After one of the best season finales of the last TV season, The Vampire Diaries came back only hours after a cliffhanger that found Elena dead—but with vampire blood in her system.

Pretty much everyone assumed – fans of the books aside – that of course Elena would transition into a vampire. But the bulk of the episode was spent with Stefan and Bonnie hoping against hope that they could prevent it. It was an exercise in futility for us TV watchers, but one that made sense from the characters’ point of views.

Bonnie was close, but is ultimately stopped by Grams in a void/afterlife-like place, where she is told to stop pursuing this dark magic course. Bonnie has to perform dark magic again later—not to save Elena’s life, but Tyler’s, when Klaus (from within Tyler’s body) orders her to put him back in his body. She succeeds, but at Gram’s life (afterlife that is) and a warning that worse things will happen.

Will Bonnie become this year’s Dark Willow? Too soon to tell.

Will Elena go down a dark path as well this season, as Stefan did last season? At the beginning of the episode, she tries everything she can to avoid it. But eventually, the super-hearing, the disgust at sandwiches and the ability to crush a lightbulb slowly resign Elena to her fate.

Jeremy isn’t going to be pleased at the turn of events at the end of the episode, as he tells Elena earlier that he wants his sister—not a vampire. (Does he forget he was in love with two previously? Even after one become a ghost?)

Elena’s transition isn’t an easy one, as she’s captured alongside many of her friends by a Founders’ Council tired of the Sheriff and Mayor’s inaction. That means she won’t have easy access to blood to start the transition. (Which she needs or she’ll die within 24 hours.) Though oddly… the Founders’ Council decide not to kill any of them right away; instead, they lock them away in prison cells.

Klaus, when in Tyler’s body, is able to rescue Caroline (but not his sister Rebekah), and comes this close to hot vampire sex before Caroline realizes who he is. (Or who is really inside of Tyler’s body.) While she’s beyond angry now, it likely won’t last long, right? Despite all the horrific, evil things Klaus has done, it seems as if Caroline is starting to see that, like Elena and Damon, if she gives him the time of day—perhaps he can be good. (At the very least, thanks to Rebekah’s destroying of Elena’s blood bags, he’ll be out of the hybrid-making business.)

Matt is someone who wants to do something good all episode long. He feels incredible guilt over Elena’s death and even uses himself as bait to help distract the guards at the farm where Elena, Stefan, Caroline and Rebekah are being held. He almost pays for it with his life – at the hands of Damon – before vampire Elena takes her new skills out for a test ride after drinking just a lick of dead guard’s blood.

While the episode starts to end on a somewhat – if you can call it that – happy note with Stefan giving Elena a daylight ring that Bonnie had made, we cut to the Founders’ Council and their leader, Pastor Young, removing a gas pipe from a wall before incinerating everyone. And alluding to the fact that it’s all part of the plan.

Are we going to be seeing more ghosts in the future? Or is this a frame job for the benefit of other people heading to Mystic Falls ready to take on Elena and her friends?