To let that kind of spoiler out, the show’s writers must have been confident that they had enough twists in the season finale to keep fans guessing — and they did. The hour was so twisty, in fact, that even when Damon decapitated newly-minted Heretic Kai — who’d linked Bonnie and Elena so that as long as Bonnie’s alive, Elena will be asleep — you weren’t 100 percent sure he was gone for good. Thanks to Twitter and TVD exec producer Julie Plec, we can confirm it. (Plus, actor Chris Wood is on Plec’s new show Containment.)
Let’s break it down.
Kai’s master plan: So first Kai stabbed himself in the neck as Alaric held his dead, pregnant bride in his arms (RIP, Jo and your love of wine). The Gemini coven thought Kai was irredeemable? He’d prove they were right: If he died, they’d die. Since Liv was therefore condemned to death and Tyler was impaled with glass, Tyler assumed they’d leave this world together. Wrong: She remembered that if he triggered his werewolf curse by killing someone, he’d heal. They exchanged “I love you"s, she told him "Don’t waste it” (meaning his second second chance), and he suffocated her. Will we miss Liv? No. But her telling Tyler to do something with his life, combined with mind-invading Elena later suggesting that he leave Mystic Falls to embrace being a werewolf, makes it easier to understand why the character will bolt (actor Michael Trevino is also leaving the show).
With the action moving so fast, viewers may not have had time to realize what Kai was really up to: In exchange for the promise of bringing back Lily’s “family,” Lily had given Kai her blood. That meant he’d died with vampire blood in his system. He woke up, had a touch of his father’s blood to complete the transition, and he was a Heretic.
Alaric, who placed Jo’s dead body in his car at the start of the most uncomfortable sequence in the entire episode, learned of Kai’s new status when he put bullets in him and failed to kill him. Alaric then tried to shoot himself in the head but was out of ammunition. Werewolf Tyler came along at just the right time and bit Kai.
In the loophole-loving world of TVD, Kai was able to ultimately heal himself (because magic!), which was bad news for Bonnie. She later met up with Kai at the wedding site to try to get him to break the spell linking her to Elena. Kai gave Bonnie a toss and collapsed one of her lungs, which, as Kai noted when Damon showed up, was a gift: All Damon had to do was let Bonnie die, and he’d get Elena back now. Damon apologized to Bonnie, kissed her forehead, pulled his hand away from her, and walked away. Kai was disappointed: He wanted Damon to be tortured by the decision, at least long enough to flip a coin. Oh, but Damon had, and it came up heads. Damon snuck up behind Kai and decapitated him.
Damon rushed to Bonnie to feed her his blood, and she lived. What’s beautiful about that moment: By not choosing to sacrifice Bonnie for Elena, Damon finally proved, without a doubt, that he’s worthy of Elena’s love. He put his best friend (Bonnie) first because it was the right thing to do in his mind, not just because he knew it was what Elena would want him to do. She’s always hated having her friends and loved ones risk their lives for her.
Elena’s long goodbyes: Throughout the hour, we saw sleeping beauty Elena communicating with people in special places: with Damon in the street where they first met, with Stefan on the hike where she’d told him she’d never wanted to become a vampire, with Matt on the bridge where Rebekah ran them off the road. But once the decision was made to put Elena in a coffin and let her sleep until Bonnie dies of old age — in a flash-forward in the series finale, when we get to see Elena and Damon reunite in the final seconds, one would presume — it was officially goodbye time.
Caroline acted as a conduit between Elena and Bonnie. In their thoughts, the three friends sat on a bed in their oversized dorm room. Keeping with the diary theme, Elena asked them to each keep one so that when she woke up, she could read their words and feel as though she hadn’t missed all those years. Being immortal, Caroline — who Elena also asked to take care of everyone — said she expects to see Elena again, so she left Bonnie to say her final farewell.
You believed Elena was at peace with the decision: This way, they can both have the lives they want, just not at the same time, she said. Bonnie’s spent her life making sacrifices for Elena, now it’s Elena’s turn to do it for her. Elena just had one more favor to ask: She wanted to see Bonnie raise feathers — as Bonnie had done in Season 1 when she told Elena she’s a witch.
The feather scene takes us back to a time when things were so much simpler, when there was a figurative and literal lightness to the show. For a series centered on an epic love triangle, it’s often the scenes between the best friends, or the brothers, or the parent and child that hit you hardest. Please remember that when you’re attacking each other, shippers.
When Elena went into Matt’s mind, she saw them on the bridge with him wearing a cop’s uniform. Elena’s counting on Matt outliving Bonnie (rude!), but in the meantime, she wanted him to know that she hopes he’ll become a cop and fight for people just like him.
She saw Alaric in the woods and told him he’ll have to first let himself drown in the pain of losing Jo and the babies if he hopes to ever swim and recover. Jeremy returned (blaming flight delays for missing the wedding from hell), and Elena took him back to that spot where they shared french fries while stoned before he left town. She wanted to be strong for him, but it was him who comforted her by saying that she should know he’d be living the life he felt he was meant to. She saw Tyler locking himself away and told him not to chain himself up in Mystic Falls but to go someplace where he could embrace the wolf within.
And then, dear God, it was time for Stefan. Paul Wesley shed that single tear as Stefan reached to touch Elena and begin the connection. They were back on that hike, and she thanked him for bumping into her in the hallway and for saving her life. She told him she loved him and that she can’t wait to see what new life he chose for himself when she sees him again in 60 or 70 years. “Just be happy. I’ll see you soon,” she said. “I’ll see you, Elena,” he said.
That’s what Stefan and Elena turned out to be: As much as he loved her, in the end, he realized he needed Damon more than he needed her. Elena had believed Damon was worthy of love, which reminded Stefan that he’d believed in Damon, too.
Once Stefan and Damon took the coffin to the tomb where Bonnie would seal it in safely (to keep cure-seeking vampires from trying to get at Elena’s body), it was Damon’s turn.
He and Elena were back on that road, wearing the gown and tux they wore to Alaric and Jo’s wedding (and their own, really). She told him she knew the love of her life would stand by his best friend even if it meant living without her for a while. He wanted to starve himself and dessicate, but she told him she wanted him to live his life. Then, they finally had the dance he’d been asking all episode for. It started with a hand gesture similar to their Miss Mystic Falls dance.
Then it turned into an elaborate dance number that, at first, admittedly seemed almost as awkward as the motorcycle ride Stefan and Elena shared when she first became a vampire. But then, it grew on you, especially when Stefan showed up at Caroline’s place to tell her that he’d made a list of all the ways that loving her had changed his life for the better and that he’d wait for her — when she’s ready for him, he’ll be ready for her. It felt like a passing of the torch — now the Stefan and Caroline love story may be the romantic center of the show. But Stefan’s words and the dance also took us back to a simpler time when love wasn’t about pain; it was pure and new, and you had time to go slow because it was the beginning not the end.
The Time Jump: The episode didn’t end there. We jumped forward an unspecified amount of time to see Matt in a cop car, patrolling what looks to be a ransacked Mystic Falls. Damon was standing up by the clock where he and Elena had discussed the cure and whether he would resent her if he took it: Was he the cause of all the destruction, or was it Lily’s “family”?
When Kai died, a building he’d cloaked became visible. Enzo and Lily walked inside, and there the Heretics were. You were happy for her… but are they the big bads of Season 7 and Damon is just distraught and detached?