And so it ends. Season five came to a close on Thursday night with a heart-breaking implosion (and an impressive explosion) that left our characters unmoored — loved ones lost, and returned. Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes, and in this finale, the Mystic Falls gang proved willing to go to the ends of the earth to be together and to protect their loved ones even when that meant risking their own existence.
While Markos and the Travelers may not rank on the list of most compelling antagonists this series has seen, their single-minded mission to take away the place the characters call home lends a similar single-mindedness to the ensemble of characters in Home. As the episode opens, Markos and the Travelers (with all their half-sensical, mystical mumbo-jumbo) have managed to destabilize the entire universe as these characters know it: Mystic Falls is a no spirit-magic zone, meaning vampires will die, witches are powerless, and its inhabitants have been either evacuated or killed (after being used as meat-suits for the Travelers). The Other Side is on the brink of collapse because of Markos’s return, and that means all the dead supernaturals who’ve made that purgatory their home are either headed for Oblivion or in a race to find that ever elusive “peace.” The ship, to use Sheriff Forbes’s metaphor, is going down.
In an act one scene that nicely pairs with the final one, Damon and Bonnie — the gang’s de facto leaders — have a charged conversation about the stakes of their situation. Not only is this one of the least annoying recap-the-previous-episode scenes we’ve had in awhile, but we can see how clearly neither one of them needs any help being “motivated” (though Damon smashes some stuff for good measure). All that matters to these two is saving the ones they love — saving Stefan and that ever-growing list of Other Siders, saving their home. From start to finish, the characters make choices in Home that serve that one end: to save, to protect, to die for one another.
While it may be in her job description to serve and protect the people of Mystic Falls, Sheriff Forbes steps up, playing a key role in orchestrating Project Kaboom. When Markos’s suspicions keep her at the Grill despite the ticking clock, Liz doesn’t waver in her resolve to oust these interlopers from her home, even if she won’t live to see it happen. The captain goes down with the ship, and she chooses to stay, knowing that she’s moments away from an explosive death and no safety net of an Other Side to be rescued from. The last Mystic Falls parent sees it through alive, thanks to Damon and Alaric stopping to save her — and risking their own passage back to the Land of Living in doing so.
Another matriarch willing to risk herself for her loved ones, Sheila “Grams” Bennett may have not succeeded in teaching Bonnie not to rush her elders, but she has instilled in her the value we heard from her back in season one: she will protect her own. Grams doesn’t try to stop Bonnie from making the sacrifice she’s committed to making — she respects her granddaughter’s choice — but Grams has made a selfless choice of her own. Somehow Bonnie has been taken care of, and combined with Grams’s comment that she’s not the only one in her family who knows how to make a sacrifice and that slow and deliberate pan over the graves of other Bennett witch ancestors, Grams may have not been the only Bennett working to protect Bonnie from the pain of Oblivion.
An episode with no time for mincing words or for hesitation — after all, the end is nigh — Home sees the more morally sound among the gang make strong choices that they may not make on a regular Thursday night. Bonnie may not like it but she readily works with Silas, despite the risk that bringing him back poses to humanity, in order to save the people she loves. She also awesomely spits his “Bygones?” back at him and lets him be whisked off out of the Other Side. Her father’s murder (not to mention countless others) gets some measure of justice in a moment that ties back to the beginning of the season. While no one (but Damon) is willing to blow up the whole town, committing Traveler massacre? No one flinches. And when Liv refuses to take the risk of bringing back Stefan and company from the Other Side (and potentially restarting the Travelers’ no-magic spell, should they live to chant again), Caroline does what she couldn’t do earlier in the season: she kills to save Stefan. She ensures that Liv feels just as motivated as the rest of them do by sending Luke to the Other Side. With Stefan dead and the Other Side collapsing, she’s as desperate as Damon to have Stefan back.
