The Vampire Diaries – Episode 4-23 Review – “Graduation”

First and foremost, Happy Memorial Day to everyone!  The weekend hasn’t been great weather (or excitement) wise, but I hope everybody has enjoyed their time away from work.  And more importantly, let’s be sure to remember what this day is about – the courageous men and women who have served our country.  I extend a special thank you to them, and their families (who make a mighty sacrifice as well).


I do apologize for the lateness of this episode review, but since it was the finale I wanted to make sure to devote the proper amount of time to it.  Overall, I enjoyed the finale but felt that it didn’t live up to last year’s cliffhanger.  Last year left me wondering what impact Elena’s “death” would have on the series.  It also featured a fairly significant loss with Alaric dying as well.  And Elena had finally made a decision between Stefan and Damon.  What impact would that have on all the relationships involved?


This finale featured many of those same climaxes.  Again, there was a significant death.  There was also a transformation of sorts for an important character.  And, again, Elena made a decision between Damon and Stefan.  Yet, oddly, I don’t necessarily feel that eagerness to find out what’s going to happen next.  Don’t get me wrong – it was an exciting hour and I felt that each of those happenings was handled well.  I’m just not necessarily sure I was AS invested in each of those events, which I’ll explain below.


Before getting to that, let me just say that the graveyard lunch scene between Elena, Alaric, and Jeremy may very well have been the most tenderhearted moment of the entire season.  Seeing the three of these characters together was reminiscent of a simpler time.  At one point, all three of these people were human beings that were a bit lost in this world, but came together out of a mutual need and desire to be part of a family.  But now?  Jeremy and Alaric are death, and Elena is a vampire.  But even before dying, Alaric was turned into an original vampire and Jeremy became a supernatural vampire hunter with special abilities.  It was somewhat nice just seeing them sitting down, acting normal, and eating French fries.  I was a little surprised, though, that they were so flippant about Elena burning down the family house with Jeremy’s dead body inside.


It also bothered me that nobody brought up the fact that Jenna wasn’t there.  According to the Twitter account of executive producer Julie Plec, Jenna didn’t appear because she’s at peace and therefore isn’t on the “other side.”  Surely that’s something that could have been mentioned, no?  How difficult would it have been for Alaric or Jeremy to quickly say, “At least Jenna found peace and wasn’t trapped on the other side”?  It would have taken all of 15 seconds, and the line wouldn’t have stuck out as unnatural.  If the executive producer felt it necessary to spell it out on Twitter, she must have had a fair amount of people asking her about it.


And for that matter, the argument that Jenna “found peace” is a tad weak, anyway.  What’s the difference between her and, say, Jeremy?  Is it the fact that Jeremy had killed vampires?  Does that automatically make one evil and unworthy of moving onto a peaceful afterlife?


As a side note, I did get a bit of a kick out of the fact that the people who returned while the veil was down couldn’t actually die.  The logic made perfect sense:  When they die, they go to the other side.  But the veil between the two sides is down, so that’ll just allow them to return again.  So it was basically a waiting game.  It was actually quite clever and, thankfully, avoided getting silly.  One thing I did feel that came across as a bit forced was the fact that the group stopped everything to attend their graduation.  Unfortunately, this series hasn’t put an emphasis on their school lives in quite some time.  The only time the school is ever referenced is when they’re planning a party or they have some sort of cheerleading competition.  It just felt a bit contrived, even though it did include one of the coolest scenes of the episode (more on that later).


As you watched the finale, you had to know that Elena was going to pick Damon in the end.  The first hint was when she pulled Stefan aside first and asked to speak with him.  When they had their heart to heart, and she made no reference to their future together, you could just sense that they were saving that discussion for later in the episode with her and Damon.  I wasn’t completely sold on the scene, though.  It isn’t because she went with the relationship I’m not really backing (I still think the end game will see her end up with Stefan), it’s because the same thing happened last year and within a few episodes she and Stefan had broken up…..and only an episode or two later she was shacking up with Damon.  A major decision like this should feel conclusive, even if it isn’t.  I just didn’t feel it.


