SEASON FINALE: The Vampire Diaries 3.22 "The Departed"

A tv review article by: Shawn Hill


Finales are supposed to surprise you. The stakes are supposed to be life and death. Everything that’s been building should come to a head. Changes that are irrevocable should be clearly signaled, and cliffhangers should abound, but not be annoyingly, frustratingly without closure. They should blow your mind, not disappoint you by doing the obvious.

It should be like the Hatch on Lost. It should be like Locutus of Borg. It should not be like when bees sting Scully for no reason, but maybe like when Kimberly blows everyone up around the swimming pool. If last episode felt full of endings and resolutions, this one is full of regrets and open questions. Will Klaus be finally killed? And if he goes, what about Tyler? What about everyone who isn’t a human, actually? Is it already far too late for Alaric? Is Meredith ever going to stop what she’s doing? Is anybody ever going to let Elena make up her own mind?

To his credit, Stefan is willing to. To his doom, Damon is not. To my annoyance, Matt and Jeremy think they have a say in the matter (though Matt partially redeems himself later, and was never really a giant a-hole or anything). Jeremy even turns out to be smarter than he looks, for once, so they’re trying their best, but they should really leave the desperate planning to the immortal adults.

In the midst of all that, we’re anchored, as always, by Elena. And Elena is dreaming of her parents, not the creepy vampires and slayers who donated her genetic material, but the loving humans who raised her and who drowned when Stefan couldn’t save all three of them. And while she’s doing that, she’s trying to see if she’ll choose risky Damon or (newly) stable (again) Stefan. And realizing she put Matt through the same thing many moons ago, before she fell in love with two vampires.

Elena is always willing to sacrifice herself, if given the choice. And it’s not all about finding the perfect romantic love and having a vampire baby claw its way out of her womb. It’s about helping her friends, about doing what’s right, about trying to have a family even as she keeps losing the potential members. That her witch and her vampire best friends want to maintain a sense of normalcy is largely because she’s there, at the center, acting normal. But she’s pulled in too many directions to maintain equilibrium in this finale.

She should really learn to stay away from bridges, actually. Because when Matt tries to spirit her away in his truck (a plan he concocted with Jeremy), he listens to her explanation and makes a decision: he’s been driving her to Damon (who’s at some storage unit trying to kill Klaus while not getting killed by Alaric) all along, but he’ll drive her back to Stefan if she wants. Which she does. Only she should have really chosen the way that didn’t cross water, because she and Matt end up in it (thanks to Rebekah), who knows that killing Elena is the only way to kill Alaric. And though Stefan tries, he doesn’t make it in time to save them both. And Elena, being Elena, insists he save Matt. So she dies, just like her parents did. In slow motion, underwater, with her amazing hair billowing about.

Only her parents didn’t have Dr. Meredith to dose them with vampire blood in advance. So at the very end, Elena wakes up. From her dream of life.

Rather than think about that, I’ll just ask a distracting question. While I have no doubt Nina Dobrev can play the difference between Vamp Katherine and Vamp Elena, I wonder how they writers will play them off each other. Will Elena become more like her tricky, manipulative doppelganger? Or will she be like Caroline, shining more brightly human than before? What happens when they meet, if they meet? Which they will meet. Of course they will.

Elena’s spent all season training to become tough as vampires. She doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. Meanwhile, Bonnie has worked some shenanigans with Klaus and Tyler that are entirely unfair to Tyler and Caroline, but leave poor bodiless Klaus (Alaric managed to stake him with the flaming stake of white oak and filigree) exactly where he wants to be: in a body Caroline wants, so he can want her right back. Gross.

Also, this is a pretty hinky spell, which means all of this balance-upsetting from Bonnie has started to turn her eyes black, and we all know what that means when it comes to witches, vampires, and slayers. So, Elena vs. Bonnie next season? Probably the least of our worries. Way to keep me up nights all summer, the CW!

Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at

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