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The Vampire Diaries “The Departed” 

Photo credit: Annette Brown/The CW Network

Happy summer, y’all! Apologies, folks. I had sit with this one a little while, and since we’re getting almost five months without new episodes, I felt like we had some time.

With the third season finale last month, we closed the door on a human Elena. When Matt drives her over the Wickery Bridge in the closing minutes, and their previous moment on that bridge was their discussion about rebirth in “Our Town,” it wasn’t hard to guess what was coming. The exact “what” had its “aha!” moment, but the takeaway was that the fourth season will mark a character and situational reset, and not just for Elena.

And true to what I said a few weeks ago, Alaric’s actual death became a footnote to a larger calamitous episode, although we did get a genuine goodbye with someone he loved, who loved him. For me, that was the truest moment in the entire episode.

Lots to cover. Lots to process. This’ll be wordy. Thank you in advance for reading us the last two seasons. I really enjoy recapping the episodes for you and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them! We’ll be back at in the fall.

We begin the episode with a bouncy Elena waking at 6:45 am to Pink hollering “So What” on the radio, so we know we’re not in Kansas anymore. The teeny weeny cheerleader outfit and pom-poms are the next clue. Then it’s a TMI chat with Aunt Jenna about Jeremy locking himself in the bathroom every morning and her parents alive and well and in the middle of the Gilbert kitchen at the beginning of their last day as a whole family.

More past-Elena-isms include awkward smoochies with then-boyfriend Matt, who she’s on the verge of cutting loose because she’s realized they’ve gone as far as they can as a couple (which, of course, mirrors her current situation with the Salvatores, with whom she’s gone as far as she can as friends).

She startles awake from the dream to find herself in the hospital, under Dr. Fell’s care. Fell tells Jeremy a tale about a concussion and sends Elena home just before Alaric arrives to claim dibs as her guardian. Once she’s home, the Scoobies take turns babysitting while she repeatedly insists she’s fine. Then she opens the front door to find Elijah (yay!!).

Over in shiny, happy Caroline and Tyler land, their mothers drop the bomb that they’re outed and give them papers and money to make their getaway. They make plans for their escape, and since it’s way too early in the episode for that to end well, we’re immediately suspicious. Turns out we have VERY good reason to be.

Elijah offers the Scoobies a deal: if they release Klaus’s body to him, he and Rebekah will retreat from Mystic Falls long enough for Elena and her children’s children to live vamp-free lives. Everybody but Damon is down with that, and we learn pretty quickly that Jeremy actually sees some sanity in Alaric’s desire to get his mitts on the rest of the Originals; he also offers Elena (via Jeremy) a stress-free existence for her and her children’s children.

All that’s fairly soon for naught when Damon acquiesces and brings Klaus’s body to a storage locker to hand him off to Rebekah. He gives Bonnie a few minutes with Klaus first, and I realized later, after the second viewing, that she had no (known) reason for requesting the audience.

At the Gilberts, Stefan and Elena put a lot on the table but Elena doesn’t make her choice. Before he leaves, Stefan finally kisses her, as a “just in case this plan goes to hell” goodbye. Then Matt and Elena have a nice scene where she apologizes for being a heart-stomping teenage girl and he listens and offers sage advice and then she wakes up in his truck and realizes she’s been had because he’s in cahoots with Jeremy to get her the hell out of town while the vamps sort their sh-t out.

Over at the storage unit, Elena and Rebekah get jumped by Alaric and he stakes Klaus, who bursts into flames. Rebekah runs away at Damon’s insistence and he stays back and fights until he blacks out. Rebekah goes to Elijah and Stefan and tells them the deal is off because Klaus is dead, and then she initiates the game changer.

In the Lockwood caves, Caroline races to Tyler to see if he’s dead and he’s not but he tells her he will be and urges her to go. She fights him on it until he starts to transform and then she leaves, but not before a tearful goodbye kiss and a moment where he essentially tells her to go live a long, happy life (if this sounds familiar, it’s supposed to). A moment later, we learn that Klaus is riding shotgun in Tyler, courtesy of Bonnie, who’s basically mad as hell and not taking it anymore.

Matt and Elena start driving across Wickery Bridge and Elena is launching into “take me home” after she’s talked with both Stefan and Damon and been told they’re OK for now and has decided on going home to Stefan. Rebekah appears before them on the bridge and Elena has Matt serve to miss her (why, when the impact would only slow her down, is a moot point) and they go right over the bridge into the water below.

What follows is a complex scene of past and present of Elena hitting the water with her parents and watching her dad die and Stefan save her. This time, Stefan is in the water again, but she makes him take Matt up first, and those precious moments that she loses while he honors her wishes are the last ones she will spend human.


Photo credit: Annette Brown/The CW Network

It’s Damon who realizes what’s happening first, when Alaric, with whom he’s resumed fighting again, drops to his knees and they both know immediately what that means as Alaric ashens and dies. Then Alaric is suddenly in the hallway at the Gilberts, softer, genuine, human, and there because it was where he wanted to be at the moment of his death, to say a quiet goodbye to Jeremy, and promise him that he would always look out for him. Jeremy accepts his goodbye and then realizes this is very bad for Elena.

Stefan dives back into the water and brings her up, but it’s too late. At the hospital, Damon frantically arrives and Dr. Fell drops the good news/bad news on him. At the outset when Elena was hospitalized, she’d had a brain injury and Fell had dosed her but told Jeremy the concussion ruse. Damon’s livid to hear it. In the morgue, Stefan sits with Elena’s body and then she draws a breath and her eyes open wide. Cut to black.

So that’s an awful lot to take in as the show resets the players in a very big way. Assumption one: Matt lives, and if that’s correct, he truly is the last (hu)man. standing. We’ve had previous episodes where Elena vamping was discussed and brushed aside, and a lot of time spent on discussing her children and her children’s children and now we know that was folly.

The new reality is that Elena has crossed party lines and is now super-supernatural like Katherine, a vampire and a Petrova doppleganger.  Vamping out softened Caroline and made her more human. It’ll be interesting to see where Elena falls on the behavioral spectrum. Human Elena also made a choice of brothers, and that too is now a more open-ended question.

The Caroline/Tyler arc is sticky because we can assume she returns, and as savvy as they’ve made her lately, if she doesn’t catch on pretty quickly that Klaus is inside Tyler and they pick up where they left off, we’re going to be getting into some squeamish territory.

I get Bonnie’s anger and enough is enough stance but I hope this particular plan comes to light across the board at the outset of the season so the how of keeping Klaus’s descendants alive without Klaus isn’t a season-long arc.

I liked the book ends of Elena revisiting an old life before she woke up at the beginning of the episode, and then waking up to a wholly new life at the end of it. It was an interesting dynamic that she was never onscreen with Damon for the entire episode, after that was the relationship that prevailed for most of the season.

I haven’t read the books, and I’m spoiler-free so I don’t know what’s next, but I do appreciate that it took three seasons to get here in the plotting, that we got to know the girl before we met the vampire. It’s been an intricately woven evolution. I look forward to what they do next.

The Vampire Diaries resumes in October at 8 pm/7 c on The CW. You can catch repeats of season three in that timeslot all summer. The last five episodes of  the season are also available online at

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