‘The Vampire Diaries’ Series Finale Recap: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Their Stories

Vampire Diaries Series Finale
Courtesy of Annette Brown/The CW

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the series finale of “The Vampire Diaries,” which aired on Friday, March 10.

Executive producer Julie Plec promised an “emotional experience” in “The Vampire Diaries” series finale, and that’s exactly what we got.

Picking up where the penultimate episode left off, “I Was Feeling Epic” begins with Stefan (Paul Wesley) attempting to resuscitate Bonnie (Kat Graham) after an especially draining bit of magic. While Bonnie’s unconscious, she reunites with her best friend Elena (Nina Dobrev), who’s been stuck in a mystical coma since the season six finale. But it’s Elena who realizes something’s wrong — she and Bonnie’s lives are linked, so Elena can only wake once Bonnie is dead for good, no loopholes — and she tells Bonnie it’s not her time. Not yet. She still has a full life to live, even though Bonnie is more than willing to die to be with the recently deceased love of her life, Enzo (Michael Malarkey). But even Enzo’s spirit refuses to let Bonnie give up, and with that, Bonnie wakes up, letting her friends know: “I saw Elena.”

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Meanwhile, Damon (Ian Somerhalder) is trying to stop “dead as a doornail” Vicki Donovan (Kayla Ewell) from doing Katherine’s (also Nina Dobrev) bidding, ringing the Maxwell Bell 12 times (every five minutes) and bringing literal hellfire to Mystic Falls. Unfortunately, neither throwing her out a window nor snapping her neck incapacitates Vicki for good, and she truly is a woman on a mission — it’s either this or going back to Hell, and the prospect of no longer existing at all is so much better than going back.

So Damon puts Vicki’s brother Matt (Zach Roerig) in charge of trying to talk his big sister down. Since he doesn’t believe Matt will actually be able to stop her though (neither does Matt, which is why he incites one last “gas leak” protocol for town evacuation), he goes back home with Stefan to regroup and figure out a way to stop Katherine and save their town.

It’s there where they see the coffin they keep Elena in is empty — and she’s awake. Obviously, Bonnie’s momentary death must have triggered it… but there are no loopholes. No, this is Katherine pretending to be Elena and messing with Damon’s head for old time’s sake. She’s come to gloat, naturally, as she’s now the Queen of Hell and has bested the Salvatore brothers and their circle of friends once and for all. It’s hard not to gloat — she apparently had the Devil himself under her Katherine Pierce spell from the second she stepped foot in Hell. Hate the player, not the game. As for Elena, her body is hidden away in the boiler room of Mystic Falls High School. Unfortunately, before he got stuck in a Spin Doctors prison world, Kai (Chris Wood) spelled the boiler room for Katherine so Elena can’t be taken out.

As for ways to stop Katherine, it turns out that a dagger forged from her bones (like they did with Cade) isn’t the long-term solution, as she only wakes up and talks them to death even more. In fact, we can’t be sure Damon isn’t in Hell already, with the way he keeps having to stab Katherine only to get more grief from her. “I have everything I want, Damon,” she tells him. “Or I’m about to. Once that last bell rings, this stupid town will go up and flames and everybody will go poof. Well, they’ll burn alive first. But then their ashes will go poof.”

Damon tries to get her back by pointing out she’s still so jealous over how he and Stefan would both choose Elena over her, “every time,” but she throws back that Elena would always choose Stefan over him every time, as well. “Because I would. Any woman would. Stefan is the better man.”

Luckily, Bonnie figures out a long-term Katherine solution from Alaric’s research: Let the hellfire come and then send it back to Hell. The thing is, Katherine needs to be back in Hell. And someone needs to make sure she goes there. Which is what leaves us with the Salvatore brothers arguing over who will be the one to take Katherine back to Hell. Specifically, who will be the one to end their life to save the day? As Katherine said, Stefan is “the better man,” but it’s Damon who steps up, wanting to be the good big brother he never was.

