I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, we’ve come to the start of the final season of The Vampire Diaries, a show I have loved — probably a little too much — since the moment Stefan Salvatore’s voiceover started telling us his story. And because each episode of the final season is titled with a line of dialogue from season 1, I want to start each recap with a brief trip down memory lane as an explainer to said title.
“Hello, Brother“: The title of this episode comes from the pilot of the show. In fact, those are the first two words ever uttered by Damon Salvatore, lovable bad boy and eternal stud. After Stefan hears about another “animal attack” in Mystic Falls, he rushes home with the realization that he’s not the only vampire around. And there, on his balcony, is Damon, his older brother, who’s back in town in the hopes of reuniting with Katherine (a plan we’d learn later in the season).
And now, years later, the season kicks off with Stefan desperately wanting to save the brother he despised all those years ago. In the pilot, Damon’s arrival was the worst thing Stefan could imagine. And now, all he wants is to get his brother back from whatever it was that took him.
We pick up a few months after the end of season 7, and more importantly, Damon and Enzo are still on their killing spree. In a shot that perfectly mirrors the opening of the pilot, a young couple is driving through the fog — the fog! — before they somehow manage to swerve around Damon, who’s standing in the middle of the road. (His favorite trick.) But sadly for this couple, Enzo’s just a few yards away, and when they hit him, well, their fates are sealed.
This scene definitely wins the award for most meta lines. First, there’s the soon-to-be male victim saying, “To be honest, I’m just glad the whole vampire craze is over.” And then there’s Enzo and Damon’s entire discussion about how maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the standing-in-the-middle-of-the-road trick. After all, it hurts.
As Damon and Enzo drive their latest victims to their favorite slaughterhouse, we get a bit of explanation as to what’s happening inside their minds. As they put it, they’re unwilling employees — slaves, if you will — to this creature that’s controlling them, and it’s their job to bring the worst of humanity to the warehouse.
After asking their victims about their dirtiest deeds, they decide the male shall be fed to whatever it is in that bloody water while the woman gets to die a respectable death. (Enzo bites her.)
Just like that, the beast has been fed, and Enzo and Damon are off to get some sleep. Welcome to season 8.
Back in Mystic Falls, Caroline and Stefan are enjoying some time not sleeping while Bonnie writes in her diary to Elena. She tells her best friend they’re no closer to finding Damon and Enzo than they were months ago. And when the string on her guitar breaks, she flashes back to a time when Enzo was around to fix her broken strings, a memory that causes her to break down.
Poor Bonnie is dealing with losing the men she loved, while Caroline’s biggest concern seems to be the fact that her nanny is way too hot. It’s in her rant that we learn Ric is now running the Armory. Caroline’s worried he could be susceptible to hot nanny charms, though she should probably be more worried by the fact that a couple of interns just showed him how to isolate his sense of touch in order to walk through a wall in the vault.
I gotta admit: Seeing Ric in a dark ancient tunnel just feels right.
NEXT: Damon loves Fifty Shades of Grey [pagebreak]
As for Caroline and Stefan, she’s off to work at the news station while Stefan and Bonnie head to the latest crime scene. For the first time in their search for Damon and Enzo, a body was left behind, and that gives Stefan hope. Bonnie, on the other hand, is done with hope. She promises not to give up for Stefan’s sake, but when it comes to hope, as she puts it, “hope hurts.”
Meanwhile, Enzo returns to the slaughterhouse after dumping the woman’s body to find Damon reading Fifty Shades of Grey. (Hey, he’s always been a lover of trendy books.)
Without his humanity, Damon is perfectly content to kill people during the day and read about Christian and Ana at night. Enzo, on the other hand, is still holding onto his humanity, even after Damon kicks him into the pit and lets him get up close and personal with whatever that thing is.
At the news station, Caroline tries to figure out what Virginia St. John told Enzo about the vault before he went to get Damon, while Stefan and Bonnie run into a bit of luck at the crime scene. The cop shows them the car that appears to have hit a mountain lion — more season 1 flashbacks, anyone? — when Bonnie realizes the woman was strangled with a guitar string. And after Caroline does some research, she finds out a nearby creek ran red with blood not long ago. With that, Stefan’s off to check out the slaughterhouse that reportedly had “drainage issues.”
Back in the tunnel, dad-Alaric is trying to stay safe for his daughters when he — and his two helpful interns — find a door. And behind said door is a bunch of ancient artifacts that are somehow perfectly preserved. Or as Ric calls it, they find a “geek gold mine.”
Ric quickly snaps into geek mode, which turns on intern Georgie, but as he tells her, the dad version of him is “pretty much closed for business.” Yeah, we will see how long that lasts.
