Why don’t I ever listen to Kai’s line and think, “Oh, the opposite of what he said will happen”? Last week, Kai said redemption was out of the question for the brothers Salvatore. This week, Stefan kills the devil and destroys hell. Of course, Kai mentioned the part about destroying hell by destroying Cade. Kai lied. Kai always lies. Now, hell has a new heiress.
“It’s Been a Hell of a Ride” marked the end of the season eight specific narrative; in other words, it was the season finale. Stefan killed Cade. Damon sacrificed his soul to save his brother and his love. Caroline and Alaric sent Kai back to an eternal personal hell, for Jo. Afterwards, in typical season finale style, with peace and calm restored in Mystic Falls and the personal lives of the main characters, Alaric mentioned his intention to open a school for Gemini and supernatural children, including his daughters, with Caroline, his collaborator. Damon and Stefan had an epic bro-moment that helped clear Stefan’s mind about his human life, his past, and his love for Caroline; then, Stefan re-proposed. Finally, Bonnie sent Kai to a private personal hell, its soundtrack The Spin Doctors.
Now, the series begins its long goodbye, its coda, its epilogue. The writers ended their season eight narrative, but they haven’t ended their series. That’s in two weeks. This episode was spare, despite the histrionics. Remember how full the cast used to be during TVD’s peak? Matt didn’t appear in the episode, but even with him it would’ve been spare. Season seven and season eight have been spare and empty in writing and in casting and in ratings. The show had to end. Imagine a ninth season without Ian Somerhalder and Kat Graham.
If the show continued into a ninth season and “It’s Been a Hell of a Ride” had been the finale, or something like it, then it’d be a fine, predictable finale. I’m a sucker for supernatural characters sacrificing themselves for the people they love. TVD could never escape comparisons to Whedon’s two WB classics. Often, TVD invited comparisons; so, of course they’d throw in an intentional-or-not homage to Spike’s sacrifice in “Chosen”. I could’ve done without Damon’s negativity about ANGEL’s premise during the scene, post-Cade’s destruction, by the waterfalls when Damon urged Stefan to remember his list of the people he loves, explaining that it’s all he needs for redemption. Of course it isn’t, but I’ve repeated that point over and over and over throughout the series, and the series is finished in two weeks, so, as I did weeks ago when the show, quite amazingly, never referred to Damon ripping Sybil’s heart out of her chest and placing it beside her at the bus stop, I’ll let it go.
Of course, with Katherine reigning supreme in sweet, sweet hell, my prediction from seasons ago that every main character in the show would go to hell may work out. I liked the initial dreadful anticipation of the episode’s twist about hell’s new supreme rule and its natural build to Damon’s half-humorous line of “We’re toast”. Katherine won’t take them all, but she’ll take one of them.
Elsewhere, Stefan apologized to Bonnie, an apology she didn’t accept even after Stefan destroyed the devil. Bonnie’s early season one psychic premonitions reached full potential when she dueled the devil for Damon’s soul. Bonnie has spent much of her scenes with Enzo’s soul in her private dimension for him. Enzo gently urged her to forgive Stefan—not for him, but for her, because the magic of forgiveness lives in the act of forgiving and letting that bad energy go.
Overall, “It’s Been a Hell of a Ride” was a good transitional episode but an expected conclusion to the prolonged bland misery of the Cade/Siren/hell arc. We didn’t need so many episodes of the sirens, mind control, Cade, and all that bland, uninteresting nonsense. It was busy work. At long bloody last, the season has reached the indulgence part of a final season. I hope. Please.
Nonetheless, we’ll have to wait two weeks until we see Katherine, unless Julie Plec sneaks Nina Dobrev into the last shot of the penultimate episode.
-I laughed every time those little Gemini witches lit something on fire or accidentally siphoned their mother. Unintentional comedy, I know. It was like something out of Python.
-So, I’m thinking that those series finale previews work as an olive branch to lapsed TVD fans. The commercial tonight showed Damon seeing Elena for, perhaps, the first time since she went Sleeping Beauty. The CW knows that many more people don’t watch the show now compared to several years ago. People who stopped watching won’t really need to know anything about the last two seasons if they stopped watching after Nina left the show in 2015.
-Alaric’s conviction to open a school returns him to his roots as a high school teacher in season one. That’s the start of the ‘full circle’ ending ahead.
-Kai, as always, is best in small bursts: a joy, yes, for an episode or two, but a chore for most of a twenty two-episode season. Chris Wood was great again. Loved the Spin Doctors stuff at the end.
-Brett Matthews & Shukree Hassan Tilghman wrote the episode. Pascal Verschooris directed the episode.