Last week The Vampire Diaries ended on a heartbreaking note when Liz succumbed to her cancer before Caroline got a chance to say goodbye to her mom. Just in case anyone in the audience wasn’t completely shattered by that, the latest episode kicked off with a flashback/dream to little Caroline falling off her bike with Liz tending to her daughter’s wounds. Little Caroline worried that she would be left behind when Liz died and the sheriff assured her that she would be all grown up and wouldn’t need her anymore. Caroline insisted she would always need her (go ahead and start sobbing now).
The scene then switched to present day Caroline sleeping on the Salvatore couch with Elena on the opposite couch, Stefan in a nearby chair and Matt and Tyler on the floor as Damon sat in the kitchen struggling to find the words for Liz’s eulogy before making it clear to Caroline that this would not be the worst day of her life. That would come when she found herself alone in the weeks ahead. But surprisingly, even with that opening, “Let Her Go” turned out to be much more than a sad episode with a moving tribute to the last parent standing in Mystic Falls. Julie Plec wrote and directed what might be one of the best episodes of the series and definitely the strongest of season six’s stellar run.
Since so much happened during this episode, I’m going to skip our usual top five because I refuse to settle on an order of moments because they were all fairly spectacular. Okay, maybe not so much the Matt/Tyler subplot so we can start there. After the group sleepover (which was a lovely callback to Stefan gathering Caroline’s friends for her after the werewolf attack in season two), Tyler showed up drunk at the funeral and Matt refused to let him enter the church. So Tyler pulled himself together and later at the Grill, Matt told him he wanted the two of them to become cops. I guess this is a nice way to honor Liz and it makes sense for Matt, but is giving Tyler a gun the best way to keep his werewolf curse at bay?
Elsewhere, Jo was puking up her dinner when Kai arrived on Alaric’s doorstep and started throwing up blood. He deduced that the faux merge did not work properly and that his magic was making him defective. If he didn’t fix it, Kai, Jo, Liv, their father and the rest of their dumb coven would die (even sick he’s hilarious). Kai’s solution was for Jo to give him her magic or else the prison worlds (yes, plural) would crumble too. Jo and Alaric debated her choices and he pointed out all the martyrs he knew and how it didn’t work out for them, but he also told her that he loved her before she was a witch and he’d love her if she wasn’t anymore (aw!). Jo eventually gave Kai her magic and then he whispered in her ear what was really wrong with her: she was pregnant.
Jo barely absorbed the shock before Alaric asked her to marry him. Jo was not interested in his pity proposal, but then he pulled out a ring. Alaric’s been thinking about how short life is and he’d planned on asking her before all the vomiting started. Jo eventually agreed. These scenes were super cute and maybe it feels rushed since they haven’t known each other that long, but look how many people Alaric has lost and everything he’s gone through (including vampirism and death). They should hang onto each other and their baby for dear life and try and have some semblance of normalcy.
As Damon struggled to write the eulogy, he flashed back to his mother’s funeral and we got to see 10-year-old Stefan trying to be stoic. His big brother told him to ignore their father and cry if he needed too, but little Stefan (again, excellent casting), decided against it. Unfortunately, Damon never did write the eulogy and chose a bottle over the funeral and that made little Stefan cry (cue my heart breaking) and he told Damon he could have just said goodbye. Between this and Elena pointing out that it wasn’t about him or even Liz, it was about Caroline, Damon finally started to write.
Sadly, he found time to give Stefan bad advice that was almost as terrible as what he told Caroline about things getting worse. I know he was trying to help in both cases, but some people really shouldn’t give advice (that being said, I love that Stefan went to his brother for advice). Stefan was still struggling with how he felt after the kiss and it didn’t feel like he felt about Elena/Katherine so Damon told him to cut Caroline loose because she deserved the real thing, but he told him to wait until after the day was over. But Caroline (for reasons we will talk about later), wanted to know that day and when she awkwardly put Stefan on the spot, his poker face failed him and she knew what he was thinking even though he said they’d talk later (again, my poor heart).
