The Vampire Diaries Season 5 Finale Review: Gateway Hugs (PHOTO RECAP)
Ah, the Fight Club ending. Just two people holding hands and facing down oblivion. In a lot of ways this episode (and this whole season!) were as aggressive as the David Fincher film, especially in its willingness to openly piss off the audience. Season 5 will always be known as a difficult season, not only for its change of educational venue (like high school ever mattered) or its suddenly reduced cast of characters, but in the way it gave us whiplash for 22 episodes. Alternating between fan-service (love triangle exhaustion) and also, seemingly, overt trolling (in bringing back the diary voiceovers so often as well as the continued use of "hello, my shadow self," it felt like this show was trolling ME PERSONALLY sometimes?), this was a season that both played it safer than usual and also made really risky creative decisions. If your argument is that it wasn't a successful or cohesive season of television overall, I guess I'm sympathetic to that. But if you're saying it was bad, I very much disagree. I wish MORE shows were as weird and unpredictable as this one. I'm not thrilled about Katherine's perma-death, and I'm not thrilled about the frequent use of suicide as a pathos-generator, but when this season was on, it was ON. And I just REALLY like the witch twins, okay?
"Home" was a dense, action-packed hour of television with exactly the right amount of surprises and heartache. The pay-off of the dissolution of The Other Side may not have been surprising, but it was VERY satisfying. The Other Side is gone! Death may actually have stakes again! Plus we got Alaric back as a human being. And while the implied loophole that may bring Bonnie (and Damon) back from wherever they went does sorrrta negate the destruction of The Other Side (how many afterlifes are there?), I still feel like the stakes are really high and I'm hoping we're being set up for a bit of a series reboot. Who can say? I can't. All I can say is that this episode redeemed things about the season that I hadn't cared for in the past (Silas!) while also making me feel VERY emotional in my tiny dumb heart. We should probably start talking about it!
We started in the dorm lounge where a dead hunk was chilling on the couch just getting crispier and crispier by the minute! My question was, did Caroline grab Stefan's heart and kinda ploop it back into his chest, or did she leave it outside on the pavement where somebody could slip and fall on it?
Either way, she seemed VERY bummed about Stefan's death. Then Elena and Damon ran in the room:
They also took Stefan's death very hard. Which was good because guess who was watching them:
Stefan was basically living out everyone's fantasy: To be able to spy on people mourning him. Yeah, he seemed to look kinda sad about it, but come on. I'm sure he was stoked to see so much crying. Anyway, then the wind started blowing super hard and Oblivion was calling his name!
But then Lexi grabbed him and saved him! Hey Lexi! Lexi was back. I long ago stopped getting my hopes up that TVD would finally fix one of its all-time biggest blunders (killing Lexi off) by resurrecting her as a full-blown series regular, so I did not fall into that trap this time either, thank goodness. Still though, it was nice to see her smiling face outside of those bad webisode recaps, am I right? Lexi deserves better and always has.
Meanwhile Damon was ESPECIALLY eager for Bonnie to save the day again now that his brother was dead. Bonnie's middle name is Hail Mary Deus Ex Machina, so ostensibly this was her time to shine. But on the other hand, she got a very raw deal in this episode. Everyone was putting tons of pressure on her to clean up the messes THEY had made. At least Enzo was being a team player and had been out recruiting allies in the afterlife.
At this point I started getting tiny tingles because I love it when unexpected characters team up. Finales are usually a good time for teamups, so I had high hopes for this episode, let's put it that way.
It really made me laugh that Liv and Luke had to go on the run because they'd attmepted to murder vampires as though that was some unheard of thing in that town. Uh, guys, I can see that you're new here, but it's actually NOT trying to murder people that would be the weird thing to do. Relax.
Except the problem was that a couple of vampires really needed their help.
This was so silly. When Liv stopped their truck in the previous episode it was because she had the power to turn it into a CGI truck and then crumple it. Elena is just a regular vampire, so theoretically Luke could have just plowed her down like a sad scarecrow. But I guess Luke has good manners so he didn't. Also I loved how pissed Caroline looked standing behind their car:
It was clear that Liv didn't WANT to have killed one of the doppelgangers, and she made a great point that her intentions would have saved all the other vampires in town, etc. But Elena is very Elena-centric and seemed so mad and nothing was going to change that. But Liv was feeling stubborn also. She wanted out of this entire situation.
But then Caroline decided there was only one way to get Liv to help bring people back from the dead:
OH NO, NOT LUKE!!
I was obviously VERY conflicted in this part because Caroline is terrific but Luke is my new favorite and whose side do I choose? On the other hand I saw what Caroline was trying to do and also I had no doubt that Luke would come back along with the other dead characters, so it was fine. But I will admit I got VERY worried when Luke fell dead to the ground. This show is constantly slapping our hearts around which is rude.
This scene was weird. All the Travelers in all the world were backpacking into Mystic Falls and Markos was being real precious about it by moving the town sign to the edge of the spell boundary, or whatever. All this meant was that tons of filthy bohemians were hiking around and these poor guys had to do menial labor in stolen bodies. Also, that "Population 6,923" seemed like a VERY generous figure considering it only took like 20 minutes for Sheriff Forbes to evacuate the town. Also because of the death rate, which remains ridiculous.
Also, quick question, why didn't they just go ahead and re-possess Sheriff Forbes? Did they really need her actual skills and know-how? I think maybe Markos was just kinda crushin' on her to be honest.
So then Julian showed up wearing a hunksuit and yelled at Markos a bunch about whatever. Then Markos wanted to demonstrate that the spell was still hovering over the town like an invisible dome and so he tossed Julian/Tyler across the line and then this happened:
Like I know this was supposed to be scary and/or powerful but it was actually HILARIOUS. "Mad props" to Michael Trevino for playing it like full-on farce by re-enacting all the stages of his monsterdom in reverse in a single take. It was honestly such good physical comedy, I was laughing so hard. If Markos had recorded this incident on his camera phone then it would've gone viral for sure. Do you think in this reality where there are tons of monsters of all kinds that they have their own tube sites? I'm guessing yes, but don't worry about it, it's not important at this time.
Meanwhile three guys without college educations got together in Dr. Wes' old lecture hall to hatch their schemes. And honestly, this was the first time all season that I thought it was a GOOD idea that the college was 2 hours away. So THIS is why the writers decided that. Because of this spell thing? Except, nevermind, the spell range wasn't that big:
Um, sorry, but no. According to where Markos placed that sign, the borderline of the spell circle is on a rural country road, not five blocks away from the Mystic Grill. Unless I missed something here? Look, most of this season has been a complicated set of rules that never seem understandable or consistent, so I'm just going to assume this circle is both accurate and a mistake. Whatever. Point is, Jeremy walked around town all morning sensing in his bones where the magic ended. What did he wear while doing so? Jogging attire? A headband? We may never know and for that I am sad.
How perfectly does this image sum up the show? A sister standing over her brother's corpse while a couple of girls check their Samsungs in the background. Pretty much!
So anyway, did you guess what Damon's brilliant plan was?
Yep, the idea was to murder all the Travelers to once again overwhelm Bonnie, but then use a witch to pry Bonnie's gates open so that all their dead friends could run out of her. And the way to murder all those Travelers was to blow them all up. Sounds good!
Meanwhile Stefan was spending some quality time with Lexi and nobody could argue with that decision. She seems great! Except I guess she's been spying on him a bit because she immediately started ribbing him about how Caroline has a major crush on him and he must be a legit dunce to not see that.
I had missed Lexi. Guess who I had NOT missed?