Back at the news station, Caroline gets a call from nanny Seline, and it takes about 60 seconds for things to go south. Long story short, Virginia St. John shows up and slits Seline’s throat, but Caroline stops Virginia before she can get to her daughters. Caroline then feeds Seline her blood and compels her to take the girls to get ice cream.
Alone with Virginia, Caroline wants answers, but all she gets is Virginia telling her that “it” has come for her daughters, before Virginia bites out her own tongue and bleeds out in Caroline’s living room. (P.S. Caroline is back in her childhood home, which made me feel all the things.)
After Bonnie tries to figure out why they found candle wax on the female victim, she heads to the slaughterhouse, where Stefan is reliving the moment Damon re-entered his life in the pilot.
I mean, can we talk about this moment? From the music cue to Damon’s smirk to the way they framed the shot, they perfectly recreated Damon’s “Hello, brother” from the pilot, and I might’ve squealed when it happened. Talk about bringing things full circle. I love seeing how far the brothers have come from that moment all those years ago. And yet, they still have so far to go.
Stefan quickly figures out that Damon has flipped his humanity switch – or as Damon puts it, he ripped it off the wall. According to Damon, he’s officially done with the illusion of a heroic life. He’s seen how this ends, and his humanity can’t save him from the literal hell that’s waiting for him. He tells Stefan to “walk out of here with your hero hair in tact and never come back,” but Stefan’s not leaving his brother.
NEXT: Bonnie finds her hope [pagebreak]
Bonnie arrives just in time to hear Stefan tell his brother to “think about Elena,” but Damon informs him Elena doesn’t matter to him anymore. As he sees it, every bad decision he’s ever made has sealed his fate. At this point, his path and Elena’s path are not the same. “Her great beyond is a decidedly happier one than mine,” he says.
Stefan, realizing Damon’s not going to leave with him, stabs his brother. But when Bonnie says she’s not leaving without Enzo, she gives Enzo and Damon enough time to retaliate. Enzo tells them to leave, though it’s clear there’s still a piece of him in there — a moment that’s reminiscent of Stefan’s phone call in the season 3 premiere, the moment we realized he wasn’t fully gone.
But before they leave, Damon gets in a jab in at his brother. “My life is over,” Damon tells Stefan. “My life has been over for a century and a half, Stefan … since you took it from me.” I literally gasped. As diehard fans know, Stefan was the one who forcefully convinced his brother to become a vampire with him, and from that moment, Damon promised him an “eternity of misery.” And now, it seems Damon’s opened an old, very deep wound.
With that one line, Bonnie and Stefan have swapped roles. Now, Bonnie is the one trying to convince Stefan to have hope, because she’s slowly realizing Enzo is leaving clues for her. But as Stefan tells her, this time around, “it feels like he may never forgive me.”
After Stefan drops her off, Bonnie continues to put two and two together. She remembers a story Enzo read her from The Odyssey, a story that included wax and someone strapped to the mast of a ship — similar to the way he’d arranged the female victim on the front of her car. It was a story about sirens. More on that in a moment.
For now, Damon and Enzo are back on the hunt, this time finding themselves a murder-loving artist to feed to their beast. And as far as Damon’s concerned, Enzo would be smart to flip his humanity switch. After all, if you care for nothing, the beast can see nothing and therefore is less likely to go after the ones you love. (Translation: Damon’s decision to flip his switch was to save those he loved.)
Speaking of loved ones in danger, Ric has a proposal for Caroline: What if he moves in with the girls and she moves in with Stefan? That will put them both back in Mystic Falls and close to protect the girls. And, naturally, Stefan’s game.
Writing to Elena, Stefan tells her he’s worried he’s lost his brother. All he can hope is that there’s one final sliver of humanity holding on within Damon. And spoiler: There is. Inside Damon’s mind, we relive the first time he saw Elena, when he mistook her for Katherine in the road. As Damon tells her, “I don’t know how much longer I can fight.” (This time I’m flashing back to when Stefan was in the vault and seeing Elena got him through.)
Thankfully, Stefan’s not giving up on his brother yet. As he puts it, maybe tomorrow will be better.
Okay, back to the evil thing. Bonnie calls Ric to get his opinion on her siren theory, and seeing how sirens use mind control to lure victims to death and are considered messengers of the devil, he thinks it’s likely her theory could be correct. After all, at this point, anything could be “real.” So yeah, Enzo and Damon could be bewitched by a siren.
Speaking of which, just as they start to hear singing, Damon and Enzo turn to find that a woman has emerged from the pit of bloody water. This siren is finally full … but now what?
Altogether, I’m enjoying the Damon-Enzo dynamic, and I’m a sucker for any and all nostalgia. This episode is really just the beginning of what’s to come, and I’m along for the ride.
Episode Grade: B+
What did you all think of the episode? Hit the comments with your thoughts or find me on Twitter @samhighfill.