As Damon gave the eulogy with Liz’s last words for Caroline and he began to talk about how amazing Caroline is, it was a glass shattering moment for Stefan. Obviously he knows Caroline is the absolute best. He’s constantly singing her praises. But sometimes even the smartest people can’t see what’s right in front of their handsome face. Since it was the middle of the service, Stefan couldn’t declare his feelings then and there. Instead, he pulled his brother aside and after Damon told him he didn’t want to fail anyone like he’d failed Stefan at their mother’s funeral (my heart), Stefan told him that he’d been wrong. Maybe it wasn’t true love in the messed up way they’d experienced it before, but he felt something for Caroline and he believed that it could turn into something even better than he’s had in the past (YES). Damon played the big brother role perfectly and suggested Stefan go tell Caroline that because she could use that kind of good news (and even though I already knew where all of this was heading, my shipper heart loved every second of this).
Unfortunately, Stefan’s realization was too little too late. Throughout the episode, Caroline made a lot of references to how she just needed to get through the day and everything would be all right going forward. She even promised her mother she’d be all right after today. Having watched this show for six seasons, it wasn’t hard to guess where this was going and if I’m being honest, initially, I hated the idea. But the audience wasn’t the only one who noticed Caroline was only pretending to be all right. One of the many wonderful things this season has done is bring back the version of Elena that actually cares about other people. We don’t see her often, but when she’s around, it’s easy to remember why I used to root so hard for this girl in the earlier seasons. Elena knew Caroline wasn’t okay and no matter how many times Caroline brushed her off with a teary smile, Elena kept coming back and she finally put the pieces together and realized Caroline planned to flip her humanity switch.
Elena begged Caroline not to and reminded her of her own experience and how awful it was. But Caroline had a terrific counter argument. Elena flipped her switch. Elena erased her memories of Damon. Stefan ran away. Why shouldn’t Caroline be allowed to turn off her pain? Her mom was dead and she knew she wouldn’t be able to handle worse. Her speech won me over – of course I don’t want Caroline to stop feeling, but I’m not going to blame her for wanting to turn off her pain. I think we all have days (months, years) where we’d love to be able to set our pain aside and revisit it down the line when we’re whole again. Caroline also pointed out her experience wouldn’t be like Elena’s because she’s always had more control over her vampire self. Will she be right? Probably not entirely, but I do think Caroline without humanity might be different than Elena was. And we’re going to find out because Caroline snapped Elena’s neck, reminded her that it’s not her choice to make and then disappeared before Stefan arrived to find Elena’s undead body on the floor. He frantically called out for Caroline and the panic in his voice (and Elena’s body) pretty much confirmed he knew what happened.
Finally, we have to talk about Bonnie. Back in the prison world, she had one last message for her video camera. She’d broken her toes, developed an ear infection and a host of other problems, but it didn’t matter because she had her magic thanks to the rock and she was going home when the eclipse hit. But it can’t be that easy, right, show? Kai’s illness messed with the prison world and Bonnie felt herself in a different one, which she nicknamed “a snowy tundra hell dimension” and there was quite a light show (the Northern Lights) happening overhead. She found her way into a house, read a journal dated 1903 and then found pictures of Stefan and Damon. Naturally, Bonnie was confused. As Kai and Jo performed the magic transfer in present day, Bonnie ended up back in 1994 in time for the eclipse, but as she bled on the ascendant, a woman popped up and they exchanged a “Who are you?” before the light swallowed Bonnie (and possibly the mystery woman?).
Back in present day, Damon returned from the funeral, wondering where Elena had gone and made his way into the kitchen where Bonnie was cooking pancakes (high pitched squealing noises). He opened his arms and she literally leapt into them and their happiness at seeing one another again was basically all that’s good in the world. Then Bonnie showed him the video she made (and of course he had to mock her camera skills) and there was the woman, who I’m guessing most of us knew exactly who she was even before Damon confirmed it with, “That’s my mother.”
That is good TV. I loved everything about this episode from start to finish and I’m so excited for what’s next. Bonnie’s home, they brought back the Salvatore mother without making her a terrible vampire who hid from her children all these years. Instead, we’ve got a new mystery. Why did she get trapped? Is she a witch or something worse? Did she come back with Bonnie or will they have to time travel once more to bring her home? Will Damon tell Stefan? Is Bonnie going to keep living at the Salvatore house to be close to her BFF Damon? What’s going to happen now that Caroline’s humanity is gone? More importantly, how are we supposed to wait until March 12 for a new episode?