It’s been a slow burn and build on the Caroline-Stefan romance front, but Caroline seems more and more self-aware about her feelings for Stefan, especially when she has to see him dead. But more importantly than whether or not they ever go on that first date that Lexi so brilliantly chides Stefan about, Caroline is there for Stefan in what is arguably the worst moment of his life — having, by the end of the episode, lost the two people he knew and loved longest, and best. Though she did once have an epic love of her own in Lee, Lexi has had one singular role these past five seasons whether we saw her alive, as a ghost, or in flashback, and that was to be the best best friend a guilt-ridden closet Ripper could have. Lexi is willing to sacrifice another shot in the Land of the Living, she risks Oblivion, in order to do right by Stefan. She won’t risk overwhelming Bonnie by passing through her; she gives up her spot for Stefan’s brother, the man who killed her. She is there to chuck Markos into oblivion — with that trademark Lexi grin, to boot — and Stefan knows without having to be told that she fought for him ’til the end. Selfless and determined, Lexi almost wills herself to find peace, and having “earned her stripes,” she does find peace in a beautiful send-off to a great character.
But Stefan doesn’t get a goodbye. Not with Lexi, not with Damon. Jeremy is also denied a proper goodbye, and my heart may be breaking again just thinking of Little Gilbert tearing through the forest screaming Bonnie’s name, ultimately in vain. Like Damon and Elena and their decisions to be the spark that blows up the Grill, Bonnie makes a choice and demands it be respected. She not only decides how to spend her last days —happy, with Jeremy, with hope — but she willfully decides how she will view her time since she died, just shy of a year ago in TVD time. Instead of bemoaning her death, she tells Jeremy that she considers her extra time a gift, time she did not waste. Bonnie does what her Grams tells her to do in their perfect final moments together: she stays strong, her Grams proud of her and her choices.
Despite knowing that this episode will not be the last we see of Damon and Bonnie, somehow TVD — with its own special brand of magic — manages to make Damon and Bonnie’s final moments utterly devastating. After a season of turmoil, Damon and Elena are together, at peace and in love, and just as Elena is forced to respect Damon’s suicide-mission choice, he respects hers. In a perfect line considering what they’ve been through this season, Elena looks at Damon and says she knows what she signed up for — she’s all in. Home was an episode full of heroic moments, ones that required trust and teamwork, sacrifice and suffering, but the one that just makes my heart sing is seeing Elena and Damon sharing an ever-so-slight smile at each other, as the car races towards the Grill. There’s no place they’d rather be than at each others’ sides, live or die.
“Damon finally had everything he wanted. He was happy. He should be here,” says Stefan, in a line that synthesizes what both Damon and Elena are sharing in the Salvatore tomb. Damon says he’s “peaked,” that there’s no better way to die than in knowing he’s loved and loved by Elena. It’s a beautiful goodbye, made ever so much more heartbreaking because Elena can’t hear a word he says. She only knows he’s there, at least for a few minutes more. From the moment Elena gets thrown back into the Land of the Living by Bonnie (in a moment in which Bonnie flat-out refuses to accept Elena’s insistence that she wait for Damon, and Stefan gives a subtle “do it” nod to Bon) to the end, Nina Dobrev gives us a performance that is achingly real. It gets hard to describe the level of performance she brings to her characters without resorting to hyperbolic and overused terms, but watch her breakdown-goodbye to Damon and try not to use the phrase “tour de force.” After seasons of grief and loss and pain and suffering, we see a new depth of despair in Elena losing Damon. The promise he’d made to her — “I will make it back to you” — broken for now, at least, Elena is gutted. She loses the man she loves and her best friend, but at least has the comfort of Alaric alive again and at her side.
Like any good finale (and TVD knows from finales), Home leaves us with a million questions and a million possibilities for season six. Tyler human, Enzo alive, Alaric the Vampire Slayer Vampire/History Teacher. Elena without Damon. Only one living Salvatore brother. Without the Other Side, death is a permanent sentence. The town may be safe from vampire attacks and creepy blood rituals — but it’s no longer home to those who’ve lived there their whole lives. And Damon and Bonnie? They have to make it back.
