Wait, Elena’s what? Thursday night’s “The Vampire Diaries” season finale, “The Departed,” shocked the hell out of everyone with a twist ending nobody saw coming. Whether or not it’s a good twist should keep the Twittersphere arguing through the summer hiatus. Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know.
The episodes leading up to the finale centered around three things: The quests to destroy the season’s big bads, Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and Psycho Ric (Matt Davis), and the love triangle between Elena and the Salvatore brothers. All of those storylines were resolved in an unusually poignant episode, but, does it really matter because oh my God, Elena’s a vampire! The very thing she said she would rather die than become, because she is the anti-Bella Swan. Yes, it happened in the books, but in the books Jeremy is a four-year-old girl.
Also, two major characters die. But, uh, have you forgotten that Elena is a vampire?!
The episode opened with a flashback to Elena’s life before her parents died. She is a perky cheerleader. Nina Dobrev does a great job of making Elena completely different yet still Elena. She says hello to Jenna (!) (Sara Canning and kisses her mother. Then she wakes up in a hospital bed. Meredith (Torrey DeVitto) tells Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen), who brought her in after she passed out at the end of last week’s episode, that Elena just has a slight concussion. He calls the Bros Salvatores, who are driving dried-out Klaus to a hiding place. They agree that one of them needs to finish Project Stash Klaus Where No One Can Find Him while the other tends to Elena. Damon’s (Ian Somerhalder) stance is protect Elena, regardless of what she wants, while Stefan thinks Elena should decide what she wants to do.
Ric destroys Meredith’s stash of vampire blood, confident the medical board will suspend her now that he has outed her to the council. He demands that Elena be released into his custody since he is her guardian. When he gets to her room, she is gone. The scooby gang has taken her home. Elena has another flashback. Bonnie (Kat Graham) notices that when Matt (Zach Roerig) tells her he loves her, she does not say it back. When Elena wakes up, Matt is with her. She apologizes for stringing him along. She thinks she’s doing the same thing to Stefan and Damon. She has to let one of them go. Stefan arrives at that moment. She embraces him, then insists she will not let them treat her like an invalid. That’s when Elijah (Daniel Gilles) shows up.
At the grill, Ric demands that Jeremy tell him the location of Klaus’s body. He wants Jeremy to help him get rid of all the vampires. He shows him the white oak stake.
Meanwhile, Elijah says that if he gets the stake, he will flee with it so Ric can chase after him for the next century, protecting Elena and everybody else. In return, he needs Klaus’s body back. Stefan leaves the decision up to Elena. Damon is listening to the conversation on the phone and says it’s a terrible idea. But Elena agrees to the deal.
Tyler (Michael Trevino) and Caroline’s (Candice Accola) parents want them to leave town so the council won’t kill them. Tyler vows to protect her. Caroline agrees to a life on the run — provided she helps their friends first. They decide to meet in two hours. The rules of television foreshadowing state that one of them is going to die.
Jeremy calls Ric and tells him that Damon is going to bury Klaus in the woods, which does not track with what we heard last week. In fact, the phone call is part of Elijah’s scheme. Damon shows Bonnie the storage unit where he stashed Klaus. This could be an amazing episode of “Storage Wars.” Klaus’s eyes open. It’s ultra creepy. Bonnie asks for a minute alone with him (plot point!). She tells him he should burn in hell, but if he dies, so does everyone she loves.
Elena tells Stefan she feels like every time someone walks out of her house, there’s a chance they won’t come home. He promises to do everything in his power to make sure they all come back. Yes, someone is going to die. He kisses her before he leaves, saying it’s just in case there is no later.
Damon tells Stefan that Rebekah is going to pick up the body. Instead Ric is the one who shows up and and demands to know where Klaus is. Damon says a storage locker, but won’t specify which one. Ric snaps his neck.
