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‘The Vampire Diaries’ Review: ‘It’s Been a Hell of a Ride’

Bob Mahoney/The CW

How do we even start to break down the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries?

The emotions.

The twists.

That ending.

“It’s Been a Hell of a Ride” could easily have been called “It’s Been a Hell of an Hour.”

And I mean that in the best possible way. Because this episode, every single thing about it, is exactly why I’ve loved this show for eight seasons.

Let’s start with our favorite psychopath. Chris Wood is a gift to us all. We love watching him as Mon-El on Supergirl (and as Jake on the much too short-lived Containment), but there’s something extra special about Kai.

Mainly, that he’s insane.

Kai spent the hour fluctuating between drunken karaoke, mocking Stefan’s name, taunting Ric and Caroline, and attempting to kill two children. But in true Kai fashion, he also provided valuable information.

First, he clued Ric and Caroline into why the girls have been so out of sorts. It’s not the bell or Cade or even Kai. It’s the fact that they’re syphons and they’ve been staying in the Armory. Too much magic is overloading their systems.

I’m glad it’s something simple—or as simple as anything pertaining to magical children can be. As for Ric wanting to create a special school for them, it’s a nice thought, but also seems a little out there. I do like that he included Caroline. She would make a good teacher. Just like she’s a good journalist. And mother. And vampire. And anything else Caroline wants to be because that’s who she is.

Bonus points for Caroline getting to kill Kai in Jo’s name while saving Ric from certain death.

Kai had one more revelation up his sleeve. After Bonnie trapped him in a new prison world (karmic justice at its finest), Kai revealed hell’s alive and well with a new leader in place. None other than Katherine Pierce.

Talk about a curveball. In the best possible way, of course. We’ve all been wondering what happened to Katherine ever since she got sucked into the abyss. Now it seems we’re going to find out—and it’s a safe bet Ms. Pierce is not happy with her former lovers/doppelganger/everyone else.

Rewinding a bit, we should probably discuss why there’s a vacancy at the top of the hell food chain.

Damon and Stefan set out to return Cade’s dagger in exchange for Elena’s coffin. Except Stefan wanted to kill Cade. Then, he planned to skip town and start his lonely redemption tour. Because running away has always been Stefan’s go to move. Damon asked Stefan not to do anything stupid that would risk Elena, but Stefan’s stubborn mind refused to budge.

Naturally, the plan went awry.

Bob Mahoney/The CW

Stefan was counting on Ric to ring the bell and weaken Cade. He did. Right up until Kai escaped and the girls called their daddy for help. Cade regained his strength and proceeded to kick Stefan’s human ass. When Damon arrived to bargain, Cade further complicated things: as Stefan lay dying, Cade set Elena’s coffin on fire, and told Damon to choose.

What would Damon do? Pick his brother or the love of his life? In the best, most selfless move ever, Damon volunteered his own life. He’d go straight to hell and let Cade torture him forever as long as Stefan and Elena were allowed to live.

This entire sequence was heart wrenching. Damon said his goodbyes as a broken Stefan begged him not to go. Cade forced Damon to kill himself (because why not drag out the devastation further?). Damon died, and Cade disappeared with him to the next plane of existence to begin his torture.

Like I said last week, this whole psychic bond/existence plane thing is confusing. After rejecting Stefan’s apology (understandable), Bonnie spent time with Enzo at the burned out cabin. Which seemed to be in the same place Stefan was when he arrived? Is Enzo a ghost? Or is he like Kai where he’s not completely dead?

He did spend his time trying to convince Bonnie to forgive Stefan. He understands what carrying around that kind of hate can do to a person (ugh, remember when Enzo’s entire story was just hating Stefan for a convoluted reason?). Once Bonnie’s psychic powers alerted her to Elena’s distress, she raced off to help the Salvatore brothers.

Bob Mahoney/The CW

Again, a little confusing as to where this was happening. It seemed like Bonnie was somehow holding Damon in the real world? But at the same time, Cade made her concentrate in order to see them? I don’t know. I don’t care. All that matters is the sheer awesomeness of the scene.

Bonnie struggled to hang onto Damon as he tried to let go because he didn’t want her to hurt. Their friendship is the best. As Bonnie nearly lost him, Stefan charged in and stabbed Cade with the dagger! I’m so happy he got to be part of the hero squad. He promised Bonnie he’d keep working to earn her forgiveness. And somehow Damon ended up alive? I’ll take it. Logistics be damned.

After an amazing bro hug, Damon and Stefan sat down to enjoy a celebratory drink and this is the part where tissues are 100 percent required. Damon wanted to talk to Stefan about his choice to leave. He reminded him of all the bad stuff he’s done and how he’ll never have a clean slate. But he’s got the short list of people he loves, and he wants to spend his life with them. He suggested Stefan hold onto those who love him, too.

My heart. Nothing is more beautiful on this show than the bond between these brothers. Damon’s love and understanding made Stefan see that he doesn’t have to run anymore. Not from who is or who he was. He deserves love and happiness just like Damon does. And they belong together.

Stefan wisely took his big brother’s words to heart and went straight to Caroline. He got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. As much as I loved Stefan’s first proposal, this one was even better. It felt earned. Human Stefan Salvatore knows he belongs with Caroline Forbes. He wants to give her the life she’s always wanted. It’s not about being perfect or repenting. It’s about spending the rest of his life with the woman he loves, who happens to be his best friend.

BRB—crying forever.

Two episodes to go. Katherine’s coming to ruin everyone’s lives. Things are going to get ugly.

But it’s been a hell of a ride.

About the author

Mandy Treccia

Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceMandy.