Well, not to start on a not-so-positive note, but I have to say it. Last week's episode was better. At first I thought I felt that way because of my expectation of seeing Nina Dobrev again (even only as Katherine, with maybe a glimpse of Elena in the final moments). I realized fairly soon into the episode—when we only saw the back of "Katherine" and so little of her—that we wouldn't actually be getting Dobrev in this episode. *sigh* So, yeah, I gave it a thought that my estimation that "It's Been A Hell Of A Ride" was better was solely because of that lack. However, thinking back over the whole episode and how disappointment has initially flavored great episodes in the past, I realized that it really was just a case of the prior one being better. When an episode is amazing, any pre-built expectation disappointment quickly dissipates for me.
Now, this is not to say that this outing was not very good. It was; and in fact there were aspects of it that were great. It was just that overall, it didn't quite have that (haha!) epic feel. I think that was mostly because the first quarter of the episode dragged just a bit. On the whole, though, it was still really good. And the Stefan and Caroline nuptials at the heart of the episode were beautiful.
Really, truly beautiful. The thought and history that went into those off-the-cuff vows was resplendent. As a long-time fan of the pairing—going back to the second episode of the second season—I remembered every moment referenced and every one made me smile. As wonderful as every single one of those callbacks were, my favorite part of the vows was something new and bittersweet. Oh, but it was so, so beautiful. Caroline telling Stefan that she would remember this moment in a hundred years… for the both of them. That line, more than any other moment, reflected the reality of a vampire and human choosing to spend what they have of their lives together. Ah, my ♥ … they really got me there. So beautiful. But then, like I said, everything about this wedding was beautiful. From Caroline—Candice King just looked gorgeous—to Stefan, so handsome in his suit. The setting, the sunlight shining down upon them, Stefan smiling with such quiet happiness as he watched her walk down the aisle to him and Caroline radiating with joy, barely taking her eyes off of her intended.
There were the few bits of perfectly timed humor (most courtesy of their officiator, Damon), the baiting of Katherine and then the moment when they realized there was no Katherine, just the two of them and that this was it. All of it was just so right. And those vows… *sigh* winging it, they soared high. It's not a surprise that both would know what to say in that moment. They have been through so much together (especially recently) and Stefan, while lacking his vampire memory skills now, thinks and thinks and overthinks everything so, of course, he would remember some key moments in their relationship. Plus, with Caroline, he has given more than a few romance-filled speeches so, really, this was par for the course for him. And Caroline, even though she has that vampiric memory, I don't think that she would have had any problem coming up with every word even if she did not.
While the 'hundred years' mention was my favorite part, of the callbacks, ones of the few that they both referenced touched me deepest. That was from one of the episodes I consider one of the series' very best, "Pictures Of You," and one of my favorite Stefan and Caroline scenes.
"I think someday you'll meet someone new and you'll fall madly in love and you'll have moved on without even realizing it." And then Caroline and Stefan looked at one another, lost in each other's eyes for just a teeny second before they both realized what had happened in that teeny second and each had another teeny second of whoah! reaction before looking away, just pretending it didn't happen. But you know what? That was an anvil, folks! Oh yeah, baby, it's GONNA happen! Uh huh!And here we are nearly four years later—"Pictures Of You" was episode 19 of the fourth season—and it has indeed happened. *double sigh* I also have to say that having a reference to the very first time that Caroline saw Stefan in the Pilot was a lovely little touch. After all, it's not like we didn't actually see Caroline take a gander at the "new mystery guy" and decide she wanted some of that!
I also liked that Stefan and Caroline both called back to his 'when you're ready for me, I'll be ready for you' speech because its placement, intercut between Damon and Elena's goodbye and dance, essentially told viewers that Stefan and Caroline—like Damon and Elena—were an endgame couple. Remembering that moment in their vows consolidated that status.
Really, I liked everything and every word, every smile, every look from beginning to end. I can pick and parse every line of those vows and find something that I love, but, really, they speak for themselves.
Stefan: Caroline, you have been my friend, my conscience, my sounding board. You saw light in me when all I saw was darkness. You saved me from despair. You told me once that I would fall madly in love without realizing it. And that's what happened. Day by day, bit by bit, year by year. With you.
Caroline: I remember saying that to you. We were dancing at my prom. It's funny the things we remember out of all the years that go by. I remember how you told me that when I was ready for you, you would be ready for me. I'm ready now. I think a part of me has been ready for this day since the moment I first saw you, the new mystery guy in the hallway at school. I will always remember this moment. A hundred years from now, I will remember this moment for the both of us.