And Stefan acknowledges that he very much is in this moment: “In nearly the two centuries since I made you become a vampire, I have fought to turn you into the man who deserves the happiness that’s out there right now.” But Damon is still a vampire, and Stefan no longer is, so Damon uses the vampire advantage and compels Stefan to leave and not to stop until Damon’s death break the compulsion. “Because I am the big brother. I’m sorry I wasn’t better at it until now.”

While all this is happening, Alaric (Matt Davis) is ready to ditch town with his daughters, and that means Caroline (Candice King) has to go too, as much as she wants to help the Salvatores save Elena and defeat Katherine. After all, she and Stefan just got married earlier that night, so they’re family, too. But Alaric goes for the jugular when it comes to convincing Caroline to leave Stefan behind: “I don’t need to remind you what it’s like to lose your mother.”

It’s not like he doesn’t care — Damon at one point was his only friend and Elena is his step-daughter — but he has to put his daughters first, and they need their mother. And once it looks like things really are coming to an end for Mystic Falls, Caroline calls Stefan and leaves him a voicemail: “I need you to know that I understand. I love you. I will love you forever. I understand.”

Even after an emotional reconnection with her estranged father, Peter (Joel Gretsch), Vicki still chose to ring the bell rather than go back to Hell. Obviously that’s not ideal, but as this season keeps saying, Hell really is no joke. But rather than desert their family, Matt and Peter stay behind. And once the bell rings for the 12th time, it goes kaboom with hellfire (as does Vicki), which makes its way through the Mystic Falls tunnels thanks to Bonnie’s spell and directly to the Armory.

It’s here where Bonnie is truly tested, coming face to face with Hellfire. She’s bold enough to tell the hellfire it’s not her time and it can’t take her, but eventually, the power becomes too much and she worries she can’t push it all back to Hell like she plans. But once again, the spirit of Enzo is here to tell her she can do it — as are the spirits of all the Bennett witches who came before Bonnie, including her Grams (Jasmine Guy), Beatrice Bennett (Jaz Sinclair), and Lucy Bennett (Natashia Williams), who we’ve all been waiting to see since her one and only appearance in season two’s “Masquerade.”

The thing about Damon compelling Stefan is that he didn’t stop to think that his little brother would possibly be on vervain. That’s a point that’s addressed when Elena shows up again in her mystical coma world, this time greeted by Stefan at Mystic Falls High (where they first met). Stefan explains how he’s not quite sure what happened with Bonnie, but he knows that he took a syringe full of his blood (and the cure for immortality), went back to the tomb where Damon and Katherine were, injected Damon with the cure, and took his place on the highway to Hell. Because then Damon couldn’t pull the vampire trump card. And he also couldn’t betray his brother by not living a human life to the fullest. Stefan promised Katherine he would kill her back in the second season premiere, and here in the series finale, he finally makes good on his promise. “Burn in Hell,” he tells her, before he throws out a “goodbye, brother” to Damon. And with that, Stefan Salvatore’s life officially comes to an end.

“Tonight I saw a side of Damon that I hadn’t seen in a while: The older brother I looked up to, the son who enlisted in the Civil War to please his father, the Damon I knew when I was a boy,” Stefan tells Elena. “I wanted that Damon to live, and I wanted you to have an opportunity to get to know him.”

Stefan says goodbye to Elena one last time, as The Fray’s “Never Say Never” starts up (like at the end of the pilot), and he walks into the white light… outside the school, where his best friend Lexi (Arielle Kebbel) is waiting, along with his vintage car he torched last season. In another callback to the first season, Stefan throws Lexi’s own line her way: “I was feeling epic.”

After stopping literal hellfire from destroying Mystic Falls with the help of every single one of her ancestors, Bonnie Bennett has all the confidence and power in the world to finally find a loophole to the Sleeping Beauty spell that’s not supposed to have a loophole. Elena wakes up, greeted by her best friend — in a callback to the scene where Bonnie first revealed her powers to her — and ready to return to the land of the living. After reconnecting with Damon after all this time, Elena gives Caroline the confirmation she needed that Stefan got her voicemail. Then they all remember the life of Stefan Salvatore, who’s “now at peace.”

