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‘The Vampire Diaries’ Review: Ringing the Bells of Forgiveness

Annette Brown/The CW

Let’s go ahead and crown “Nostalgia’s a Bitch” the best episode of season eight so far.

Maybe even go a step further and declare it belongs on the list of all-time greatest episodes of The Vampire Diaries.

Because, wow.

The hour had everything that makes this show great: love, friendship, betrayal, sacrifice, forgiveness, heartache, twists, the return of familiar faces, and a resounding reminder why the Salvatore brothers’ relationship deserves its title as the true heart of the show.

Annette Brown/The CW

Like the episode, we’re going to start with the ladies.

Caroline and Bonnie have been MVPs for years, but Stefan and Damon’s constant flirtation with the dark side has elevated the ladies’ heroism to new heights.

Tasked with the unthinkable: pairing up with Sybil to rescue Damon, Caroline and Bonnie dove right into his head. They discovered a treasure trove of his victims also known as their loved ones and old friends (or however they’d classify Vicki).

How amazing was it to see Caroline hug her mom again? Or to watch Bonnie tell her grandmother how happy she is? It’s okay if you cried watching both of those scenes. You were not alone in that well of emotion.

Annette Brown/The CW

While I didn’t love reliving Caroline’s torture, her insistence that she was strong enough to take it showed how much she’s grown.

Back in season two, Caroline (rightfully) questioned why she’d ended up the victim. Now, she’s too busy saving everyone to let a little thing like pain stop her.

I am sad we didn’t get at least one scene of Liz and Damon together. Their unlikely friendship has always been one of my favorites. And while I might not agree with Caroline forgiving Damon, her mother being the catalyst makes sense.

Tyler’s appearance, on the other hand, made little sense.

Yes, Damon killed him recently, but this is just one more instance of the writers not seeming to know what to do with this character. I don’t remember Tyler and Bonnie being particularly close so of course he’s not going to be enough to deter Bonnie from reaching Damon.

Annette Brown/The CW

Bonnie and Damon, you guys, Bonnie and Damon!

Not only did she finally learn what was in the letter, Damon recited it from memory. Because that’s how important his best friend Bonnie is to him.

Yes, I’m crying, and you’re crying, and it’s totally fine because we’ve been waiting for this moment for almost two seasons!

This friendship is one of the best the show’s ever created. It may have taken way too long, but I’m so happy the writers finally did it justice once more. And of course the actors brought it home like they always do. Watching them together is magic.

I’ve been critical of the Salvatore brothers this season, which if you follow my past season reviews, is not like me at all. But their disagreements and switching sides have fallen flat in season eight—until this episode.

Annette Brown/The CW

We all knew where Damon’s clues would lead, right?

In his head, becoming a vampire led to all of his crimes against humanity. And why did he become a vampire? Because Stefan forced him.

It wasn’t a surprise when Damon wanted to forgive Stefan rather than ask Stefan to forgive him.

The Stefan fan in me wants to push back on this and point out that Damon still made all those bad choices. I also want to remind Damon that he knew what Katherine was and turned willingly, unlike Stefan, until Katherine “died”, and he didn’t want to be without her.

But I digress.

Because Stefan and Damon have both done terrible, unforgivable things as vampires. They’ve hurt each other. They’ve hurt the people they love. They’ve hurt more innocent victims than we can name. And despite all of that, they continue to love each other above all else.

Which is beautiful in its own twisted way.

Damon needed to forgive Stefan, and he did. Stefan thinks he needs to forgive Damon, and he attempted to in a sarcastic, meaningless way since he’s humanity free, but that’s not what Stefan needs for salvation.

Annette Brown/The CW

Stefan’s next stop, now that he’s been captured by the good guys, is to accept the responsibility for his actions.

Not blame it on Damon, or on bloodlust, or on his ripper tendencies—Stefan must come to terms with the fact that there’s a part of him that likes being evil.

And once he admits that, he has to make the choice Caroline laid out for him: does he want to be happy?

Or does he want to wallow in self-pity and make up for his past, only to repeat the same mistakes the next time he decides to flip his switch?

Obviously, I’m rooting for the acceptance and happiness route. And I imagine Caroline is too.

Especially because she took responsibility for her actions this week.

Matt correctly pointed out that they put Stefan and Damon’s needs above everyone else’s. Instead of making excuses, Caroline admitted it. She knows it’s not fair or the right thing to do, but she’s in love with Stefan, and she’s going to save him.

Now it’s up to Stefan to rise to the challenge and battle his demons so he can give the woman he loves the happiness she deserves (#SterolineJuneWedding).

Annette Brown/The CW

Speaking of Matt, he was sort of tolerable this week? Miracles happen in final seasons.

I still don’t care about his dad or the convoluted rules of the bell (basically, 12 strikes=hellfire on Earth), but I enjoyed Matt and Damon’s conversation.

Because for once, Matt didn’t go the moral superiority route.

He gave Damon the credit he deserved for saving him. He also hinted at being more open minded in the future if Damon continues on his current path. And then he stopped moping and took back the sheriff’s job. I’m nowhere near ready to wave a Team Matt flag, but this is progress.

And the sirens are dead! I’ll miss Seline a little, but she’s a price I’m willing to pay to be done with Sybil. Thanks, Cade!

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.