And then came the exchange of the rings, the smiles, and then Stefan Salvatore kissed his bride, Caroline Elizabeth Forbes Salvatore.
It was really nice to see just pure happiness from the moment Stefan and Caroline began to exchange their vows until Kelly Donovan gave her toast. It's pretty rare to see such an extended dose of happy on this show (OK, fine, thanks to Bonnie we had some bittersweet, but overall… the dominant emotion was bliss). I appreciated that we weren't just given that beautiful wedding, but also some sweet, romantic moments at the reception before it all went downhill… as things do on The Vampire Diaries.
The only thing that I didn't love about the nuptials was hearing Alaric's emo-voice-over when Caroline first appeared in her wedding dress. Of course, pretty much everything with Alaric was 'eh, whatever' for me. When he came in with the girls—they're so cute!—much to Caroline's elation, his whole downer attitude just did nothing for me. Fool is standing there acting like he lost out on this great life with Caroline and I'm all like 'NO!' Firstly, as I've pointed out more than once, Alaric was not in love with Caroline Forbes. He loved(s) her, but he was never in love with her. He was in love with the idea of being in love, while subconsciously knowing that by not truly being in love he would never feel the devastation that he had when he lost Isobel… and Jenna… and Jo. Needless to say, the wee bit of guilt-tripping he was laying on Caroline there was not cool.
Oh, and I imagine that I was supposed to be moved by his speech about his losses is what created family (or whatever), but yeah, Ric you've been nothing but a complete dick to Damon (but for a few brief moments here and there… *very* brief, I might add) since you came back from the dead. You put the safety of a woman you'd been dating for a few months (and one who had a crap-ton of protection surrounding her) over the life and sanity of a 19-year old girl who was fairly daughter-like to you. You've shoved away and turned on almost every single member of the Scooby Gang at one point or another—including Caroline—in a way harsh way. Forgive me if I don't feel melancholy that you lost out on marrying your former high school student, someone who you accepted as mother to your children when it was convenient for you, and loved just enough that it was almost love, but really was just your way of protecting your heart. Pfft, family! As if Alaric knows what that word means in relation to anyone other than his daughters. (Not that I have an issue with his love for his children, but the forsaking all others… I'm just shaking my head.)
Yeah, I wish Ric had stayed on the Other Side and then just went into the light. My love for him and team!Badass would still be as strong as ever. Ah well. Hey, Damon may have lost Ric as family, but he's gained another member of the Scooby Gang along the way. Sure, things have been rough and not so nice between Damon and Caroline through much of the series' run, but in the last half of this season the two have turned a corner and it's been awesome and amazing and beautiful. Three words that (mostly) describe their interaction in this episode. From Damon's return to the Boarding House with a drunk Stefan when he snagged Caroline as his new drinking buddy to giving her something borrowed for her wedding, I was (once again) loving all things Damon and Caroline.
Caroline smiling at Damon when he extended his offer (erm, OK, more like demand) that she join him in felicitous libations put her in the company of Elena, Bonnie (and once upon a time, Alaric :sniff sniff:) who found themselves unable to resist the charms of Damon Salvatore. And giving into the temptation of Damon turned out to be a good thing for Caroline, lifting her spirits upon the eve of her dream wedding not quite following her long-held plans. And it was lovely for viewers because it gave us another nod to the "gone, but never forgotten" Liz Forbes: Dear friend to Damon Salvatore, and beloved mother of Caroline Forbes soon to be Salvatore. And that beautiful toast to Liz led to Damon sincerely saying nice things about Caroline. More than complimenting her, he also welcomed her to the Salvatore family. Aww!
The continued beauty of their new friendship showed itself in Caroline not only being moved by Damon's words, but in how she opened up to him about her feelings regarding her disappointment that Liz, her girls, and both of her best friends, Bonnie and Elena, would not be at her wedding. Unable to help with the first four individuals, Damon did what he could to help with the latter. Pulling out that locket that once upon a time was Esther's, then Rebekah's and then Elena's… that locket that once stood for Elena's hope in Stefan but now stands for Damon's selfless devotion to her and Elena's own love and strength, Damon reminded Caroline of her gesture to him at Christmas.