Compelling Moment: Bonnie and Damon. Their final exchange was so perfectly in keeping with their characters and the fraught relationship they’ve had, and to see them hold hands and face oblivion together, terrified and unflinching, was a special kind of emotional torture. The fade to white and end clipping Damon’s last line? Brutal, in the best, Lost-ish way.
The Rules: Bonnie explains that the anchor is a gateway to the Other Side, usually one-way, but the combination of Liv’s magic (using a spell learned from Silas) and the weakening of Bonnie with so many Travelers passing through allows for the gateway to allow for returns to the Land of the Living. The spell that Liv does is different from the one the Travelers did to let Markos back: they all chanted together, and when Markos returned, he didn’t blink back but emerged from a collapsed Bonnie’s shadow.
In order to make it to the Other Side, the supernatural person needs to die before the Travelers’ spell removes all their supernaturalness. (Elena is concerned that she and Damon explode while still vampires.) A human with a werewolf gene not yet triggered is supernatural enough to go to the Other Side (since Tyler went there and came back).
Luke does a quick spell to interrupt Liv’s sustained spell — a handy one to know! — concerned that the spell will kill her, as we’ve seen spirit magic spells do to people before.
With the Other Side gone now, when a supernatural person dies, they pass to the afterlife options of the TVD world: they find peace, they go to that unpleasant-seeming Oblivion place, they are just dead… Jeremy won’t have any ghosts to talk to anymore and save for transitioning vampires, death will be permanent.
Foggy Moments: The Julian-is-a-traitor thing gets further confused here: Markos calls him a traitor for killing the doppelgänger, an act Julian committed after Markos had already labeled him a traitor for no good reason. Rest in Oblivion, the both of ya!
Markos says that Julian/Tyler will be stripped of his hybrid side, then his vampirism. But there is no “hybrid” side — there’s the vampire side, there’s the werewolf side; Tyler was a hybrid of vampire and werewolf.
Loved when Caroline and Elena stopped Liv and Luke’s car, but…why did Liv and Luke not whammy them with magic and keep on driving? (Or use defensive driving tactics and swerve around Elena?) They were clearly in the magic-still-works zone since Caroline and Elena were there and still alive and vampires. The Parker twins really want to be friends with them, is that why?
The clock tower strikes 7. The bell rings ominously! A nice moment…but that clock tower has no bell.
How large is Mystic Falls and how far out from the town square is that Welcome sign? We see a stretch of highway (which at night is dark save for the streetlights lining it, i.e., we’re not in the center of town) by the sign, but the map with the no-magic perimeter shows five, maybe six, city blocks — no big stretches of field and road. The distance needs to be short enough that Damon and Elena don’t have their vampirism removed before they die, but judging by how quickly it happens to Tyler/Julian, this spell operates with plot outcomes in mind…
The Reverse-the-Magic spell continues to be foggy: Wouldn’t Elena be already mortal when she starts drowning in the car? Elena died from drowning when she was human, not a vamp. (As a doppelgänger, Elena was safe to make it to the Other Side whether she died inside the no-magic zone as a vampire or human. Remember mortal Katherine showed up to pass to the Other Side.) Clearly I am taking this spell too literally.
The scenes where Bonnie is only talking to ghosts (e.g., Enzo, Silas) should take place on the Other Side (with the blue haze), not in the Land of the Living, right? Can the recently dead see ghosts (and can ghosts see them) before they’ve passed through to the Other Side? Just before Tyler passes through Bonnie, he reacts to what Enzo says, as if he can see and hear him. But in Promised Land, Enzo doesn’t see Stefan when he appears to pass through Bonnie.
Why didn’t Luke help Liv with the spell after he returned to the Land of the Living? We’ve seen the Travelers chant en masse all season long; surely this spell could’ve benefitted from a little group sing too? We’ve also seen witches share power through touch — why not hold Liv’s hand and give her his power?
