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'The Vampire Diaries' Season 4 Finale Review 'Graduation'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
May 17th, 2013 9:22am EDT

'The Vampire Diaries' Season 4 Finale

The beat goes on and the beat goes on, doesn't it? Never trust a CW promo when said promo promises an epic season finale. The swelling of contemporary music had an epic feel to it. Stefan and Elena's relationship was epic. The story of the season was not epic. The deaths, the resurrections, et al, are the stuff fan videos are made of. I'll be stunned if a new Bonnie/Jeremy video doesn't post on YouTube by midnight. The Silas plot had an epic build and its payoff was okay. Silas' helpful piece of exposition in the final scene helped make sense of his appearances this season. The ever-changing ancient vampire hid his appearance because he's Stefan's shadow self. He's not really a ripoff of The First. I opined on the significance of never seeing the man's face and overlooked another direct parallel to The First. Harping about that now just seems unnecessary.

The finale's not even about Silas or any of the other supernatural threats hanging around Mystic Falls with the veil down. Lexi talks about letting go and moving on with Stefan and Damon. Graduation's a symbol of moving on for teenagers into the next phase of their life. Alaric listens to Lexi's words about moving on and letting go. Alaric wonders how he can when the people he loves keep screwing up. Lexi shrugs. Letting go and moving on is for the dead. Fresh starts is for the living. The other side is TVD's version of purgatory where the dead pay for the wrongs they committed while living. Graduation is about fresh starts, though. Every living character needs a fresh start heading into the fifth season.

Fresh starts wouldn't mean anything, really, if Elena chose Stefan in the finale. Stefan's solid, loyal, loving, devoted. They loved each other for a long time. He believed in her from day one and never wavered, and her faith in him saved him during his dark ripper days. Elena's indirect goodbye to him was soft, gentle, subdued, and she offered him the freshest start with the cure. Stefan denied the cure and had her keep it, which was handy when Katherine tried killing her. Damon endured false starts with Elena this season. The sire bond derailed their relationship. Elena became an emotionless bitch for a time. Free of the sire bond, Elena makes known her feelings for Damon. She owns her feelings just as Damon's ranting about losing out on her, damning his past mistakes because his past mistakes will always keep him from her. Elena acknowledges that he's a terrible person, but he made her feel more alive dead than she felt alive. Damon/Elena, free of anything, is definitely a fresh start for both. Stefan even helps Damon feel like less of an ass for getting the girl.

Jeremy Gilbert gets a fresh start. Bonnie's final deadly spell wasn't for nothing. At the moment of disappearance, Jeremy returns to life. Bonnie's ghost stands in front of him, making him promise to keep her death a secret for the summer. Jeremy doesn't want to, but he acquiesces. I don't know what to make of Jeremy's resurrection. I thought the writers ran out of ideas for the characters once they sent him off to Denver last season. Elena needs an emotional anchor besides the Salvatore brothers. Jeremy doesn't have a specific direction, but I'm sure he'll get tossed around by shadow-self Stefan, or something.

Meanwhile, Klaus receives a hero's welcome to Mystic Falls. Dude mercilessly drowned Tyler's mother five months ago in real-time, so that's less than 3 months in the show's timeline. We've all seen Klaus' fresh start in New Orleans. The man has learned how to forgive, step aside when he needs to step aside, and, most importantly, how to be decent. It's a start for Niklaus Mikaelson. He allows Tyler to return to Mystic Falls, and he reminds Caroline that Tyler's her first love, but he'll be her last, no matter how long it may take. Klaus' hero scene actually involves beheading that witch Caroline killed, which led to the final massacre that completed the expression triangle. Caroline took lives to save one. Stefan said something about being as bad as Klaus earlier this season, but his words don't seem to have a lasting impact. The writers forgive the characters alot.

Stefan, too, plans for a fresh start. Elena chose his brother, so he sets out to move on. After Lexi leaves him, he takes Silas' body for burial. Of course, Silas isn't dead. Stefan won't get a fresh start after all. Shadow Stefan stabs Stefan in the gut, locks him in a crate, and throws him into the water below. I've compared TVD's fourth season with the entire ANGEL series throughout the fourth season. Why stop now? Stefan was dropped into the ocean trapped in a box. No one knows what happened to him, and someone will walk around acting as if nothing has changed. Paul Wesley relishes his time to play the bad guy in TVD. Wesley is able to play any kind of character. His silent reaction to hear Elena's choice was one of his best moments of the entire show. I'm excited for Shadow Stefan because of Paul Wesley's glee in playing the bad guy. I'm curious how this character will be different from switch-off Stefan.

TVD season four had its highs and lows. It never reached the heights of the second season. I felt the fourth season was an extension of the problematic back half of season three. Season five seems poised to offer something different, something new. Elena's journey into darkness was worth the risk the show took at the end of last season, though I am curious about Elena's character going forward, because she was tethered to something, constantly, this season--whether it was the sire bond, the switch, etc. Who will she be, as a vampire, now that she's free, her own vampire, should be a worthwhile journey to follow.

Other Thoughts:

-Matt's going to travel Europe with a hot blonde for the next while. Lucky dude. Matt's still human and alive. The Aleksander/Rebekah/Matt plot was insignificant, though it had Rebekah's big moment of selflessness that's endeared Matt to her. Saving a dude's life has that affect.

-Damon's quick recovery from the wolf infection was a nice surprise. I'll never miss another scene in which any character begs Klaus for mercy.

-TVD's use of music gets distracting. Relax on the music in post-production. The beats will still hit without needing to use music to manipulate the viewer into feeling an emotion they'll feel with or without the music.

-Caroline Dries & Julie Plec wrote the finale. Chris Grismer directed it. Ms. Plec is a busy woman. She's going to have three series on the air in the fall. That's a rare feat in television. Kudos to Ms. Plec. She's a heck of a writer. Dries has been a driving force in the show for at least three seasons now. I'd like to give the tip of my hat to all the other writers, directors, cast and crew for their work this season. 23 episodes is a tough order, but moreso for TVD.

-Bring on season 5. Also, thanks for reading, everyone. I'll be back in the fall.

Photo Credits: The CW


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