While I was then (and still am) annoyed that when doing so she told Damon the gift was for when he was willing to ask her forgiveness—again, for what? For saving her daughters?—it doesn't take away that she said it, Damon accepted it and it somehow made sense to them. So Damon recalling that and offering this symbol of Elena as her 'something borrowed' was a beautiful moment. (And, psst!, it's not like Damon took the opportunity given to actually ask for forgiveness, yay!)
As beautiful as Damon's new familial relations are, in the end it always comes back to Damon and his baby brother (and how much did I love that Damon managed to sneak 'baby brother' into the ceremony? SO MUCH!). First there was Damon assuring Stefan that the person who killed Enzo is not who he is now. Initially when he said that to him, I had a small moment of 'What the what?' because for so long I've been preaching that ripper!Stefan *is* a part of saint!Stefan. They are two sides of the same coin. However, I realized almost immediately that this is no longer the case. Stefan is neither a ripper nor a saint because he's no longer a vampire. There is no humanity switch to turn on and off as a human… Stefan as the good, troubled, questioning young man who just wants to do the right thing is what is left. Just Stefan. And Stefan Salvatore is a good person.
He is a good person who is no longer conflicted about his brother. He loves him, period. And his brother—who let go of that conflict well before Stefan did—loves him back. Damon's speech to him in the caves, his threat to take Katherine out if she hurt his baby brother, the adorable fixing of his tie, all of it showed these two brothers back where they were before Katherine entered their lives and caused so very much chaos and mayhem.
As for all that Miss Katherine 'Katerina Petrova' Pierce brought to their lives, well, I did like the callbacks (even if recalling it all was a bit on the nose). Alas, Melinda Tsu Taylor (the teleplay writer for this episode) struck again. Damon recounting only the bad and *not* the good—namely without meeting Katherine, Damon would never have met Elena, nor Stefan, Caroline—was not only an oversight, it was simply out of character.
Damon: It's pretty fitting, though. The woman that started this whole mess is back to try and end it.I was fine with Stefan being all half-glass full, but here's the thing: to have Damon talk about all that Katherine led them to and *not* mention Elena as a positive was not only an oversight, out of character for Damon, but it was also a direct contradiction of Damon's "death"bed speech to Elena in "As I Lay Dying," the season 02 finale.
Stefan: I wouldn't say it was all a mess.
Damon: What are you talking about? Look at the path that she sent us down. Ripper sprees, the Originals, the cure, Silas the Other Side… I'm just saying that prison worlds, Gemini twins, Heretics, and don't get me started on doppelgangers!
Stefan: I'm just saying we had some good things happen to us, too, right?
Damon: That's very glass-half-full of you, brother.
Damon: I've made a lot of choices that have gotten me here. I deserve this. I deserve to die.The main choice that Damon was talking about in that conversation with Elena was about choosing to love Katherine, choosing to turn for Katherine. So to have him reference all of the turmoil and madness that came with Katherine in their lives, and to not mention the joy and love that wound up as a result as well just rankled. It took some of my enjoyment out of that scene between the Brothers Salvatore. (Grr!) At least everything else with them was wonderful. Not only the pre-Katherine-bones cave scene, the afore-mentioned moments while Stefan was getting ready before the wedding, but also that final bit before he tied the knot. Maybe I'm being too hopeful, but I'm thinking there is a possibility that we may get a glimpse of a Damon and Elena wedding in the finale because of that last exchange Stefan and Damon had.
Elena: No. You don't.
Damon: I do, Elena. It's okay. Because if I'd have chosen differently, I wouldn't have met you.
Stefan: Hope I get to see you have this one day with Elena. A wedding, a human life all of it.I just wonder if it was a bit of foreshadowing there. Now I don't expect a whole ceremony as we got with Stefan and Caroline in this episode for a couple of reasons. Firstly, yes, as a Damon and Elena fan, I would adore it. However, as a fan of the show itself (and television in general), I know that having another wedding in its entirety two episodes in a row would not work. Way too redundant. But I could see in some flashforward, a long shot of the two reciting vows at an altar, surrounded by family and friends, and then their first kiss as husband and wife, but the words unheard and instead we hear a beautiful song playing over the scene. And I would be OK with that because Damon and Elena have already said about a zillion variations of vows to one another already. So just having that little bit would work for me. Will it happen? Who knows, but I can dream. It would be a lovely happy ending to their extraordinary love story.
