The Vampire Diaries season finale was a whole lotta episode. Almost too much episode. So much episode that I’m not really sure how to navigate the next few TVD-less months. But, luckily for myself and my fellow mildly obsessed vampire lovers, the series has conditioned us to deal with this particular brand of sensory overload. It also prepared us (albeit subtly and over three seasons) for the evening’s most shocking conclusion.
First of all, of course Elena is okay because we cannot have a series without her. She is, however, in the hospital, but not for long because Damon and Stefan shame Jeremy into sneaking her out so no vampires can kill her in order to kill Alaric the Vampire Hunter. They run just in time because Alaric arrives, revokes Meredith’s medical license for her use of vampire blood, and demands Elena be released into his custody. Luckily, she scampered home where Caroline is trying to adorably pressure her into drinking a little vodka to help blur the ridiculous supernatural mess that is her life.
And cue the intermittent flashbacks that will now inform Elena's life decisions. Her first relevant memory is of herself as a cheerleader and Matt’s reluctant girlfriend, and her parents are still alive. It makes her realize the same thing she realized last week: She can’t string the Salvatores along and she needs to just make a decision already. However, calling this decision difficult is like saying the Ian Somerhalder smolder is "cute." It's a major understatement. She’s not really going to make a decision until a life-altering circumstance forces her to pout her way into a conclusion.
Stefan comes back to help protect her, but before she can allow any of those reunion feelings to mean anything, Elijah arrives with a proposal to help them get rid of Alaric: If he helps, they hand over Klaus’ desiccated body and he swears Elena stays safe. Stefan, who brings up the element of choice a conspicuous number of times in this episode (foreshadowing!), says it needs to be Elena’s call. She chooses to take the deal. With Jeremy’s help, they set up Alaric by lying about the location of Klaus’ body.
Stefan and Elijah head out, but before they do Stefan has a little talk with Elena. And by little talk, I mean she looked worried and almost said something to Stefan and he planted the kiss we’ve been waiting for all season “in case there is no later.” In that moment, it was fairly clear that Elena would choose the younger Salvatore. When she has another conversation with Matt about it, she confirms it by saying that loving Stefan makes her happy to be alive and that loving Damon consumes her. As delicious as the notion of Elena and Damon is, Stefan and Elena simply makes more sense. Add to that evidence her flashback about wanting to break up with Matt without losing him. Elena’s mother says “ You’re not going to lose him, honey. You’re setting him free.” If there’s one Salvatore who wears total freedom better, it’s Damon.
Alaric isn’t as trusting as Jeremy had hoped and while Stefan and Elijah are waiting in the woods, he’s ambushing Damon and Rebekah at the storage locker where they’re keeping Klaus. It doesn’t take him long to find the coffin and stab Klaus, terminating him in a fiery mess. Stefan and Damon think they’re dying because Klaus told them he was the originator of their bloodline, and they’re both more worried about being able to say goodbye to Elena than the fact that they’re about to become veiny, gray piles of mush. And they should be worried, because thanks to Matt’s plan to kidnap Elena and whisk her away from all things supernatural, the writers cleverly place Elena in a position in which she has to definitively choose one vampire. The brothers are in opposite locations and she has to decide that second to keep driving towards Damon or turn back and go to Stefan. And in a highly predictable (but also satisfying) outcome, she chooses Stefan, spouting the language her mom once used about setting Damon free. As heartbreaking as the scene is, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it did the first time Stefan turned off his humanity and fed on Elena. But don't cry, Delena fans. There’s always time for the Damon and Elena bond to grow in Season 4, and — with the flashback in which Damon first meets Elena and predicts that she wants a love that consumes her — Team Damon got the glimmer of hope they needed. He may have compelled her to forget that first meeting, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Next: What's wrong with Tyler?
Meanwhile, our other beloved couple, Caroline and Tyler, run into one hell of a brick wall. Alaric not only had Meredith disbarred, he also had Mayor Lockwood and Sheriff Forbes fired because of their vampire sympathies. But they’re parents and their professional troubles aren’t of our concern... except the council not only fired them, but opened up the gauntlet on all things supernatural (a.k.a. their kids). Carol and Sheriff Forbes beg Caroline and Tyler to leave town and they finally agree, kissing and embracing like a couple in the moment before a monumental death. And that’s for good reason. When Klaus dies, Caroline finds Tyler and he doubles over in pain, causing Caroline to assume he’s dying. He makes her leave so she doesn’t see him dying, but he’s completely fine. He’s more than fine. He’s just not Tyler. Bonnie did some spell to protect her friends and mother from being killed should Klaus die, and apparently it entails Klaus inhabiting Tyler’s body. But does that mean Tyler is dead? Are they sharing? Does this mean Caroline and Klaus will actually happen? (Even if it is via a disconcerting conceit.)
Rebekah, distraught over her brother’s death and restless after barely escaping from Alaric’s clutches, decides she’s going to end this madness by killing Alaric’s lifeline: Elena. In a matter of seconds, she forces Matt’s truck off Wickery Bridge, just like the accident the night her parents died. We're exposed to a haunting water-logged scene flashing back and forth between Elena’s memory of being rescued from the water by Stefan while saying goodbye to her father and her present-day situation in which she and Matt are trapped underwater in his truck. After she flashes back to the night her parents died, she seems to have made her decision. She’s made peace with death; she can join her parents. But Stefan arrives to rescue them just in time and she forces him to take Matt first.
When Alaric dies while fighting Damon and shows up as a ghost to promise Jeremy he’ll watch over him, both Damon and Jeremy realize Elena must have died. And while the series does a good job of making us feel their shock and Stefan’s pain as he cries over her lifeless body, we knew what was coming. Like I said last week, Alaric needs to die and the only way to kill him is by killing Elena. And, TVD without Elena isn’t TVD. And they've been dropping hints about this eventual conclusion since Season 2. By the time Meredith tells Damon she slipped Elena vampire blood because she had an incurable brain hemorrage when Jeremy brought her in earlier, we were simply waiting for it to happen. The only problem is that turning Elena into a vampire is such an exciting notion that waiting all summer to find out how this will change our sweet Doppelgänger’s life is almost too much to bear.
Did you see this coming? What do you think is the deal with Klaus and Tyler? Didn’t Bonnie seem a little sinister when she was talking to Klaus/Tyler? What are we going to do for the next four months?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.