, getting drunk and rocking out to Bon Jovi’s greatest hits with her. He jokes about his “hero hair” but Stefan usually does choose the selfless option: prioritizing others over his own wellbeing or happiness. The events of season four began in the wake of Stefan respecting Elena’s choice, over his own preference, and that act led her to become a vampire. And here in the season finale, Stefan comes full circle: he returns the cure to her so that she will again have the choice — to live as a human or to live as a vampire. Her call, her choice.
Stefan, Damon, and Elena are so inextricably linked that anything that affects one affects the other two. It’s to that point that Stefan (who, granted, has been day-drinking) believes that, now that the sire bond is broken, the question of who Elena loves is more important than saving the world. As much as it is utterly heartbreaking to see his face as he hears every word Elena says to Damon (and their mouth noises), Stefan has developed a single-minded focus on Elena, and Lexi’s advice to him — to move on, to let go — is just what he needs to hear, and follow.
Stefan’s journey this season has been to get Elena back to herself and to find out the truth of how she feels: with her reconciliation with Damon, the cure in her pocket, and her self-assuredness and free will present and accounted for, Stefan’s quest comes to an end. What kind of life is left for him in Mystic Falls? It’s a sad denouement for him, and one that’s made ever more tragic by the doppelganger turn at the falls. As he loads stony Silas from Damon’s trunk into his own, Stefan accepts that Elena chose Damon over him, and while he is not happy about it, he offers an olive branch and sets his brother at ease by saying he’s “not not-happy for” Damon in a huge moment that acts as a kind of blessing for the relationship. Compare that sentiment to his bitterness in My Brother’s Keeper (“Let’s not pretend like this isn’t the best day of your life.”) or his judgment in We’ll Always Have Bourbon Street (“It’s impossible for her to be so blind that she doesn’t see how wrong you are for her.”) Here, Stefan and Damon finally come to a kind of peace and resolution, after spending much of the season at odds over Elena, who she loved and who they thought she should be. It’s a touching, if bittersweet, moment.
Before the final twist, it seems Stefan’s fate at the end of the season is to have his best friend disappear back to the Other Side, to graduate high school for the 17th time and mark the end of this era of his life, and to see his brother win the heart of his epic love. Before she disappears back to the Other Side, Lexi tells him that she believes an unfettered Stefan will one day find another epic love — if he can let go of Elena. But that’s a problem for another day.
Instead of going to Portland or realizing that there’s no need to live in a yurt in Australia (they have perfectly nice modern dwellings), he is dealt a life-changing mythology smackdown — he is a doppelganger, and of Silas, the original immortal and a former super-powered witch — and then he’s immediately imprisoned in a safe and tossed over the falls, a spot he chose for its remoteness. In a horrifying final scene, the water seeps into the safe and Stefan gasps for air — he will drown and heal and drown again until he desiccates and he’ll stay that way until someone finds him. Is this what Stefan deserves? Decidedly not. As with Bonnie Bennett, Stefan gets the raw end of the season-finale twists, but it’s a set-up for a fascinating story turn in season five in terms of character and mythology.
And we’re left duped by the doppelganger one last time. The Katherine-Elena fight seemed like it would end in Katherine’s favor, that Katherine would be the one assuming her doppelganger’s life. But the rug was pulled out from under us: yes, one evil doppelganger would be destroying a shadow self, but it was Silas and Stefan, not Katherine and Elena. How the TVD writers manage to one up themselves for jaw-dropping finales season after season is a mystery best left unsolved (Expression triangle?), but what they’ve accomplished with Graduation is a heartfelt end to an important chapter in the series. No more high school. No more Originals. Tyler is coming back, and Bonnie’s on the Other Side. Elena and Katherine aren’t the only doppelgangers. It’s time to let go and move on from many of the familiar places and faces: the joys of the college years are just around the corner.
Feeling all the feelings - a compelling moments highlight reel:
- Lexi and Stefan rocking out to Bon Jovi.
- Alaric, Jer, and Elena having a happy grease-filled meal in the cemetery.
- Caroline’s voicemail for Klaus, his beheading entrance, and their “last love” moment on the field. Swooning for eternity.
- Bonnie and her dad having a moment as she graduates, knowing she’s on borrowed time.
- Damon and Elena’s passionate reunion by the fireplace.
- Stefan, so stoic, hearing Elena pour her heart out to Damon, and Lexi there for her best friend, hand on his shoulder.
- “I’m not not happy for you.” “Thanks, brother.” My heart, it breaks.
- Jeremy realizing why he can’t feel Bonnie’s touch anymore.
- Katherine beating the pulp out of Elena, but getting the ultimate burn in the end.
- DOPPELGANGER TWIST.