Damon: I want you to be there, too, brother. 'Cause I'm gonna need a best man. Hopefully your hero hair hasn't fallen out by then.
On the other hand, it sure does seem that Bonnie will not be getting that happy ending with Enzo. How things ended in this episode are how I hope things stay… for a couple of reasons. Firstly, yes, I have made it clear that I am not a fan of the pairing. I was willing to see where things went after the finale, but the non-stop lollipops and unicorns raining rainbows and sunshine over them without it being earned just did not work for me. UNLESS… this is their ending. As I've said in the last few wite-ups, if Enzo is truly dead, and stays truly dead, what we had of Bonnie and Enzo will be a tragically beautifully love that just wasn't meant to be. Finally, if Enzo somehow, miraculously comes back to the Earthly realm of the living for the first time—in my opinion—a return from the great beyond will play as cheap and will undermine all of the grief that has been heavily lain over Bonnie since his death.
Speaking of that grief, I completely understood where Bonnie was coming from in not wanting to go to Stefan's wedding. It wasn't about not wanting to be there for Caroline—she desperately wanted to do that—but the fact that she was marrying the man who killed her love… and so recently. I understand. And I loved that Caroline completely understood too and was just grateful that Bonnie was still there with her as her best friend. Also, yeah, I knew there was no way that something wouldn't happen that would lead to Bonnie showing up for Caroline when push came to shove. That is just who Bonnie Bennett is.
What else Bonnie is… is magical. I was happy to see her finally get that magic back because one of the beautiful things the show has done in relation to this character is make it clear that magic is not just a tool or a cheat, it's a gift and a burden and at the same time, it is a very part of Bonnie's soul. Of course, once that magic returned, she got hit by the Maxwell Bell whammy… is she unconscious or did she die? I actually think that there is a good possibility that she did or will die—not so that she gets that "happy" ever after with Enzo in death—but rather so that we can *finally* have that parallel I've been waiting for since the second episode of season 07. (Note, I put "happy" in quotation marks above because no way in hell would I consider her dying to be with Enzo a happy ending for my beloved Bonnie.)
Matt died, but he was brought back by Bonnie and that got me to thinking of how Bonnie had brought Matt back to life in season 03's episode 05, "The Reckoning" by using CPR. We learned in that episode that Bonnie *and* Matt were lifeguards one summer and they both knew how to do that. So when I thought that season 07 was the final season, I figured that would be a great way to bring Elena back. Something happens to Bonnie, she literally dies, but Matt is able to bring her back using non-magical CPR. Well, as we all know, season 07 was not the last, but that doesn't mean that parallel can't still be used. So Bonnie dies because of the psychic Maxwell Bell and Matt and Damon come upon Stefan and Bonnie in time for Matt to save Bonnie's life bringing that moment full-circle.
Now, the CPR may still happen, but I'm thinking that it's an even greater possibility (sadly) that it will be Stefan who brings her back. You know, to help atone for his ripper!Stefan actions. And I can get behind that, but, man, you just know that I wish so much if they go that route that it would be my Matty. Because—wah!—yes, I still have a lingering kernel of hope for future flashforward Matt and Bonnie, dangit! *sigh* We'll see, but, well, it's just a kernel at this point. Hey, at least Damon and Matt do seem to be in a good place. There at the end, the two of them were questioning Kelly together, on the same side. Booyah!
Oh, yeah, Kelly. Well, that was pretty unexpectedly awesome, and it made perfect sense. Considering the history we know of her and Matt, and what we know of Kelly as a person, it was absolutely believable that upon hearing again from Peter, the father of her two children, she would fall right back into things with him and decide that they could be a happy family. And on the flip side, when she faced Matt during her "toast" and glared at him when she mentioned being sent packing, it brought me right back to that episode when he did that very thing. Fantastic use of the show's history (per usual).
Also fantastic was the reveal that Kelly was dead, and had slipped through Hell's door at the behest of the new queen, Katherine. Even better was the reveal that the slinky figure we had seen causing mayhem throughout the episode wasn't Katherine after all, but Vicki Donovan. I love this show so much! They literally used the fact that everyone believes that Nina Dobrev isn't coming back until the finale to explain the lack of seeing "Katherine's" face to hold onto Kelly's final secret. So brilliant, and they totally fooled me. (Maybe that's why I think it's so brilliant? LOL!) Even though I had seen Kayla Ewell's name in the credits, I forgot about it as the episode progressed. Therefore, when Matt mentioned that the ringing of the bell would do no good unless it was a Maxwell doing the deed, I actually wondered if we were going to find out that the Maxwell line descended from Katerina Petrova. But no… as Kelly said, Matt wasn't her only child.
