The Vampire Diaries Review, Season 3, Episode 22: “The Departed”
Written by Julie Plec (Teleplay), Brett Matthews and Elizabeth R. Finch (Story)
Directed by John Behring
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on the CW
This week, on The Vampire Diaries: Bonnie makes her play, Elena makes her choice, and the writers make a bold season-ending decision
After watching tonight’s season three finale, the speculations over the past few weeks of how the season would end seem silly. Of course this is what would happen- in retrospect, it’s what makes the most sense. Malaric cannot be deterred from his goal of killing all vampires and the only way to kill him is for Elena to die. Damon and Stefan aren’t leaving the show, so Elena has to die. Elena isn’t leaving the show, so the death can’t be permanent. Wisely sidestepping a loophole Buffy the Vampire Slayer employed in a similar situation, the writers embrace the full significance of this decision, opening up worlds of possibility for the future of the series.
Satisfyingly, the final frames of the finale reveal a long series of moments over the course of the entire season as building blocks, set-ups to this ultimate pay-off subtly enough handled for most to not have noticed they were happening. Plotting and pacing have long been strengths of the series, but this is perhaps the first time we’ve seen the show execute such a long play. The seeds for this were planted with the introduction of Meredith Fell in episode 10, the doctor slipping her patients vampire blood. The Vampire Diaries is excellent at churning through story, twisting and turning and running with new ideas, keeping the audience’s head spinning with each new narrative direction. Perhaps that’s why many of us missed the pieces of the puzzle coming so clearly, again- in retrospect, together.
The closing Elena reveal isn’t the only one previewed for watchful viewers- Bonnie’s transfer of Klaus into Tyler’s body is nothing new. With Esther bodyhopping Rebekah and Bonnie, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but with so much going on in the past few episodes, “Heart of Darkness” feels like ages ago. Joseph Morgan will be missed as Klaus, and it is perhaps somewhat frustrating to have Klaus made a permanent fixture (with Elijah and Rebekah’s confirmation of him as the sire of the Salvatore bloodline), but it does allow the writers to have their cake and eat it, killing “Klaus” without losing Michael Trevino. Though Tyler has been more interestingly used in his past few appearances, the character is one the writers have struggled with incorporating and this should give them quite a few more options.
Incorporating flashbacks to Elena’s life pre-Wickery Bridge gives the episode a strong air of symmetry. It’s nice to see Elena own up to her treatment of Matt and her current selfishness towards Damon and Stefan. It shows consistency in her character but also growth- it took her much longer to admit to herself that she was stringing along Matt than it has with the Salvatores. The flashbacks are also a reminder of how young most of the characters are and how drastically their lives have changed. Despite the large cast, this is primarily Elena’s story and bookmarking her journey with two cars at the bottom of the lake is dramatically satisfying. It also hints at big changes to come, but we’ll have to wait ‘til next season for that.
If there is one disappointment in the episode, it’s the body count. Malaric dies, but the character we cared about has been gone for weeks now (though his farewell scene with Jeremy is a nice touch). Klaus dies, but not really, and while it seems that Tyler may be gone, given previous possession storylines, he’s likely folded away in the back of his mind while Klaus is in control. After weeks of build-up and increasingly high stakes, the fact that not a single Original officially dies is a let-down. It also leaves the series with the same glut of characters it’s been struggling with for most of the season. Considering previous seasons, this could change quickly in the fall, but for now, the resolution to the Esther vs. Originals storyline is uncharacteristically anticlimactic and dissatisfying.
The performances across the board are strong. Elena’s choice between Damon and Stefan is well thought out, explained, and delivered- it has the ring of truth and carries the weight it should. The effects are well done (Klaus looked great in that coffin!), the tweak to the visuals in the flashbacks is noticeable but not distracting, and the soundtrack and scoring strike the appropriate balance between underplaying and melodrama. Fans will undoubtedly be shocked by the reveals and the cliffhanger is guaranteed to keep viewers speculating all summer. The Vampire Diaries has a tradition of strong finales and, while this may not quite be their best, it’s certainly an interesting, and exciting, way to end the year.
What did you think of the finale and the season as a whole? Did you see the end coming? Anyone else love how well the show differentiates between Stefan and Damon’s relationships with Elena? Post your thoughts below!