The Rules After flipping her emotions back on, Elena is no longer subjected to the sire bond. The amount of werewolf venom determines how quickly a vampire will expire from it. Silas reminds us of two key elements of magic in the TVDverse: Nature demands that there be a balance, and every spell has a loophole. Silas is released from Bonnie’s spell when the veil goes back up, and she no longer has access to her power and was dead-dead. When he made himself immortal, Nature created a version of him that could be killed — the shadow self, or doppelganger. So Stefan is a Silas knock-off, 2000 years after the fact.
Foggy Moments Looking back to the beginning of the season, what exactly was Pastor Young going on about in his letter that he left for April? He wrote, “There’s always been an evil that spread through Mystic Falls, but now a greater one is coming. My death is but the first in the war ahead.” But we’re later told that Shane convinced the pastor that through him sacrificing himself and 11 others, his wife would be resurrected, along with the others killed in the name of Silas. (Which was a big old lie on Silas’s part; he can’t raise mortals, only convince a witch to eradicate the Other Side.) Why did Pastor Young consider himself part of a war in a fight against a greater evil? He was Team Silas.
Vaughn tells Damon he starved to death in Silas’s well, right before he informs Damon that Qetsiyah found him on the Other Side to remind him of his destiny, confirming that Qetsiyah is still an active force. But with the veil down, why couldn’t Qetsiyah herself pass through to take out Silas herself? Even dead witches have an incredible amount of power, as Bonnie and Aja both demonstrated. Is there a reason — other than it not being convenient, story-wise — why Qetsiyah is staying behind-the-scenes?
Where has Connor’s trailer been since he died? Still out on that back road?
Damon refuses to take the cure, even though he’s seconds away from death. Could he not just take the cure, be human for the drive home, and then turn again?
When Bonnie did the spell on Silas, she turned him into stone (as opposed to encasing him in stone); when the spell broke, he turned back into his non-calcified self — so where did the stone casing bits that Stefan found come from? Did Silas stick them in there for dramatic effect, or was his Monster Man form a little larger than his natural Stefan form and those were the extra bits of shed stony coating?
- When will Rebekah find her way to New Orleans for The Originals?
- Is Stefan the first Silas doppelganger?
- Stefan is trapped in a safe at the bottom of a quarry. How long til someone realizes that Silas-Stefan isn’t one they know and love?
- Katherine is human. She’s going to have to pay for those $500 boots she’s so fond of. What will she do?
- What will Jeremy’s “Oops, I’m not dead” explanation be? Where will he live since his sister burnt down their house?
- Tyler has been granted a pardon. Will Lockwood return to Mystic Falls? Can he compel himself a diploma or will he just chill Chez Lockwood with Matt?
- Matt has the awesomest summer plans. But will it be back to the Grill when his jaunt with Rebekah is over? What will Donovan do?
- How will Damon and Elena fare, as she heads off to college?
- Have we seen the last of the Hunters? Of April?
- Did Bonnie ever intend to give Katherine Silas-level immortality? Or was Bon-Bon just playing Katherine to get the tombstone?
- If Qetsiyah invented the cure to the immortality spell and she’s on the Other Side with Bonnie, could Bonnie get the recipe?
- When Silas explains that the spell that turned him to stone broke because Bonnie died, Stefan says, “But Bonnie’s not dead.” And Silas replies, “It doesn’t matter, does it?” Is Silas just giving Stefan the brush-off because he’s about to dump him over the falls, or is there a supernatural significance to Silas’s comment?
- Since Silas and Stefan are doppelgangers, was Silas 17 years old, like Stefan is, when he became an immortal, Qetsiyah imprisoned him, and she created the Other Side? Or is he more, like, 30, but could pass for 17 on a TV show?
- Silas has demonstrated a voracious appetite for blood. Is Stefan’s status as Silas’s doppelganger somehow connected to his tendency to go into full-on Ripper mode?
- Is the Other Side a place of isolation or is it possible to “hang out” with your other dead supernatural buddies? Witches seem to have a position of power and ability on the Other Side (Qetsiyah reaffirms Vaughn’s mission, for example); does that mean that Bonnie will be connected to other witches, her Grams? Qetsiyah?
- Silas will know, from psychically gleaning from that Stefan, that Elena had the cure. How long will it take before Silas realizes that Elena no longer has the cure? What will he do when he realizes his one goal in life — to die — is unachievable? Go to college? Raise some hell?
Crissy Calhoun is currently writing her Season 4 Love You to Death companion guide to The Vampire Diaries with her kickass co-author, and Vampire-Diaries.net’s co-founder, Heather Vee. The first three volumes are available here: Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3. Find Crissy online at crissycalhoun.com and tweeting @crissycalhoun.
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