As the Mystic Falls crew moves on with their lives, they’re constantly, unknowingly surrounded by their own friends and family who found their own peace in the afterlife. Matt Donovan is still Sheriff of Mystic Falls, and he’s thinking about running for Mayor. His sister Vicki and best friend Tyler (Michael Trevino) have also found peace in the afterlife together. Caroline and Alaric have honored Stefan’s last wish, opening up the Salvatore Boarding School for the Young & Gifted at the Salvatore Boarding House. Jeremy works for them and Klaus keeps them afloat with his $3 million donation. Jo (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) watches over Alaric and their daughters, while Liz Forbes (Marguerite MacIntyre) watches over Caroline. Bonnie Bennett saved the world, and now she finally gets to enjoy living in it. And Enzo still watches over her, even though she can’t see him anymore. Elena finally makes it through medical school, and she and Damon move back to Mystic Falls once she graduates.

Despite everything, Damon still thinks he’s going to Hell and will never see Stefan again. But as Elena writes in her diary, “he’s wrong. Because I know peace exists. It lives in everyone we hold dear. That is the promise of peace. That one day, after a long life, we find each other again.” After Elena and Damon live their long, full lives together, Elena’s peace in the afterlife features her parents who died before the series began, her Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning), and her uncle/biological father John (David Anders). As for Damon, he finds his peace, too, reconnecting with Stefan in the afterlife. Damon lets out one last, soft “hello, brother” — and “The Vampire Diaries” fades to white.

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  1. MORGAN DOUGLAS says:

    I totally feel like a major major story line was left out. Damon and the woman hes been waiting years for finally reunite and they just cut it straight to their deaths ? “Afterlife” no story of how they get married..talk about everything that happened while she was gone..have children nlw that they are both human.. Nothing just straight to afterlife. Hell they didnt even speak to wach other much at all! Sooooo frustrated

    • Debbie Crowns says:

      I really didn’t like how the story ended. the story started with Stefan and Elena. why did Stefan have to die at the end?

  2. Bill says:

    Anyone agree with one of my comments I posted

  3. Bill says:

    I just wish ellana will die in one of the episodes I’m just saying if not that than make her love Stephen againg!!!!!!!

  4. Bill says:

    And ellana i m sorry to say this but I wss over joyed one she was dead elana but I hate u sorry but u missing the whole movie up by making stupid chooses and u put ur own family in danger it is just astressing me out that u missing it up sorry.

  5. Bill says:

    Ellan and damen do not look good together and damen is drunk ing and kissesing other girls and she is kindly missing up the whole movie for me or us. And her and Stephen looks good together an d Stephen don’t get drunk and don’t kiss other girls like damen damen is worider than Stephen andand ellana and Stephen planed out their lives together and I think boney should be with jermmey and rose should be with damen and Tyler and charaline should be together and clauses sister should be with matt and no one is braking up no mayer what and they are going to stay together for their lives and well in til their deathes!!! Oh Katherine should be with clause.

  6. The last episode of Vampire Diaries is a complete non-sense. Ending the entire show with 2 very stupid vampire brothers. Why does Stefan or Damon need to sacrifice themselves by guarding Katherine? They can just tie her up or put her in a cage and leave her in the tunnels. Also, the ending was very vague. It didn’t show how Elena or Damon died when they reunited with their families. Couldn’t just Elena and Damon lived happily ever after? Lol.

  7. Mintz says:

    It was a great ending, but it leaves me wondering, What about Caroline? she is an immortal vampire and everyone else around her, family and friends were pretty much human. They should totally do another series about Caroline and her daughters and maybe even The Originals.

  8. sanghita0000 says:

    the ending was epic…..the best moments were Damon meeting Stefan in afterlife while Enzo still watches over Bonnie….I hope she also meets him in the afterlife…..beautiful….just beautiful ending

  9. John says:

    I feel like this is the best TV series ever too bad its over but it was Epic!!!!

  10. larry Harvey says:

    I am glad I found this site. I watched the final episode tonight and was a little confused about the ending. Specifically where Elena saw her dead family and Stefan and Damon saw each other again. It seems obvious now. Thanks for the clarification.