Silas! Okay, to be honest, I WAS happy to see him, if only because it brought us full circle to the beginning of the season. Also, like I said, I like teamups, so the idea that Enzo had recruited Silas to help them in their plan? Kind of great. Also, good job Paul Wesley for making Silas so distinctive... I immediately knew it was him and not just because of the leather jacket, which is a the sartorial version of a goatee when it comes to evil twins. So anyway, yeah, Silas was back! I was fine with it. (Quick question, why wasn't this scene light blue? Shouldn't it have been on The Other Side since all three of them were dead?)
Meanwhile as the resident humans it was Jeremy and Matt's job to go into the caves beneath Mystic Grill (which, LOL it will never not be funny to me that there are caves beneath Mystic Grill) and tamper with the gas line in order to blow everybody up. But I really enjoyed this quick bit where Matt briefly fantasized about maybe just leaving the magical spell in place so that they could live in a monster-free zone for a while.
Except then he lost me when he fantasized about the olden days when things were safer. Uh, according to flashbacks this town has been a a slaughter-zone for hundreds of years. What era specifically was Matt talking about? The early '90s? I'm willing to believe there was sliiightly less murder in the '90s but people were wearing overalls with one strap during those days so don't tell me that was a good situation. (Hey that reminds me, was there no Decades Dance this season? Bummer.)
Oh jeez, these weirdos:
Sheriff Forbes arranged for there to be an open bar at Mystic Grill so that all the Travelers would show up, and in my opinon that was VERY RACIST of her. Still though, it worked, so suddenly all the Travelers were "dancing" (jumping up and down) in the middle of the day. It was seriously so weird and unfun looking. But that's their style I guess.
At this point Damon revealed to Elena that part of killing the Travelers involves him basically suicide bombing them. Why? I don't know. I guess Sheriff Forbes' arm was too weak to throw a molotov cocktail more than four feet or something. And maybe Jeremy's bow and arrows all broke? Look, the point is, Damon's plan involved killing himself.
This was a nice beat here where Damon just straight-up decided he didn't want to argue about this with Elena and they made out instead. He was going to die, but they were definitely going to kiss (loudly!) in front of direct sunlight. It was frustrating but gorgeous, as is their entire romance.
Meanwhile Silas had taught Liv and Bonnie the special spell to jam open the gateway to the Other Side or something, but then it started getting very windy and Silas wanted to come see who was about to get sucked into the sky.
Bonnie did this thing where she pretended to reach for Silas but then pulled her hand away all "psych!" It was basically just revenge for the time Silas killed her dad, so fair enough. Bye forever, Silas. I liked you better when you had a Hellraiser face anyway.
And then Jasmine Guy showed up.
Now, usually Jasmine Guy shows up and yells at Bonnie for being a bad witch, but this time she didn't? What was going ON?
This to me was probably the most important moment of the episode because Jasmine Guy basically just told Bonnie straight-up that she'd been pulling strings and Bonnie shouldn't worry about getting sucked into oblivion or anything like that. So yeah, I think this moment was the loophole that will lead to Bonnie (and Damon's) return. But it's maybe the last time we'll ever see Jasmine Guy, so that made me sad. Pretty good send-off though. She looked great and the hug was very moving. Love Jasmine Guy so much, always have and always will.
I liked this moment too. Damon was waiting for the clock to strike 7 so that he could go suicide bomb the town, but first a quiet moment where he just sat on his car and thought about life. But then when it was time to go something surprising happened!
And I liked this moment too, where Elena asserted her intentions and told Damon not to argue. See, aren't people so much more likable when they aren't codependent? Anyway, this was now officially a suicide pact! Next thing we knew Damon was speeding toward everyone's favorite all-ages bar and grill!
And as the spell made them briefly human again and Elena was choking back lake water and Damon began bleeding from his chest, they exchanged these looks:
So good. Oh, then they crashed into Mystic Grill.
And guess who died? ALL THE TRAVELERS. Also Damon and Elena!
In a quick bit that I didn't cap because come on these things are already way too long, Damon and Elena went to the forest and ran through Bonnie (along with tons of dead Travelers), and then they had to go back to the Mystic Grill for whatever reason. Oh, because that's where there bodies were. Elena's looked so gross too.