Having said that, I really did enjoy a lot of the sweeter moments of those aforementioned scenes.  Elena giving up the cure so that Stefan could have it was a really nice moment that showed how much she cares about him, even if she isn’t necessarily in love with him at this point in time.  And Stefan’s confession to Damon that he’s happy that his brother found happiness (even though he’s not happy about who it is with) was a touching moment that shows how much these two brothers truly care about one another.   Even the scene in which Elena chooses Damon was well done, because it captured the dynamic of their relationship.  The brooding and yelling and anger and general explosiveness works for Damon and Elena, even when they’re professing their love for each other.  That sort of energy would not have worked with the generally more tender love between Elena and Stefan.  Sometimes it’s fun watching that passion play out.


Perhaps my favorite scenes of the finale actually had to do with the originals and their respective love interests.  I’ve practically written entire reviews on how much I’ve enjoyed Rebekah’s progression, so it’s been a lot of fun seeing Matt finally accepting her over the past few episodes.  Their various moments together, particularly when trapped in the explosive filled parking lot, were really great.  But perhaps the best moment of the finale had to be when Klaus – of all people – came to the rescue of virtually everybody!  He saved Caroline, Elena, and Stefan from the dead witches, and then he rescued Damon with his blood.  Seeing him arrive in the nick of time to decapitate a witch with a graduation cap was friggin bad ass!  And while I don’t think there’s much of a future between Caroline and Tyler (the single most disposable character on all of television), since they seem to be building up a potential Stefan/Caroline romance, his line that Tyler is her first love, while he intends to be her last one, was pretty awesome.  You want to set up Klaus as a hero for the spin off series?  This is how you do it!


While I have been somewhat critical of the sudden reemergence of Katherine and the expectation that we should inherently want to see an epic showdown between her and Elena, I have to admit that it was a bit of fun seeing them go at it.  Do I think it was this huge moment that was a long time coming?  No, not really.  But it was a bit poetic.  Elena had shifted all of these emotions towards Katherine and she finally found closure and got over it.  But then Katherine comes out of nowhere with her own chip on her shoulder.  The fight did a fine enough job of explaining why these two aren’t fond of each other, but I do have to admit that – while I’m not necessarily invested in Katherine suddenly being a human now, I will say that I am intrigued by her new role.  She was always able to get away with being such a bitch because she was older and stronger than everybody.  How will things change now that she’s a human within a group of vampires?


I already discussed my lack of attachment to Bonnie’s death in my prior episode’s review, but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed when she magically brought Jeremy back to life (despite really liking him as a character).  For one, was it really explained how she did it?  Other than saying, “I can use expression!”?  My biggest issue is that bringing him back waters down the significance of his death.  We’ve seen a lot of central characters die on this series – Vickie, Alaric, Jenna, Tyler’s mom, just to name a few – but perhaps none was more emotionally significant than Jeremy.  His death pushed Elena over the edge, and she wasn’t able to come back until she came to terms with it (even though her humanity had returned).  Both of those scenes were really powerful.  A little of that luster is gone when – POOF! – he’s suddenly brought back to life.


The twist at the end was a tad too wordy and expositional for my tastes, but it was still neat.  Every year the season seems to end with either Damon or Stefan promising that they’re going to leave town, only to find some reason to stay.  This was a clever way to keep Paul Wesley the actor and “Stefan” the essential character on screen without going against the promise.  I wasn’t completely sold on the whole Silas thing and I still don’t completely understand his diatribe at the end, but it’ll be fun seeing “Stefan”” stirring some trouble with these other characters, who he undoubtedly blames for his demise.


And that, my friends, is the end of season four.  Continue visiting my blog over the summer as I tend to post some fun stuff.  As far as The Vampire Diaries goes, I’ll be seeing you next season!

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