  11. mary melrose says:

    I can see the school for gifted children playing apart in the Originals. Klaus has just heavily invested and i think we might see his child there soon enough. Looks like Caroline might be appearing in the Originals if my hunch is correct.

  12. Jaya says:

    Bonnie deserved a better ending! I mean she has got the short end of the stick every time! Bonnie and Caroline are the true heroines of TVD. I was hoping that Bonnie would get a peaceful afterlife with Enzo since she couldn’t be with him during her lifetime (though I really wanted him to come back to be with Bonnie). As much as I like Elena, the fact is that she was absent for two whole seasons and yet she (apart from Damon) are the few ones who got a happy ending not only in life but in afterlife. I’m glad that Damon’s peaceful afterlife is with Stefan and Elena’s is with the Gilbert family, since it shows that their idea of a happy ending is being with their loved ones and not just with each other. I hope they connect the living characters (who were given open endings) including the Gemini twins, Ric, Caroline, Matt and maybe even Bonnie to the Originals storyline. Will miss TVD!!

    • Jetta says:

      It would be interesting to see Bonnie on the Originals where they a Bennett witch and in exchange can help her bring Enzo back.

  13. Bonnie COULD hear Enzo when he was telling her where her passport is..duh

  14. zoe says:

    If Stefan was able to give the cure to Damon…why couldn’t he give it to Caroline? (it’s great that they left the door open so perhaps Carolyn will crossover to The Originals…but from a logical standpoint it makes no sense why she wouldn’t have taken the cure once Stefan did). Annnnd…why didn’t he say good-bye to her (in spirit form) …why couldn’t she see his spirit like Bonnie saw Enzo? Why were you guys constantly focusing on Stefan’s guilt for killing Enzo…yet after it happened there was no mention of Damon’s equally horrific killing of Tyler. Shouldn’t he have felt the same guilt as Stefan…shouldn’t he have mentioned or reminded Stefan of that while trying to allay his guilt.

    Still and all…sorry to see it go. Loved the show; I hope at some point many of the characters visit The Originals. I get from a career standpoint they might not want to be typecast, but for strictly selfish reasons I hope they somehow find their way over there…

    • John says:

      If Stefan would’ve given the cure to Caroline he’d start ageing rapidly to the point of death, just like Katherine did. Besides Caroline never expressed any desire to be human again and he couldn’t say goodbye to her in the way Enzo and Bonnie can communicate because Caroline isn’t a witch. Tyler didn’t come up because the writers dropped the ball… Yeah, you’ve got a point there.

      • zoe says:

        Thanks guys…watched the episode again last nite. Paid more attention this time! LOL…still, going to miss the show, regardless of its rough patches.

      • Lexi says:

        Zoe – they weren’t communicating with the other side. When they showed Vicki, Tyler, Sheriff Forbes, Jo, etc. it was meant to show how they had found peace and now watch over their loved ones that are still alive. Those still on earth couldn’t actually see them but could “feel” their presence much like how people in real life say they can feel their loved ones presence after they pass away. I do agree they should have shown a clip of Stephen watching over Caroline but we just have to assume that he does. But they weren’t actually communicating.

      • Tea says:

        Elena did age to like 22 or however old she would be. Katherine and Stefan were both over 100yrs old.

        I thought it would be a 2hr finale. Felt like the wrap ups were to quick. Too bad Katherine is dead. She could’ve been interesting on the Originals. She’s funny.

        Slightly annoyed with their opening up a Hogwarts but whatever. TVD is king of doing things that make no sense.

      • Brit One says:

        one question if when Stefan game the cure to his brother Stefan would age..ok i get that but they took the cure from Elena so why weren’t she aging rapidly

        that part made no sense to me

      • zoe says:

        Thanks, John. Guess I had brain freeze when they explained the “aging rapidly” and forgot why Katherine aged. Need to go back and watch that episode again.

        As for Bonnie seeing Enzo because of her witchy power I get that and thought of that…but Caroline was able to see her mother, Matt his sister. They were able to communicate with the other side throughout the entire show.

  15. atjennings00 says:

    Vicki is already dead. Any way you kill her she still comes back. Damon and Stephan both stabbed her again (she would come back as well) and she couldn’t fight back then.

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