Haha oh man. Elena's hair burnt off and she died screaming. Not a very chill way to go.
But this made up for it a bit:
Alaric! He was just chillin' in that grill and I guess he had a front row seat to Mystic Falls' biggest mass murder of the past few weeks.
Meanwhile Damon woke up in the kitchen and guess who he found?
Sheriff Forbes! She was bloody and had cotton candy hair so he assumed she was dead and even tried to help her! But then she started coughing and she was fine, because of course she was fine. Then this guy showed up and they made heart-eyes at each other:
Aw, come on, that's cute. They are cute. A big deal was made about how Damon didn't have any friends and then Enzo filled that gap and now he has TWO friends. (Oh wait, nevermind, jumping the gun there. Theoretically he'll have two friends alive again, that's what I meant.)
Meanwhile all the chanting was taking its toll on Liv. She was probably not going to be able to hold the Bonnie gate open much longer and Luke was worried! So he ran out of the room and became the first person to re-resurrect! (Which I was VERY ok with.)
And then Luke was alive again! Oh thank G.
But Liv was not looking so hot. But to her credit, she insisted on keeping it going because she'd given them her word. Which meant that several more people re-resurrected right in a row!
Enzo was back! He's alive again, everybody. Alaric came back too, because duh. That is great news for Season 6, nobody can dispute that. Then Tyler came back:
But the tricky thing was, Tyler was now a regular human being! They figured this out because he hugged Caroline and he said it "felt different" which I at first interpreted as a boner joke, but then he cut his hand on a rock and didn't heal, so whoops! Human. That's an interesting twist. Is Enzo also human? Probably. We'll see.
Then Elena showed up but Damon hadn't yet, so she wanted to wait. Meanwhile Bonnie was practically dying and she did not want to deal with Elena's foolishness so she just grabbed her and brought her back to life.
And Elena was SO MAD. See what I'm saying? Bonnie is legit dying and Elena got mad at her for bringing her back to life, which was always the plan anyway. So then Bonnie coughed up blood and Stefan "tried to help her" and accidentally re-resurrected himself! Scare quotes because come on. Was it really an accident, Stefan? Be honest.
So yeah, that left only Lexi and a missing Damon to be resurrected. But Lexi noticed that Bonnie wasn't doing so hot, so she hesitated. And while she did that, a Big Bad ran up and tried to re-resurrect himself also! But Lexi was ready for him:
A big thing had been made about how people could avoid oblivion by just 'finding peace' and turning into light or whatever. So I guess Lexi's version of finding peace was to decline to accidentally kill Bonnie and to also throw Markos into the sky.
I don't know. I wish she would have re-resurrected and become a series regular, but still. Finding peace seems pretty cool too. Bye, Lexi. You were a neat lady.
Anyway, at this point Luke became fed up with Liv DYING so much and he put an end to these shenanigans. Basically he did a bit of yammering and all her candles blew out. The good news is she didn't die, but the bad news was Damon still hadn't crossed over yet!
It was a bit of a bummer to be honest. But in my opinion you snooze you lose, which is a phrase I just made up. Damon snoozed and lost. What took him so long? How come Elena's ghost ran over to the cemetery at lightning speed but Damon traveled at more of a mosey? Anyway, he was stuck now.
Meanwhile Stefan was very sad that his brother was now perma-dead, plus Lexi didn't cross over either. Double bummer. But don't worry, Caroline didn't try to make out with him or anything. She was definitely there for him though.
But things just kept getting sadder, and a lot of it was courtesy of Nina Dobrev's forever A++ crying abilities. Nobody cries like Dobrev. NOBODY.
The especially poignant part of this scene was that Damon was trying to say goodbye even though Elena couldn't see or hear him. He could touch her sort of, but otherwise she just sort of wailed into the abyss about how life sucked without him and it wasn't fair and all that. It was exactly as frustrating and heartbreaking as IRL death.
