It’s the holidays, which in TVD-land means murder, murder, and more murder. This episode — the last few minutes in particular — felt very much like it was trying to evoke the greatness of season 4’s “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” But Julian is no Klaus, and a snowflake title card at the end can’t trick us to thinking that these episodes are comparable. Without Lily, it’s even harder to care about these random strangers who’ve taken over the Salvatore Boarding House and The Vampire Diaries. But in the holiday spirit, I’ll try to keep an open mind and not be “Cold as Ice” throughout this recap. (See what I did there??)
As with all things season 7, we have to start in the future. Three years from now in Chicago, Stefan shares an apartment and a kiss with Valerie. (Steroline fans around the world just died a little bit inside.) He’s headed to Dallas because “she” has Damon and Caroline, but he wants Valerie to stay so she won’t be in harm’s way, too.
Back in the present, Damon, Stefan, Nora, and Valerie are burying Lily. It’s a somber affair with so few present, and only three of them present say nice things about the deceased. As Stefan lowers Lily into the ground, he promises to make things right.
And the way to do that? Kill Julian. Stefan and Damon have been tracking their dearly departed mother’s ex-boyfriend all across the company. Bonnie’s locator spell has them looking in a town called Sunbury, where there’s a SantaCon pub crawl going on. Damon is just along for the eggnog, but when they go to fill up his reindeer stein, they find a bar full of dead Santas. I guess they found where Julian’s been hiding.
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They’re not in the bar too much longer when a very drunk Julian comes back. He rambles an explanation of the season 7 MacGuffin, the Phoenix stone sword. He says that when a vampire is stabbed with the sword, it becomes a conduit for a vampire’s soul to go into the stone. He said that living in that stone will make you go mad. Lily helped him keep the madness at bay, but now that she’s gone? Well, he could do anything, including asking his four old vampire friends to join him in the bar.
This was supposed to be intimidating to our two brothers. But Damon just flash-torches the bar, and the Salvatores get away. Damon wants to leave, but Stefan is angry about how he’s been acting the past few weeks: He hasn’t showed any remorse for not apologizing to Lily on her deathbed. As we know from last week, eventually (three years in the future) Damon will feel some remorse, but not quite yet.
NEXT: This is why you don’t piss off a heretic
So the brothers go their own ways. Damon to drinking and burning his mother’s clothes to make room in his reclaimed closet, as one does. Stefan to partnering with Valerie to get to Julian. I do not understand the logic here, but Stefan and Valerie think that kidnapping Mary Louise will help their cause.
All it does is draw out Julian and make Nora very, very angry. This is problematic because she’s been spending the day bonding with Bonnie. But once Julian texts telling her that they took Mary Lou, Nora incapacitates poor BonBon.
Julian shows up at the Salvatore Boarding House, tells Damon that “Lily’s love for her children was toxic,” and then tries to kill both her sons at once. The brothers put up a good fight until Julian stakes Stefan — Damon rushes in to save him and gets staked himself…with the Phoenix sword. We see his soul being sucked into the stone. This can’t be good.
Caroline, fresh from visiting her mother’s grave and having not-really-a-baby-mama drama all episode, shows up as Stefan is standing over Damon’s body. He’s upset because it was his fight; Damon wanted him to let it go, but Stefan couldn’t, and he got his brother trapped in a prison world because of it. He tells Caroline that the stone makes you re-live every bad thing you’ve done.
We see Damon wake up in Civil War flashbacks. “Silent Night” plays. Nora, angry about Stefan taking Mary Lou, shows up. She says that even if Damon gets out, he’ll be different. And then she stabs Stefan with the Phoenix sword, too.
Like I said at the top, this was meant to be an powerful cliffhanger, but the problem is we’ve seen Damon and Stefan in the future: We know they get out of the prison world. However, I am interested to see how Caroline and Bonnie can get them out of there all alone. The brothers have ruled this show long enough; maybe it’s time to hand over the reins and see how the women do?
I want to hear your thoughts about tonight’s episode! Share them below, or reach out to me on Twitter @realdalener. And be sure to read Julie’s Diary for the showrunner’s thoughts on tonight’s episode before you go.