Last season, almost a year ago, The Vampire Diaries toured Damon’s personal hell. Events and scenes repeated until Damon figured out the right choice. At the time, it seemed like the writers wanted to troll the viewer with a meta episode that commented on their own inability to tell new stories. “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” seemed like a repeat of “Hell Is Other People” from the previews; however, the end game has begun for the series. Where last season emphasized how irredeemable Damon was, Damon’s return to his own personal hell revealed to him that he is redeemable.
Did other people help him understand that he’s worth saving? Did the writers intentionally comment and reverse on “Hell Is Other People”? Julie Plec could’ve titled the episode “Redemption Is Other People”. Caroline forgave him. Bonnie forgave him. Stefan forgave him. Matt didn’t. Also, Damon forgave himself.
TVD’s tradition of ‘Go Really Dark and then Make Sure None of that Darkness really Matters” continued and will continue until every character achieves his or her happy ending. Damon’s the most murderous and monstrous character in the series. Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson defined Damon by his villainy. The duo resisted softening Damon. They wanted him bad and dark. They committed to that characterization. He murdered everyone, disrupted plans, and made even saving Elena about himself, and he never apologized for his actions because he claimed he did what he needed to do and what no one else wanted to do. His commitment and conviction made his character. The Damon of “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” who’s suddenly catatonic because of his past action and because of his resentment towards for his brother making him a vampire isn’t the Damon Salvatore we watched for most of the series.
His self-awareness in the last two acts of “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” is the culmination of a long, long arc begun in the “Pilot”, yes, I guess, but TVD’s selective, and revisionist history betrays the character, doesn’t it? People loved Damon because he was bad, switch on or off, it didn’t matter. He was Spike. Of all the people he murdered, the only ones who show up in his world are Vicki and Tyler? (I know, I know: the limitations of casting). Damon, who realizes he didn’t need forgiveness after all, ends up saving Mystic Falls from hell on earth. Matt Donovan was compelled to ring the bell 12 times. Ringing the bell 12 times would bring Cade and his psychic imprint of hell to earth, burn Mystic Falls along with its residents and thousands of others nearby, but Damon saved the town and thousands of others, as well as the life of Matt and the soul of his father, at the last minute.
The best part of the episode was the letter reading scene. Season seven left the contents of Damon’s letter to Bonnie a mystery. He wrote her the letter before he left town during the interminable period when he felt he was irredeemable and that everyone was better off without him. The scene’s great because it brought Damon and Bonnie back together again—the super best friends. Their friendship in season six was a substantial part of the season’s strength. The commitment to keeping the characters apart and at odds over the last season and a half contributed to show’s terrible decline.
Half of the episode takes place in Damon’s head. Caroline and Bonnie spend some time searching for him and run into Vicki and Tyler along the way, plus Sheriff Forbes. The other parts of the episode deal with the bell and the Sirens. Caroline forgave Damon because of how hard her mother’s death hit him. Damon had a line that highlighted the fundamental part of forgiveness: it’s for him more than it is for the other person. He needed to forgive himself first before anyone’s forgiveness helped him. The best of the numerous forgiveness scenes was Damon/Matt regarding Vicki. Matt’s peace, too, will come.
Only six episodes remain in the series. The end game has begun to clarify. Cade burned Sybil and Seline alive at the end of the series. If they quickly dispose of Cade real soon, TVD will be in a great spot for the final episodes. The scenes that worked in “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” weren’t about the stupid bell, hell on earth, the Seline/Sybil feud, or the other filler stuff; they were about the characters we’ve followed for eight seasons. Let’s have more of that as the end nears.
-The ratings have been terrible this season. I hadn't paid attention to ratings. “The Simple Intimacy of the Near Touch” got a 0.86. I think that’s the lowest rated episode in the series.
-Brett Matthews wrote the episode. Kellie Cyrus directed.