I will explain later, but I wasn't suuuuper sad about this moment. Because, yeah, as we mentioned last week, the romantic heroes on this show aren't leaving the show. Damon will be back, it's just a matter of how. Just my opinion!
Plus, now we have Alaric back, and he was already being so Alaricky!
Aw, I like that guy. Welcome back.
Meanwhile Bonnie called up Jeremy to say goodbye and he ran across town yelling her name and then he arrived just in time for the end.
AND BOY WAS IT THE END. Man, it was a lot. The end was a lot.
Bonnie and Damon looked at each other, joked that they probably weren't each other's first choice to head into oblivion together, but they held hands and stared terrified as the light engulfed them.
And then everything faded to white! Including the logo:
And that was it.
Bonnie and Damon DIED? Or something? Went into the Great Beyond? Found Peace? French-kissed the grim reaper? Who even knows. But look: Jasmine Guy hinted at a special loophole for Bonnie. Bonnie and Damon were holding hands. YOU DO THE MATH. (What is math?)
I gotta say, destroying The Other Side was a great idea on the writers' parts. After absolutely ruining the concept of death on this show, it's nice to have stakes again. Unfortunately, this last twist was yet another thing that ruined the finality of death. So, even in the afterlife there's ANOTHER afterlife after that? How many levels of post-death consciousness are there? Oh well.
I'm almost too exhausted to run-down what did and didn't work about the season. I think that as fun and BIG as this finale was, there's a definite lack of impact here, and I think maybe that's a testament to how we weren't engaged quite enough over these 22 episodes. Parts of this season worked, but certain parts didn't, and even when this season course-corrected, it still left us with the feeling that there wasn't a grand story worth becoming invested in. Three big bads (including Katherine), one after the other, and not a lot of cohesion. I do NOT agree with the haters who bring some kind of agenda to the table when they argue that this season was terrible or unwatchable. It wasn't, and frankly I don't trust your judgment if that's what you're claiming. It's just that this season didn't particularly add up. Moment to moment it was engaging and fun and exactly as witty as usual, but it didn't thread enough longform stakes-building for the pay-offs to seem powerful. Another thing was that it clung to tropes that were long past tired. I mean, the diaries alone. And I frankly don't care that shippers make up a huge majority of the fanbase; anytime writers try to service those particular fans the stories will be bad. I don't mind that the characters are having romances, it's the redundant cycle of angsty arguments, misunderstandings, breakups, and makeups that are so tired they're now completely meaningless when they occur. The doppelganger stuff was always a weird piece of lore in this mythology, but when this season decided to truly explore it, it not only took away some much-needed mystery, it made it all seem so boring.
As for what this season did right: College was fun and new. The Twins. Heck, I still think the Travelers had a distinctive and understandable agenda. Much better than Silas, and I'm sorry to say, maybe even better than Esther and her Terminator!Alaric. Maybe we're past the point of getting amazing villains? Klaus kind of shut the door on that one. Who knows. But yeah, I've watched five episodes of this thing and I'm telling you that people who claim Season 5 was some kind of HUGE drop-off from previous seasons are misremembering previous seasons. Season 4 also had tons of problems. Season 3 had a bumpy second half. Season 1 started terribly. Guys, get real. We're on a big, long journey here and part of the thrill of longform storytelling is observing the ups, downs, twists, and turns of an organic, still-unfolding saga. All these stories are being written on the go, that's how TV works, but TVD works double time to cover more ground in a season than a normal show would in three. I'm still very impressed and totally on board. And, especially after this finale, I can't wait until Season 6. I'd love to see a huge shakeup, a time jump, a reboot, something. Cut loose, TVD! Reinvent. But wherever this show goes, I know it'll continue to be a wild ride and I'll always be there with a ticket in hand.
I love you guys, thanks for reading.
... Will Jasmine Guy save the day?
... Is Lexi gone forever?
... Will Alaric get a job at the college?
... Should the citizens of Mystic Falls think long and hard before returning to town?
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