Oh, and Vicki choosing to destroy Mystic Falls is completely in character as well. She was miserable there, was looked down upon and treated as less than her whole life. The one person you imagine that she wouldn't want to see hurt would be Matt… ah ah, but remember when she crossed over from the Other Side back in season 03, Matt chose to send her back to her death instead of letting her take out Elena. Vicki Donovan has always been vindictive. She would do this to punish Mystic Falls and everyone in it… including her brother.
And with that, let us touch upon random thoughts –
- When the guy in the beginning (that Vicki killed) recognized her, I was confused as first because I thought why would he be reacting to Katherine? And then figured, oh, OK, Elena… but do people know/think she is dead? Which, yeah, I guess they would, but would the gang have made a big deal about it? I don't think so. So when the reveal with Vicki happened, I remembered that scene and realized, nope, the guy was reacting to Vicki Donovan, the girl from the wrong side of town whose body was discovered on a stormy night weeks after she had disappeared. So cool.
- Hah, Damon getting Stefan drunk was hilarious. And I especially loved it because it gave us (at least) one more sign of Damon "Mr. Clean" Salvatore. Grabbing that bucket in case Stefan lost his cookies and then reminding him to use it since it was a $10,000 (!) rug.
- Not so much loving? How casually Dorian said "Katherine," like he had any clue who she really was, as if he'd met her, etc. It just didn't work for me. He should have said something like "This Katherine," or something that indicated he got that she was a big deal, but he didn't know her personally. (Another small little biff by Tsu Taylor. *sigh*)
- Speaking of her, I mentioned that Tsu Taylor had an off bit with Damon mentioning only the bad that Katherine's presence brought to their lives. Well, there was one other bit that rubbed me the wrong way. Liz did *not* hate Damon in the beginning. She was his friend, a good friend, before she found out he was a vampire… and then she moved past that to recapture that early friendship. (Don't be rewriting the beauty of Damon and Liz's friendship, yo!)
- Another little misdirection was Vicki texting "Game on" to Kelly. Who doesn't remember that famous line from Katherine to Caroline to tell the rest of the gang?
- I mentioned after Matt overseeing the Founder's Day capsule ceremony that I thought the finale would be another Founder's Day anniversary as was the first season finale. Sure enough, at one point during this episode we saw a Founder's Day parade sign. Uh huh.
- I recognized Katherine's cameo necklace right away and would have been disappointed if Stefan (or Damon) did not do so as well. Of course, Stefan did. Of course. Nice little touch there.
- Hah! Damon called Stefan and Caroline "epic lovebirds." Get it? Epic… the show has now used "epic" to describe both Damon and Elena and Stefan and Caroline. Haha!
- Whee! I loved the little moment with Damon leading the ring bearers to do their duty: "Munchkins. Rings. Now."
- Speaking of those little munchkins… I admit it, I love those little girls… they are so adorable. All happy in their fancy dresses and throwing flowers around the room to "practice," aww! Ooh, and when they were dancing together at wedding, so cute!
- Nice dancing scene there with Damon and Bonnie, having a bonding, friendship moment.
- I loved Kelly's "Step aside gorgeous. We made out once. Super hot," because, again, I love the show using its own history. But also because as soon as Kelly interrupted Damon, I immediately thought, 'heh, they made out once.'
- It was cool how Bonnie and the twins got out of the fiery mansion. And it was a nice callback to the first big magical moment that Bonnie did, lighting all of the candles in "Family Ties" (season 01, episode 04). Yes, yes, she had seen those numbers in the third episode but that was her psychic ability, not the magic.
- Hmm, I appreciated that little mention of Valerie. She's still out there and alive. Good for her.
- So a friend was wondering why Kelly had that bloody nose and was vomiting, as well as Vicki. I figure it's because Hell is dying without Cade around to power it. We'll see.
Well, there you have it… the write-up for the second-to-last episode ever of The Vampire Diaries. It was a really good one, if not awesomely outstanding as the previous outing was, but I did adore Stefan and Caroline's wedding; it was so beautiful. Now we have one episode left… and with it the return of Elena Gilbert and Damon and Elena's reunion. *SQUEE*