Elena tells Matt that Stefan saved her the night her parents died. He made her want to live again. That’s what love should be. Flashback to Elena at the bonfire. She calls her mom because she and Matt had a fight because he was already planning their post high school life. Her mom encourages her to break up with him. Poor Matt was too boring even when he wasn’t competing with vampires. Elena wakes up to find herself in a truck with Matt. He drugged her tea to get her out of town and keep her safe.
Ric stakes Klaus. Klaus’s body catches on fire. Damn! The big bad is really, truly dead now relatively early in the episode. It seems anticlimactic. Damon tells Rebekah to run. He and Ric start to fight.
After the commercial break, Damon, having freed himself from Ric’s clutches, calls Stefan to tell him what happened. If Klaus really is their sire, they are going to die in an hour. He won’t be able to get home in time. Damon asks Stefan to tell Elena he said goodbye. Caroline realizes that with Klaus dead, Tyler will definitely die. After Jeremy phones Matt to fill him in on what happened, Matt makes Elena choose whether to drive to Damon or Stefan. It’s the Sophie’s choice of vampire love interests.
Elena calls Damon and tells him she is headed home, but claims it’s for Caroline and Tyler as well as Stefan. He asks her if it were just him and Stefan, who would get the in-person goodbye. Elena says that she loves Stefan. She fell for him instantly. No matter what she feels for him, she always cared for Stefan. She cares about him too, which is why she has to let him go. Maybe if they had met first, things would be different. On one hand, that’s a lame reason to pick one. On the other, in real life, timing is a huge factor in the success of relationships. Ric punches Damon.
Caroline runs to Tyler, who is fine. She tearfully tells him that Klaus died. He calmly tells her that he is a lost cause, but she will be fine. He wants her to tell his mother that he left town like he was supposed to. They embrace, then he starts to cough. He doesn’t want her to watch him die. He turns into a wolf so she will run.
In the woods, Rebekah tells Elijah that Klaus is dead. Both agree that Klaus sired the Salvatores, since neither one of them did. So how are they still alive?
Bonnie goes to Tyler who is fine. He thanks her for doing the spell so well. She says she did not do it for him. She did it for herself because she is done getting pushed around by the spirits. Wait, what? It isn’t Tyler. It’s Klaus in Tyler’s body. Tyler is dead and Bonnie performed the same spell that Esther used to take over Rebekah’s body. So Bonnie saved Klaus in order to establish her independence. Whoa.
Rebekah jumps in front of Matt’s truck. Instead of realizing that she is an immortal Original and mowing her down, he swerves and the truck goes off the bridge just like in her parents car accident. Elena flashes back to the car crash when her parents died. It’s a chilling sequence as we see them silently realize they are going to die.
Another flashback. Elena calls Bonnie about Matt, then hangs up and encounters Damon who calls her Katherine. He wonders what she is doing in the woods by herself. She tells him she got into a fight with her boyfriend. She isn’t sure what she wants. He thinks she wants what everyone wants: a love that consumers her, passion, adventure and a little danger. Their conversation is interrupted by her parents coming to pick her up for that fateful ride. He compels her to forget their conversation, not wanting anyone to know he is in town. The memory inspires Damon to muster up the strength to fight back against Ric.
Under the water in the present, Elena intercuts between trying to save herself, cut with the flashbacks to her parents accident. She mouths I love you. Elena’s Dad tells Stefan to save Elena. This time, Elena tells Stefan to save Matt first. Shockingly, he does it, taking his decision to respect her choices to the extreme. Ric dies mid-fight with Damon. Ric’s ghost says goodbye to Jeremy and that he will always look after him. Jeremy realizes that if Ric is a ghost, that means Elena is dead. Stefan lies over Elena’s body. When Damon gets to the hospital, Meredith tells Damon that Elena actually had a cerebral hemorrhage and she helped her. Elena wakes up gasping.
So many questions: Did Elena know Meredith treated her with vampire blood? Did Stefan? If Stefan had saved Elena first, would she have escaped becoming a vampire? When vampire Elena remembers her first conversation with Damon will that change her mind about which brother she wants? Will Caroline realize that Tyler is really Klaus? Will Klaus be able to return to his original body? How will we survive until September?