Well, that wasn't exactly the Elena Gilbert ending some of us here at TV Fanatic had predicted in our chats this week.
Paul Daily and I thought we'd be bidding Elena a more permanent adieu, while others expected she'd be compelled away from Mystic Falls for her own good.
Who knew that The Vampire Diaries Season 6 Episode 22 would see Damon forced to choose between the two most important women in his life: Bonnie and Elena?
Kai was some kind of evil genius, and up until the very end, the moment Damon went Ripper and beheaded the leader of the Gemini coven, I held out hope that we could keep Chris Wood and his devilish good looks and sarcastic, sadistic charm in some capacity.
Seriously, when Damon told him the cure for a werewolf bite was in New Orleans, I thought, "well, The Originals is introducing some new mythology this fall..." Kai would fit in excellently in the Big Easy.
(Seriously. Kai and Klaus. Imagine that for half a second.)
In the end, Kai got the exit he deserved. Kai never even saw it coming, which was the best, and then Damon saved Bonnie. Someday people will learn that even when Damon is at his most benevolent, his propensity toward violence is quite present.
That just makes the night's final scenes all the more intriguing as we look ahead to The Vampire Diaries Season 7. And yes, I realize that I'm totally getting ahead of myself here since The Vampire Diaries Season 6 literally just ended.
In truth, this ending is sort of...I don't know...for the Elena Gilbert chapter of TVD.
On the one hand, I like that she's not dead because that means there's hope for Damon and Elena to reunite down the road, in 60 or so years after Bonnie's lived a long and happy life without her best friend and with her best guy friend deciding to become a homicidal, probably humanity-less maniac while waiting for his lover to return.
But the trouble with that is that the "surprise" return of characters who've left the show is old. Super old. Death means nothing in a world where Jeremy can see ghosts and witches bring people back from the dead, you know? Since Elena is a human, to make her exit concrete, she needed to die.
This just feels like putting Elena – and the fans – into a holding pattern where they'll continue to clamor for Nina Dobrev's return and the writers will continue to hope and pray that she'll agree.
At some point, gone means gone. Not gone for 60 years.
I don't know. It's hard to say I wanted her to die, because I didn't WANT her to die, but I did see that as a fitting end for the character and I'm a little surprised it didn't happen. With Elena not dying what we got tonight were a lot of goodbyes that were more like "see you later."
Except for Matt and Bonnie. Those were gut punches because there's virtually no way those two survive to see Elena's return. Especially not Bonnie since, you know, she HAS TO die for Elena to wake up, and Matt's a cop in what looks to be a post-apocalyptic Mystic Falls. (What is going on there!?!?)
Speaking of waking up, what happens if Bonnie dies and Elena's in that coffin after having been there for 60 some-odd years and she's too weak to open the lid and the Salvatores or Caroline can't get to her in time to open it and she dies inside the coffin? Did they pack her some MREs? What about muscle atrophy? (Why am I thinking about this?!? Someone help!)
Aside from Damon and Elena's beautiful dance and his decision to save Bonnie's life knowing it's what Elena would have told him to do, the best parts of the episode had nothing to do with Elena Gilbert.
Alaric's grief was devastating. If Kai hadn't died already, I could kill him for killing Jo and her unborn babies. That alone was enough reason for the character to die violently. Even if she sort of bounded into the series and served more as an information-giver than an integral part of the cast, I'll miss Jo for the promise she brought into Alaric's life. I'm a little scared to see where he'll end up having suffered this loss.
Liv giving her life for Tyler was a fitting and phenomenal way for Michael Trevino to say goodbye to The Vampire Diaries. His character development felt natural and pure, if that makes sense. We all knew that it would be nearly impossible for Tyler to avoid triggering his werewolf curse, so the fact that he made the decision to pursue that side of himself, even at Liv's insistence, felt like growth.
He's not the same hot-headed, arrogant jock he was when we first met him in The Vampire Diaries Season 1. Tyler Lockwood has come a long way. And now he'll go a long way away from Mystic Falls and embrace his wolf side. Until the powers that be call him back to the series for a guest appearance.
The best moment of the night, hands down, goes to Stefan and Caroline's fireside chat after saying goodbye to Elena. I've been iffy on Stefan and Caroline as a couple for a while now, not because I don't think they look and feel amazing together but because it's tiresome to have nearly every platonic relationship between men and women become romantic on TV. It's okay for men and women to be friends.
But I can't deny there's an unmistakable chemistry between Stefan and Caroline, and after his ultra-sweet speech to her tonight, I'm firmly in the Team Steroline camp. (Staroline? Steroline? Tomaytoe, tomahtoe?)
Actually, all of their conversations were pretty epic.
When Caroline asked how Stefan was doing with Elena's condition, Stefan acknowledged that what Elena gave him wasn't just her love. She returned his brother to him.
Lexi tried to keep Damon and Stefan apart all those years knowing that Damon wasn't good for Stefan and Elena showed them how to be a family again. That he recognized that the most important relationship in his life is the one he shares with his brother is a sentiment fans have been buzzing about for years.
The central pairing of this series isn't romantic. It's brotherly. Damon and Stefan Salvatore, and NOT Elena Gilbert, are the heart and soul of this show. And they're the reason we'll all be tuning in this fall.
What did you think of "I'll Be Thinking of You All the While"? Was this a fitting exit for Elena Gilbert? How do you feel about the return of the Heretics?
Remember that you can watch The Vampire Diaries online right here at TV Fanatic.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF ELENA'S EXIT?
Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.