Death, destruction, and redemption were the three major pieces in this mostly transitional episode of The Vampire Diaries. A final season needs one of these episodes, one last piece of filler, before the important episode begins. The middle of the episode, beginning and ending with the Maxwell flashback fun, was unnecessary filler. Deductive reasoning could’ve avoided the prolonged flashback and the return of two of the show’s worst characters: Sybil and Seline. Why would the devil ask for a Maxwell journal in exchange for Stefan’s life? Alaric, Dorian, nor Matt deduce that the journal, when used with the Maxwell codebreaker, could reveal how to kill Cade. Damon, of course, knows, and Matt, despite knowing that Damon’s now on the side of redemption and good, doesn’t seem to think Damon might already know what he, Matt, almost died for.
Redemption as a theme is also common genre shows about the supernatural in a final season. Angel learned about the Shanshu prophecy in the season one finale. That prophecy gave him hope that he could become human after he redeemed himself from all the evil he committed as Angelus. Stefan, TVD’s Angel, wants to know can he be redeemed after all that he’s done. I doubt that TVD will reach the same conclusion as ANGEL did thirteen years ago.
Where can Stefan begin rectifying all that he has destroyed? The police arrest him and show him 32 of the bodies he dropped in two weeks. Stefan saved the woman I thought he spared last week, which Caroline emphasized was a start. but he can’t imagine what he’ll say when he faces Bonnie after killing Enzo. Someone knocks him out with a taser and carries him off before he faces Bonnie, but he’s trying. That’s half the battle.
Damon asked Cade about anyone ever earning his or her way out of hell. Cade didn’t want to give him false hope, but he’s a Big Bad. Never listen to a Big Bad. Presumably, killing the devil and abolishing hell will free the Salvatore brothers’ respective souls. Damon’s never been as beset by remorse and epic guilt as his brother. His redemption tour is less of a tour and more of a one-off. He prioritized Stefan’s life over the ultimate goal of killing Cade from an outsider’s perspective, but Damon always has a plan—even when he did whatever he could to save Elena while screwing everyone else over he always had an out.
The writers will always give their characters a pass, and “What Are You?” was no different but it was their last ‘x character has regained humanity’ episode. It repeated the familiar beats of all the other episodes. Character x feels terrible, but they must Go On. TVD’s characters get one episode to feel remorseful and then it’s over. Will Bonnie forgive Stefan? She will, of course. Kai’s return supports my argument that the writers will always give their characters pass. Their best, most unapologetic villain returned at the end of the episode to help Alaric and Damon kill the devil. Julie Plec can’t help herself, can she?
Bonnie and Matt, meanwhile, the two characters that have eaten the most shit during the series nearly die. Bonnie opened a door to darkness, according to her mother, and Matt died briefly of a heart attack during his unnecessary hypnotic. They’ve lost the people most important to them in their life. How will the world repay them?
At least this episode is past. It had its moments, but I’m least interested in the season eight related mythos. I want good endgame episodes. Characters from the past have started coming back. Alaric returned from his exile. The returning Kai, of course, interrupted Damon’s attempt to make things right with his best pal. Bonnie’s mother returned from wherever the hell she went and found her at the house she bought after “Gods And Monsters” which no one knew existed except for Bonnie and a select few. More characters will return, too. Anyone agree with me that ol’ muscles Jeremy Gilbert took Stefan? I
It’s time to indulge fully in sweet nostalgia. Season 8, on its own, without the end so near, would be absolutely insufferable. It’s about as bad as last season’s dreck, but, oh, the sweet nostalgia will, somehow, redeem the end of this show. I hope. Please.
-The preview for next week’s episode hooked me more than the entirety of “What Are You?” Man, Kai was great. Welcome back, Chris Woods. I don’t care how convoluted the reason for his return is, because he was a major part of TVD’s last good season.
-Four episodes left! Four reviews left! I patiently await my invite to the TVD finale party next month.
-Chad Fiveash & Justin Stoteraux wrote the episode. It is their last credited episode in the series. Chad Fiveash is a great name. I had to look up the spelling for Justin’s name each time they wrote an episode. Darren Genet, one half of TVD’s DPs, directed his last episode of the series.