The social media onslaught for this episode of The Vampire Diaries was laser focused on one thing: That you would cry, and it wouldn’t be a calm, gentle type of cry. It would be a devastating, ugly cry that would require tissues and booze to get through. The unity of the message from all involved parties was impressive, but was it true? Your tear mileage may vary.
The one clever thing the promo department did for this episode was heavily advertise the fact that Steven R. McQueen was leaving the show, and so Jeremy’s departure was assumed to be the big tearjerker of the episode. Instead, however, the writers pulled a classic bait-and-switch, surprising us by having Sheriff Forbes succumb to her cancer far sooner than expected. This turned Jeremy’s departure into a shockingly low-key affair, as he went off to college as normally as a formerly-dead vampire hunter who never actually graduated from high school possibly could.
Except Jeremy didn’t go to school at all: Instead, he went off to become a roving supernatural hunter of some sort, with the support of Alaric and completely in secret from everyone else. I’m not sure why all the subterfuge is necessary—is everyone’s goal in life to coddle Elena at every opportunity?—but Jeremy leaving to do something like this is far more in line with who his character has become than having us believe he suddenly wanted to leave everything behind to become an art student. Elena still wants to believe someone can get away from the supernatural pull of Mystic Falls, but let’s face it: That isn’t happening anytime soon. I can’t decide if Alaric and Jeremy keeping this secret from her is a mercy or just insulting, but seeing Elena smile and laugh and loosen up around Jeremy for once was nice, even if it took a strangely belabored pot setup to get her there. As for Jeremy leaving, it feels like a blessing not only for the character but for the show as well. Jeremy hasn’t felt essential to the ensemble for quite a while, and I always thought that bringing him back after he died ruined a lot of the emotional impact his death gave Elena’s character arc. Jeremy leaving now—even on a good note—at least rids TVD of some of the dead character weight it has along the edges.
Speaking of dead character weight, this Enzo and Matt story continues to be absolutely dreadful, almost to the point that it drags down everything else in the episode because it just doesn’t fit into any of the other narratives the show is telling right now. This week, Enzo lures Sarah back to Mystic Falls in order to continue his weird vampire seduction dance, which now involves him running Matt over with a car and then healing him with his blood right in front of her. Maybe this is one of those stories that will make sense once it gets to the end, with all the pieces snapping into place to reveal something more meaningful. But I kind of doubt it. (Also, Enzo is in Mystic Falls again and has yet to interact with Damon. Why is he embarking on this vendetta again?)
The bulk of the episode was dedicated to Sheriff Forbes and everyone preparing for her upcoming death, and this was by far the strongest material in the episode. Perhaps the best part of Liz’s death storyline is the return of Liz and Damon as friends, which was always one of the show’s most unexpectedly fruitful pairings. This episode was full of wonderful Liz and Damon interactions, as he helps her close all of her unsolved cases (mostly by admitting he was the culprit, which, ha) and even helps her figure out that Elena’s parents did indeed die in an accident and not from some nefarious supernatural means. TVD has featured a lot of death and preparing for death in the past, but it wasn’t until Liz’s death that we got to finally see something so wonderfully human, as she attempts to wrap up all of the stray pieces of her life so she can die and know the life that she lived was meaningful. That it was well-lived, even if by her own admission it was ordinary in comparison to others. Liz’s last request before falling into a sleep she’ll never wake up from is a drink, which isn’t a terrible way to go.
What nags me about the whole story, however, is how little of it she spent with Caroline. It was like as soon as Caroline found out her mom was going to die, her story became less about spending time with her mother than the show using her mother’s illness to push her closer to Stefan. Caroline and Stefan getting closer while he helps her through this difficult emotional time is a perfectly nice story—and at times it was written very, very well—but Liz and Caroline spent so few scenes together in these last few episodes, in a way that feels frustrating. As much as I enjoyed all of the Liz and Damon moments in this episode, one real scene between Caroline and Liz would have been nice. It also would have given the story more emotional weight—the cry-fest social media promised me was more of a trickle, as Caroline seeing a memory of herself riding her bike wasn’t quite the gut-punch that her actually getting to say goodbye could have been.
Still, it was refreshing to see the show tackle what happens when you are immortal and the people around you start to die. Caroline’s helplessness in the face of her mother’s illness was tragic and wonderfully played by Candice Accola. I just can’t shake the nagging feeling that it could have been so much more, had she been given just a few more scenes with her mother before they were forced to say goodbye.
- The “Jeremy’s greatest hits” conversation between Alaric, Matt, and Jeremy was a cute nod to all of the insanity he has been through in his time on the show. Damon joking later about how he killed him once was less cute. Too soon, Damon.
- Of course Elena and Damon compelled Jeremy into art school and had to compel the principal to get him a high school diploma. At least the show has some self-awareness about him never, ever going to class.
- Caroline and Stefan’s first kiss was actually very nice and very nicely staged. I’m curious to see how this relationship develops from this point.
- Alaric having to keep himself scarce in Mystic Falls because he was afraid people will see him when he’s supposed to be dead was maybe my favorite little throwaway moment.
- This week, in Matt Donovan Is The Best: I got nothin’. Just warn your mom to hide out for a while and tell Stefan what the heck Enzo is up to already, Donovan. This is ridiculous.
- “I have to admit there is a certain amount of peace knowing I’ll be one of the only people in Mystic Falls to die an ordinary death.” RIP, Sheriff Forbes. You were ordinary, and that was okay.