Other thoughts & questions before season six!
- Will the Parker twins be back in season six? As much as Luke’s decision to end Liv’s spell screwed over Damon royally, it was the same choice that any of our beloved characters would have made in his shoes — gotta save your sister from killing herself with magic. Here’s hoping the Wonder Twins are back, because I for one adore them.
- It’s a good thing the Travelers were blown out of Mystic Falls; they had a lot to learn about town governance, like how moving a sign doesn’t constitute “resetting the official border” of a municipality.
- “Isn’t it a crime for someone so good-looking to be so sad all the time?” Silas, the vainest man who ever lived.
- Tyler says to Caroline that he feels different, and when he cuts his hand, he doesn’t heal with vampire/hybrid speed. We’ve heard that the Travelers’ spell undoes witch magic layer by layer, taking those supernatural creatures subjected to it back to the state they were in before death. So Julian-Tyler is pushed into Mystic Falls where the magic that made him a hybrid is undone, and his neck snaps, killing his now-mortal body. But instead of being reborn a werewolf, he’s reborn a boy with a werewolf gene — i.e., the curse being triggered has been undone. A little sketchy since Tyler shouldn’t have had the chance to have the werewolf part of him undone by the Travelers’ spell; he should’ve been dead when the vampire aspect of him was removed (which is when he died back in The Reckoning). Way more interesting on the story side, though, to have Tyler return with factory settings, so I set my mythology quibbles aside. Tyler’s once again a human with a temper problem, and one of the few in the gang who can continue to live in Mystic Falls — should that spell hold fast.
- Matt says to Jer that killing the Travelers doesn’t necessarily get rid of the no-magic zone — and judging by the post-mortem interviews, he’s right — Mystic Falls is still a no-magic zone. Is the Salvatore house within the no-magic zone? Where the heck will our supernatural pals live? That giant Whitmore dorm room?
- Quick question: who was preparing all the free food the Travelers were enjoying over at the Grill? Are Matt and Jer down a co-worker? Where are they gonna work now?
- “Did you seriously wear your seatbelt?” Welcome back, buddy. Best news ever.
- Not that it matters now that the Other Side is gone and Bonnie is no longer the anchor but: what would have happened if Bonnie had died from everyone passing through her? She was technically already dead, a ghost with corporeal form in the Land of the Living so she could be the gateway between worlds. If she died, would the Other Side have died with her? Or would she have resurrected right away with the same dual-world abilities?
- In the same vein: When a person is brought back from the Other Side, what happens to their corpse? Like, are Elena’s charred remains still in Damon’s car (R.I.P.) at the Grill? Or did her body disappear when she came back to life uncharred?
- Without the Other Side, will Matt’s resurrection ring work?
- What did Grams do to ensure Bonnie’s peace — and is there a +1 for Damon? She doesn’t say she won’t pass through Bonnie to the Land of the Living; she says she can’t. How/when will Bonnie and Damon find their way back to the Land of the Living from wherever they ended up?
- In the meantime, how the heck are Elena and Stefan and Caroline and Jeremy and the rest of the gang going to survive without Bonnie and Damon?
It has been an honor and a privilege to have this forum for my thoughts on season 5 of TVD — thanks to the always-amazing Red, Kate, Abby, Holly, and Vee for having me and to everyone who read and commented here this season, and in years past. Vee and I are hard at work on Love You to Death — Season 5, so as we go back to the beginning and relive this season, have an excellent summer/hiatus and try not to worry too much about Damon and Bonnie. They’ll be back, somehow, someway.
What did you think of Home? Sound off below!
Crissy Calhoun is the co-author, with Heather Vee, of Love You to Death – Season 4: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries and the upcoming Love You to Death – Season 5. She tweets @CrissyCalhoun (often) and blogs at CrissyCalhoun.com (sporadically), as well at LoveYouToDeathTVD.com.
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